Being parents when you’re living with your parents
Handy guide on how to be a mum and dad to your baby while living with your own mum and dad
Three or even four generations under the same roof seems a strange arrangement to many young people. We’ve perhaps grown used to the idea of the nuclear family being just parents and their children, and that’s all. But times are changing.
There are many reasons a couple with their new baby could find themselves living with the older generation. Financial considerations – not having enough money at present to get a place of their own. Or because help is needed, either by the younger parents with their new life or the elders with healthcare issues.
Or maybe grandparents have a larger house they no longer need all for themselves but don’t want to sell. It’s worth remembering the ‘two generation’ model that seems so normal is actually quite unusual – in many cultures and in past times families of three generations often stay together and share homes. If it works well, it can be life changing – support and extra love all round.
Yet, if you’re going to embark on this and want to preserve your loving relationships with your partner and your parents, there are certain rules and agreements you need to make. We often simply drift into how we’re going to manage a situation, but it really helps to sit down at a time we all feel calm and happy to thrash these out.
Time share. If you’re sharing not just a roof over your heads but kitchen, living room and bathroom, you need to agree how you will divvy up time and space. If you assume this is the territory of the house owners, and the other adults can only ‘borrow’ access, it’s bound to end in resentment and misunderstandings. Best idea is to negotiate times when you all share together, spending the evening as one family with either turn-and-turn-about responsibilities for cooking, or doing it together. Have other times when one set can take over and the others either go out, or spend the evening in another room (fix up your own bedrooms to allow for that). It often works best to have a rota so you know where you are, with the occasional flexible approach.
Talk finance. You may be choosing, or have been forced, to do this because the younger family is short of cash and can’t afford their own place. But that’s no reason to get a free pass. Not only should they be putting money away to save, they should also contribute to the household overheads. The older family may choose to save some of that for the youngers, but if you don’t begin to act as responsible adults paying your way now, you never will.
Be grown up. It’s very easy when under a parent’s roof to fall back into adolescent or even childhood behaviour. Remind each other that you’re all adults, not parent and child anymore, and support each other in acting accordingly.
Pick your allegiance. Following on that, it’s also easy for one or other of the generations to call upon the other to be on their side – grandma and daughter against son-in-law, or son and grandma against granddad. Resist this. Your primary loyalty now should be to your spouse. That doesn’t mean if they’re in the wrong you can’t call them out, but it’s important to recognise where the fault lines should be.
Bounty “Sex & Relationship” articles are written by expert Suzie Hayman. Suzie is agony aunt for Woman magazine, a Relate trained counsellor, and an accredited TripleP (Positive Parenting Programme) parenting educator. She makes frequent appearances on TV and radio and as well as writing 31 books, Suzie writes features on parenting, relationships, sex and couples counselling, for a wide range of national magazines and newspapers