“You’re moving in with your parents?” my friend asked. I laughed, and then cringed, at her incredulous tone. How to explain?
We were both 40, long past the days of crashing in our parents’ basements, and my mom and I had gone through a rocky patch when I was a teen. This friend had been on the other end of the phone for decades. She had heard firsthand the long conversations about the unfairness of my mom’s strict house rules, my longing for freedom.
“Their house is too big for just them. They’ll need to sell it,” I said, but that wasn’t the whole story. “And we’re having a hard time with all these medical bills. This mortgage is killing us with me not able to work.”
That wasn’t the whole story, either.
“I’m really lonely,” I said. “I feel so isolated.”
And there it was. A stay-at-home mom long past any plans I’d had before getting pregnant, I now felt trapped and alone. My three kids were old enough to go to school, but my son struggled with a variety of disabilities that made consistent attendance challenging. His little sisters had their own needs, which necessitated midday appointments weekly.
Sometimes we just weren’t okay. I couldn’t get to the store. I couldn’t even get a five-minute shower in. I found myself treading water, frequently needing my parents’ help to get through the day, while my friends were all back at work and swimming on ahead.
The decision to move in wasn’t an easy one, or something we’d ever considered before. My parents were both retired and dealing with the upkeep of a large, old home. They discussed the benefits and drawbacks of different retirement communities, but my mother seemed so sad about it. Both of my parents were still quite active. They traveled regularly, saw friends, and enjoyed their well-earned free time. My mom didn’t relish going to what she called an “old folks’ home.” She didn’t feel old, didn’t want to think of herself or her life that way.
And I missed adult conversations and the space to breathe. Most days felt suffocatingly claustrophobic, my only connection to the outside world via Facebook or Twitter. So over lunch one day, as my mom once again expressed her reluctance to be “sent out to pasture,” I found myself asking if she’d have any interest in having us move in and help around the house.
“We could take care of your dogs while you travel. I could cook you dinner every night!” I tried to sell myself, wondering if the whole idea was ridiculous.
“But would you all really want that?” she asked, her worry about my husband evident in her eyes. The in-law–spouse relationship is always a complicated one, of course, and our family’s was no exception.
“Let me ask,” I said.
That night my husband and I talked about it, and he was thrilled with the idea.
“I’d love to pay them back for their generosity,” he said. “They’ve always been there for us. I know your mom would love to be able to stay in her own home.”
So it began, the slow journey toward an extended family living under one roof. They used the proceeds of our home sale to help pay for an age-in-place apartment attached to the back of the house. We moved into the main space and upended their lives completely, with three young kids running around and visiting way too early in the mornings. Eventually we found our rhythm, with large family dinners in our dining room, and the privacy of a closed door between the residences.
Sometimes, both kids and dogs sneak over to Nana and Pop Pop’s side of the house. Grandparents offer something that parents just can’t: a cookie, a patient game of Scrabble when mom is too flustered at the end of a long day, or just a quick hello and a hug. They also offer us parents something we might otherwise not have: When my son isn’t okay, when he can’t leave the house and the world appears to be falling down around us, my parents often pick up his little sisters from school for me. They keep an eye on a kid (or three) while I run to the store for groceries or even to meet a friend for coffee. They keep an ear open after bedtime so my husband and I can take a walk on a warm spring night. They sit down with us at dinner and listen to my kids talk about YouTube videos when I don’t have any gas left in the tank, enjoying their grandchildren for who they are, giving them the attention and love they seem to endlessly crave.
My parents listen to me, too. We talk, daily, and I feel like an actual adult in those interactions. I gain perspective, which is no small thing when you’re frequently homebound. The little things that make me feel like a human, that were missing for years in my life — they’ve been given back to me. And that helps me be a better mom to my own kids.
I know the time will come when my parents need more than dinners, dog-sitting, and the occasional help moving heavy furniture. But for now, living as a village has been so much easier and more fun than I ever imagined. It’s a blessing for our whole family.
Whether you live with them or not, show those grandparents some love with these sweet printables.