Living as an Extended Family

Updated on October 27, 2008
K.C. asks from Maynard, MA
9 answers

For various reasons, we're considering living with my folks. I'd appreciate some help wrapping my head around it all, what to consider, what are some pitfalls, etc? I had a pretty good relationship with them growing up.

We'd be selling our house and moving into the 4BR 2.5BA house I grew up in, where currently it's just my dad (Mom has a work assignment in another city for a year or two more). They're going to give up a lot of space for us. It's a help for both of us financially, and a better school system for my extremely bright son.

My kids are 5 and 1.5, the arrangement would start next spring/summer.

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answers from Providence on

we do it 4-5 months a year and it works really well for us. It depends on your relationship with them, and as important, your partner's relationship with them. That is one problem for us. My husband has felt like my mother becomes my co-parent when she is here with us. At those times we work to reconnect as a couple and for him as daddy too with our girls. Most of the time it's great. My mother is extremely helpful and we make a good team, whether it's in food prep or kid decisions. If you have parents with whom you share a parenting philosophy it can work, if your style is very different, it can cause huge issues. Think .... my kids never watch tv and don't eat sugar, but grandma takes it as a criticism and says what's the harm? (that's an extreme example, but you get the idea).
I suggest you give it a test run, whether it's an extended visit or some kid sharing. Really try to plan out who will do what if your family needs delegated responsibilities. Conversations about these things will avoid resentment. Really talk about whether they will do any childcare and what that will look like, who will cook meals, clean, shop. How will finances be set up, who will pay for what. ie... we love organic, but she thinks it's a waste of money... is this going to create conflict. Good luck. I think multi-generational living is a huge gift for everyone involved when it works, but it can be exhausting too, you don't want to mother a whole house of adults too.



answers from Boston on

I agree that it depends in large part (but not entirely) on your relationship with your parents and that of your partner. Living with your parents as an adult (especially as a parent yourself) will test the relationship at best.

The pitfalls, as someone mentioned, is that your parents may act as coparents. You might welcome this at first (relief of duty, support) but soon start to resent it and feel like your parents are questioning your capabilities and/or methods. You may also feel that your parents are judging your lifestyle (the way you spend money, time, things you watch on TV). Even little things like your diet and what you like to eat might start to feel cramped. Doing laundry when you want, showering, talking in the voice normally use and having to get used to the voices they use (maybe they raise their voices and you don't, or perhaps you do raise your voice and they don't like you to)... you don't realize how much of a system you have until you have to blend it with someone else's.

Things to consider, in my opinion: Is the actual space you'd have. Would you be in close quarters? Would you and your partner be in the next room from your parents (maybe you'd feel inhibited having sex or arguing, which is an important part of communication)? Would your kids have a place to play; is it an area where they'd have a yard, a park, areas for you to take them on walks? Other children their age and mothers your age for you all to relate to?

The benefits will be that your parents will share the daily joys of their grandchildren and you might have chances to have talks and share moments that you otherwise wouldn't have. You might look back on the time with great fondness despite some hardships during the time as well. I think it would be important to have the opportunity to change the situation at any time, if it isn't working. The important thing to know is that family is there to love and to help, never to take advantage of. If the going gets too rough, get going and maintain the good relationship you have.



answers from Boston on

Hi Kristen
I lived with my in-laws for about 4 years. I am so grateful to them for this because without the opportunity I have no idea what we would have done...That said, I would not reccomend it if you can help it. My in-laws are very good to us and I have always appreciated that, but it just isn't a good situation to live with anybody else when you have children, especially grandparents. I am the type that does not baby my kids. If my kids try to throw a fit at dinner because they don't like what we are having or they don't want to sit next to their brother I do not put up with it. They can leave the table without eating and I won't say another word about it. My in-laws will go back and forth with them trying to talk them into coming back to the table. This drives me insane because my kids don't pull this at home because we have never given in to it. I can also understand from a grandparents point of view that my approach is difficult for them, but it is that reason that I can put up with it on our visits down there. If we had still lived with them and dinner was a struggle every night then I would have probably lost my temper with them by now, which isn't good for anybody. Other examples are having your own space and time(for both you and your parents). There would be times when I wanted to stay downstairs and get things done or even just to relax and my kids would be running upstairs because they heard their granparents come home. This was not good for either of us because I am sure that after working all day that they wanted some down time. This would leave my kids upset because they couldn't see them and it would leave my in-laws feeling guilty and wanting to give in.
Another person had mentioned that you do not have privacy to argue with your husband. This is so true! I would hold a lot of stupid things in because I would not want to raise my voice or get into an argument and have everyone know our business. This in turn led to a lot of built up anger...not healthy! It was also an issue when one of the kids would cry in the middle of the night. I always felt like I was waking everybody else up so I would give in and bring them in our bed. I can honestly say that we did not have a healthy marriage until we moved out on our own. When we moved out our lives changed for the better.
In my situation this was not anybodys fault, I just found that having other people in the house when you have children and you are newly married is a nightmare. Like I said, my in-laws are great people, but it was still difficult. I am sure if it had been my parents that we lived with it would have been the same story and my mom and I are extremely close.
Economically, this may be your only choice so you obviously have to do whats best for your family, but if you have other options I would really think about this before you make a final decision. Good luck :)



answers from Hartford on

it's a challenge for everyone involved but can work with some effort shown by all parties involved. my daughter and her, at the time, 9mth old twins moved in with my husband and i for a few months. the house needs to be baby proofed so some things do need to be put away and schedules do change. the hardest thing for her, them, was where to put everything. since our house wasn't set up for small children and alot of baby things had to be left out and about, which we didn't mind, but just be sure everyone realizes this. it definitely helped to have extra hands on deck to HELP with the girls. not all grandparents spoil the grandkids but this needs to be discussed ahead of your routine, way of doing things, etc. good luck. communication is key! this could be an enriching experience for all involved.



answers from Boston on

My parents live with us to help them financially. We opened our house to them 3 years ago and our sons were 9m and 3y old so much younger than your children. They have been a great help and the kids love having them around. We miss our privacy and dislike the constant analysis of how we are raising our kids. We always say it is great for the generations on the end and tough for the one in the middle. I think the success will all depend on everyone's personalities and how well you communicate. My Dad is an alpha male and misses the "man in charge" routine because he is dependent on us. He and my husband have had some disagreements that border on absurb such as arguing whether a granola bar with chocolate chips is a healthy snack. My children have fabulous relationships with their grandparents and we both cherish that.

Advice, have you own space somehow. If not possible in the set up figure out a way to still have family time with out the extended famuly. Establish rules on the shared areas of the house, kitchen, family room, etc. so there are no misunderstandings, i.e. will you eat as a family on certain nights or never, will everyone have their own tv or how do you share that? Communication is key to the success of this kind of arrangement.

Good luck!




answers from Providence on

We live as an extended family. Myself my husband and our two year old boy live with my parents and brother and my aunt and her two girls (14 and 8). It can be crazy at times but it is also very rewarding. I love that my son gets to spend so much time with my parents and vice versa. The pitfalls would be to many cooks in the kitchen. everyone has parenting views and advice and grandparents have been through it before so they are much more relaxed about things than we are, especially discipline. For the most part it is great though. it is nice to see my son grow up with so much love around him all the time. His social skills have also taken off have more people to interact with then just his parents.



answers from New London on

Just remember: It's THEIR house, not yours. If you don't like the way they treat you, then LEAVE. If you don't like if they spoil the kids or try to tell you what to do with the kids, or whatever, then LEAVE. Again, it is THEIR house. You really have no rights or say in anything, it is THEIR HOUSE. So you'd better think twice before you move in if you do not realize that.



answers from Boston on


Things to consider would be how the house is laid out - ie. will you have your own space, kitchen, bathroom -like the downstairs of their house or will all of you be in the shared space? This will make some decisions for you. If you have your own space you can still do 'your thing' but if you are in their space you will need to all compromise to get along.
How and who will discipline the children if you are out of the room or just in general. Your lifestyle vs your parents. Different generations differents ways of doing things.
If you live together who will cook, who will clean, what about the TV - is the person watching considerate of the children or will that person wacth anything regardless of the children being there?
I think if you go thru a typical week in your house and write down all the things you do that may not be how your parents do them you will have a good basis on which to talk to them - it's a start, anyway. Having these things worked out ahead of time will ease everyone's anxiety and help with a smooth transition.
I would also suggest that everyone write down somethings that aren't working for you as individuals as you start your new arrangement and then come together to talk about them as a family, say once a week or as they come up. Talking about the situation and coming up with a joint solution everyone can live with will help. You don't want to feel that you aren't in control of your person and children and your environment as your parents also need to be in control of theirs. The compromise is always the solution.

Good luck and when all else fails hug one another,
L. M



answers from Springfield on

I would not recomend it. Parents seem to take over completely undermining you as the parent. I lived with my folks for a little while for various reasons and my oldest does not listen to me all thanks to my mother. I would tell him he couldn't eat something or do something and my mother would take over and tell him or hear you can have this your mom is just being mean or she doesn't know what she's talking about. Grandparents like to spoil grandkids so when you live with them they get are there to spoil them 24/7 which does not make for a healthy up bringing. Looking back I would never ever no matter the reason live with my folks again.

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