A few months before my son was born, I quit my full-time job as a preschool teacher and helped my husband open a brick and mortar business. But then life happened and we had to close the business a year and a half after opening. We started making plans for our next step, and it includes eventually moving a very long distance. But in the meantime, in the interest of saving money while we wait on paperwork, we are currently living on the second floor of my in-laws’ house in my husband’s hometown.
Here are four of the most frustrating things I’ve encountered so far:
1. The right to spoil grandkids spoils everything for Mom.
Grandparents love their grandkids. They really do. And the fun part of being a grandparent is that they don’t have to be the primary disciplinarians. They did all the crappy parts of parenting already, and they’ve earned the right to spoil. They get to be the fun ones. And they want to give your kids the world.
Unfortunately, the world also includes way too many sweets, roughhousing right before bedtime, and being lenient with saying “no” even if it really needs to be said. (“Isn’t it funny how no one else has to deal with the upset stomach, the epic crying fits, and the selective listening?” said no mom ever.) Their ”right to spoil” becomes the undoing of routines and rules I worked hard to put in place.
Before we moved in, my kid, who has no “off” switch when it comes to eating, knew when to back off if I told him no more food. Now, because his grandparents will give him bites of food whenever he asks (which is always) — even if I’ve already told him no — he follows anyone with food around and whines. (He also has no “off” switch for that.)
In general, he’s an easy kid to get down for bed, but when Grandpa comes home from work and starts racing him up and down the halls right before bed, he suddenly gets a second wind. And then I’ve got a kid who is up an hour past bedtime, wakes up an hour earlier the next morning, and is grumpy all day because he didn’t get enough sleep.
(Again, isn’t it funny how Mom gets the brunt of that, too?)
2. They feel judged if you don’t do things the way they did.
“Well, I let my son ride in my lap while we drove, and he didn’t die.”
“I put a comforter in his crib at night when he was a newborn, and he didn’t suffocate.”
Obviously. I mean, he lived long enough to make a baby with me, so good job keeping him alive, I guess. But honestly, you raised your child 30-plus years ago. People also smoked around their kids, put babies to sleep on their stomachs, and treated teething pain with liquor.
Information and best practices change as experts learn and study, and I don’t fault older generations for any of the stuff I’d balk at today. They were working with the information they had, just like parents are doing now. But now we know different, so we do different.
Still, my in-laws sometimes take it as a criticism of their parenting when I explain for the 50th time that my child will not go anywhere without being installed in a rear-facing car seat (it’s the law!) or that he really doesn’t need to be bathed every day. Their pride is hurt when I have to start a sentence with, “Doctors today recommend…” because it means they aren’t the experts anymore.
(Were they ever experts? I don’t think I’m an expert now, and I get the feeling that anytime I think I might be, everything will change just to put me in my place.)
You’ve probably had these conversations even if you don’t live with your parents, but when you do, it’s a daily conversation. If you thought it was insufferable on Sunday night family dinners, imagine repeating it every day over every meal.
3. You feel judged too.
I mentioned above that grandparents can feel judged when their child-rearing methods are not validated. The flip side of that is having to defend the choices you’re making. It’s not enough that I’ve asked them not to let the baby play with empty pill bottles. I have to give a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation on why.
“Yes, I understand it’s empty, but don’t want to set the precedent that this is a toy. That could be dangerous when he’s old enough to actually get the lid off.”
It gets old, and even when they concede, there is the contrary mumbling of, “Well, I don’t think so, but I guess we have to since you said so.” It’s really the last thing you need, especially because, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably judging and second-guessing yourself as a parent more than they ever could.
The worst part is when I know they are judging me about something, but not to my face. I know this happens because it usually comes out when my husband is alone with his parents and he tells me later. They complain about something I’ve done or didn’t allow them to do, or gossip about the fact that I’ve been wearing some combo of pajama pants and a tank top all week, but not to my face. It’s like high school, except I can’t go home at the end of the day and listen to angsty music at ear-bursting volume.
4. So. Many. Questions.
Remember when you were a teenager and started going out with your friends on the weekends? Your parents would ask you a million questions about where you were going, who you were going with, and when you were coming back. And then when you did come back, there was a whole new round of questions.
They never stop doing that. If you move back in as an adult, they pull out their parenting pants from storage and it’s like you’re 16 again.
My husband and I are both in our 30s. We have not lived with our parents since we left for college. We are functional, independent adults who aren’t used to having to report to anyone else except maybe each other. But they need all the details any time we leave the house or come home. Where did we go? What did we buy? What did we eat? Which streets did we take coming back? Did the baby poop while we were gone? What are our plans for March 27, 2022?
And it doesn’t stop there. They ask a million questions about the baby’s schedule, too. They come out from their rooms in the morning and suddenly it’s an interrogation before I can even say “Good morning.” Did the baby eat? Is he tired? Will he take a bath today? (They’re still weirded out that I don’t bathe him daily.) Exactly what time will he go to bed tonight, and exactly how long, down to the nanosecond, will he stay asleep? What does he want for his 21st birthday?
In all fairness, I don’t doubt some it is just for conversation. But when you’re already sick of having to deal with the aftermath of their spoiling ways, trying to walk the line between defending your decisions without offending them, and feeling like despite it all they’re judging you for letting your kid wear a spaghetti-stained shirt two days in a row, the questions can be the cherry on top of a leave me alone sundae.
But even so, you finally get to breathe a little.
It can definitely be an exercise in patience and fortitude to live with a parent when you are a parent. You’re trying to come into your own as a mom, and the stress of having your own parents breathing down your neck is often killer.
But then you remember, they want to spend time with your kid because they love him.
And that means you can sit down. Even if you’re not comfortable with leaving your kid completely alone with her grandparents (did you just give him ice cream?!), you don’t have to be the one to do everything. Someone else can get down on the floor and build towers. Someone else can read The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the 50th time. Someone else can make a meal or soothe the tantrum or, if you’re really lucky, change a diaper. And they’re happy to do it all.
Except maybe the diaper.