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It’s official. My mother-in-law left (MIL) for China in early June after staying with us for a year.
We are deeply grateful for all of her help. No one else (except for my mom) would do what she did for us.
However, as I’m sure all of you know, when there’s another person living with your nuclear family, it changes the dynamic in the household in ways you might not even have thought of.
It’s been almost a month since my MIL went back to China.
That time period has allowed us to adjust our lifestyles and enabled me to reflect on what has changed now that we no longer have additional help and another family member around the house.
Below are the pros & cons:
1. More freedom
Let’s face it. Our parents will always think of us as their kids and will always tell us what to do, where to go, what to eat, and what to drink.
Mr. FAF and I are both in our 30s, so having our parent around to treat us like we’re stubborn teenagers just doesn’t feel right sometimes.
For example, my MIL always yells at us when we eat watermelons and borderline forbids us from eating it.
The same goes for bananas and yogurt.
She said they are not good for our health. And we have no idea where she got that idea from. Both Mr. FAF and I love watermelons, so sometimes we feel like we need to fight with her just to enjoy our favorite fruit.
My MIL made a couple of Chinese friends in the neighborhood, but she probably still felt lonely at home. She wouldn’t like it when Mr. FAF and I go out without her.
We couldn’t go on dates or take Baby FAF out to the playground as a family without her trying to prevent us or sounding upset.
We basically had two options: (1) stay at home or (2) take her with us. We did take my MIL places, but we also needed couple time every once in a while, which proved to be a big challenge.
One time we took Baby FAF out on a Sunday and came home to an unhappy mother who refused to cook or talk to us. That was the first and last time the three of us went out on a family date without her.
After my MIL left, we can now eat whatever our hearts desire, go anywhere anytime we want with our son, and do our own thing at night without being interrupted or yelled at.
We just feel so free! Now we understand that while it’s great to get help from our parents, it also comes at a price. Freedom is definitely not free.
2. No more fights with the parent
In general, I get along fine with my MIL. Mr. FAF is also close to his mom. However, there have been times when Mr. FAF and I each got into a fight with my MIL.
Every time that happened, Mr. FAF and I would take turns being the mediator to appease my MIL and get everyone back on track.
My MIL probably left really upset and lonely in a new country. It also stressed Mr. FAF and me out big time at home after a tiring day at work.
3. Baby FAF is more well-behaved.
One thing grandparents do is dote on their grandchildren to the point of spoiling them. Mr. FAF and I can attest to this since we were spoiled by our grandmothers. And my MIL is no exception.
Sometimes I felt like I had to fight with another woman to raise my own child, which was both frustrating and aggravating. My MIL have a cultural, age, and general gap that has proven challenging at times.
How she raised Mr. FAF almost 40 years ago in China is sometimes not applicable to modern day child-rearing in the US. But it’s just difficult, if not impossible, to change older people’s minds about something.
An example would be giving Baby FAF candy at 10 PM and never making him brush his teeth afterwards or ever. Baby FAF also knows he had his way with grandma and refused to be disciplined.
My MIL would also let Baby FAF go to bed at 10:30 PM or even 11 PM at night, which was not good for a toddler. In the days leading to her departure to China, Baby FAF would stay up with her until midnight and get up at 7 AM to do go daycare.
You might wonder why I didn’t make him go to bed earlier. Like I said, fighting with the MIL to adjust my son’s schedule and habits was not easy and stressed us out big time.
Mr. FAF and I had to remind ourselves that she was leaving for China soon, and we would try to adjust Baby FAF’s schedule afterwards.
After my MIL left, Baby FAF has been going to bed at 8:30 or 9 PM and get up at 7. He doesn’t fight back when I tell him to go to bed anymore, which has made both of us super happy.
Related: Our 7 Expectations For Our Son
4. Less clutter around the house
My MIL is somewhat a hoarder. I think that partly stems from her years of living in hardships in the past. She is very frugal and sees value in everything even if they basically serves no purpose.
My MIL wouldn’t let us throw away things we didn’t need such as old newspapers, empty milk bottles, plastic bags, boxes, tote bags, what all the odds and ends she had collected from yard sales and the curbside.
It made our house seem much smaller and messier than it actually was. Every time I saw those things, I just couldn’t wait to lay my hands on them and throw them away after she left for China.
My MIL left us with boxes and boxes of stuff she warned us not to throw away.
I accidentally opened one of them one day and saw a bunch of old newspapers, calendars, scratch paper, and other things that took up space in the house.
Needless to say, we cleaned up her belongings and put the rest in the storage.
She insisted we kept her belongings in the living room since she didn’t want her stuff sitting in the storage shed, and there was no more storage space in the house.
But we put her stuff in the storage shed anyway. Having 4-5 boxes of random stuff staring at us in the living room until who knows when wouldn’t be pleasing either.
Despite all the pros mentioned above, we have also noticed some cons of not having grandma around.
1. No more dinner waiting at home
My MIL would cook dinner for us and have it ready before we got home from work on weekdays.
I would do the dishes and clean up the kitchen afterwards. I also helped her cook on the weekends.
Now that she’s gone, I come home to an empty and cold kitchen, feeling all hungry.
Mr. FAF and I cook in batch on the weekends to save time. But I still need to heat up the food and cook a new dish or soup every now and then for a change.
One advantage of less daily cooking is the smaller number of dishes I have to do after dinner. It saves lots of time and water! With more freedom, I also don’t mind cooking as much. Like I said, freedom comes at a price!
2. No more mediator when Mr. FAF and I get into a huge fight
After Mr. FAF moved to DC last year, we got into a big argument which almost ended our 4.5 year marriage. My MIL was so worried we would get divorced that she even cried, which made me really upset.
We talked to each of us and tried to explain to us what the other was going through and thinking. In the end, Mr. FAF and I clarified our misunderstandings and came up with solutions that work for both of us.
We haven’t had any big fight since. The next time we do, however, there will be no “marriage counselor” at home to bring us back together. We will need to either learn to communicate better between ourselves or see a professional.
3. No one to tend to the garden
Mr. FAF and I have always dreamed of a garden with fruit and edible plants but were honestly too lazy to get started.
When my MIL came last June, she started a garden project. We bought some cheap seeds from Great Wall, and she successfully planted some garlic, green onions, and leeks.
Now that summer is here, we’re reaping the benefits of her hard work. When we’re running low on green onions, we can make a quick run to the backyard to gather some.
It’s not enough to replace our groceries. But we love how we have edible plants in our garden and don’t have to mow the lawn anymore.
Related: My 12 Frugal Fantasies
There are lots of pros and cons in having our parents live with us.
It really depends what your priorities are and how you learn to live in harmony with others even when there are disagreements and differences in personality, culture, generation, and age gap.
My mom is not able to come to the US to help us with our second baby. Though sad, I’m also glad that Mr. FAF and I will have an opportunity to learn to be more independent parents for our children.
I truly don’t want to bother our parents and change their lifestyle every time we pop out a kid. They raised us, and now it’s our turn to raise our own children.
We know that our parents will always come to our rescue when we need help. And we will always open our door for them if they need us.
But overall, I think it’d be best to live close to our parents, but not to close. Proximity can help members bond better but also cause tension among them.
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