Friday, November 14, 2008

Grandma Robinson's Moving In

It's not often that the Boomer Project finds itself reading People Magazine's Celebrity Baby Blog, but we intrepidly follow new Boomer-related gossip wherever it takes us. In this case, our antennae are all aquiver over the news that Marian Robinson, the 71-year-old mother of Michelle Obama, will leave her home in Chicago to move into the White House with the first family.

As reported by the Mail Online among other places, Robinson was an integral part of the Obama campaign: babysitter for 10-year-old Malia and seven-year-old Sasha while mom and dad jetted around the country. Apparently, the Obamas don't expect life to get any easier when mom and dad take up the duties of president and first lady. Michelle reportedly "begged" her mother to move in and help with the kids.

This story is more significant than an Obama-besotted media looking for another human interest story. The media is heralding the upcoming Obama administration as a "new Camelot," a second coming of the reign (er, administration) of Jackie and JFK. We anticipate lavish and laudatory coverage of the couple's familial arrangements -- arrangements that include the heart-warming story line of a live-in grandmother helping take care of the kids. This arrangement will draw attention to, and legitimize, the growing phenomenon of three generations living together.

While very few Americans live the pressure-filled lives that awaits the Obamas, two-career couples with children do have their hands full. Enlarging the family to include vital and active 70-year-old grandparents often makes sense. An extended family puts the caretaking of the munchkins in the hands of someone who can be totally trusted. It also gives grandparents an added sense of purpose, and it builds strong family bonds.

With the first family providing positive visibility for the idea of live-in grandparents, we expect the practice to take off. Baby Boomers have paved the way for revival of the "extended family" by letting adult children live in their old rooms (See "Boomer Sociology and Housing Demand") and, increasingly, taking ailing parents into the home. The Obamas are just taking the idea one step further by incorporating an active parent into the household.

As the U.S. Boomers enter a new age of frugality, cutting spending and reducing indebtedness in preparation for the "retirement" phase of their lives, sharing housing costs with extended family members makes economic sense as well. We'll keep our eyes peeled for other examples of the ever-morphing family structure.

(Photo credit of Granny Robinson with Malia: my.barack.obama.com.)

1 comment:

HotJava said...

Quite right, guys! It's a great idea and sends a positive signal to many families in similar circumstances. Wish I could feel as heartened about the prospects of an Obama presidency - on THAT, well, the less I say, the better! But Barack and Michelle are smart and having her mother in the White House will be a nice cozy touch!

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