I was chatting with my mother-in-law the other day, and we got on to the subject of parents moving in with their adult children, to help with childcare, a la Marian Robinson and the Obamas.
Itís an old idea made new again: Grandparents living with their adult children, helping to raise the grandkids. A January study by the AARP shows that multigenerational households are on the rise, up from 5 million in 2000 to 6.2 million last year, an increase from 4.8 percent of all households to 5.3 percent. I call it the "GrannyNanny" concept, and it's an appealing route to work-life balance -- or so it seems.
"My wife and I have been working our way up to it step by step -- like tip-toeing into an icy lake before making the plunge," my friend Luke told me. "It has been excellent for our daughter, my wife is able to actually do work without worries, I get to enjoy foods that my Mother-in-law often has time to prepare, and I believe my MIL feels very happy to be able to have such a significant role in raising our daughter."
Now, I adore my mother-in-law, but I'm pretty sure that if she moved in with us while we were both hale and hearty, she'd probably want to kill me within a couple of weeks. (She thinks this is funny, but I'm serious). Same with my own mom, who is more than happy to be the de facto GrannyNanny for my brother's kids, who live right around the corner from her and my dad. She picks my nieces up from school, spends the night at their house, chauffeurs them from activity to activity, but when I try to imagine her living with me, doing the same, all I picture is clash after clash after clash. And, apparently, that's the case for other people, too.
"Been there done that wanted to kill each other. Maybe it can work if it is the wifeís mother, but it was my husbandís mother, and that just didnít work," one person told me after I started polling my friends. "When my first son was born, my mom tried way too hard to be helpful," another remembered. "Sheíd barge into my room when she heard my son crying and held out her hands expecting me to just hand him over so she can stop the crying. Umm, no."
Would you ask your mother (or mother-in-law) to be your GrannyNanny? What do you do if your parenting style is vastly different from your momís or dadís? And who is in chargeÖ you or your parents?
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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