So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

There are jokes, sitcoms, and even movies about having adult kids returning home to live. This is because it happens quite often. Young adults move away to pursue an education or even just to try living as an adult, and for whatever reason, they find themselves needing to return home. It often doesn’t go well.

This story is about the opposite. In every way, the opposite.

You see, it was my husband and I who found ourselves needing a place to live. We were relocating, had sold our house, and were waiting for our new one to finish being built. We joked and laughed with our young adult daughter about going to live with her, her husband, and their young infant.

But one day, we received a phone call.

“Mom, what if you guys really did come live with us? Seriously, it could really help us all.”

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And so, the conversations began. We not only survived living together (not for the six weeks we had planned, but for the four months it took for the completion of our house), but it became a cherished experience in which we all still loved each other in the end.

This is what we learned.

Nobody felt pressured into this arrangement.

We made sure both sides took time to be comfortable with the idea. This was our burden to bear, and we would have found an alternate solution should anyone decide this isn’t what they wanted. Most importantly, we were clear about this remaining to be the case during our stay. If it wasn’t working, we would leave with no hard feelings.

We discussed everything upfront.

Rent, utilities, living space, chores, groceries, and the aforementioned escape clause. We also agreed to continue these discussions throughout our living arrangement. If someone was uncomfortable or unhappy, we promised to bring it up nicely before the problem festered.

We agreed to be flexible and work as a team.

If someone saw the floor needed to be swept, he would do it. If a load was left in the dryer, someone would bring it in and maybe even fold it. There wasn’t any food in the kitchen that was off-limits. If someone wanted a yogurt, take it. If someone ate something meant to be an ingredient in an upcoming meal, adjustments could be made. It didn’t matter whose dish was in the sink. If someone was loading the washer, put that dish in as well. Be respectful and fair. If someone was running to Starbucks, they’d buy for all, and we’d take turns. There was no time for balancing the pennies.

We communicated our plans.

We’d let someone know if we were running an errand. If we were out late with friends, we’d have the courtesy to let the others know. My daughter wanted to throw a get-together for their friends. We took that as a good opportunity to spend the weekend in a hotel and be away from each other for a bit.

We all learned the art of tolerance.

Some of us are clean freaks. Some don’t mind clutter. Some talk all the time. Some like it quiet. Some repeatedly let a door slam while the baby was sleeping, and some would remember to be quiet. Tongues had to be bitten by us all at times.

We gave each other space.

My husband and I would retire to our room most evenings to binge-watch whatever show we were into, giving them their house to do what they needed. Yes, sometimes we’d stay up for a fun, family game night, but we also didn’t want to ruin things by having too much of a good thing. Time away from each other was necessary.

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To add to what could potentially have been a stifling experience, was the fact that all five of us were home all day, every day together. My husband, daughter, and son-in-law all worked from home. I am retired, so my job was to take care of my sweet granddaughter during the day.

We were literally around each other 24/7, and we not only made this work, but we also actually treasured it.

Obviously having a baby to care for was the focus of our time and joy. We all took turns caring for her and playing with her. I watched her develop daily from a 2-month-old to a 6-month-old. Never would I have imagined getting the privilege of waking every morning to my granddaughter’s smiles and cuddling with her at every bedtime.

My daughter and I took turns planning for and cooking the dinners each week. It was a pleasure to talk and work in the kitchen together. When I became an empty-nester, I thought those times of sitting down every night and eating as a family were over. How precious it was to share meals and talk about our days. We’d then take turns with dishes and made a habit, on many nights, to load into the car and go for ice cream.

We all had a peace that things, although seemingly not ideal, were meant to be this way during this time in our lives.

Every situation and family dynamic is unique. Even the best of families may not be able to have as precious of an experience as we did. However, we can’t help but think that the way we went about it, had a lot to do with our success. Maybe if you’re given a bonus era of living together as a family, these tips could help set the course for the best possible outcome.

On our move-out day, we realized what a blessing it was to feel sadness instead of relief. We packed up our belongings from our little bedroom and put them in the truck. It was bittersweet to drive away to our new home . . . five minutes away.

Janelle Sims

I am a retired teacher, wife, and mother of two teenagers. I have a published memoir entitled, "Getting Along with MiSsy" as well as a coping workbook. I am a freelance writer for various publications andI blog about my journey with Multiple Sclerosis.

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