Blame it on the patriarchy and its weird mindset, that all comes as a part of a package deal, we still consider a centuries-old custom as a sacrosanct rule for the 21st century. Living with the in-laws under the same roof and playing the role of daughter-in-law, wife, and mother every day is a lot to ask from a woman.
Like there are two sides to any coin, staying with the in-laws after marriage too has its own set of privileges and downsides. There are a lot of evident and obvious advantages, and life does get a tad bit easy, in terms of living with the in-laws to save money, among many other things.
I’m not saying that all in-laws are monster-in-laws and that it’s impossible to have a peaceful relationship with them. Befriending your in-laws isn’t exactly rocket science, and it can be easier than society at large has conditioned you to believe.
But the dynamics of this relationship can be so multi-layered and complex, that it’s better to keep a distance from them to let your marital life flourish while maintaining an amicable relationship with the elders. That way, everyone stays happy and the marriage stays healthy.
Speaking from my own experience and examples of my friends living in a joint family after marriage, apologies to the goody-goodies, but the arrangement serves only three purposes – it gives the husband’s parents a full-time caretaker, turns the concept of marital privacy into a joke and the wife is three times more likely to develop a serious heart disease.
Pros And Cons Of Living With In-laws
Not everything about living with the in-laws is grim and sad. There are in fact, a lot of practical reasons to live with them, one being the massive financial help and the other being there for the elderly.
Living with the in-laws may not always be about being a servant to the elders, for it often comes with a bunch of advantages too.
The benefits of living with the in-laws are plenty, as long as it doesn’t take a toll on your mental health. Keeping your sanity intact, when living with your in-laws, a lot of things are taken care of.
What Works For You When You Are Living With The In-laws
Living with in-laws does require some level of foolproof planning, and you need to know beforehand what to expect. At times, the equation is fair in terms of what you give and what you get. Let’s discuss the good things first.
1. Your kids will have a chance to know the grandparents
It’s important for the kids to really know their grandparents. Living in the same house with your in-laws helps at that. Instead of meeting only during the holidays, they get to spend time with them every day.
As it is, your children are going to be the apple of their eyes and when was the last time that unconditional love did any harm to anyone? Living with their grandparents not only nurtures your kids but also adds the virtue of kindness and patience in them, most often, unknowingly.
As a result, your kids are more likely to grow up into loving, compassionate individuals, because they know how important the virtue is to be unconditionally loving others.
Related reading: My Toxic In-Laws Won’t Let Go Even After We Have Shifted Cities
2. You can get a lot of parenting help
The early days of parenting, especially can be really tough. All couples go through many problems once a baby comes in their lives.
Having your mother-in-law around means that you can get some real advice and help to take on the new responsibility better. Even when you are feeling depressed due to postpartum blues, the MIL can help you get through it better than your husband, because she understands the drill more than your husband.
Also, it always helps having an extra set of hands when raising a kid, because that definitely is no less than rocket science.
3. There is always a babysitter at home
Living with your in-laws gives you a chance to have a social life even after you have a baby. Would you rather leave your baby with someone you hardly know or with your own kin?
That’s not even a difficult choice to make. Thanks to your in-laws, you can stay out late on those rare days when you want to go out and de-stress.
The best part is that you can enjoy your night out without having to be worried sick about your baby. Your in-laws back home will be taking care of your child, much better than any babysitter will! And that’s a fact.
You don’t need to leave your child in the care of a stranger when you go to work. You don’t have to worry about your child’s well being when the grandparents are in charge.
4. You can always have someone to share the household chores with
After marriage, especially when you are juggling between being a mother and a working professional, tackling all the household chores on your own is hard work. Having other adults around means everyone can share the load of household duties.
That way, you get to de-stress and end up spending more time with your baby. After all, the initial years are the most important to build that connection with your child after they have exited your body.
The other great thing about getting to share chores with someone else is that you can even pick your favourite chores and leave behind the ones that makes you procrastinate household work. In my opinion, this is quite the win-win situation.
5. There is financial breathing room with the in-laws chipping in
In this global economy, living in a household where the cost is shared comes as a boon. You can save more than what you could by living alone. But the drawbacks of this arrangement also take a toll on your overall marital life.
With the cost of living only increasing, saving up more, especially after having a baby, also means investing more in your future as a family unit. This is probably one of the most important underlying benefits of living with your in-laws.
The Cons Of Living With The In-laws
Coming to the shortcomings, without which the debate stays incomplete, sharing a house with another set of people does call for compromises and adjustments.
Having the elderly live with you also implies you take extra care of the food, health, noise and disturbance, among many other things.
1. There is no privacy
Why living with the in-laws is a bad idea will have many arguments in its stride, but the first and foremost reason is always going to be the lack of privacy. You can’t cook naked, make love on the kitchen floor or watch Netflix in your shorts with chilled beer on the living room couch.
Even though these are just the quirky examples, having no space of your own can really become a psychological burden to carry for the rest of your youth.
Anything that we relate to having fun with, be ready to keep it in the closet. More importantly, the fights, which is an inevitable part of any marriage, too will be compromised on. And when your anger and complaints don’t get an outlet, it affects the clarity of communication in the relationship.
This will do absolutely no good in the long run.
2. You can’t call friends to party
If you are married in your 20s or 30s, you can forget about throwing a house party when you are living with your in-laws. Especially if you were used to having friends crash at your place before marriage, this change can make you feel like your in-laws treating you like a slave where you have no independence to lead a lifestyle of your choice.
Also, its really bad news if you’re someone like Monica, who really loves hosting parties for friends.
3. There is too much-unsolicited advice from the in-laws
The one thing about marriage is that everyone has a lot of opinions about it- the married and the unmarried ones. Well, the advice is good when it is required.
But living with the in-laws means you get to hear a lot of unwanted advice on how you should eat, how much you should sleep, how you should dress, how you should behave and the list goes on! Some of these signs indicate you have in-laws that hate you!
The downside of unsolicited advice is that it tends to irritate you, and irritated and grumpy people seldom make a happy home. This chain of unsolicited advice is the reason why married couples should not live with their parents.
4. You don’t get to cook, clean and decorate the way you like
The unsaid rule when living with your in-laws is that is that your MIL knows homemaking better than you do, so you must find happiness being a servant and follow her lead.
You don’t get to cash in on the amazing interior deals for your house, you don’t get to practice a different cleaning method that you find more practical and your cooking is received with a lot of not-so-constructive criticism.
You may wonder why are you even expected to live with your in-laws when you can do nothing the way you like. The equivalent to living with your in-laws is like living in a PG!
5. Interference on how you should raise your child
Every advantage comes with its share of conditions. Having your in-laws around to help you out in taking on the parenting duties also means there is going to be a lot of uncalled-for advice on how you should raise your child.
Your MIL is proud of how she has raised her son and she would want you to follow her footsteps, even though much of her wisdom doesn’t apply to this generation.
Even if your in-laws are progressive enough to not exhibit direct interference, there will always be an inexplicable and invisible tension and unspoken sense of authority when it comes to raising a child in a joint family.
Why Living With In-laws Is A Bad Idea Altogether?
Every married couple needs the space to figure out their relationship and work on building a life together as partners. But when a couple lives with the in-laws, there is no privacy to even consummate the marriage at their own will, let alone taking important life decisions together without interference.
Moreover, a newly married woman dreams of having a place of her own decorate it to call it home. But living with the in-laws means she is walking into an ambiance that is already set up and she is expected to accept the norms and adjust her choices accordingly.
It’s more or less like living in a hostel with the man of your choice. How is that fair? Having to abide by the rules laid down by the in-laws after marriage means a woman can’t wear the dresses she likes, can’t cook the way she likes, can’t set up her own lifestyle the way she likes without constant interference.
What if the couple had a big argument and the wife wants to continue the argument in the living room instead of fiercely whispering in the bedroom?
Well, she can’t, because the in-laws will jump between the husband and the wife to settle the matter in their own way (in which 9 out of 10 times they will declare that the wife is wrong and their son is right, as always). How does that help a marriage?
A woman moves into the next phase of life feeling depressed, only looking forward to the hypothetical happiness of starting a new life with her man. But anything new can only begin on a blank canvas. Staying with the in-laws completely shatters that prospect, and more often than not, harms the relationship beyond repair.
The hard bit about living with your in-laws is not just the ones that are evident and on the surface. The real issue lies in the fact that they will always be in the position of authority in the house and will try to micromanage you.
Everything you do will be put under scrutiny and the freedom of choice will only remain a concept that nobody will talk about.
If you are a woman who is not used to taking shade from people and will absolutely not have anyone take charge of your life, living with the mother-in-law can get stressful.
However, going by the phrase “to each, his own”, if you are someone who can adapt to situations easily and can mould yourself to fit in, then living with your mother-in-law might actually work out for you!
Many a times, yes. When the pressure and stress of living with your in-laws gets insurmountable, and the fights get ugly and regular, this does become a strong ground for divorce. Especially if your spouse isn’t supportive enough and does not have the spine to take a stand for you, it does get tough.
For a woman who has to live in a new house with new faces, the least she can expect from her partner is unhinged support, right?