How to move back in with your parents when you have kids

Guest post by JeninCanada
The kids and me at the lake.
The kids and me at the lake.

Just over a year ago my life was completely different; we (my husband of eight years and two kids) were living the good life on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

There was a real light at the end of our tunnel; my husband had a good job after clawing his way up, and I had landed a full-time administrative position. My kids were happy and healthy, it was summer, and life was good. Finally we were going to be able to pay off our debts, save a little money, maybe go whale watching or hike a glacier. We could stop living pay cheque to pay cheque (like 60 percent of Canadians do) and start saving for the kids to go to school, if that’s what they wanted.

Not six weeks after I was hired everything fell apart. I was fired from my job due to a combination of lack of training, too much work too quickly, and my own inability to play well with others (hi! I’m that liberal hippie feminist your mother warned you about). We had no savings, having moved a couple of times within the previous year. So we put literally everything we owned into storage and moved back to Northern Ontario where our families are.

It was only supposed to be temporary, but long story short, a year later we’re still here in my mother-in-law’s basement. I share my bedroom with my husband and almost-two-year-old daughter, while my son sleeps in the upstairs guest room and plans his eighth birthday. We’re getting ready to move back to the Island, but in the meantime I’ve been learning how to share space with two other adults who also happen to be my kids’ grandparents.

Here’s what I have to share:

1. Pick your battles when it comes to parenting by committee

This is especially true if your vision of parenting is different than the other person’s. I was lucky when my husband and I found out we were going to have our first child; we had a pretty similar idea of what parenting was going to look like. Living with my in laws, who are in their early 50s, I don’t have that. There have been a lot of conversations/shouting matches over the past 10 months about this, and I’m sure there’ll be a few more before we’re out on our own again.

Pick your battles and be clear about what things you won’t negotiate on — whether it’s bed time, snack time, playmates, dinner, chores, etc. Sometimes it’s just not worth the fight, and sometimes it really is. You decide; they’re your kids.

2. Check in with each other

Communication is absolutely key when it comes to raising kids, and the more adults in the picture, the more communicating needs to happen. Be clear about rules and expectations when it comes to the kids, what the consequences of certain behaviors are, and what is not okay. This relates back to the first point, of course, but it’s also bigger than that. How is everyone doing? Are people frustrated? Burning out? Too busy? Feeling left out? Find out. Knowing who’s going to be where and at what time, for how long, and with whom, is also essential.

3. Don’t take the grandparents for granted

The kids are their grandkids and are deeply loved, but they are not their kids. The hardest parts of parenting — being up at night, or up early, potty training, discipline, and all the rest — are over for them (for the most part). In my in-laws’ case, they both work full time at busy and stressful occupations; when they get home at night they don’t want to have to deal with sibling fights, battling with bedtime, cleaning pee off the kitchen floor, or any of the rest of it.

I try not to treat them like live-in babysitters. If I want to go out after work or on the weekend, I don’t assume that Nana and Poppa are up for more babysitting and just disappear. If my kids are awake and home, I try to be where they are as much as possible so my in-laws don’t feel like they have to be “on.”

4. Respect the space

This is not my house; I try not to treat it as such. We are homeless in the way many Canadian families are; living with friends or relatives because we can’t afford a place of our own. Everything I own except a suitcase of clothes, and what I’ve picked up over the last year, is in storage. We tend to consider the basement as “ours,” and don’t always keep it as tidy as we should, but we do take very good care of the common areas upstairs; kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom, and outside.

I vacuum, mop, dust, Windex, and clean on a regular basis, including the shower, toilets, and laundry. The kids’ toys have their own areas and get tidied up every night. Before I leave for work, I make sure the house is in a condition I wouldn’t mind coming home to.

This living situation is going to continue to be hard on all of us. But if I can keep what I’ve learned at the forefront of my mind, it should all work out okay.

What are your tips for living with your parents when you have kids?

Comments on How to move back in with your parents when you have kids

  1. I started reading this post and went “Huh, this sounds and looks like a friend of mine.” Scroll down to author name — yup! *waves* Hi Jen!

    I hope things work out okay for you all, and that you’re able to come back to the Island soon. <3

  2. I am living in my in-laws basement too! My daughters room is right under the bathroom so for us a white noise machine is essential for covering up the toilet flushing and the shower going. Good luck! I hope you get your own space again soon.

  3. Oy. We are living in my parents’ vacation home currently with our 5 kids. We feel so very, very lucky to have this option – and I’m sure my parents and in-laws agree. House sharing with a circus would be difficult, at best. That said, we are still in someone else’s space, and I’m very cognizant of that. My parents have been very generous with the space, though I have a brother that is less than happy with the arrangement, not that it’s any of his business what my parents chose to do with their place (he should be grateful we’re not in HIS house, haha!). My husband and I are both educated and qualified, but life circumstances what they are…we are both underemployed right now. Incidentally, in the town where we live, we are not the only ones in a similar boat, AT ALL.

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