The magic of multi-generational, small-home living this Mother’s Day

Navigating the world of real estate, I resonate particularly with my senior women clients—a demographic whom I find to be the most doting and expressive in their appreciation for our real estate brokerage’s services. This affinity is no accident; it’s a tribute to my upbringing steeped in the rich tapestry of extended family living.

This May, a month dedicated to celebrating moms worldwide, I wish to share the joys of growing up in a practical utilitarian home that nurtures multi-generational women, creating an environment where they can truly thrive.

I spent my childhood in the 80’s and 90’s, and during this time, it was common for Baby Boomers from provinces to welcome their parents into their homes for extended stays. This tradition of multi-generational living was a cherished part of our family culture. Every summer or semester break, we would host a visiting lola, either from my mom’s or dad’s side, who would lovingly step in as our babysitter while our helpers were vacationing with their own families. Growing up, my home was a bustling hub where not only my family thrived but also my grandmothers who made their presence felt in every room.

At just around 150 square meters, the sense of space in our modest home was a magic trick performed daily, transformed by creativity and love. Each corner had a story, a lesson, or a memory attached to it, making it seem vast and endlessly interesting.

Our living room doubled as a cinema, with the laserdisc player illuminating classics like “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Glenn Miller Story.” These movie nights were more than entertainment as they were also impromptu music lessons where my lolas taught us how to play tunes on an electronic piano keyboard.

The kitchen-cum-dining area was another classroom where culinary secrets were passed down. I watched in awe as my sisters mastered the art of cooking the perfect pasta and making yummy maruya. The round dining table served as our family’s gathering spot where my siblings and I would share our heartaches and daily successes with the matriarchs as they listened intently and sipped on hot milk or tea.

During the daytime, our bedrooms transformed into vibrant realms, serving as a playroom, library, and whatnot. In the master bedroom, my sisters reveled in wearing our mom’s makeup and strutting in her clothes while my brother and I wrestled on the queen-sized bed.

The cul-de-sac outside our house became a playground filled with laughter, while our mom and lolas watched us fondly from the mini porch. Even the laundry area was a place of fun learning; this was where my lolas taught us to hand-wash our clothes and bathe our first-ever pet dog. Instead of a swimming pool, this was also where we had our palanggana bathtubs set up.

The 90’s was marked with frequent brownouts and the mananaggal hysteria. On nights when the power went out, our lolas would gather us close and captivate us with spine-tingling stories of Romblon island folklore, thrilling and chilling us as we huddled together in the dark. Without the hum of air conditioning or generator, my siblings and I were gently lulled to sleep on a deconstructed sala set, soothed by the natural breeze from open windows and our mom’s soft fanning of folded newspapers.

As teenagers, my siblings and I branched out into louder, more raucous hobbies. One sister ruled the karaoke, another obsessed with arts and crafts, and a brother shot hoops in front of the house. I embraced the angst of alternative music, strumming my guitar and occasionally banging on a borrowed drum set, each strum and thump marking a step further into my own identity.

This period was profoundly difficult for our ailing lolas—one grappling with cancer and the other slowly fading away to dementia. While going to the mall or visiting our friends’ much larger houses offered a temporary solution to our space constraints, this didn’t deter us from caring for our elders and sharing our joys with them. After all, although a small home may limit lively activities, it fosters a more intimate family bonding experience that teaches us to appreciate what we have.

In the 2020s, many home buyers are bothered by the smaller floor areas of new homes. Hearing these concerns always takes me back to my youth in a home of similar size, where we created wonderful, lasting memories. This experience often reminds me of how well we thrived in our modest space, and our success can be attributed to the following points.

Love in a Small Home

  • Creative space utilization

Despite its modest size, our home was cleverly adapted to serve multiple purposes. Every space was transformed into a learning and recreational space, maximizing every inch and making our home feel expansive.

  • Activity and learning opportunities

Our daily routines were enriched with engaging conversations, lively exchanges, and lots of hands-on learning. With arts and crafts, sports, music, and culinary aromas permeating the air, life in our home was a holistic sensory experience.

  • Adaptability and shared responsibilities

We adapted to challenges with simple, ingenious solutions that kept everyone comfortable and included, demonstrating our resilience and commitment to family care. Caring for our ailing lolas was a collective effort that reinforced our family bonds and taught us valuable lessons in empathy and responsibility.

  • Embracing the chaos

Our home wasn’t the epitome of organization and cleanliness. Yet, our parents prioritizing our freedom to explore and experiment over implementing strict house rules fostered our creativity and success in our chosen careers and paths.