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Multigenerations: Grandparents help solve childcare problems

Joyce Beck with grandsons Gavin and Ethan
Joyce Beck with grandsons Gavin and Ethan

By Melissa Wagoner

Childcare can be difficult for parents whose work schedule falls outside of regular business hours but many parents are finding the answer to their problem in the guise of an old-fashioned solution – multigenerational housing.

“My husband and I are both physicians and we had our first child at the same time we started our intern year of residency,” Silverton resident Leslie Drapiza said. “We tried to make it work by using daycare, but no daycare opens at 4:30 a.m. when we needed to be at the hospital to start rounding on patients.”

Help came for Drapiza and her husband Evan Inman in the form of Leslie’s mother, Lillian Drapiza, who was working as a nurse. When Lillian discovered her daughter and son-in-law were struggling to find care for their unborn son, Reed, she offered to retire early to help them out.

“When Reed was born was my retirement day,” Lillian smiled.

Multigenerational housing was not a new concept to the Drapizas. A frequent choice for families in the Philippines – where Lillian and her husband Andy are from – Leslie’s grandmother was her caregiver when she was a child.

“My husband’s mom helped us,” Lillian said. “It’s very common among Filipinos.”

Cultural tradition is not the only reason families are choosing multigenerational housing, however. In the case of Monique and Robert Beck – both military personnel – the struggle to find flexible childcare made asking Robert’s mother, Joyce, to move in with them a no-brainer.

“The parents are on a very random work schedule that includes some travel and weekend work,” Joyce said. “I feel no one could give the grandkids the love and care that I do. They also have the chance to go to camp, karate and other activities that wouldn’t be available if they were at a caregiver’s.”

Not only does Joyce help with the children on a daily basis but living in the same house allows her to assist with household chores.

“By helping keep up with housework and cooking, it is less strain on Monique when she gets home from work,” Joyce said. “In the mornings they can concentrate on getting themselves ready for work and not worry about getting the kids ready also. Their minds are more at ease knowing their children are with someone who cares about them as much as they do.”

Both Lillian and Joyce say the choice to come out of parenting retirement was an easy one because they can’t think of anything they would rather be doing.

“Some of my friends go traveling,” Lillian said. “How much can you travel? And what do you do after that?” Joyce concurred.

“Who would want to stay at home when they could get so much love from three little kiddos?”

Co-housing and co-parenting, though convenient, is not without its difficulties however, and both families agree that communication is of the utmost importance.

“As much as possible, make expectations clear,” Leslie suggested. “If you want something a certain way, make it as easy as possible for that to happen. Pick your battles. Knowing our kids are well cared for is worth a late bedtime or chores not always getting done. [O]verall, the benefits far outweigh the challenges.”

Lillian agrees. For her the time she spends with her three grandchildren has been a gift.

“We enjoy the kids a lot,” she said. “I can’t think of any other way.”

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