1000 families project loretta, neil and family

1,000 Families Project:
Two Families in One

It was financial considerations that first led Loretta and Neil to merge households with Neil’s brother and sister-in-law. But what they got from raising their kids together was so much more.

On the surface our current household looks extremely traditional. We are high school sweethearts who have been happily married for 15 years. We have two kids, Sharon and Anita, who are 10 and 12. We have a minivan in the driveway of a detached three-bedroom house in the suburbs. We have a pet lizard named Diego and we work in the same office with a company we have been with for 15 years. I’m a 3rd generation Canadian and my husband is a 1st generation Canadian, both born and raised in Toronto.

Things haven’t always been that way. Several years ago, when our first child was just a year old, we made a conscious decision to join forces with Neil’s brother, Anil, and his wife, Leeann, to merge into one big happy family. We all bought a large home near the northwest end of the Greater Toronto Area and, although the choice was primarily made for financial reasons, it was the best decision we could have made as parents. This kind of arrangement happens all over the world but it was a novel concept to those of us who were raised in Canada. When we started our adventure we collectively had three little ones, four parents, more shoes than closet space, and the sincere hope that we could do this!

1000 families project two families in one family photo

Four years and two moves later, we finished with four parents (we all survived), two marriages still going strong, two religions, four vehicles, all of our goals met and five children (Adam, Anissa, Sharon, Alissa and Anita) who grew up together as siblings. The saying that “it takes a village to raise a child” is something that we experienced firsthand in a culture where this isn’t the norm. Although our motivation for moving in together was mostly financial, the benefits we received as a family were exponential. Our children spent their formative years growing up like brothers and sisters, we celebrated each other’s religious and cultural traditions, and we grew as people.

The time came when we eventually moved our families into our own homes. Our needs changed and we set new goals, but we still spend as much time together as we can. And our kids still call their cousins their siblings. It confuses some people, especially the teachers at school, but that’s our family and we love them. The four adults have made a pact to “sell it all” when we are retired and buy a big place all together again so that we can capitalize on enjoying all of the grandkids.

1000 families project two families in one neebar family goofy photo

(Group photos: Joseph Michael Photography)

This is #1000families post number 58. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.

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Loretta Neebar

About Loretta Neebar

Lorretta Neebar is a thirty-something who works at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She is passionate about higher education and is dedicated to helping students and their families find the right pathway. She helped develop a career/life planning guide for Ontario students that can be found at www.whatsnextguide.ca. She thinks she’s pretty cool until she’s corrected by her kids, and still wonders what she’s going to be when she grows up. View all posts by

'1,000 Families Project:
Two Families in One' have 5 comments

  1. Blake Eligh (@blakeeligh)

    November 27, 2014 @ 11:40 am Blake Eligh (@blakeeligh)

    Oh, I love this idea. We have good friends (with two littles) who stay with us when they’re visiting Ontario. Our house runs so much better when they’re with us — dishes get done, toys get picked up, kids have a grownup to take them to the park. Have often wondered how that fantasy would work out in the long term. Sounds like it works a treat.


    • Lorretta

      December 10, 2014 @ 1:19 pm Lorretta

      It was much easier raising five kids with four parents!


  2. December 9, 2014 @ 12:57 pm Amanda

    This is our arrangement, too! My sister and her family and my family and I share a duplex. We have two separate units, but the two older kids move up and down the stairs, fluidly coming and going from each home. We have built-in babysitting (kids sleep in their own beds with monitors!), general support and plenty of toys. The kids are growing up as cousin-brothers, which is particularly important for us, as our son will never have a blood sibling. When we ask our 4 year old who is in his family, he starts with mummy and papa…and then starts listing his aunt, uncle, two cousins, their dog…


    • Brandie Weikle

      December 9, 2014 @ 2:29 pm Brandie Weikle

      How wonderful, Amanda! It sounds like we should have your story in the 1,000 Families series!


    • Lorretta

      December 10, 2014 @ 1:21 pm Lorretta

      That sounds wonderful! We have often talked about getting homes side by side. It would be very convenient and we miss them now as we are about 40 minutes apart. We loved having “built-in-babysitting” and we would purposely give each other time for weekend getaways where each couple had a chance to take some time for each other away from the chaos.


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