I wish my parents lived with us . . . or maybe next door, or at least in our city, or maybe our state? But really, I wish they lived with us.
The number of multigenerational households in the US has more than doubled since 1980. For many people, this is a result of young adults being unmarried until later in life, as well as being underemployed – and thus an arrangement settled upon for financial reasons. I’ve always thought of multigenerational living as something not “traditionally American” and definitely not something for me.
When my husband and I married nearly five years ago, we were happy starting our life together in a city where we didn’t have in-laws just dropping by to tell us how to govern our home, finances, or marriage. We had freedom and space to decide what we wanted to do – how and when. It was nice just being the two of us, and I never would have imagined that we’d find ourselves WANTING my parents to move in. I never would have thought that I’d be alright with, and even welcome some extra guidance and another set of eyebrows to raise and remind me when I’m kind of being a jerk – which happens sometimes.
We were living in this happy independent bubble of bliss, but about the time our son was born, everything changed. My mother came out a few weeks before I gave birth – I was having some complications and I needed help. I needed my mom. I’ll admit it, we were a little nervous to have her essentially live with us until our son was born and we settled in to our “new normal.”
Four days in, we couldn’t imagine going through the process without her – my home was organized – suddenly everything had a place. The nursery was ready – baby clothes were washed, dried, sorted, and put away in his dresser. Food was prepared and frozen for the months ahead – we had lasagna, meatloaf, soups – we could have lasted weeks.
The best part was that we were able to all coexist without anyone “taking over,” or being disrespectful of each other. She walked with me during the day (get that baby out!), took me to appointments, kept me company, and helped me talk through the “am I just being crazy?” hormonal moments when I would get stressed or annoyed over ridiculous things. In the evenings, she would cook or send us on a date and retire to the guest room when she knew we needed some space. She never overstepped boundaries or commented negatively about anything – she was just supportive.
My father also came out from Kansas and helped my husband with projects, loved on us, provided encouragement, and the gentle guidance he carries with him. He gave us the gift of his blessing for my mom to stay longer and keep up her crusade of caring for me… for us. He let us borrow his other half because he knew that we needed her.
We loved having them with us, we wanted them here, we needed them here.
Once our son was born, they were even more of a blessing. My dad stayed a few days to love on his grandson, sent flowers, and checked in several times a day. My mom settled in to help me manage pain and healing, drove to more doctor appointments, rocked our son at 2am when he wouldn’t sleep—so that we could. She gave us time to care for our marriage and ourselves. She sent us out on a date when our son was 8-days-old – we felt safe knowing that our son was home and in the most loving arms, while we took the time to reconnect. We have never felt so supported.
The time my parents gave us was completely without selfishness, agenda, or guilt – they made sacrifices, made themselves available, and we LOVED having them in our home. After nearly a month together, it was time for my mom to be home. I cried. My husband and I both felt emptiness where her encouragement and support had been, and I’m confident that our son knew something had changed – the third set of arms he had spent so many hours in were now a state away.
We loved having her with us, we wanted her here, we needed her here.
Almost two years later, we don’t get the privilege of having my parents stay with us as often as we’d like. We don’t get four weeks in a row of my mother’s time—but when we need them, they’re here, and we’re always sad to see them go. Our son is absolutely in love with them both – DAILY he asks about “Lala” and “Daddad” – pointing to their pictures and hoping it’s them whenever the phone rings.
I don’t wish that they lived with us so that my mom would take care of us and so my dad would do projects around the house. I wish that they lived with us, because we have fun with them and we respect each other. I wish that they lived with us, because they know us well enough and we them that we don’t have to pretend to be perfect when they’re around. They’ve seen us tired, cranky, selfish, sad, angry, helpless – and they love and support us unconditionally through it all.
I wish they lived with us because I’m a better wife, mother, and person when they’re here – when I have just a little extra help and wisdom. When they’re with us I feel less pressure, less stress, less mom guilt. I’ll admit, it would be different to have my parents around when I don’t have my most “graceful” days, to feel like my ugly moments would happen in front of people I don’t want to disappoint. But how could that be a bad thing for me to feel more accountable before I launched into a fit about laundry or dishes or closing the back door?
I wish they lived with us, because it’s beautiful to see our son with them. I wish he could grow up living with even more people who love him unconditionally and who would do ANYTHING in the world for him. I wish they lived with us, because of the tremendous role they play in our little family of three—we’re a better little family because of them.