I'm by no means an expert on this, but having found myself in this situation since the beginning of May, I would like to offer some tips on making things go smoothly. Some of these tips may apply to you, some of them may not. Each family's situation is different, understandably. Some general ways to make life easier include:
- Offer to help with projects around the house.
- Pitch in with chores – especially in areas where your family helps make the mess bigger (like dishes). If your kids had regular chores before, they can continue to do them now. My kids have been reminded several times what a blessing they should see it to have use of a working dishwasher now, rather than having to hand wash dishes. Make sure to keep up after any pets you have been allowed to bring, too.
- Be considerate with laundry – Either find a regular time when the machines are not used (Tuesday is a good day at our house), or agree with your parents on a day and time that you will have access.
- Talk often about schedules and plans – When we first got here, I asked about my parents' and brother's regular activities, and we update each other almost every day on what our plans are. This helps coordinate meals, vehicles, and babysitting.
- Respect set boundaries – If your family has certain areas that have been allotted for your belongings, then keep them there. Our family has 2 bedrooms and a very small space in the basement and garage. Otherwise, our belongings are in a rented storage shed. Mr. Man and I make regular sweeps of the living room to make sure that our things are contained. Make sure your children know if certain areas of the house or items are off limits to them.
- Respect set boundaries, part 2 – this goes both ways. As a married couple and as parents, there are going to be instances where you want to deal with an issue privately. Likewise, allow your parents to have their own privacy in their relationship. Remember that if one party does not want to share details, it is not a reflection of your relationship with your parents, but it is simply a part of being an adult and having your own family that you are still responsible for running, regardless of living in someone else's house. If you need to, let your parent know gently and respectfully that they are inquiring about something that you are not going to discuss with them.
- Keep up your household rules – Make sure your children continue to act as they should. If you have certain expectations of your children, make sure your parents are aware of them. Also, make sure you are aware of and enforce any rules your parents might have. Work out solutions, if need be.
- Talk out problems in a timely manner – Don't allow annoyances or grievances to fester. Remember that you and your parents are all adults, and should be capable of coming up with an acceptable answer to any issues that arise. Having Biblical respect for your parents goes a long way in this!
- Mind your children - Remember that, no matter how happy your parents may be to have the grandkids there, you should not assume they are watching your children unless you ask them to. If they are babysitting, be courteous and return when you say you will. Lastly, children are a blessing, but can also be a bit wearing on those who are not used to living with them any more. Watch for signs that your parents may be getting a bit irritated, and give them a break – have the kids play outside, take them to the park, make them have some quiet time in their room.
- Help with meals – My mom and I plan dinners. Sometimes one of us cooks, sometimes we both do. Sometimes Mr. Man helps out. Planning dinners together helps with the grocery shopping, as we understandably need to have more food on hand with 9 people in the house.
- Help financially, where you can – Obviously, you are probably not in this situation because you have lots of money. Due to my parents' living arrangements, there is not a lot of need for us to help financially. However, we do try to help with the groceries when possible, as this is an expense that greatly increased with our arrival. If necessary, work out an arrangement with your parents as to what and how much you will pay for.
- Spend time together as a family - Time together with the entire household is great. But, remember to spend time together with just your spouse and children, too. It doesn't need to cost anything. We often play a game together in the evening, or Mr. Man will take the kids to the park, etc. We also watch educational shows together with the older two children.
- Set a time frame for moving out – Set a date, and stick to it. If you need to extend it a bit, talk it over with your parents. Most families I know in this situation (my own included) are not interested in making things permanent. However, it can be easy to get comfortable and forget your goal of having your own household again. Frankly, I love my parents, but don't understand this mindset at all. After being out of the house for 14 years and having (almost) four children, I don't like being cooped up in someone else's home. I'm eager to be in charge of a home of my own again, especially with a newborn expected any day, and I know all of us are looking forward to a bit more privacy, too!
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