Why I Want To Be A Boomerang Household

Almost ten years ago, when the kids were still in elementary school and I was two years into what would be a long period of working independently in my home office, a situation that my wife had enjoyed already for eight years, I wrote a column for The Christian Science Monitor about my situation.

And my situation? It was perfect. Everything — home, family, economic well being — all revolved around our thriving household:

As I rise in the early morning, I often imagine a farmhouse in a small, agricultural community, perhaps in Maine 80 years ago. This imaginary farm provides the means for the family’s getting by. The chickens give up eggs; the cows, milk; and the soil, vegetables. Well-tended, the farm generates income at market as well as sustenance at home. It is the economic engine of the family. All hands work at making it run.

Our own house is like that farm, updated for the early 21st century. Instead of milking the cows, I fire up my screen and scan the night’s e-mail. Instead of harvesting the turnips, my wife drafts a new report for a client. Instead of feeding the chickens, the kids could collate a mailing (admittedly a rare occurrence). All of this puts food on the table. And it all happens at home. . . .

Xenophon, “history’s first professional writer” according to one classics professor, was born in Athens around 430 BC. His Oeconomicus is influential. It is a housekeeping manual, a discussion between the immortal Socrates and another man, concerning the best way to keep an estate. In this work, the two agree that it is “the business of the good economist to manage his own house or estate well.” It is from this household care manual that we get the word “economics.” It’s about the inflows and outflows that go into keeping a home. Seen this way, “home economics” is redundant: Economy is about the home to begin with.

Now, with daughter at college, son considering, and parents retired, I find I want to double down on this way of thinking. We live in uncertain times. They are made all the more uncertain by social norms that dictate young people should grow up and get out, that as seniors age they should seek out “retirement communities” where they can live with others like themselves.

I want to be a countervailing force.

IMG_0224.JPGI want my house to be, and remain, an intergenerational beacon. I want my wife’s mother to choose to live with us in retirement. I want my kids to boomerang back home, not in failure but by choice. Or, at least, I hope for those concerned to see this as a viable and desirable alternative.

So much research points to the benefits of intergenerational connections, and yet our social structures tell us that “moving back home” (both for old and young) is to be avoided. What if it were the norm? It is, after all, why humans choose to cohabit and live in company: to thrive and be secure. Why should a modern life obviate this evolutionary imperative?

In my ideal fantasy, multiple generations live in our 21st century farmhouse, supporting one another, providing the social network and glue that help us thrive. And — hope of hopes — this ethos gets passed on so that my kids feel the same way, welcoming both their parents as well as their adult children to continue to thrive together as we row our lifeboat through the currents.

I can dream, can’t I?

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Friday Update — 1-9-09


Here are a couple of recent posts from my daily blog that I thought might interest you.

  1. I used to be in an “entourage.” It wasn’t a star’s coterie, but a charismatic business person leading a startup. The time has stuck with me over many years. Very strange. More here: In The Entourage

  2. I work on the periphery of the world of philanthropy. I notice that, with the tough times, the trend of risk aversion from philanthropies has increased exponentially. But who else can take risks in the independent sector, if not endowed organizations? More here: Philanthropy’s Unique Advantage

If you are interested, consider joining the email list for my daily blog. This would mean that you get a note each time I publish — about once per day, certainly no more. If you would like that, just reply and let me know.

(My plan is to send you a recap like this each Friday at 11 am. This is a test to see how it goes. I may change that schedule.)

Two New Items From Me


Since many of you who read my occasional commentary are, in fact, friends, I wanted to just let you know of two things that are new in my world.

My Band’s New CD Is Complete And Available For Purchase

As you probably know, I am in a rock band called The West End. We have been working very hard all summer and fall to complete a CD filled with new, original material and now it’s done. We couldn’t be happier with how it sounds. We released it at a very successful show just last Saturday.

The CD is called This Ride Could Be My Last and it is being sold here.

It’s already gotten radio airplay and one review has called it “foot stomping, not tapping.”

As you might imagine, I encourage you to buy one! Just click the link and order it from CD Baby, the largest seller of independent music on the Web. At the link, you can hear snippets of every tune.

If you feel so moved, I would be thankful if you would review it at the CD Baby site (you need to register but it is easy.) Listener reviews are one of the chief ways that other people decide whether or not to buy a CD.

This is just in time for the holiday season, and they make great stocking stuffers!

I Have A New Daily Blog

I have been writing and publishing occasional commentary pieces since 2003, typically when the spirit moves me. There isn’t a set schedule and I try to make them into “essays” as opposed to “blog posts.” (Here’s an index.)

I wanted to let you know I have also set up a new, daily (or thereabouts) blog called Brad Rourke’s Blog. My plan is to write briefly on some topic about once per weekday.

If you are interested, I encourage you to take a peek.

I also encourage you to sign up for an email subscription. This would mean that you get a note each time I publish — about once per day, certainly no more. If you would like that, just reply and let me know, or enter your email address in the box at the upper right of my blog.

I promise not to distribute or share your email address in any way ever.

Thanks so much for your ongoing support.