The Pros & Cons Of Living With In-laws

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.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Conclusion

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.

Related:

6 Financial Expectations In Asian Families

Why I Don’t Plan to Be A Stay-At-Home Mom

When Love Doesn’t Make Financial Sense

Why We Sent Our Baby To China

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26 thoughts on “The Pros & Cons Of Living With In-laws”

  • I have all the pros and the first con. #2 and #3 cons are me and my husband’s WORST nightmare. We don’t have kids yet but my husband has said he worries about back seat parenting from people who think Indian/Basamati rice is poisonous.

    My husband does not believe my parents did a good job raising me. He’s terrified they’ll screw up his child like they screwed up me. It’s a cultural issue too because we are multi raced family. There’s so much communication problems since we don’t speak English and refuses to learn.

    We decided to not have children if they end up living with us. We’ll delay it, as long as possible.

    • Ahh what?! I think your parents did a great job raising you. Hmm maybe it’s just a cultural issue like you said. Both Mr. FAF and I are Asian, but we already have SO many communication issues with our in-laws because he’s Chinese and I’m Vietnamese.

      Your baby will be SUPER cute! 😉

  • I find this super interesting. I actually wanted to my in-laws to move in, for a few of those pros, but also because they are getting older and I know my husband would feel better knowing we were there to help. They refused, saying they need their own space.

    I think the Asian culture of having parents move in is amazing. I know that it has to make things difficult, especially in the area of raising kids. But I do think that, in general, the pros out weigh the cons.

    Thanks for this! I love learning about how different families and cultures do things! And it’s even more interesting to see how the change to US living affects the dynamic of the culture.

  • Wow, I’m kind of living in a similar situation! I’m Puerto Rican, and my fiancée is Korean. Right now, we’re living in her mom’s house, and I’m definitely seeing what you describe.

    But I really enjoy spending time with her family. Plus the free home cooked meals are awesome, and we’re saving $2,000+ per month in rent which will help us move out of the next much sooner than we thought.

    • Ahh I’m so jealous you get to see Korean food every day :p Living parents can definitely save us lots of money. It won’t last forever. I hope you guys will be able to find your dream home soon! 🙂

  • Strangely enough, I could not imagine living with my own relatives but having my MIL live with us would be a delight. She’s a sweet lady and has never been the homemaker or cook (and so has pretty low expectations on that front). Having live-in childcare would be sweet, buy I’m pretty sure my fiance would bicker with her way more than I would.

  • When we moved to Michigan, we lived with my parents for a few months while we searched for and found a home. It worked for the short term, but I am really glad we are now “close, but not too close”. We are close enough so my mom still helps with childcare and we can join for the occasional family dinner, but we still have our own home, life and space 🙂

    • “close, but not too close”

      I think it’s the best choice for many couples. You can get the best of both worlds: freedom and help from/care for our parents! 😉

  • Yeap… Living with the in laws is hard. My mom lives with us most of the year now. We’ve been married for almost 20 years so Mrs. RB40 is somewhat used to it. She likes it better with no MIL, but she tolerates it. It’s a tough situation… My mom needs help and the kids need to step up.
    My dad on the other hand is a troublemaker. We really can’t live with him. There are all kinds of problem when he lived with us for a while. Now he lives in Thailand.
    It’s great that your relationship with MIL has improved. It probably just took time. I’m sure the depression didn’t help either.

    • Wow I didn’t realize you and Mrs. RB40 have been married for so long. Mr. FAF and I have been married for almost 4 years, and we already feel like it’s such a long journey.

      I’m glad Mrs. RB40 is fine with living with your mom. Sometimes it’s hard to balance different relationships and dynamics in a family. Usually, the husband is the most important person who can keep the harmony in all relationships in a family. 😉

  • My mother in law almost moved in with us and all the ‘Pros’ crossed my mind. It would have been amazing for my pocket honestly.

    Ultimately we decided not to do it though. I try to have a very defined line with money and comfort. I’ve worked as hard as I could to be comfortable, and Id rather start my comfort now instead of when I retire.

  • We lived with my in-laws (Mr. Steward’s parents) in their home for a few months between when we returned from our honeymoon and when we moved to our current town (due to me going to grad school). It worked out great, but I think part of that is because we didn’t have children yet, we knew it was short-term, and it was us in their house, rather than vice-versa. The last point let me roll with their way of doing things, instead of feeling entitled to a say.

    I’d love for our in-laws to move to our city so that we could help take care of them as they age. They’re great, and actually rather than a con, I love their invaluable advice. I think I would be hard-pressed to have them move in with me, though. (Same for my own parents, if not more.) Kudos to you!

  • I think that it’s a good part of the culture if the individuals are willing to do the work to get along, or are naturally mellow and easygoing but that’s rarely the case. My family has always done multi-generational living, and I expected to as well, but it was always a struggle. I wanted a warm relationship with our grandparents but we always dreaded when it was our turn to have grandma living with us because she was MEAN and worse, she was rude and mean to our mom. I couldn’t stand that.

    Now, for many reasons, our relationship has deteriorated so much over the years that I wouldn’t be ok with my dad living with us anymore. I’m not sure what we’re going to do when he gets too old to live alone anymore – he doesn’t want to live with us and my sibling isn’t an option, he’s a burden himself. We have a few years but we have to figure it out.

    I’ll admit I sure do miss family cooking but I’d much rather learn to do all that myself than get it “free” at the price of having a parent live with us. These days, it’s way too stressful.

  • I try to pretty upfront in any serious relationship that I intend for my parents to be a HUGE part of my children’s lives. If I’m around, I’m sure we’ll be a multi-generational household once my parents need the help. While the cultural expectation is there, it’s something I’m gladly planning on. I have the benefit of having amazing parents though – they’re going to be fantastic grandparents, and having grown up without any grandparents involved in my life (other than occasional trips to Poland), I can’t imagine my kids not having that connection as well. But every family is different! I know this isn’t the case with most families.

  • Nice post FAF, so many of these comments feel close to home. And the cost comparison of having family around makes so much sense if you can find a way to live together with family.

  • Great post! Hits close to home :). I’ll be living with my mother in law soon (she will be in the basement) and I already have anxiety about it. She definitely gives a lot of unsolicited advice and voices her preference, and yesterday when we went over for dinner she commented on my dog and joked that I should give him up for adoption. Anyway, it’s going to be interesting 🙂 . She did do a great job raising her children (inifinitely better than my parents did). Good timing with this post, I wrote a post a couple days ago about the sandwich generation and taking care of parents and children in a few years time 🙂

  • When my kids were younger, my mom would come and stay with us for a few weeks at a time and it was great. I loved not having to make diner . it was like a mini-vacation. But I don’t think we could have make it work for months!

  • Luckily, I won’t have MIL or my mom living with us. Since I have a ton of siblings, my parents will always be with the eldest son or any son. It would be frowned upon if they lived with a daughter when there’s so many sons or any son to choose from. My MIL is second generation Chinese-American and is very Americanized so she has no expectations to live with us. But we do have MIL’s younger sister, our Aunt living with us shortly after we got married and before we had kids. She’s been with us for about 9 years now and it’s understood that she’ll be with us forever. We get along well enough and there have been no big issues or arguments because she defers the kids wants/needs to me and doesn’t try undermine my decisions with their upbringing.

  • Though free cooking + cleaning sound great, I’m definitely in the camp of wanting to live an American life without the in laws. I’d love for my parents or my partner’s parents to live with us temporarily to take care of a baby, but permanently sounds too hard!

    I don’t get along perfectly with my parents and they’re the ones filled with advice that could make my ears fall off! But if it were my partner’s parents, I’d feel even more internal tension because I hate conflict and don’t want to cause unnecessary tension. I’d internalize all of my disagreement.

  • I love this post, Mrs. FAF. Although I haven’t dealt with this situation long term, my mother-in-law did stay with us for a couple of months when our first child was done. Luckily I have a pretty good relationship with her. It was rather awesome having her help during the first two sleepless months. Regardless, it was challenging at times when it came to the unsolicited advice and child -rearing… just as you mentioned.

    I think we both know there is a finite amount of time that she would want to live with us. She’d probably get as annoyed with us as we could with her. So, it really comes down to balance. At the end of the day, the child-rearing is the parents choice – we need to make our own mistakes. Keep communication open, direct, and respectful, and it’ll be just fine. 🙂

  • I live with my in-laws too. The good news is that my wife doesn’t have to go
    through the MIL-DIL situation with her mom.

    For my own situation, I definitely thought no that you need that have compromises when you live with a different generation. Hence, I tend to pick my battles wise and let things go when i can compromise.

    I can’t complain when I gets my meals cooked, my house cleaned, and my kids taken care of when I am at work.

  • We stayed at my Mom’s home after we got married for about two months with my brother and my sister. My brother suggested that we stay with them until we save some money for a house downpayment. We will be able to save money faster for sure and the offer was really good if you look at it in that perspective. But I have other plans. I want to feel the responsibility of a married life right at the beginning of marriage. I want us to feel more independent together ASAP. I want for us to be able to learn how to cook together, be able to do things together without guilt. One of the best decision we’ve made.

  • I really appreciated that you shared this perspective. My mom has already offered to take care of my future kids because: she knows I like to travel and she doesn’t trust other people with her future (as yet to arrive) grandkids. I’m 100% for it. I live in the same town as my mom which works out nicely as we have some space. Many families thrive because they work as a cohesive unit taking on duties that other people pay way too much for. I say viva la difference! I just wish my mom cooked as well as I do. But, she is better at cleaning and laundry.

  • Hi, I am from Malaysia, where it is a common practise for us Chinese to live with in-laws. But my Mil prefers to stay on her own as she cant really get along with her sons. Hahaha. Personally i think this is because her sons are stubborn just like their mum. Anyway, i have a great relationship with my MIL, mainly because we dont live under the same roof.
    My sister is married to BIL, who is the eldest son and still stay in the family house. Everyday, she will voice out her unhappiness as MIL likes to interfere on how she should bring up the kids [my niece and nephew]. For e.g. when the kids got punished to the corner, their grandma will pacify them with treats [candies/chocolates/etc]. And that make sis to get into argument with BIL. BIL thinks his mum is not wrong and etc. There are many other disagreements that involve other family members [SIL, FIL, etc]. Everyday is drama day at their place and BIL refused to move out. So i think cons outweigh pros.

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