This week I have a Guest Blogger, who, instead of sharing “the rest of the story,” is sharing “the other side of the story!” -Floyd
Last week you read The Who, What, Where, When, Why & How of Living With your Adult Children. Today I would like to share that story from my point of view. My name is Melissa, and having my mom and dad move in with us is one of the best things we have ever done. My dad’s side of the story of how they came to move in with us, was pretty accurate. My husband and I had started talking a while back about converting a portion of our house into a small apartment with the idea that when the time came, we could move my parents in with us. To be honest, the thought process was really more like, “When either Mom or Dad becomes a widow or widower, we want to have a place for them to live.” It was never something we discussed with my parents, it was just understood between the two of us, that we would do that when it was time.
Sometime in 2014 we started thinking that if we waited for a life changing event in my parents’ life, and then starting building the place it would be too difficult. It would take too long, be too stressful, too painful, and be done in a rush. We felt God directing us to start the process of building the place now, and when it was finished we could rent it out to a college student or something until my parents were ready to move it. We live down the street from a Christian University, so we were not worried about finding someone to live in it until Mom or Dad needed it.
We began meeting with a contractor and just getting the beginning ideas down. We knew we wanted it to be a complete home, so it at least needed a living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and separate front entrance. We would design and build it completely wheelchair accessible for when that time came. And since we were at it, we would add on a little to our side of the house, giving us a breakfast room and an additional half bathroom.
It was one afternoon when Mom and Dad were over, and the kids were banging on the bathroom doors “patiently” waiting their turn in the bathroom, that I casually mentioned to Dad, “When we build the addition on for you and Mom to live in, we are also adding another bathroom to our side of the house”
Dad looked at me like I had lost my mind. I thought he found it frivolous that I would add a third toilet onto my house. I said, “Dad, we have four kids! Bathroom space is tight.”
He just looked at me…. eyes wide, mouth agape. He finally said, “No….God just told me that it is time for Mom and me to sell the house and move in with you guys, and I had NO IDEA how I was going to start that conversation with you. But God provided that, too!” And so it began.
I was thrilled that they had made this decision, and that THEY were going to clean out their house that they had lived in for 30 years. That way, #1 – I wouldn’t have to do it and #2 – they could keep the things they wanted to keep. As Mom and Dad began sorting, purging, cleaning and preparing to sell the house, we began construction. We were all busy with our part, but we were excited for the day they would move in.
As that date got closer and closer we set up some boundaries and ground rules for living under the same roof together. I think this is one of the MOST important things of moving your parents in with you…whether they have their own space under your roof as my parents do, or if they are within the home, in a room or something of the like. Boundaries are critical because everybody knows what to expect, and what is important to each party BEFORE it becomes a problem.
Dad explained our door placard system, and without bragging too much….this was BRILLIANT!!!! Really, it works perfectly for us. We can all know what’s going on in the other home before we disturb them. Now, sometimes we forget to switch the sign, and Dad may walk in while we have dinner guests, but we all understand that that was our mistake, not him violating the boundary, so it’s not a problem. And sometimes the kids forget to even look at the sign before they knock on the door to go visit grandpa and grandma, but there is grace for that, too. Since they have lived with us, we have even added some signs… things we noticed we needed. My favorite was when Dad requested a “Buzz Off” sign, for things that needs no explanation, but mandates a clear Do Not Disturb. Honestly, I think that sign has only been used once, but we have it if we need it!
I get asked frequently what it is like having my parents live with me. It – Is – Fantastic. There are many advantages to having parents share your home with you. As Dad did, I will list them below:
- As I read the advantages my dad wrote, I felt like it sounded as if they are freeloading their way through retirement. But that is not how we see it at all. Mom and Dad have made the decision to pay ‘rent’ every month to cover their portion of the utilities and other things that we share – like milk, paper products, and cleaning products. It is also a huge blessing and peace of mind knowing Mom and Dad are taken care of and not struggling financially
- Dad said they have no financial concerns maintaining their home. While this is technically true, I would say that the stress and labor of maintaining the home is no longer theirs to bear. When there is a repair to be made, Mom and Dad do help out financially. They just don’t have to make the decisions of who to call, how to fix it, and all that fun stuff.
- There is almost always someone here to help keep an eye on the kids if we need it. As previously mentioned, we have four children. That is a lot of moving parts, and sometimes things overlap and we need to either leave a kiddo here at home for a bit, or we need an extra taxi driver for the evening. Because we do have the understanding that either one of us can say ‘No’, nobody feels as if they are being taken advantage of.
- When my husband and I travel for a getaway by ourselves, not only are Mom and Dad here to take care of the kids, the kids get to stay in their own home, and sleep in their own beds….and so do Mom and Dad!
- Our children can go over and talk to Grandma and Grandpa whenever they want to. They each spend time with their grandparents on a daily basis. It is the most wonderful thing to see that multi-generational relationship growing.
- We have each other to keep an eye on the house, plants, and pets when one of us goes out of town.
- I get to talk to my Mom and Dad, in person, whenever I want
- When I am sick, or worn out, or having a rough day, Mom and Dad will take my youngest over to their house for a while to give me a break.
- I am able to work a fun little job two mornings a week, because Mom and Dad help get my youngest on the school bus those mornings. Without them I would not have this opportunity.
- We throw together little celebrations and parties whenever we want: Opening day of Baseball Season; Baseball All-Star game; National Donut Day; Kids going Back to School Party; Low-key Super Bowl Party….whatever and whenever we want!
- We choose to eat 2 meals together a week. When the time comes that they need to eat more meals with us, it will not be something we have to adjust to. We are used to them eating with us, and we enjoy the time together.
- Mom and Dad do not need us right now. Someday they will, and when that time comes, the transition will have been gradual, with everyone having a chance to adjust to the new normal. Mom and Dad won’t have to feel a sudden loss of independence, because this is already their home. We can see when one of them doesn’t feel well, and when they may need to be taken to the doctor. If they lived somewhere else, we would either need to take their word for how they are doing over the phone, or drive to their home to check on them. I have such a piece of mind always knowing how their health is.
- Let me just mention something about end of life long-term care. We have all had discussions about what situations would mandate a different living situation for my parents, i.e. – a skilled nursing facility. Having my parents move in with us does not automatically make me a hospice nurse. It does not have to mean that I will have to care for my parents in a way that would make them feel undignified. Again, this is where open communication is key. As they age, there is a lot that I can and will do for them. But – I will honor their wishes when the care they need is beyond what they want my husband and me to provide.
My husband and I have a good relationship with both of my parents, and not only do we all get along, but we enjoy each other’s company. So there is the benefit of having them around to hang out with and have conversations with whenever we want. I like to think of Mom and Dad living here as something beyond a ‘Pros & Cons’ list. It is a blessing in more ways that any of us realize. We get to continue to grow relationships across three generations. My kids friends know Grandma and Grandpa, and spend time talking with them. All in all, I am so glad they moved in when they did, and that we have so many fun years ahead of us.