Family life with more than one family


Ok, where to begin.
After the birth of our fifth child we found ourselves struggling very much and unable to dig our way out of the financial situation that my husband and I were dealing with. We decided as a couple to ask his sister if we could move in with her. We sat down and discussed it with her and her husband and they thought it was a great idea. They are both older than us and have no children (by choice). They have a home that was more than enough to accomodate our big family plus them. We agreed on an amount to pay them for “rent” and that utilities would be taken care of by them.
When we moved in the place was a huge mess. The two basically lived like two teenagers who’s parents were out of town. I was doing things like wiping down the baseboards and my SIL was asking what the heck I was doing that for. When I showed her the huge ball of old dust, dirt, grit and 3lbs of dog hair… she said, “oh.” The whole house had never been dusted in the 5 years they had lived here. The carpets never cleaned (the dog had been allowed to relieve himself and vomit on the carpets without shampoo), the floors mopped once a month and anything that required scrubbing was never taken care of. All of that changed. I like clean. I like to know that my children are in a clean environment. I spent 3 weeks sanitizing this place.
Now I keep it up. I shampoo the carpets once a month (they refuse to take their shoes off in the house). I wash all the dishes every day. I cook dinner every day. I wipe up the spills they make. I am the live in maid. My grocery bill has doubled since moving in here. Theirs has decreased along with their utility bills because I am a conservation freak.
I have had my own place for the last 12 years. I have never had to live with family before. We have been free to raise our children as we see fit without interference from outside sources.
My problem is with my SIL’s husband. He is constantly getting on to my younger 3 children all the time. My older two he favors quite strongly. It’s a constant problem, if he is in the room, my son is in fits. It seems he gets on to them for things that any normal person does, what we do and what he does himself but he gets on to them just because it’s them. He goes on to answer questions of my children before I even have the chance to open my mouth and 99% of the time it’s false information. Everytime he comes in the room he lets out an exasperated sigh, as if saying to me… Oh you’re still here.
To this day, I have kept my mouth shut. I would never say anything to them because they have graciously let us live in their home and I am grateful for that… to an extent. But I am at my breaking point. I don’t have to scrub and clean a house that is not mine. I don’t have to cook dinner for two people who are not my children. BUT I DO IT. I do it anyway. I do it every day. Without question.
I have begged my husband to please begin the looking process to find a place of our own. He repeatedly tells me no. That it’s not time.
Every day I pray for God to help me deal with this tension in my life. To help me forgive him for his ignorance and to help me just get past it. But to no avail. Every day is a struggle.
I don’t know what I need, advise. Help. Something.


It is never a good idea to move in with another family, particularly when there’s such a disparagement between the two couples. And I don’t think your b-i-l will give you a rough way to go if you want to move- In fact, from the sound of things, he might be your greatest ally.

Why do you have to wait for your husband to find you a place? This is not negotiatble at this point, in my opinion. It is an experiment gone wrong. It is hurting you, undermining your relationship with your children, and could affect your marriage, if it hasn’t already. Your husband is not there all day. You are.

Hit the Internet, get the local paper, find an apartment you can afford, write the checks or get the money orders for the deposits and rent, and arrange to move your stuff. texas also has a lot of affordable, good housing in prefab homes (trailers). If you husband will not move, let him stay with your s-i-l and b-i-l.

I am willing to bet your b-i-l will rent the U-Haul.:wink:


It sounds difficult for *all *of you. They were childless by choice, but now opened their home to five nephews/neices. They aren’t used to children and it is a big adjustment. If you husband’s brother-in-law seems to favor the older children, maybe he hasn’t learned to deal with younger children.

Beyond the children, you live by different standards of housekeeping. Sounds like it was pretty gross, and I can’t blame you for wanting a clean environment for you children, but your SIL and her husband probably don’t appreciate all your cleaning. If they cared about clean carpets and baseboards, they would have had clean carpets and baseboards before you moved in. If they want to wear shoes in their own house, please don’t complain.

When you discussed moving in, did you have a time schedule in mind until you and your husband could get your finances together? If there was an end in sight, it might be easier for all of you. Come up with a time frame together of how long it will take to get your finances in order.

As you say you have kept your mouth shut–GOOD! Keep it shut and smile.:slight_smile: It was very gracious of them to open their home to you and your family in time of need. And, like a good Catholic–offer up your suffering and unite it with Jesus’ suffering on the cross. He cleans our sin and prepares a heavenly banquet, so cleaning houses and cooking isn’t such a bad deal in exchange for that.


I will pray for you. It sounds like there might be tension on both sides. I am actually quite surprised that after all this, all of you are really getting along quite remarkably (in my opinion) considering the situation!

You have not talked about fights, yelling, swearing, nasty comments or anything like I have heard happen in other horrible family situations. The worst thing you mentioned is that your brother in law “gets on” your children for things. Also that sometimes he lets out a “sigh”. Although this is still not easy I would try your best to count your blessings, you really sound like you have a loving family.

Also, I mean to say this with all charity but what you view as helpful behavior by cleaning, to be honest if you were in my home I may be a little insulted. Chances are that you had an idea of what kind of housekeepers they were before you moved in. Daily cleaning is understandable. Moving in and scrubbing baseboards, shampooing carpets etc. could be making them feel bad like they are not good enough.

This is temporary. Talk to your husband and work this out. You are used to running your own home the way you like and having control and now you have lost all say in the way things are run. This is a very unsettling feeling which may be the reason for your tension.

Remember Christ lost control of what he wanted too. Try and remember him and the cross he had. This is temporary. You can do this. I will pray for you. Try and see the good in your sister and brother in law as best as you can. Hope this helps.


Is there anyway you can just clean the rooms you use most - the bedrooms you use, the bathroom you use, and the kitchen if you all use it. Suspend your need for clean temporarily.

Feed just your family; use the kitchen and eat at a different time than they do. —KCT


Simply no.
They leave the dishes for me to do. They leave stuff out for me to clean.
I have actually cooked something for just my kids one evening and they came down and sat at the table and starred at me waiting for me to tell them what was for dinner. After I ignored the situation for 45 minutes, they retired to their rooms and didn’t eat dinner that night.
I am the mommy of the house.

It’s just gotten to the point that I have tired of crying over it. I am tired of hearing my BIL “I don’t eat that.” “That’s nasty.” “I’m not sharing this with anyone because I don’t have to.” I can’t believe, after all the years of parenting that this man’s values will rub off on my children. I have busted my butt to keep my children open minded and to try new things like food. I don’t have picky eaters and those of you who have two year olds KNOW what a difficult task that is. I have a 4 year old who will eat Calimari! But now the kids are beginning to turn their noses up at stuff. My 8 year old even said to me “I don’t eat that.” I told her I don’t ever want to hear her say that. That it’s important to be open and receptive to new things. It broke my heart.


Because you keep cleaning everything, they keep leaving it out. Buy some paper plates and use those for your family! Leave their dishes for them :wink: .

They managed before you arrived (not to your standards, but they did), and they can manage now. You’re choosing to do all these things. Stop. Maybe they liked being slobs. It’s their house, let them be slobs. —KCT


Your situation sounds like something to get out of quickly. You need to tell your hsuband it is really hard on you, and tell him why.

The thing is, no matter how good you are ( and you sound so good for having cleaned the house and for making dinners) there will always be conflicts when living with some one else—esp. people that sound like they were set in their ways. They had good intentions opening their home to you, but charity just dwindled on their part when the reality set in. And I would have wanted to work out a dinner schedule, like discuss the specifics----who does what? Who cleans what? Who pays for what? When does it get done? Could your husband(or does he??) help out with making meals and cleaning for everyone? Maybe that will encourage him to leave once he sees how much work it is.

I know this sounds silly, (I am just tring to make you laugh—being a comedian at heart:D ) Go in the middle of the livingroom (in front of everyone, of course) crouch into a fetal position, suck your thumb, and say “mommy want to go away…” Sorry if it didn’t make you laugh.
But I hope it did.:smiley: :smiley:

Seriously, I will pray for you that your husband sees your part, and try to get you guys out of there quickly. it is the only way for your sanity, and for the better of your kids. God Bless you.


Maybe they aren’t leaving the dishes out for you to do; they might simply just be leaving the dishes dirty. Judging by way you described their house I’d guess they didn’t do the dishes very often either.

Food issues are often control issues, and all of you have lost some of the control over your lives in this living situation. Now don’t take this personal because I’m sure you work hard to cook good meals, but when you mentioned about how you “have” to do all the cooking, that might also be part of the problem. They might want to have more of a say in what they eat, but they may need a little advance notice.

Your husband’s BIL is a grown man and he’s entitled to eat what he likes. He’s sharing his house with your family, but maybe he doesn’t want to share every meal with all of you. He demonstrates his generosity by the fact that you stay there, but he may want to keep a few things for himself every once in a while. Maybe it’s not perfect of him, but give him a break. You may be a wonderful cook, but some people simply don’t want to eat calimari or spinach or whatever.

Besides learning that not everyone eats what you cook, your children are likely learning lessons of generosity from your SIL and her husband. Your children may not remember when and why they stopped eating squid, but they may one day remember that they once lived with their aunt and uncle.


*Stepping Heavenward *is a neat novel that shows the spiritual progress of a wife and mother. She lives with her difficult father and sister in law. In the book we see how she grows in charity.

But…It sounds like you need a vacation–can you go see your mom and dad for a while?

Do you have any control over the money? Perhaps you should assume control so you can move faster towards your goal of getting your own home.

I think you need to sit down with your SIL and talk some of the household stuff out. It’s not all your in-laws fault that your grocery bills have doubled–our bills have doubled in the last few years because the food prices are higher and our growing kids’ appetites are higher.

I think your anger is misdirected. Your husband is the one who is being negligent. Perhaps you should call your pastor and set up a meeting to discuss the situation. I’m quite sure that your pastor will back you up.

God bless you. I know that many many women around the world and throughout time have had to deal with the difficulties of being dependent on family. But, in the US in this time period, it’s just not as common.

This would be good time to beef up your spiritual practices–going to Daily Mass, praying the rosary, going to Adoration—all good, too, because it gets you out of the house.

I have to agree that perhaps your cleaning standards are a little higher than most. Perhaps you can pray about this area for perception.

I wonder if your BIL is aware of his behavior towards your younger children? Have you talked to him about it?

Keeping your mouth shut as far as not complaining is great. But, no communication is bad.

I hope you get your own home as soon as possible.


I am sure your in-laws (who have been more generous than any relatives I am blessed with, and for far longer) have enjoyed being reminded daily for all this time that they are pigs and slobs, and do not understand small children. That has no doubt been delightful for them, as grateful as they have been for the learning experience. You will have to take the initiative to find a new place, get ducks in a row for moving. I am sure BIL will personally take charge and insure the move goes smoothely. In the meantime, why don’t you and SIL agree to shop and prepare food separately for your families, since you can’t seem to manage to do it together.


I was in a similar situation a little over a year ago. My situation lasted for 16 months. We had my family of 4 (w,h,d,s) and their family of 5 (w,h,d,d,s). They moved into my house. So put 2 strong-willed good mothers into a home together! Yeah, it worked while it needed to work. Why did it work? Because we all looked at the big picture, we were helping each other. If there were major issues it got talked or yelled about.

By the end, everyone was ready for the move. But now I feel I have a much better relationship with my husband (we’ve only been married a total of 5 years) and a very GOOD relationship with the other family.

Was it perfect? No, no, no. But it was necessary to help family.

You should 1. Set a time limit of staying there (and they should have input). We said 18-24 months max. 2. Discuss cleaning duties. If you are home all day and the other 3 adults work then you should make sure to tidy. BUT you should not have to do everything. 3. Cook your food (enough for everyone) tell the adults if they don’t like what you cooked they can make their own food. 4. Pray for guidance for your husband and family.


by the way, you are helping me hark back to our hippy days, when we did share a house with another family for a couple of years, but it was intentional, they were relatives (not close, just happenstance), and we all had children. Intentional communities were the norm at this time (off campus student housing for married students). It was intentional, planned and cooperative, with budget, duties and responsibilities clearly spelled out in writing, differences negotiated and resolved in weekly meetings, and enabled 3 adults to finish their education, while all 4 adults worked full or part time, child care was all within the home, by other family members when parents were out, communal cooking and eating space, family sleeping and living space. If you go into the arrangement without a plan, chaos is the only result you can reasonably expect.

it also helped that we had shared family values and expectations (Catholic, NFP using, Mass on Sunday, daily prayer etc, discipline standards etc.) We would not even have considered the arrangement had such not been the case.


That actually sounds like a good model for a community.


I would love it if our family members were involved in the church, but they are not.


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