Go ahead, live with your mother-in-law, it’s okay!

I’m not quite sure when our society decided on being so individualistic or if it’s always been a North American way.  I would assume (because it’s early and I am not starting a research project here) that most of the world does not live as we do, each family in their own home with their own garage door openers and lawn mowers and the like.

My husband and I have questioned this since first moving to the suburbs.  It didn’t dawn on us while living in the city because everyone’s place is so small to begin with that there really wasn’t room for more people.  But certainly there are buildings that have more of a community focus and should we do it all again, we’d probably look for one like that.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make the move to the ‘burbs.  In fact, a visit to my parents place an hour outside of the city one weekend caused us to delay the move a full year.  (Post for another time…)

When we finally took the plunge and my husband officially became a commuter we were so off-put by what was going on in the suburbs.  Before this we had always heard things like, “Why would you want to raise kids in the city?” or, “Wouldn’t they be happier with a yard?”  Sure, they might be.  But they didn’t know of such things so they lived in apartment-city-kid-ignorant-bliss!  But when we arrived in the suburbs we thought exactly the opposite.  Thoughts like, “Why would you want to raise your kids here where there is nowhere to walk to?”  or, “Why does every single house need their own lawnmower for such a small yard?”

Since this time we have become huge fans of community living and living with family, in particular.  We know that it’s not the norm around these parts but the blessings that come from it can simply not even be put into proper words.  It’s awesome.

God first led us into living with family during my husbands first major career change.  Of course, with any major change things were a little uncertain and we just weren’t sure how it would all play out.  It was at this time that my super-de-dooper brother and his even more awesomely-amazing wife came to us and said, “Move in with us!”  For reals.

First of all, let me just mention that they had the cutest house that was only a few years old and they weren’t inviting us in because they needed financial help.  They invited us in because they love Jesus and they saw that what we were doing was good and they, bless their crazy hearts, wanted to help.  Also, just picture with me if you will that they were inviting an extra 5 people, 3 of them loud little boys who like to climb and spill things, into their home which currently housed only 4 people.  Were they crazy?  Yes.  Was it the best thing ever?  Double yes and amen.

So we moved in.  Us downstairs, them upstairs, 9 people in a normal 4-5 person house.  I’m sure the neighbours thought we were nuts.  Hey, we even thought we were nuts!  But we quickly learned that life is so much better lived together.  In community.  Sharing what we have with those who need and pooling resources and being the village that it takes to raise our children with some sense of sanity.

Living together meant sharing the load.  Lawn mowing and gardening, for example, didn’t land on one person.  Child care, because our kids were all little at the time, wasn’t just left to one mama and her kids.  We could spell each other off and take all 5 to the park while the other was making dinner or just having a break.  The kids had constant playmates.  Their best friends to this day!  We had many meals together – though not always – and sharing the cooking was such a joy as well.  Each person contributing or even just spending time cooking together made the nightly dinner chores less daunting.

Constant companionship was really the benefit even though tasks were lightened as well.  If one husband was working more than normal the mama didn’t feel alone.  On Saturday afternoon if one Dad was fiddling in the garage there would be a buddy with a beer beside him helping pass the time.  It put us into each others lives on a daily basis and in so doing caused us to share life in a way that just can’t happen behind your own individual walls.  They see the good, the bad and the ugly and they walk and talk and pray with you through just the same.  Life doesn’t get better than that.

But seasons change and God moves and we all moved out eventually to new things though we were constantly on the lookout for a home that would once again house us all.   But God had different plans.  He would see fit to change things up, yet again, but continue with our lives of living in community.

He sent my brother and his family to Ireland to be hospitality co-ordinators for Operation Mobilization Ireland where they sometimes live with 10-20 people in their care.  And he moved us on to live in community with my Mom after my Dad passed away.

So we have lived, again, with family for the past 3 years and wouldn’t change a moment of them.

Sure there are moments of trial – we’re loud, mom’s not, we hog the washer and dryer, we have little friends over that don’t understand the value of mom’s antiques – y’know, your basics.  But more importantly in living under the same roof we have shared life more than we ever could have any other way.

For one, my laundry gets magically folded for me almost every day and my mom’s meals just arrive at around 5:30 each day and many other simple benefits.  But the big ones being that we know the in’s and out’s of each others lives.  We know immediately when one is having a bad day and needs help.  We laugh together and cry together and hash through lifes big things together and it’s better that way.

We weren’t made simply to wade through this world alone.  Individually.

We were made for community, for relationship, for sharing and caring and encouraging and laughing with those who laugh and weeping with those who weep.  We were made to help and bless and be there if (and when!) it’s hard.  ‘Cause at some point it will be hard.  These things happen in the home and when you share that space with others they happen to an even greater extent.

I know living with family is not for everyone but I kinda wish it was.  Because it’s a refining experience.  It means laying down your own plans, agendas, decorating schemes and gardening plans for the sake of others.  It means putting aside our selfish tendencies in terms of space we think we need, quiet we think we need, and time we think we need.  It means the working out of so many things like who’s tasks are who’s and being willing to say, “This is really bothering me, can we talk about it?” even when it’s hard.

It has grown us in so many ways and is such a blessing that we can’t hardly see why anyone wouldn’t choose to do it this way!

Have you ever lived with family?  Or in a community?  Did you love it like we do?  Would you ever consider it?  I often feel like we’re so alone on this but we would love people to see the beauty of it!  Would love to hear your thoughts…

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7 thoughts on “Go ahead, live with your mother-in-law, it’s okay!

  1. I love living in community with others! I think the best thing for me and the boys was living for 2 months with Dennis and Amy! and I pray it might work out one day for us all to do it again! i think its a great model for single moms! my kids get to see what a working model looks like between a hubby and wife. it helps me be accountible and not feel lonely so I dont feel like I need a man to fill those needs. and i love sharing the work around the house! lol ok off to the Kangaroo farm! 2 moms and 7 kids!

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  2. Love it, Melanie! Thanks for sharing. You’re right, it is a great model for any single parent who wants their child to see how a two parent family operates.
    Kangaroo farm?! So awesome.

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  3. Living in India this model is the norm. I have a house cleaner (also the norm here) and I remember my Indian friend saying to me one day “I WISH I HAD A HOUSE CLEANER” and my response was “I WISH I HAD MY MOTHER IN LAW LIVING WITH ME!!!”

    We love having people stay in our home when people come to India to visit/do ministry…. and the longer they stay the better, we say. But only because of exactly what you said…. it opens our eyes to our own selfish ways/wants/desires and (hopefully) refocuses us to serve others.

    North America was founded on people who broke free of their family traditions and sailed to the unknown to be independent of everything they were raised with to start a new life. This has been bred into us as North Americans… but I rather enjoy the “eastern” way of thinking because I see the benefits in other peoples character – the less selfishness of serving others that I strive to have. I don’t even like to share my plate of food… and they get their food and first offer some of it to the person sitting beside them.

    Such an eye opener… such a challenge… but I’m up for it.

    I love that you have lived in community and survived to tell about it. Because it was a great experience each time just goes to show that you were able to set aside your own agenda to accommodate the others in your home… and I love that about you guys.

    Love.

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  4. I really think we could learn a lot from our ‘eastern’ thinking friends, Sher! (that would be you!) While I love the country I live in there are some things that we just don’t get right. Serving others is definitely one of them! Would love to visit your home to get a bit of a taste! One day…. (we’re still saving!)

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  5. Years ago my sister and I had a conversation about the benefits of community living and with that a ‘business plan’ developed. It had many parts… Family benefits, financial benefits, child care benefits etc. before long we bought a house together. At the beginning the biggest component was the financial benefit, we had a 5 year plan, we stuck to it and in the end financially we accomplished what we wanted. What we didn’t expect was how much we loved living together. Baking together, barbecuing together, trading babysitting for work and date night. It was really a great venture. By the time five years was up we were ready to part ways, mostly because our kids needed time apart. They started to act like siblings which isn’t always great 🙂 We now think that when the kids move out, maybe we should try it again 🙂
    Currently my in-laws are living with us and its been great. My parents have their name on the waiting list to move in next 🙂

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  6. Love it, Kori! Thanks for sharing your tales of community living. It’s true about the cousins starting to act like siblings. I don’t think we were together quite long enough for that to become a problem but I can see that happening. There may have to be parameters set up to avoid something like that.
    Can we be next on the waiting list after your parents? You guys must be fun to live with. Everybody’s doing it!!

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  7. Ack! I meant to enter this and in the middle of the current chaos and packing and fevers and my big kids and hubby gone and me here with 3 littles and puking and my own fever and aching body that just will not cease…I missed it. And I so wanted to read that book! Beautiful as always, my friend. I love your words. And you. xoxoxo

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