My husband and I are currently discussing whether or not to have his parents move in with us, and I am torn. Though I would want to care for my aging parents because I love them — and of course, he loves his parents, too — I am a little concerned about living with my in-laws. I would be concerned if I had to live with my parents, let alone his! Should we do it? Any advice?
When Does Filial Piety End?
Dear When Does Filial Piety End?
If I gave you the advice 99.9% of my middle-aged friends gave, the answer would be a resounding: No. Do not pass go. Run away in the other direction as fast as you can.
Mom of five Camille Kimble-Wall sums it up perfectly: “My overarching advice is that if you don’t need to, just don’t do it.” Kimble-Wall tells Mochi magazine, “It doesn’t matter if it’s your blood parents or in-laws. Both versions can be like the “Hunger Games” — especially when you throw in five teens and adults.”
For those of us in heterosexual relationships, the patriarchal Asian culture is a big reason many of us are so leery of living with our in-laws. Bay Area mom Sandy C. explains to us, “If you have to live with parents and you’re the daughter, live with your own parents. Your own parents are less judgmental of you but will treat your husband pretty well, so it’s more tolerable for you and your husband to live with your own parents.” But live with your in-laws and your mother-in-law, especially, may coddle her son and cause more problems and conflict in your marriage!”
In the interest of fair and balanced advice, I would like to add that though my mother-in-law would never voluntarily live with us, my husband and I did live with my mother, and he said it was fine. However, he does want to stay married to me, so it seems pretty sus. I know I had full on screaming matches with my mother once or twice, and this was without the added stress of children. It would never work out now that I have four kids.
However, given that Asian families are often intergenerational — and many of us likely grew up with our grandparents also living in our home — it may not be possible to avoid living together with your in-laws or your own parents. After all, some of us with aging parents may need to help with caregiving, or there may be financial strains that can be eased when households are combined.
In that case, Jennifer Lee suggests getting a separate living space, like an in-law unit or suite. “Establish some rules like: You don’t tell me how I should live my life, or how to cook, how to discipline the kids, etc., and we will do the same!” she says. “Set boundaries from the very beginning so no feelings are hurt in the moment.”
Truthfully, it really depends on your relationship with your in-laws or parents, as well as your personalities. Programmer Joyce Lam asks, “Are at least one of you really easy going?” Lam also advises you to harken back to when you’ve lived with other adults. “What are the common courtesies you showed to your roommates?” she asks. “Sometimes we forget that when we live with our parents or kids.”
I think my friends are perhaps much better about being mature adults than I will ever be. One thing’s for sure, if you do choose to live with your in-laws or your parents, you will need a lot of patience and understanding. Ask yourself what is non-negotiable for you, what type of expectations you have of your spouse and their parents (or yours), and at what point you would be throwing good after bad.
Like all major life choices, there are no right or wrong answers, just what you choose and how you deal with the consequences. I wish you the best of luck and auspiciousness if you do choose to live with your in-laws. Remember that you are all people and human and to give yourselves as much grace as you can muster. You’ll need it!
Photo credit: Jackson Wong//Unsplash