Probably at least once a month someone asks my husband and/or me if we are moving. When are we going to get a house? A year ago when we told people that we were going to move in with my parents, many people either thought we had serious money problems or we were just plain crazy.
I know what we are doing is counter-cultural for many Americans. We have voluntarily chosen to move in with my parents, because we want to live together. We don’t need to do it for financial or child-care reasons. My parents are both vocal about the fact that this is our house now, as a family. We pay rent, like we paid our mortgage.
So, why did we chose to do this? I chose to do this because dealing with this illness is not something Mom and Dad should have to do alone. My husband and I were fortunate enough to have the option of moving and helping with Mom’s care, and we wanted to use the blessings we have in life to their fullest capacity. And frankly, I did it because I thought if I die tomorrow, I would regret that I did not spend more time with Mom and Dad and help them. I am their daughter, Mom and Dad cared for me, and I want to do the same for them. We also wanted our son to know his grandparents and know what it is like to live in a multigenerational community.
It is even more surprising to people that my husband actually enjoys and wants to be living in his in-law’s house. So, why does he do it? I will let him tell you:
“It is a way of showing that I love my in-laws. By being with them even when it is not a fun dinner or special occasion, it shows that I love them in a very real way. Like most people, we say that family is important, but we want our actions to actually match our words. We want Mom to spend as much of her life as possible living at home with family around her. I know that Dad can’t care for Mom alone. He needs emotional support and he needs the time to take care of himself. By being here we can make sure he has that time.”
Living together in this way requires a different kind of relationship, a real relationship. It means that we communicate and talk to each other. We have to tell each other what is working and what is not or we will all be miserable. For this kind of community living to work, we have to be honest and vulnerable and that is not always easy. Our relationship is about constantly re-committing to each other. We realize that we can’t make it work all at once, we have to go back and make it work over and over again.
Living in this house also means we have a lot of fun. We laugh all the time. Mom and I watch murder mysteries together. Dad, Jeff, Jeffrey and I bike together, often with friends. Mom and Jeffrey try to scare each other all day (it’s an on-going joke with them). We make spaghetti tacos for dinner, we burn pizza and the fire trucks arrive.
So, we won’t move out unless Mom and Dad ask us to, or somehow this living arrangement becomes a safety issue, particularly for our son.
Living together is fun, sad, frustrating, scary, boring, exciting, exhausting, supportive, caring, and loving. It is just life, in all of it’s ups and downs. We are just choosing not to live it alone.