I'm not sure what the right metaphor is. But here's my thinking....
My 27 year old daughter lives with me. Neither of us ever thought this would happen, but it is so very working -for both of us, I think.
My thinking goes like this. When I was in college, many of my friends were told by their parents that from this point forward they were visitors in their parents' home. This wasn't seen as harsh, at all. It was more of a statement that they were fully launched now. Then, a few years later, kids were coming home after college to re-group and think. Parents -those parents who themselves had been told that to come home was only for emergencies- didn't know quite what to make of this. They certainly didn't want to define their children to be failing, but this situation wasn't good. The economy was hard. Suddenly a Master's degree was essential where before a Bachelor's degree had been sufficient.... A rationale for this situation was created.
But now, I think we're in a different place yet again. I really do. I'm not rationalizing here, at all. I think we're redefining family and adulthood to be less about independence and more about inter-dependence. This house, this big old falling-down barn, was a place of respite when I needed one. It's weird to think that a place -nothing more than boards and nails when you get right down to it- could be a sanctuary. Don't people, after all, consecrate a people to make it a sanctuary?? But... whatever the reason, I needed to be here while I healed and regrouped.
So, what's the problem if I share that space? Isn't there something wonderful happening if I can share that space with someone else, and have it offer that same sanctuary? Or the sanctuary they need? Family can look different at different times. I am so grateful to have another person in the house -another person whose life occasionally intersects with mine. In a real way, she's babysitting me. But it's not only that. I have space and resources and mom-stuff that she needs right now, too. And together, we can do things that we can't do alone.
I don't think this is a forever-type situation. I think she ought to live independently before (or whether or not) she lives with a family of her own making. For that matter, I think I ought to have done that. But, I also think we're re-conceiving family. On so many levels, we've defined it too narrowly for too long. It's so much more than a mommy and a daddy and a baby and a puppy. That can be a wonderful family. But it's also a middle-aged mom and an adult daughter and maybe a friend who needs a little more care and structure. Or a mom and several children and no daddy. Or two mommies and a baby. Those might all be wonderful families too.
We all need a safe haven.