May 2, 2013

Living With the In-Laws: 9 Tips to Keep it Happy

Patrick with his little bros, Dusty, Ross and Tad!
Have you and your husband ever lived with family since getting married?  

Patrick, baber, and I are about to go stay with my parents Mon-Fri for a month and a half while Patrick has a clinical in the town next to my parents.  We will come back to our humble abode on the weekends so we can still go to our church.

I'm excited to spend some time with my folks--cause I like them a lot.  I'm also excited because I get to hike the foothills behind their house for my daily exercise and my mom's going to teach me how to sew.  She tried to back when I was younger, but alas, I was a brat and fought hard against learning any (insert teenage eye roll) "homemaking skills", therefore, I am sorely lacking.  Hayden will love yanking on the cat's tail and pulling the dogs fur, since we don't have any pets.  And, happy day--I'll get to take him for hang outs or playdates with my childhood, high school, and college friends that I don't see enough of anymore!

So, although I am excited, there is a little nervous mixed in.  It's such a funky dynamic to be a married, adult couple, living with another married, adult couple--especially when that couple happens to be my parents.  It's like an identity crisis: trying to mix being a the kid I used to be WITH being an adult living with my husband.


But, this won't be the first time for us.  Patrick and I lived with our in-laws for a couple months right after Hayden was born and Patrick graduated.  He found a good-paying summer job working for Pepsi, close to where they live in Wyoming, so we decided we'd stay with them to save some cash before grad school sucked us dry.  

Though it logically seemed like a sweet deal, I was apprehensive, because I had a two month old baby, who cried alot.  I was scared my inlaws would think, "Who in the world have you gone and married?  This twit can't even calm her own child!" and I was scared I'd get Hayden down for a nap, and the three teenaged brothers would come thumping down the stairs, waking my babe into screams.  Plus, I also worried that Haydens' horrible night sleep habits would wake the whole family every night. (ha--which they did.)

Please, don't get me wrong, I truly love my inlaws and the whole Graham clan.  I feel WAY lucky when I hear in-law horror stories, cause mine are so cool!  It's just that they are a bit different from my family.  My family is fun and crazy, but...the Grahams have a Lot more boys and a lot more hollering. (Example: "Were you BORN IN A BARN!? Put your dishes in the sink, DOUGHNUT-HEAD!!"...haha, direct quote!)  Impromptu wresting matches in the living room, are common.  But, man do they love.  They love each other, they serve each other, and they reach out to other people and welcome them into their homes.  I love that.

I was just worried about sharing our space.  And, about being scrutinized when I was highly self-conscious about my first-time mothering abilities.

But, I prayed that whatever would be best would work out, then right after that, Patrick got the job.  SO.  I took a deep breath, decided to quit being nervous, and just jumped in!

Yes, there were some daily-life changes.  You don't walk around wrapped in only a towel after your shower.  You don't have as much privacy and you do have to knock before entering the bathroom (I never wanted to walk in on one of my little bros-in law taking a leak....ha, no thanks.)

But, despite any minor inconveniences, I was pleasantly surprised by how pleasant it was!  And, being there was probably a life-saver for me.  I wasn't isolated at home all day with a brand new baby (I struggled a lot at first when he was born), Hayden had other people to entertain him, and best of all, I had a lot of fun getting to know Patrick's family better.  I understand their groove now, and it was so cool that they could be part of a few milestones for Hayden, since he's their only grandchild.

From my experience, I can offer a few words of advice to any married couple (with or without kids) who decide to live with any other family members.

1. Be prepared.  

Discuss with your spouse beforehand and then with your in-laws (or other family members) what is expected.  Talk about plans.  Make a list of questions to go through. If you are sharing a kitchen, will you have meals together?  Who will cook?  Will you share food?  Will you pay any rent?  (Like if they have a separate basement apartment?)  Or utilities?  Figure out what will make this work best for everyone involved (within reason).  Ex: I had a newborn, and I knew that we needed two rooms.  So, instead of opting for the nice (but a little smaller) guest bedroom, we asked my husband's teenage brother if he would let us use his bedroom for the summer, so we could use the storage room next to it as Hayden's bedroom.  He is awesome, and totally agreed, and we all helped him move his stuff upstairs to the guest room.  I am SO glad I was assertive on that.  Having two rooms was SO helpful.  I still had my own room I could go in and out of when Hayden took naps in his crib, and Patrick, who got up at 4:30 in the morning to get to his job, didn't wake up our baby.  With a swing, a changing table, a crib and a rocking chair, I was SO grateful that everything wasn't all crammed in our bedroom.

2. Make time for just you and your spouse.  

You still need to feel like your own little family unit.  Still cleave to each other.  And, whichever spouse's family it is, they need to be careful not to revert back to childhood behaviors, aka, not sassing back to parents,  fighting/nagging siblings, etc.  That gets REAL awkward REAL fast for the other spouse.  Make sure your spouse who this didn't grow up in this fam, feels comfortable.  And, make sure you get out of the house now and then for a hot date...and a little makin' out in the car.

3. Help out. (Aka: Don't be a lazy freeloader.) 

Be a blessing, not a burden.  Choose some way to contribute.  Pick a night or two a week to make dinner.  Do the dishes.  Take out the garbage when it's full.  Offer to help.  (I did the breakfast dishes after everyone left for school every morning.)  And, for goodness sake, pick up after yourself!  Keep the bathroom clean that you use, do your own laundry, don't leave your shoes and socks lying around...just cause you're living with parents, doesn't mean you have permission to act like a child.  I'm not saying you need to become the maid, but, ya know...just help out.

4. With Siblings, DON'T try to be second parents!

Do get to know them better and have fun with them.  If there's a beef, state your issue kindly, or ask their parents for help. But, it IS ok to get after them when they are constantly trying to give your infant icecream! (TAD!)

5. Remember gratitude

Don't take for granted that they are letting you stay in THEIR space.  Thank them.  And, when it comes to asking them to babysit, now and then is fine, but don't abuse it and make them your built-in babysitters.

6. Make the most of this time! 

This is such an awesome opportunity to become closer, especially if this is your husband's parents.  So get involved!  Make the effort to get to know them, do things they enjoy, ask about their interests, etc.  I talked about kids and teaching from my mother-in law and learned a ton from her expereince.  My father-in-law (a retired finish carpenter) and I talked houses and spent hours looking at cool home designs on (Never heard of it?  Careful, it's addicting!  Think Pinterest, but just for homes.)  My bros in law and I went on walks, showed each other cool new music, and watched movies.  As a family, we sodded their back yard and put in a fire pit, went to the county fair, played mini golf, and ate pizza at a little local joint (a couple times).  It's fun to be social, so don't isolate yourself.

I know, it's a tricky balance between being involved and still being your own little entity.  You don't want to be all up in their space, (and up in their biz...stay out of family spats) but don't go too far the other way and act like a hermit in their home.

Patrick and son using the new fire pit!  Check out that grass, too!  Fab, huh?
Grandma Graham (G.G.) holding Hayden so I can give him his first solid food!  (We didn't have a high chair with us in WY)
G.G. and Hayden!  But, he was distracted by something behind me, haha..
Hayden and Uncle Dusty...look how happy he is!  So cute! :)
Chilling on the back porch.  This is when only half the sod was down.
Getting tickled by Grampy.  (Bald runs thick in this fam!  Ha!  Hayden, behold you future.)

7. Even if it's awesome, don't stay too long.

Being connected with fam is great, but you and your husband are your own mini family unit now--that's how it should be!  It's best to have your own place, so if you don't have a permanent ending date for your time living with fam, set a goal for one and work towards it.  Plus, it's good not to "wear out your welcome."  At the end of the summer, we moved to our new home (rented top floor of a cute house) for my husband to start his grad program.  It was a fun summer and I feel closer to my husband's fam....but, it's just so dang cool to enjoy our own place again!  And they can always come visit! :)

Moral of the story, my friends: Though it's not the ideal for a married couple to live with family (like I said, it's good to make it temporary) staying with family can end up being a super positive experience for everyone.
Make the best of it! :)

These tips help emotionally healthy adults get along in the same space.  If your inlaws (or any family member you are contemplating staying with) are CRAZY or in other ways dysfunctional (examples: give silent treatments, will try to become the mother of your children, ignore you and dote upon your spouse--their son) then DON'T LIVE WITH THEM IF AT ALL POSSIBLE!  The strain on your marriage isn't worth it.  Just thought I'd include this, since I've heard LOTS of crazy inlaw stories since writing this post! :)  Haha!

Thank you.

P.S. How about you?  Have you and your hub lived with family?  If so, how was it?  Any other advice you'd offer?  I'd love to hear your thoughts! :)

P.S.S. I'll update you and let you know how it's going living with my fam!


  1. My advice. Avoid it like the plague.

  2. Oh my gosh, we totally spent all of last summer with Josh's family before moving to San Antonio. I'm glad it was his family not mine because I know me and my mom would've had problems. All the things you touched on were spot on. It's exactly how we were able to spend April through July with them without them wanting to kill us. I was glad to be able to get to know my in-laws better and aside from hating the teenage stage my sis-in-law was in, I feel like I'm just as close with them as my own family.

    1. Haha, that's so funny, yeah, it will be interesting to see how it goes with my family. That's awesome, you feel so close with them! Thanks for the comment, Kayla!

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    1. Thanks, Lauren, that's a good point! You have to look at your own families, too and make sure that it would work! I've heard some horror stories.

      I totally agree, though, it is important (and so nice!) to have your own space. Though it was a good experience, I was so happy to move into our own place again. I craved being with just me and my little fam!

  4. Great advice, Amy! We lived with Lorin's parents for a month or two one summer. This was before we had Miranda. All of your advice is spot on--especially your points about helping out around the house and making time for yourselves. Very important. We had a great time with the family and it was a good experience.

    1. That's a great length of time! And, yes, making time for yourselves is a must. Thanks for the comment!

  5. My husband and I lived with my parents for almost a year when he was unemployed. It was sometimes not fun, but for the most part we made it work and were happy. The #1 thing I attribute to our success was that when we moved in we sat down as 4 adults and had a casual meeting about our expectations for everyone. Ben and I knew that we were in charge of taking care of the kids, and my parents had to respect our parenting choices. But Ben and I also knew, like what you said, that we needed to help around the house. As a big thank you that year, for Mother's and Father's day, we landscaped their back yard by ourselves with our own money. It wasn't professional but it made it look way better. They babysat, we helped out with dinner sometimes, we'd all have playtime with the kids, and we'd watch movies together. We knew that in order to make it work we all had to sacrifice but also have fun together.

    1. Heather, wow! A year! Yeah, it helps SO much to get everyone on the same page. What a great idea for a thank you to landscape their yard! Thanks for your great comment. :)

  6. Oh my goodness! We lived with Jakes parents for a month after he broke his back (cause i was terrified to be alone with poor broken man! What if I accidentally gave him too many meds?!) Then again for like 6 months after we sold our first house and didnt have a new one yet. It was awful!! Im so glad you had a better experience! :)

    And I laughed at the part about going out just the two of you, and making out in the car!! Haha! Wise words, miss Amy! ;)

    1. Hahaha! You are so funny! I'm sorry it was awful. :(

      Yeah, you know it! Can you believe that I make out now? Hah! The most socially awkward/date anxiety girl in high school now makes out with her husband in the car. It's a beautiful thing. :)


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