When Al and I moved into this home, we intended on having 1-2 children. It didn’t take us long to have Bo, but her delivery was much worse than expected. Physically, I would not recover for a full year after her birth. My GovJob gave me more time off than required by allowing me to take off 6 months (they do not offer paid maternity leave, so this was without pay, though I had saved about $8k for this period of time). After 6 months, I came back to work half time and we paid my aunt to watch Bo. That first day it was heart-wrenching to leave her, but I knew she was in great hands.
After a few months, I knew I would need to return to work full time, and my aunt had different plans for work in the fall. I started looking at daycares, and was shocked by the terrible reviews. Though I did expect the high price. Because of her age, it would have been over $1,000/mo for her to go. Al asked me if I wanted his mom, my MIL, to move in temporarily to our house to watch Bo, before finding her own place nearby. My response was “Hell no!“
Al had grown up with both sets of grandparents nearby and they had been instrumental to his young life and to his later success. At the time we were considering daycare, his mom was living with his sister to take care of her future children, but they had recently decided to remain childless. His sister and her husband were moving often at the time for work.
We decided to have my MIL come up to watch Bo while my aunt was on vacation. Increasingly frustrated and discouraged by the daycare search, we decided that this could be a trial run for watching baby. At this point, we had not yet talked to her about watching Bo full time. I didn’t want to say it until I felt comfortable with the idea. I was still nervous to leave Bo with anyone at this point (I’m pretty sure that up until this time, only my aunt had watched her).
The week went well! It felt good to have someone watch Bo because they loved her, not because of money. And it was wonderful to be able to get up and go to work without waking the baby up and shoving her into a car seat as she screamed to slow down and cuddle. It was amazing not to have to transport bottles and milk and just leave instructions. I definitely saw the benefits of having a grandma watch her.
When we made the offer for her to move up to watch Bo, she responded “YES!” before we could even get the question out.
A few weeks later, late July, my MIL drove up with her things. She got settled in one of our 4 rooms, and began watching baby. The original goal was to have her find a place nearby by September. Because she had no savings, a small amount of debt, and only Al’s late father’s Social Security, it would be up to us to find a place for her. And apartments were as expensive as daycare, or more.
I’ll be honest in saying that a permanent living situation scared me. I am a private person who sees my living space as a sanctuary. I didn’t want to censor or adjust much. Fortunately, my MIL fits into our living situation and family dynamics well. We’ve had our fair share of “figuring this all out”. It hasn’t been seamless. But ultimately we decided that her staying with us permanently is the best thing for everyone.
Having a multigenerational home allows us to share costs for things like food, heat, and home supplies. It allows us to be close and build a more solid family unit. We are fortunate that we bought a split-bedroom home (the master bedroom is on one side of the house, and the other bedrooms on the other) so that everyone has some privacy. I don’t feel like I’ve lost my sanctuary. In fact, there’s nothing better than going directly home (no stopping at daycare) to a well-rested child, an empty dishwasher, and a happy pup (he’s not alone all day).
Now, I feel very fortunate to have my MIL live with us. My peers are often shocked about this. I initially looked at it as “high risk, high reward”, and though there are challenges, the reward far outweighs the adjustments that we’ve made. Amongst our peers in this area, our living situation seems unusual. But the culture of siloed family units is historically unusual in itself.
Who comprises your cherished community (whether it be family, friends, coworkers)? How have you built and strengthened community?