Facebook Pixel

We Are Family: Navigating Living with Extended Family, Pt.1

Rate This

I am coming off a long week of living with house guests. My sister’s family is between houses, so they have been living with us temporarily. I can honestly say that it did not go as I, or any of us, imagined it would. I think co-habitating with extended family never does go as you imagine it. It helps to outline expectations going into the arrangement.

I recall as a child knowing of friends who had extended family living with their family. One friend had an aunt and grandmother from the Philippines living with them, and another friend’s grandparents regularly spent weeks at her house. I now wonder were those cases because of necessity, or just a nice extended visit? In some families, it’s a cultural thing. For instance, I have a friend now whose mother comes and stays for a month or more to help out when she has a child. That's just what they do. I wish I could be so lucky to have the help. I also have heard horror stories of family co-habitation. One friend’s home seems to be a revolving door for her husband’s family members.

I imagined our experience being sunny days of my sister and I working in my house; I at my desk, and she at my dining room table. We both would be tapping-away on our laptop computers, talking like other co-workers do over a cubicle wall, and she would be making calls to her client doctors, or whomever.

We all would arrive back at the house after work with the kids fresh from daycare or school, and my sister and I would enjoy a glass of wine while making dinner for our families together. Our husbands would watch the evening news or sports on the TV together, throw anecdotes back and forth from their respective days at the office and enjoy an after-work beverage. We all would eat at the same time—them in the dining room, and us at the kitchen table—and the guys would clean up the kitchen while my sister and I got all the kids into the bathtub and then into their pajamas. I was realistic in this dream to know all would not go smoothly. After all, I have a 1 year old and 3 year old, she has a 7 year old, and a 5 year old. But with 4 parents around, any child/adult or child/child conflicts would quickly be resolved.

Add a Comment1 Comments

This was a wonderful post. I'm sorry you all had to go through the week of being sick, but somehow your week of being sick together was even more real, more "family," than your original fantasy would have been. This is one thing that separates family -- however we define it -- from other people: the desire to care for one another even when we feel like crap. It's easy to cook a meal and share a glass of wine. It's not easy to live in a house full of fevers, kleenex and shared bathrooms. Thanks so much for writing.

September 30, 2009 - 8:16am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


Get Email Updates

Parenting Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!