I attended a fun party in late August and had the chance to meet some new people. I love people and I love to network. I think it’s fun to meet new people, find out who you know in common, learn about shared interests, and drink a bunch of good wine.
At this party, I was talking to a spunky woman who had on gorgeous shoes. She grabbed a great bottle of Pinot Grigio to set near us so we didn’t have to pause our conversation for refills.
When we got to “so what do you do”, she wanted to know how I appeared so balanced and not worn around the edges with kids, a traveling husband, and my own job. I explained my multigenerational living set-up, and she stared at me like I was speaking in tongues.
HER: WHAT? You let your mother-in-law live with you? What is THAT about?
ME: We enjoy it. It helps hubby and me focus on work as needed. We have more time to spend with our kids after work. My mother-in-law helps makes the house run well, and you know, the kids get to be with their grandmother.
HER: Hmmm…Well how long will she be there? I mean did she just show up and not leave?
ME: We invited her to live with us in 2007 when our youngest was born. I’m not sure how long she will live with us. We haven’t discussed that.
HER: There is absolutely NO WAY my mother-in-law could live with us. NO WAY! You let me know if you need help getting your mother-in-law out of there.
At that point, I was pretty much done with the conversation. I politely excused myself and seriously thought about taking that bottle of wine with me as I went to find another person to gab with.
I reflected on this exchange some weeks later and I wanted to know what others thought about living with their mother-in-laws. So I posted a question on Facebook.
The responses where humorous, honest, shocking, emotional, and all over the place.
I came across an interesting study about how family communicate about their in-laws and with their in-laws.
“In one component of this study, the researchers asked daughters-in-law to report on positive and negative aspects of their relationship with the mothers-in-law. (Summary table) One interesting aspect of these findings is that there are characteristics in this relationship that are listed as positive (i.e., linked to greater satisfaction) and negative factors (i.e., linked to less satisfaction). This demonstrates that daughters-in-law have different “tastes” when it comes to what they want in their mother-in-law relationship. For instance, some daughters-in-law felt geographic distance was a barrier to a more positive relationship whereas others believed geographic distance was necessary for a positive relationship.”
Click here to learn more about Dr. Christy Rittenour’s study.
If anyone is considering multigenerational living, they have to make sure this decision is right for them. Effective communication needs to be established when discussions first start and when the multigenerational living arrangement becomes a reality (or not).
Effective communication is essential in developing, maintaining, and strengthening relationships. Here are my top recommendations for communicating with your mother-in-law and in a multigenerational household:
- Practice (yes practice) active listening. This is a skill a lot of people do not have.
- Be honest and specific. Stick to the facts and do your best not to overgeneralize.
- Respond to what is being communicated instead of reacting.
- Adjust your communication style to the situation, age/generation of the other person involved, and the circumstance.
- Use common language. Speaking over your mother-in-law’s head (or anyone else’s) leads to unnecessary miscommunication and frustration. Your goal is to have the receiver understand, accept, and apply what you’ve communicated.
- Admit you are human and that you make mistakes. We all have stories to share when things are going well or when things are disharmonious. Showing you are human communicates your level of care for the other person involved.
- Love, respect, and forgive each other.