I don't live in my home. Sure, I sleep in a bed under a roof and it's the same roof every night. But truthfully speaking, I don't reference it as "home." It's not even listed as such in my iPhone. For now, I'm just a very, very frequent guest who also happens to eat, sleep and shower there every day. And I manage all this without my name being on the deed. Don't worry, it's not as illegal as it sounds.
In June 2011, my wife gave birth to our second son. Instantly, it became blatantly obvious, between him and our already 2-year-old boy, that we had outgrown our modestly sized ranch home. My wife's parents were already involved with the care of our children, and were unquestionably anxious empty nesters. They also had three vacant bedrooms in their house and limitless storage space. The writing, as they say, was on the wall. In my case, it quite literally was on the wall... not to mention most of my dress shirts.
I remember the day my wife floated the idea of moving in with her parents. It was 2:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, and to say we were going through parental hell would be an understatement. Our older son, Antonio, was projectile vomiting his dinner, and our infant son, Nathaniel, was howling with tears in utter confusion. As would become the norm, my wife Sonia and I tried valiantly to converse.
"So, who do you want to take?! Any preference?!" I yelled. She didn't hear me. It was rhetorical, anyway. I already had the puke on my socks. Shortly thereafter, there was a lull between the screams. My wife saw this as a golden opportunity to make her pitch.
"Forgot to mention that my parents have officially asked if we want to move in with them. I said I'd ask you," she said, wincing.
To be certain, she hadn't forgotten to mention it. Nobody forgets to mention something as colossal as that. It's like forgetting to mention that your car is on fire. She was merely waiting for the perfect time to bring it up. In case it isn't obvious, faster than it would take to install a car seat, our house was on the market and rented as we embarked on the biggest step we'd literally or figuratively ever make in our lives.
Two months after that laborious night, I was lying in bed, my wife having left at least an hour earlier for work. The baby was crying, so I stood up to head toward his room. Only I couldn't stand up straight. Something was preventing that from happening. Suffice it to say it was a male body part that often becomes surprisingly large in the morning. Suddenly, I heard my mother-in-law's footsteps. So I did what any mature 32-year-old man would. I faked a charley horse. Gripping my calf and curled in a fetal ball on the bed, I grunted through my words as I asked if she'd pick up the baby. She did, as I waited for my penis to remember it was time to become socially acceptable again.
While an outlandish example, it tells both sides of the story when it comes to raising children in a multi-generational household. The obvious plus side is that you have a built-in babysitter who legitimately loves your child as much as you do. Also, all four adults can split the tasks (and utilities) around the house. Of course, the downside is that you lose any semblance of privacy. My penis isn't the only thing I'd prefer kept out of view of my in-laws. The inevitable argument I have with my wife. A prophylactic wrapper. My Butthole Surfers CD. An overdue bill. My Golden Girls DVDs. We've learned a great deal about each other over the past few years. Probably more than any of us would like to know.
Inevitably, this topic will come up among friends, co-workers, etc. Depending on who's involved, their reactions vary wildly. The younger the person is, the more likely they are to think I'm an idiot.
"You live with your in-laws? On purpose?" they will ask.
Alternatively, people over 50 are far more inclined to agree with my decision.
"That's such a great idea for your children," they say.
I've noticed, though, that nobody seems to think it's a good idea for me. Well, I'm here to tell you that it ultimately is. Certainly, nobody likes to lose his or her privacy, even momentarily. But life, as I see it, is a series of adaptations. And with every life change, we're making a decision (conscious or not) about how we choose to adapt. I could've easily said no to this arrangement. But I didn't. Generally speaking, I don't regret it.
Let me be clear, though, that growing pains still do occur. Otherwise, this wouldn't be a debatable topic. My idea of how a household should be run is often drastically different from that of my in-laws. We were raised in different countries, grew up in markedly different cultures, and on occasion, we piss each other off. There are absolutely days when I think I made the wrong decision. And I wouldn't be surprised if they did, too. But big picture? I'd do it again if given the choice.
Ultimately, the question you need to ask yourself if you're ever in this situation is: which is more valuable to you -- your sanity or your privacy? I chose sanity. I might have to use extra deodorizer spray after I use the bathroom, but I have a live-in safety net when the sleepless nights wage war on my withering soul.
Just in case you're reading this, assuming I'm a freeloading bum, rest assured wheels are in motion for us to buy my in-laws' house and for my in-laws to move... next door. Hey, at least I can iron in the nude again.
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