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Facebook, social media, and the multigenerational family

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This flowchart, about being Facebook friends with your parents, cracked me up!

So, yes, I am Facebook friends with my mother-in-law. Don’t gasp, it’s not that bad; in fact, it’s not bad at all.

We already live together, and I blog about us living together, so how can it even be a big deal that my mother-in-law and I are Facebook friends? There’s not too much I can hide or plan on hiding.

Here are the FAQs I received about Facebook, other social media, and multigenerational living:

Did you feel like you had to accept your mother-in-law’s friend request?

No. I’m Facebook friends with my own mother, so I didn’t see a problem being Facebook friends with my mother-in-law. If my memory is working in my favor, I think I was the one who suggested she join Facebook.

My stepdad is not on Facebook and he cannot work a computer. It’s pretty much the same deal with my father-in-law, although I know he does enjoy the internet.

Are you Facebook friends with any other “via marriage “relatives?

Yes and this is potentially complicated – but so far so good.

Hubby’s bro and bro’s wife (my awesome sister-in-law) are my Facebook friends – that’s pretty much the only way I can keep up with them. (That’s all I’m saying about that.)

Hubby’s sis is not on Facebook – nor is her hubby.

Then I LOVE my two female cousins-in-law – who are married to hubby’s cousins. Lots of great chat there – and their mother-in-law (my MIL’s sister) is NOT on Facebook – which is a good thing.

We recently got into a Facebook “conversation” about planning a multigenerational vacation – and setting up a “fantasy family” (like fantasy football) of relatives who could go on this vacation with us. Yes, we’re wacky!

Hubby has two other undergraduate/college aged cousins on Facebook and I’m Facebook friends with them. It’s nice to keep up with their adventures. My mother-in-law repeats the stuff I read about them on Facebook. Consistency is good – I guess.

Are you Facebook friends with your husband?

No. He’s no longer on Facebook because I kicked him off. Just kidding. He deactivated Facebook because of his job.

Are your kids on Facebook or Twitter?

No.

The 11-year-old is not interested (thank goodness!). She does have her own mobile phone and texts.

The three-year-old is mad he doesn’t have his own laptop. Oh well.

Do you watch what you post, because of your mother-in-law, on Facebook?

I try to post fun, informational, and inspirational stuff on Facebook. I also like to get into Facebook “chats” about reality TV shows or awards shows.

My mother-in-law can see whatever I post – no edits there. Same thing with my mother…and other relatives (except for one of my own cousins who I think is a bit touched). I don’t hide my wall or put them on limited views.

I do have a Facebook account, with Margot, for it’s a full nest. Did you LIKE our page, yet? (No pressure.)

Does your mother-in-law comment or post stuff on your Facebook wall?

Rarely. She has commented on one-or-two Facebook posts on the it’s a full nest page.

I wouldn’t mind if she wanted to comment on something.

I post stuff on her wall probably every other week. I mostly send email messages or texts. I see her everyday – so plenty of time to talk face-to-face.

Have you ever gotten into a Facebook argument with your mother-in-law?

No! That’s ridiculous.

Do you vent about your mother-in-law on Facebook or Twitter?

No. That’s rude.

Do I ever vent? Of course I do. Facebook and Twitter are not the place for that.

Do you ever think about defriending your mother-in-law on Facebook?

No, I have not thought about doing that– yet.

Do you worry about your mother-in-law defriending you on Facebook?

No. I never thought about it. If she did defriend me – I think I would be upset. Hmmm…yes, I would be upset.

What does your mother-in-law think about your blog, it’s full nest?

I don’t think she hates it, but she’s never told me she liked it. I know she does read it.

She is supportive and helps me capture moments by taking pictures. She’ll sometimes respond to a request if I want to ask her something – as research – for the blog (yes, sometimes).

As I have mentioned, she does cook most of the dinnertime meals, and she hasn’t poisoned me (not that I’m worried).  This leads me to believe she’s OK with the blog.

I wouldn’t say she’s thrilled, though. I’m sure the blog makes her a bit nervous because she’s doesn’t know what I’m going to post. I focus on being honest about my experiences in our multigenerational household. I do not try to tell my mother-in-law’s story.

All families have good stuff and complicated issues. We’re no different in that.

Is your mother-in-law following it’s a full nest on Twitter?

No, not yet.

I told her, just last week, I would teach her how to tweet. I better put that on my calendar.

***

Let me know if there are other questions about Facebook and other social media – as it pertains to  multigenerational living. There are always new developments.

Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Flowchart

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Facebook confessional 1: To live or not live with your mother-in-law

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:

  1. Practice (yes practice) active listening. This is a skill a lot of people do not have.
  2. Be honest and specific. Stick to the facts and do your best not to overgeneralize.
  3. Respond to what is being communicated instead of reacting.
  4. Adjust your communication style to the situation, age/generation of the other person involved, and the circumstance.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Love, respect, and forgive each other.

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