‘The Waltons’ Meets ‘Modern Family’
I AM now a statistic. Earlier this summer, the United States Census Bureau reported that the number of adult children living in their parents’ households had increased by 1.2 million between 2007 and 2010. Shared households accounted for 18.7 percent of all American households in 2010, up from 17 percent in 2007. Most of those children were between age 25 and 34, but I had suddenly joined their ranks at a considerably older age.
In August 2010, as my husband, Daniel Rivkin, and I approached our 50th birthdays, we were suddenly forced to move into my parents’ home in Michigan with our three teenage children and dog. Never mind that my older brother, who had lost his job the previous year, was already in residence in one of their basement bedrooms — my parents’ three-story rambling colonial home quickly accommodated us all.
Every family has different reasons for deciding on shared family living: ours, however, were somewhat out of the ordinary. Having left Egypt just months before the Mubarak government fell, we found ourselves back in an America that was in the middle of a recession, without any steady income or job prospects awaiting us.
It is hard to say what was most disheartening about this development: losing our fiercely independent lives after having lived the previous 20 years in Brussels, Paris, London and then Cairo; burdening my parents with our large amounts of baggage, both mental and physical (shortly after we arrived, a 30-foot container of global possessions followed); or trying to start over at an age when my husband and I, both of us journalists, thought we would be on career cruise control.
We had lived, in the eyes of our friends, a charmed international life: showing our children the world, vacationing in the south of France and the Italian Alps, taking family trips to visit the ruins in Greece and the graves at Normandy. More recently, we took a cruise down the Nile with a huge gathering of family and friends, a weeklong trip that I would later write about for this newspaper and that would provide a memorable introduction to our new home.
It was an amazing way to live. Until it came to a sudden halt.