5 Tips on How to Live with Your Mother-in-Law or In-laws

xmas2015 family picWe have been living with my in-laws for 2.5 years now.  The idea of living together didn’t enter our minds until we decided to move back to the mainland from Hawaii over 2 years ago.  We are Korean Americans, and nobody we knew lived with their parents.  But we had just had our third child, and he was a surprise gift from God.  I was 40 years old.  I felt that I was starting all over again with raising a baby, and on top of that, he was a baby who didn’t sleep.  In a sleep-deprived haze, I remember thinking that it may be a good idea to get some help, and I thought that since we were moving to Southern California, my in-laws may want to live with us and help out for a few years.  Everyone said that was a bad idea, but my husband and I wanted to try it, and I think we were both lacking sleep and good sense.

Fast forward two years, and here are some things that I learned about how to live at peace with my parents-in-laws under one roof.

1.  Only live in a house with separate living quarters for the parents.

We were very fortunate to find a unique house that had an in-law unit within the house.  So my parents-in-laws have a bedroom, bathroom, living room, another bathroom and a loft to themselves.  They had enough space to put all their things from their old house into their new quarters.  They have a kitchenette, but they don’t use it.  We eat all meals together and they use the kitchen.  That is the only drawback.  It would have been nice to have our own kitchens.  The food that they like to eat is very stinky!  Mackerel, kimchi stew, daikon radish soups, fermented soybean paste stew, and so forth.  I think that the ideal living quarters would be a duplex with a backyard or some space in between.

2.  Set up boundaries.

It’s easier to have boundaries if there are separate living spaces, but nonetheless, it is important to have some boundaries in the living situation.  For example, to preserve family time with just our nuclear family, we try to just do separate things on the weekends and have meals on our own.  My parents-in-law like to just stay home a lot, which had made me feel like I had to stay home and make all the meals, but that wasn’t realistic with three boys and their sports and activity schedules.  And I wanted to rest from cooking on the weekends as well.  So we discussed it and they wanted to be free and eat on their own on the weekends, and we just do what we need to do as well.

3.  Take what they say with a grain of salt.

It’s not that I don’t listen to my father-in-law, but I need to distinguish when he really means something, or whether he is just blowing off some steam and saying what he doesn’t mean.  Sometimes it can be frustrating to live together and they tend to criticize the way I do things or how I raise the children.  At these times, it is tempting for me to lash out, but I just let it roll off my back.  They are just venting, and nothing they say will really change the way I raise the children, as I know I’m doing fine.  The Perfection that they want is not attainable.  Making a perfect breakfast for my children that includes pancakes, waffles, sausage, fruit salad, and smoothie every day is not a realistic expectation.  Also, they don’t listen to me either.  No matter what I say, it doesn’t change their opinions.  So I just let it all go.

4.  Focus on the good and be grateful

There are many times I am tempted to throw in the towel and move out.  But I always have to focus on the good and be grateful for the benefits of multiple generations living together.  It is incalculably good for my children to be able to spend this precious time with their grandparents.  They will have warm memories of their halmoni and harabuji.  I am grateful for how my in-laws do not complain and eat my mediocre food and overlook my haphazard housekeeping and disorganization.  I am grateful for all the rides that they do to take my three kids to three different schools.  Grandfather also takes the kids to their swim team practices after school every day.  Without his help, I wouldn’t be able to work my full-time job.  Grandmother always helps in the kitchen, even though I make the week-day dinners, she is always adding side dishes or other foods to supplement the meal.  Grandmother teaches the kids Korean and helps them with their Korean school homework.  I am very grateful for so much that they do.  It’s not easy as they are old.

5.  Remember that there is a reward for taking care of parents

It’s not easy to live with parents, especially parents-in-law.  I don’t really recommend it, but somehow it happened to us.  We thought it would happen later in our lives, when they need our help.  But as Christians, we believe that God rewards those who “Honor their parents.”  Ephesians 6:1-3 says:  “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.””  We are making precious memories with them, and there may not really be that much time left.  We are enriching each others’ lives and providing lots of joy with the cute grandkids.  We thank God for this opportunity.




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