How to Live With Your in Laws
You may be looking forward to being part of a multigenerational home with your in-laws, or you may be moving in with your in-laws out of necessity. Living with your in-laws can be stressful, or it can be rewarding, and you can help smooth the bumps in the road by establishing rules and boundaries. It may be better to discuss these before you move in, but you could incorporate these suggestions at any point in your living arrangement. Make sure you are all on the same page regarding your finances and house rules, which will help avoid a lot of arguments. Communicate openly and honestly with your in-laws about any household concerns. Don’t let resentment build up!
Discuss how you will split bills.Decide how costs will be split for all utilities in the household, and in whose name the bills will be. Decide on payment deadlines and who will be responsible for them.
Determine how you will pay for food.You may first want to figure out how you want to split meal responsibilities before you determine how you want to budget for food. You will want to decide if you want to all contribute to a communal food kitty, keep your food bills separate, or a combination of the two.
Factor in childcare payments.A major reason why multiple generations move in together is to help with childcare. Determine if you want to compensate or be compensated for helping with childcare, and come to an agreement with other members of the household about what would be a reasonable payment.
Address unusual circumstances.Make plans for unexpected life changes. Discuss how you will handle bills if one of you should lose their job, have a baby, or fall ill. It is better to discuss possibilities ahead of time rather than not have a plan of action in an emergency.
- For example, you could say, “What if I were to lose my job? As it is right now, we are barely making ends meet, which is why we are moving in with you. How would we handle this situation? What would you expect from us?”
- Discuss what you want to do in case one family decides they want to move. At some point, one or both families may decide that this living plan isn’t working out, or there may be a new opportunity for someone in another city. Determine how your families could separate and how you would divide moving responsibilities.
Consider putting everything in writing.It might not seem like something you want to do with other members of your family, but putting financial obligations in writing will help put everyone on the same page and could avoid arguments down the road. While having members of your family sign a lease or other legal documents may feel awkward or distrustful, the uncomfortable feelings now may save you a lot of heartache and strained family relations later.
- Determine what kind of documents you need. Look online for examples to draw up your own, or you could consider hiring an attorney to prepare any legal documents for you. Make sure the documents would hold up in court; for example, you may want to get some documents notarized.
- If you are buying property together, you may want everyone’s signatures on loan documents, for example.
Establishing House Rules
Discuss how you will prepare meals.Consider everyone’s schedules and responsibilities as you make decisions about who will shop for food, who will cook, and who will clean up. Decide if you will eat separately or together.
- You may wish to assign roles: You do the shopping, your in-laws do the cooking, and your spouse cleans up, for example.
- You may decide to assign days of the week when one family member is completely responsible for a meal, giving others the night off.
- It may be helpful to create a weekly meal planning chart to help determine what everyone is serving and who is responsible for which meal.
- Decide on family responsibilities and expectations for all meals. Some questions to resolve may include: Will someone be making a sit-down breakfast during the week? Will there be a designated day to go out for dinner? If you are not going to make it to a meal, when should you let the household know?
Determine responsibilities for cleaning and other chores.You may want to make a chore chart or write down everyone’s responsibilities while you are talking. How will you divide up household duties? Who will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining common areas? Some other areas of responsibilities you may wish to discuss include:
- Cleaning bedrooms or separate family areas
- Pet care
- Outside home maintenance, such as raking leaves or mowing the lawn
- Home repairs
Determine how you will be responsible for caring for and disciplining any children.Living with multiple generations under one roof can be extremely rewarding for everyone. Children will have more adults in their lives to nurture them and help them grow, and the children’s parents can find some relief in sharing the workload of parenting. The parents of the children should be the ones to determine how they want their children taken care of and disciplined, and should discuss their expectations with other family members.
- For example, you may have a rule that your children can’t watch TV until they have finished their homework. Make sure that other adult members of the household agree to enforce that.
- Affirm your discipline procedures. If one of your children misbehaves, what would you like the other adults in the house to do? Are there any discipline methods you disapprove of that you do not want to see used on your children? Be clear in your expectations.
- Do not allow other adults to undermine your discipline procedures. If other adults in the house have a problem with your discipline (whether they feel it is too soft or too harsh), have them come to you with any concerns instead of talking to the children. A statement like, “Your mommy never lets you have cookies if you don’t eat a good dinner, but grandma will give you some!” undermines your parenting and confuses the children.
- You could say, “Mary, I know you mean well, and I am so grateful that you help out with the kids. But Matt and I have a rule that the kids don’t get dessert unless they clean their plates. Can you please abide by our rule in the future?”
Agree on rules around privacy and personal space.Determine which rooms need permission to enter. Make sure you all agree on ground rules around giving each other enough space.
- For example, you could decide that a house rule will be to knock before opening any closed door, or that Grandpa’s office is off-limits to the kids.
- Respect each other’s privacy. You may have your in-laws living in your house, but consider their designated personal spaces (like a bedroom) their own property. Respect them and treat it as such, knocking before entering or not disturbing them in the evenings.
- Designate which spaces “belong” to each family member and if family members can personalize those spaces. For example, can anyone add personal touches to common areas, or is the owner of the house the default decorator?
- If finances and space permit, you could consider doing some home remodeling for additional privacy. For example, you could put up a wall to divide a room into two separate, private spaces. You could even consider building an addition on the house, like an in-law suite (which usually contains, at a minimum, a spacious bedroom and full bath).
Consider other rules that may need to be implemented in your family.Look at your family situation and determine what other unique rules you may need to develop and enforce. Get input from all members of the household.
- For example, if someone in the household works from home, what will other household members do to give the worker the space and privacy they need to do their job?
- Consider any rules you may need to implement around driving and vehicles. For example, can everyone drive each other’s cars? Can teenage children drive their grandparents’ car?
Hold family meetings on a regular basis.You may want to sit down with other family members every once in a while to discuss how your living arrangement is working out and address any concerns. Agree to be open, respectful, and honest in your conversations.
- Discuss finances and the household budget. It may be helpful to save old bills and receipts for your records and discussion. For example, you could say, “I noticed the water bill really went up last month. I think it’s because Kevin is taking such long showers. Could you talk to him about making sure he’s not in the shower so long?”
Talk about it before resentment builds.Living with your in-laws can be stressful at times, and you may find yourself disagreeing with how they do things. Determine what kinds of issues are worth confronting your in-laws over, and what other problems are just common annoyances of living with someone.
- Be respectful and confront the problem as soon as you can. Don’t let resentment build up and make you angrier. Remember, letting time pass may mean that the other person may have no memory of the incident.
- Your in-laws may be more receptive to talking to the person they are related to, rather than the person who married into the family. Therefore, if you have a problem with someone’s behavior, it may be the most helpful to discuss with your spouse or child first, instead of going directly to your father- or daughter-in-law, for example.
- For example, you could say to your spouse, “Your mom agreed to clean the downstairs bathroom, but she hasn’t done it in about three weeks. Can you please remind her it’s her job? Sometimes I feel like I am nagging her when I remind her.”
Disagree respectfully.You will likely have disagreements with people you live with, whether they are your in-laws or not. Even if you don’t see eye-to-eye with each other, you can still discuss your differences
- Try to understand where the other person is coming from. For example, you could say, “I always listen to music when I’m working at night, but I had no idea you could hear it in your bedroom. I can understand why you’re so annoyed!”
- Apologize and agree to change your behavior in the future, if necessary. For example, “I’m so sorry I didn’t call that I wasn’t going to be at dinner. I completely forgot, but I’ll put a reminder in my phone so that I remember to call you next time.”
- Don’t get defensive. If your daughter-in-law says, “You forgot to pay the gas bill,” don’t respond defensively, like “I always remember. Don’t act like I never do it.” A better response would be, “I’m sorry, it must have slipped my mind.”
Learn to let things go.Practice your patience. Everyone gets on each other’s nerves from time to time. When you are feeling frustrated, remind yourself of the benefits of your living arrangement, or find some ways to take time to yourself.
- Remember that not every opinion needs to be expressed. You may hate the look and contents of your mother-in-law’s curio cabinet, but there is no point in bringing that up except to be hurtful.
- You could take a walk, offer to run some errands by yourself, or have planned activities during the week that get you out of the house.
- Vent to someone who will listen to you without judgment. Just make sure you are talking to someone who won’t take your frustrations back to your in-laws! And don’t vent on social media -- the internet never forgets, and an angry post could find its way onto your in-laws’ computer screen.
Try to stay positive.There are lots of benefits to having several generations living all together. When you are stressed out and frustrated with your living situation, try to think of some benefits to your situation:
- You may have a much lower cost of living than if you did not live with your in-laws.
- You may get free childcare, or get to see your grandchildren every day.
- You may get more date nights with your spouse.
- You can feel secure that when you go out of town, someone else is watching your house.
Connect with each other.Have fun with your family. Come up with activities you all enjoy and can do together to grow closer and bond with each other. For instance, you could:
- Cook together. You could all decide to try out a new recipe and serve all your creations at dinner.
- Have a movie or sports night, watching a movie you all enjoy or a team you all support together.
- Have a game night, playing your favorite board or video games.
- Go on outings together. Take in local sights or museums in your area as a family.
- Celebrate holidays and birthdays together. Come up with new household traditions.
Video: My Experience Living With the In-Laws
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