Being an “Elder Millennial,” I am on the cusp of sending my kids away to college (I mean, like seven years from now), but that was the step we were mentally preparing for. Instead, the unexpected happened. My mother was going through a divorce and was going to be landed in debt up to her eyeballs when one day my husband mentioned, “You know it would save your mom a lot of money if she just moved in here.”
My first reaction was a gigantic NO. Have you met my mother? She’s shrill and complains about things and thinks the worst in all situations. She doesn’t drive in any type of inclement weather despite having lived in the midwest all her life. Seriously people, if it’s rainy, snowy, icy, too sunshiny! The woman is crazy. But in the end, I caved and before I knew it, the “Mother-In-Law” quarters were being added. She was here. Turns out, it’s the BEST decision we ever made! Here’s how to make it work:
- Before the move in happens, there should already be an exit date in place. Ours coincides with our youngest going to middle school. Now that my mom has been here for 2 years, we honestly can’t see her leaving, ever. But that date is still there, just in case.
- Set boundaries BEFORE the move in. We have two very steadfast family traditions we do each week. My mom knew from the beginning that she wouldn’t be invited every time because we are still loving on our littles for as long as they let us. Sometimes it’s just going to be our family of four. We were, however, able to start a new family tradition that includes her and shows our children that she is a part of our everyday life and that family is important!
- Don’t abuse the free childcare! Our kids are old enough to be left home alone, but for longer periods of time we still like to have someone here with them. We talk to my mom like we would any normal baby-sitter, asking her in advance for childcare. Also reminding her that just because the kids run downstairs to see their GG, she can kick them out whenever!
- Common schedule location. We adopted a giant family calendar that is posted in a location for all to see. My mom has her schedule there too, so that we know when and where she’ll be, and she knows our crazy schedule. My mom still works, which has been a godsend. She isn’t just putzing around our place looking for things to do each day. She has appointments and errands and friends of her own. But seeing our schedule often leads to, “Hey, do you need me to help with pick up one day?” Uhh….always!
- Remember that he/she isn’t a guest. This one took us the longest. Be aware of all of the emotions that come along with a parent moving into their child’s home. Help your parent feel welcome and loved, not like another child, or an annoying houseguest. This is their home, too. They need space and freedom to do whatever they need to in that space!
- Make sure the other grandparents know their time and presence is just as valuable. Our big worry after my mom moved in was that the other grandparents wouldn’t get any alone time with our kids or they’d feel like they were missing out. We work very hard when they visit for my mom to be out of town, out of the house, or just staying in her section of the house. Even on Christmas, she doesn’t come up until the other grands have had their time!
It’s not for everyone and believe me, we still have arguments and get on each other’s nerves! But it’s been so amazing to have her around for all the little things in life that ordinarily she’d just hear about!