Have you watched any Nollywood movie where living with in-laws ended well? If the mother-in-law is not a witch, the daughter-in-law is a demon. Lol. Recently on Twitter, people were arguing about slaps being shared like gift packs between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. (Why can’t people keep their hands to themselves, biko?!). But then, when you think about it, the debate about mothers and daughters-in-law seems universal. And daughters-in-law-laws get a hard pass for most.
The Way Things Were
Until fairly recently, Africans lived communally and as such, the idea of co-habiting with your in-laws seemed normal. While living arrangements might have meant that everyone lived in separate huts, everyone shared the same compound. With modernization, this has changed dramatically. Even though we still have some of the communal approaches with extended family support, we are increasingly focused on the nuclear family.
As if that is not enough, Television has given us a picture of the ideal romantic way to start marriage and family. We think just the two of us, breakfast in bed, sex anytime, anywhere. But life happens and reality has a way of shattering our illusions. Younger siblings come to visit and then, move in permanently. Parents want to see their children, single or married. Work or health-related changes happen, and suddenly, three is not really a crowd for a few months at least. “Just the two of us” gives way to “Meet (read: Live With) the In-laws”.
Regardless of our hopes and expectations, life throws some major curveballs. And all too often, we find ourselves adjusting to situations we swore we’d never tolerate. Sometimes, we make these adjustments very consciously, especially in dire situations. Having to move in with an ailing parent, for instance, is as conscious as it gets. Other times, the adjustment is difficult because it’s unplanned. A relative making an unspoken transition from being a visitor to being a permanent fixture can be a little awkward.
It’s not all doom and gloom if we’re being honest. Unless you or your in-law(s) are psychopaths, it won’t always be a war zone. Living with in-laws can, in fact, have a few advantages such as:
This might not seem like much to some. It can, however, be everything to someone who is the major breadwinner of the extended family. While it will cost more to run one somewhat larger household, it will still cost less than running two. From utilities to food, you get to spend a lot less.
For a young, childless couple, this is no consideration. For a couple with children, this is a huge relief! Childcare is costly whether in terms of money or security, depending on what part of the world you’re in. Knowing your kids are generally safe with family at next to no cost is priceless.
Sharing spaces with others help people bond in ways that cannot be experienced otherwise. When managed correctly, living with in-laws can help foster deeper understanding and closeness among all the parties.
Whatever the circumstances, moving in with the in-laws has its definite drawbacks. A few include:
Boundaries start to blur. Your extended family becomes privy to information you’d rather they didn’t otherwise have. Intimacy gets a hard hit. Getting some nooky time becomes reminiscent of guilty teenage escapades. You both start sneaking around, and you’re not quite sure how old you are anymore. Lol. That’s of course if you’re getting any at all.
Tension and disagreements
Despite your best efforts and intentions, you will have tension and disagreements. Nobody likes them, but they’re inevitable with human beings. People have different opinions on and approach to similar issues. With the additional strain of being extra careful not to be misunderstood, such tension and disagreements can be stressful.
You generally have less control over how the home is run. The homeowner has to make adjustments for the in-laws’ presence and preferences. The in-laws whether as parents or siblings have to adjust to the rules of the homeowner. Everyone feels a little off balance and less in control.
Most people have strong opinions about living with in-laws. Some others are neutral about it. In the end, though, you get to determine what works best for you and your family. We would like to hear from you nonetheless. If you really had no choice, would you be willing to live with your in-laws?