The day my husband received an offer letter for his new, out-of-state job, we celebrated and waited for the word to come back with his official start date. We put our house on the market. And we waited. We expected the call for a start date any moment. But we actually ended up selling our home in Atlanta before we got the start date. The unexpected sale left us in a difficult position: temporarily homeless.
Where would we (my husband, our 3-year-old daughter, and I) live in the meantime?
Our parents eagerly offered to let us stay with them for “as long as we needed.” My friends and acquaintances warned me, “Don’t do it!” But it was the least expensive option we had. We planned to stay in Florida two weeks at my in-laws’ and two weeks at my parents’ home.
Living with family while unemployed can be a blessing and a trial at the same time. You can spend the entire time walking on eggshells. On the other hand, I’ve also heard horror stories from middle-aged parents whose adult children moved in with their families and drove the parents nuts. From messy kids to empty fridges, grandparents may not feel as welcoming after sharing space, either.
I wanted to make sure that our stay with our relatives would go as smoothly as possible. Our daughter, “Bean, ” is a toddler as rambunctious as any other. She’s cute for about 5 minutes, then she finds your last available nerve and wears it out. My greatest concern was ensuring we did not overstay our welcome to the point of resentment.
It took a lot of effort.
The first thing we did when we arrived at each in-laws’ house was lay down ground rules. Since both my husband and I are (technically) unemployed, our primary responsibility would be to care for Bean. We promised not to use our parents as live-in babysitters. This meant either me or my husband had an eye on Bean at all times, not leaving her to her own devices in random rooms.
We also made sure all the adults had a conversation about food and kitchen etiquette. Who could eat what? Who would cook? Who would clean up and wash dishes? My husband and I bought a stash of groceries. Although her grandparents were happy to share their snacks with her, we made sure Bean had enough snacks on hand so she would not eat all theirs.
Staying in our childhood homes did not, however, mean we were in “our” home. We did not allow Bean to run around the house. She had to respect their space. In the many, many instances she failed to pick up after herself, we cleaned up behind her. Were we perfect at it? No. Picking up after toddlers is a never-ending task. But we made a big effort to keep our parents’ house clean.
Can you really tell your parents what to do in their own home?
Most of the burden lies with the visitor to accommodate the host’s wishes. However, it can be difficult to maintain parental authority with doting grandparents on the scene. Because we did emphasize Bean was our responsibility, we also asked our parents to agree to our rules for her.
Things went smoothly for the most part. Our parents asked us if she was allowed to have certain goodies before they slipped her any sweets. They backed up our “No” answers if she tried to get sneaky. Still, my dad liked to flip Bean over his shoulder and send her into giggle fits…right around the time I needed her to calm down for bed. I’d cut him a “mommy” eye and he’d set her down with a grin.
Overall, we stayed at our parent’s homes for about a month total and no one got hurt. My husband and I even managed to get in a few date nights when our parents agreed to babysit. (We didn’t stay out too long, though!)
Parenting under your parents’ roof can be challenging, for sure. But the key to a pleasant stay is making sure everyone’s boundaries are respected and the lines of communication stay open.
Have you and your kids ever stayed with family for an extended period of time? How did you survive it?