If you are Asian, you probably are not surprised that many young couples live with their parents even after they get married.
It happens a lot in Asia and still does in America.
I have Asian American friends who have lived and are planning to live with their in-laws.
It is usually the man’s parents who move in with the couple.
One of the expectations in Asian culture is that the first son, together with his wife, will take care of his parents.
I have never met any Asian females who said they couldn’t wait to move in with their in-laws.
In other words, most women will either say no to or try to stay neutral about living with their in-laws.
However, when it comes to family duties – taking care of our elderly parents, oftentimes it is not a question of whether we should or shouldn’t.
We just do what feels right to us and what is expected of us.
In this post, I will discuss the pros and cons of living with in-laws based on my own experience and the conversations I’ve had with other female friends who have lived with their in-laws.
1. Free childcare
Have you ever complained or heard anyone complain about the costs of daycare in America? The average cost of center-based daycare in the US is $11,666 a year or $972 a month.
The annual cost of childcare for an infant exceeded the annual in-state tuition at a 4-year public university in 33 states and DC in 2014, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
In DC, where we we live, the figure stays at a staggering $22,631 per year for an infant (less than 1-year-old). Imagine what return to investment it would yield if you could invest that amount in your retirement accounts, a rental property, or the stock market.
Besides the official daycare costs, if you and your spouse want to go on a date on the weekends and don’t have family to help babysit your kids, you need to add the extra costs of hiring a part-time babysitter.
Another option is to have your parents take care of your children, oftentimes for free. When I had Baby FAF, my in-laws came all the way from China to help us take care of our son for a year.
During that time, they never asked us to compensate them for their babysitting service. The reason is simple: Taking care of their grandchildren, in their opinions, is their duty as grandparents.
Even if you want to give your in-laws a certain amount of money each month, it’s likely to still be less than the monthly daycare cost.
It’s 11 PM, and you and your spouse want to sneak out for a fast food meal? The in-laws are there to watch your sleeping kids for you. Your daycare center gives you a surprise call saying they will be closed for a week in two weeks? It’s no problem since your in-laws are always available to babysit your children.
There’s no need for you to worry about the important meetings you might have to miss or take your leave to stay at home with your kids. And the best part of all is that your in-laws don’t complain about having to take care of your kids out of a sudden. In fact, they expected it.
2. Free cooking
Do you or your spouse not enjoy cooking? It’s ok because our parents are here to help. When my in-laws lived with us, they took turns cooking. Mr. FAF and I would take over the cooking on the weekends. But on weekdays, when we come home from a long and tiring work day, we’re greeted with hot food on the table.
Our parents feel happy when they see us enjoying their food and listen when we want them to change the flavor of certain dishes. They know what food we like growing up, and they try to cater to our needs to the best of their ability.
3. Free cleaning
The average cleaning service per hour ranges from $25 to $35. It costs roughly $120 to clean a house less than 1,000 square feet and $140 for 3,000 square feet. Besides you, your spouse, and your in-laws, no one else would be willing to clean your house at no charge.
My mother-in-law told me I only need to clean our room and bathroom, and that she will clean the rest of the house. Did I mention I was so happy when I heard that? I still try to clean the house when I can, but I need to make sure my MIL doesn’t take it as me secretly complaining that her cleaning is not up to par.
You might start to think that we’re exploiting our parents by making them do all the housework. But remember that they have the option to say no. They do what they are comfortable with.
And I’m sure all of us feel happy when we take care of our children no matter how old they are. Our kid can be an infant or a grown adult. But at the end of the day, they are still our baby.
Despite all the pros that can appeal to almost any young couples out there, there are certain cons to living with the in-laws.
1. Tension between the mother-in-law (MIL) and the daughter-in-law (DIL)
We’re a family and want to live in peace and happiness. But life is not so simple. It is common sense that MILs and DILs don’t always get along. This usually puts the man (husband) in an awkward situation where they don’t know whether to take sides with their mom or their wife.
A resourceful man knows how to reconcile the differences between the two women that he love the most. But oftentimes men get clumsy when it comes to dealing with the MIL-DIL tension.
I grew up watching the strained relationship between my mom and my paternal grandmother and hoped I’d never have to go through that. I didn’t understand why they just couldn’t get along with each other and live happily in the same house.
After I got married and started living with my in-laws, I gradually realized the underlying problems between MILs and DILs. A lot of tension comes from the way a MIL and DIL manage household chores such as cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the kids.
I think the father-in-law (FIL) and the DIL don’t tend to have as much tension since the FIL is not particular about how things should be done around the house. After all, they don’t do it as much as the MIL.
My relationship with my MIL was a bit tense after I had our son. I believe I had postpartum depression and wasn’t happy with anyone or anything around me. After my in-laws left for China, I recovered from the childbirth and realized there were many things I could have done differently to treat them better.
After my MIL brought Baby FAF back to America from China, our relationship has never been better. My Chinese has also improved after a year of living with my in-laws, so my MIL and I can now communicate and understand each other better.
(I’m Vietnamese, and my in-laws are Chinese. I audited Intermediate Chinese when I was in grad school, but I couldn’t really speak the language well until after I lived with my in-laws for a year.)
2. Unsolicited lessons and advice
Do you remember those teenage years when you still lived with your parents, and they wanted you to do everything in a certain way? Put your 30-year-old self in that situation, and you will see what I mean.
Mr. FAF in particular got a lot of unsolicited advice and criticisms from my in-laws on a regular basis. Sometimes he would brush it off, but there were times when not everyone in the family was happy.
I speak basic Mandarin. Sometimes I don’t (or pretend not to) understand what my in-laws say, so I can get off the hook. Mr. FAF, on the other hand, gets an earful when his parents are not happy with the way he does certain things.
We are happy to learn from the wisdom from our parents. But the generation gap and the difference living experience (China v. US) sometimes make their advice not applicable to every situation that we are in.
3. Disagreements over child-rearing
Have you ever had a conversation with your in-laws or parents about how to raise your children? I have, and sometimes it doesn’t end well. This is particularly true between the MIL and the DIL.
The MIL prides herself on having raised her son, your husband, well over the past decades. She has a lot of advice and wisdom to offer to you on how to best raise your kid – her grandchild. However, what she experienced from 30 years ago might no longer be applicable to today’s standards.
Sometimes you end up finding yourself trying to take care of your crying baby and dealing with the unsolicited advice and pressure coming from your MIL. And it just doubles the stress you have to face.
Living with the in-laws is one of the traditions in Asia, but not so much in America. I have seen many Asian American friends getting stuck in the middle.
On the one hand, they want to live with only their spouse and kids like a typical American family. On the other hand, the family duties ingrained in Asian culture tell them they need to live with and take care of their parents.
What we decide is personal and should be based on our family’s circumstances. For Mr. FAF and me, we’re ready to have two sets of parents move in with us when they are ready.
We will definitely face a lot of challenges with a bigger family. But at the end of the day, our parents are the only ones who would take us into their homes if we became homeless and give us everything they’ve worked for their whole lives.
No one else would do the same for us, and we would do what no one else would do for them: taking care of them when they are old.