Yep, I'm Living With My Mother Again — and Honestly, I'm So Happy About It

Caitlyn Doenges
Caitlyn Doenges
Caitlyn Doenges

About two years after my daughter was born, my mom moved in with us. It was actually my husband's idea (and thank God for him — have you ever heard of a spouse offering to have their mother-in-law move in?!) and while I was hesitant, I agreed that we would try it out temporarily. My mom and I have never done well living under the same roof. In high school, I was a terrible, angsty teen who rebelled against pretty much everything she did or said. Thankfully, when I went away to college, our relationship changed and we became extremely close again. We talked on the phone daily, discussing everything from my classes to boys and college parties. We maintained that dynamic when I was home for short college breaks, but when I graduated and moved back in, we fell back into our disagreements and sharp quips.

A few months later, I moved five hours north to live with one of my older brothers, and perhaps unsurprisingly, our relationship made a positive change. We communicated better with physical and emotional space. We lived five hours apart for almost 10 years, before she and my dad moved closer. In that time, I got married, bought a house, and had my first baby. My mom was a part of all these huge occasions and we happily celebrated each one together before she returned home. When I had my daughter, she was there for the birth and first week of her life. I cried when she left and wondered how I would "mom" without her by my side. Of course, my husband is an amazing father and helped in every way he could, but there was just something so grounding about having my mom present for me when I became a mother, and I wasn't confident I could do it without her.

When my parents got divorced soon after my daughter's first birthday, my husband asked what I thought about offering my mom the option of moving in with us. Initially, I looked at him like he was crazy, but part of my heart knew something my head was afraid to admit: I wanted her here. I was terrified it would ruin the great mother-daughter relationship we had worked for. But at the same time, I was excited for my mom to see my daughter grow up at close range — and for a built-in friend to hang out with whenever I wanted. So we offered, she accepted, and off we went.

It was difficult at first. My husband works a lot, so before my mom joined, I often found myself alone with our daughter. I had my rhythm, and having help initially frustrated me. I knew how get to the baby in and out of the car seat, grab the diaper bag, lock the car door, and be on my way quicker than my mom fiddling with the buckles and asking questions. We had to figure out the balance of having her help without stepping on my toes, and having me ask for help without taking advantage of her.

On top of that, my mom realized she had to be less of a grandmother and more of a parent. Grandmothers get to buy toys, give the kids sweet treats, and bend the rules. But since she is with my kids 24/7, they see her as another authority figure, so she can't always spoil them, which was a bumpy transition for her. Plus, I'm not raising my kids entirely the same way my parents raised me and my brothers. Of course, I'm using the same lessons on respect and manners that she taught me, but I also follow some untraditional parenting beliefs, like attachment parenting. I didn't like feeling like someone was critiquing my every move, even if she wasn't doing it out loud. And she didn't like feeling like she was walking on eggshells with any comment she made about my kids. But over the years we found our balance on all of these fronts, and she's become awesome at following my lead.

Now, she's lived with us for three years, and we've decided to make it a permanent thing. But the best part: our relationship has blossomed. The biggest thing we've learned is that open and honest communication is the only way to ensure both of our needs are met. My husband and I even included her in our discussions about expanding our family. And it was so wonderful to have her right beside me from the moment we found out I was pregnant to when I was pushing in the delivery room. We even asked her to become our son's Godmother when he was baptized.

I will be forever grateful for the time we've been blessed with her as a part of our everyday family. We've turned into a family of five, rather than a mom and dad with two kids and a grandmother who lives with us. Of course, we still fight, but we're going on three years of living under the same roof, and I don't think either of us would have grown into the women we are without facing the challenges and enlightenment of being an adult and living with an adult parent. We're showing my kids, especially my daughter, what a sincere and wonderful relationship a mom and daughter can have. While having a parent or in-law live with your growing family may not be something that works for everyone, our little five-person family feels pretty perfect to me. And for that, I'm extremely grateful.