Sunday, January 30, 2011

Living with In-Laws

More and more people I talk to have lived or are living with their in-laws these days.  Whether it's just for a couple of months or for a more extended time period, it is happening.  I remember when it used to be an embarrasing thing to admit, especially when it's not just you, but you and your husband and possibly even children.  Now when people talk about it, living with immediate or extended family can be seen more as "smart" or "money saving".  Some family member may still charge you rent, while others let you stay at no cost to you, maybe just groceries and such.  Each family arrangement is different, but there is one thing that always stays the with family, whether yours or your significant other's, IS NOT EASY!

In El Salvador however, living with extended family is a way of life.  It happens a lot of the time.  People don't rent as much, atleast in the small towns, as they do own.  But not the type of own with a big mortgage payment.  Their homes have been passed down through generations and is seen more as the "Family Home."  In ES, living with your family is not seen as you being "broke" or "slacking off" even if it's well into your 20's.  It's seen as respectable.  Often when a man gets married, the wife will move in with him and his family and even raise their children in that setting.

Now let's get to the realities of living with family for an extended period, whether it's in the United States or in El Salvdor.  I have had the fortune of living my mom and her husband for 6 months right before we made the move to ES, to save money for the trip.  I also have had the fortune of living with my husband's mom in her home for the past 9 months.  Our grandparents lived with us as well until they both passed on since being here in ES.  We also have an uncle next door, an aunt across the street and another uncle next door to him.  As well as lots of cousins and their children and grandchildren that visit on a daily basis.  But now I have digressed.  What I'm trying to say is that both of these living experiences have been blessings for us as I don't know what else we would have done, but it's also caused strained relationship.  Living with family also has it's costs.  I am going to discuss the pro's and con's of the shared household.  Some of these may only pertain to El Salvador and some only to the States, but here is my personal experience:

  • You can save money on rent or not pay rent at all.
  • If you have children, there is usually someone else to play, entertain, help them.
  • Other family members may help with cooking meals and cleaning.
  • You get to feel enternally grateful to have family that loves you enough to want to help.
  • You no longer have a "personal life."
  • There is no longer such thing as "alone time with your significant other."
  • You have no control of when guests come and go and they can even stay the night without you knowing or approving.
  • The other family members always know how you are spending "your" money and they usually have an opinion about it.
  • In-laws may give your child food you do not approve of even if they know you do not approve.
  • In-laws may feel the need to give unsolicited advice on how you should be raising your child.
  • In-laws may end up feeling resentful for giving things up for you to live with them.
  • You may not like the way others act or vice versa.
  • Your relationships may not ever be the same again.
As you can see, my con's list is definitely longer and I actually could have expanded upon it a lot more.  But the thing is that even with all the con's, the several pro's are stronger and may even equal it all out. It's all a completely individual experience and each family is different.  I have been lucky enough to have family that has been willing to help us out in our time of need in the States, but quite honestly I won't do it again.  Too much has happened since then and resentments have arised and have caused friction because of the living situation.  Gaps have grown in relationships and it makes me really sad that's it has gotten to this point.  In El Salvador, we will continue to live with my mother-in-law well after the point that we don't necessarily have to because at the end of the day, despite all my complaints and moments and even days of wishing we lived alone, watching my happy baby play with her abuela (grandma) and play with her cousins, brother and sister so happily is worth it all for me.  And it always helps me to get some work done!  Also because living with family is so common here, it's not such an issue.

All in all living with family has it's ups and downs and it's pro's and con's.  At the end of the day, what I have realized is how blessed my family is to keep having more and more of our family willing to help us, especially during this process of immigration for us.  I really don't know what else we would have done.  I'm grateful for my brother-in-law that now lets me stay in with his family when Liliana and I go back to the States and I'm grateful to the rest of my family that help in countless ways, whether they realize it or not  And I'm grateful to my friends that have stood beside me through the tears and the complaining and all the not nice stuff.  You truly are the greatest blessings in my life.  But don't get me wrong, I will have my days like today where I want to shut the doors on everyone, but they are wide open so that I can keep my heart wide open (and I'm still working on that part).

What is your experience of living with family?  Has it been positive, negative or both?  I would love to hear your experiences too!  Leave me a Comment!!

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