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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 10-Mar-16 15:04:41

My 7 months in a 3 generation house

Have you ever lived with three generations of your family? Would you? Leila Glen describes how moving in with her parents in law allowed her young family to get ahead - and how they avoided WWIII while they were staying...

Leila Glen

My 7 months in a 3 generation house

Posted on: Thu 10-Mar-16 15:04:41


Lead photo

Have you lived in a three generation house? Would you?

7 months ago my 16 month old, my fiancé and I moved in with his parents. Now I know what you're thinking – am I mad? However with spiralling house prices, job-cuts and the increased cost of living - alongside most couples our age – we were finding it a struggle to make ends meet. Having that all-important boost has helped us immensely, and we're now in the process of looking for our own house; living as a '3G' family (3 generations under one roof) has been anything but a smooth ride, but it's definitely paid off!

Although we're all considerate people, things did get crowded, and yes, pretty heated at times. Through a bit of trial and error (and a rather memorable argument involving my mother in law and some waylaid shoes in the hallway) we quickly learnt that setting house rules and boundaries was necessary to ensure everyone understood what they could and couldn't do.

If you're thinking of taking in your parents/children/children-in-law whilst they save a bit of money to get themselves on the property ladder, then there are a few recurring themes/issues that came up when I was doing my time that I think would be helpful for anyone going through the '3G family' experience.

Household chores: Chores should be equally shared out between family members. In our case my mother in law loves to cook, and since it's her house, I leave her be. Then it's generally my fiancé and I on cleaning up duty. If everything is left to one person, it tends to trigger feelings of being taken for granted, leading to bad feeling and arguments.

Stress: Busy lives, hectic jobs, and kids to sort out – it's no wonder we all get stressed from time to time (or a whole lot of the time in my case). But just try to remember, your family members are generally there to support you, not actively contribute to your stress! So he didn't put the toilet seat down? Let it go…

Children: Now this is an especially tricky one. More often than not grandparents can't help but interfere or comment on the bringing up of their grandchildren. Yes – it can be maddening at times, but we just try to remember they're doing it out of love. Again, setting boundaries is key; work out to what extend grandparents are allowed to reprimand their grandchildren to avoid altercations.

Money: Finances should be discussed as early on as possible. Everyone's contribution to rent, groceries, bills and other outgoings need to be considered. We used sites such as and to help us work out a fair and cost-effective allocation of money.

It may seem like these are small and insignificant considerations, but at the end of the day we were moving in to someone else's house, and didn't want to impose our way of life on then, rather embrace theirs.

Privacy: Sex is an essential part of a healthy functioning relationship, but when there are two couples in the house, and children running around, it's difficult to have any time with your partner. We have a system in our house whereby my mother and father in law will take our son out to allow me and my fiancé some privacy. They get to spend quality time with their grandson and we get time to ourselves – it's a win/win!

Consideration for others: Seemingly tiny little things such as television programme preference, seats at the table and music taste have all nearly started World War 3 in our household. My partner and I love watching comedies, whereas his parents are intent on watching the soaps every night and have a penchant for gritty dramas. We worked out a weekly timetable of who was allowed TV preference, and this quickly put a stop to any arguing over the remote.

Furthermore, borrowing without permission is likely to prickle someone's skin. Always, ALWAYS ask! Ensure you put things back where they belong too; my mother in law is a creature of habit and likes things to be 'just so' – I quickly learnt this about her and rather than mocking her OCD I respected it and made sure to put things back in exactly the right place. We all have our quirks and when living with a lot of other people it's important to recognise when something is important to them and act accordingly; a little consideration can go a long way!

Rules: Rules are imperative to a happy household. Once individual responsibilities are established, everyone is free to get on with their own things and no difficult, awkward conversations need to be had.

Can shoes be worn in the house? Are you allowed to eat food in the lounge? Whose responsibility is it to…? These were the sorts of questions that needed to be addressed within the first week of us moving in. It may seem like these are small and insignificant considerations, but at the end of the day we were moving in to someone else's house, and didn't want to impose our way of life on then, rather embrace theirs. Was it difficult at times? Of course it was! I'm not a neat freak and taking off my shoes as soon as I walk through the door doesn't come naturally to me, however I told myself it would only be for a few months and would be worth it in the end – and I was right.

Communication: You know that old saying – 'communication is key'? Well when it comes to living alongside others, it couldn't be truer.

Try using a family planner or calendar – this was one of the best pieces of advice we were given! It meant we knew who was in and out for the night, how many people to make dinner for, and who was looking after the baby. Plus, it meant none of us double booked nights out, or planned to have people over when the other couple wanted a quiet night in.

Tip: Sticky notes are a great way of communicating too. E.g. "We're out of milk, I'll pick some up on the way back from work" to prevent the same item being bought twice.

Designating shelves: There's nothing more frustrating than having prepared yourself meals to take to work, or made yourself an after-dinner sweet snack, and then finding it gone by the time you've got around to eating it. Or - the more common occurrence in our household – buying yourself some ingredients which you intend to bake with (e.g. eggs) and then finding your father in law has treated himself to a four egg omelette. Avoid disasters such as this by designating each person a shelf in the fridge and using 'do not touch' labels for food items which are off limits to everyone else!

Take turns: For my fiancé and I, laundry days were Mondays and Thursdays, whilst my mother and father in law usually did theirs at the weekends. This little understanding meant there were no arguments (and we all had clean clothes to wear…)

From my personal experience, sticking to all these rules and just being as considerate as possible will make living with your children and grandchildren under the same roof a whole lot easier. And remember – it's not forever; we've been able to save enough for a deposit on a house in just seven months!

Leila Glen writes for, a journalistic co-operative that assists new journalists to make their mark and get their work published.

By Leila Glen

Twitter: @Gransnet

obieone Thu 10-Mar-16 15:44:06

We needed to do it for 3 months once. But we did it slightly differently, in that we became an add-on to their household.
So mil would still do her chores of x y and z, and I would say, would you like me to do a and b?
Also, we essentially lived in 2 rooms of the house[DH and I in one room, and young kids in the other] so as to keep out of each others' way to a degree to help all of us.
3 months was ok, but we wouldnt have wanted to do it for much longer.

Maggiemaybe Thu 10-Mar-16 16:07:44

Our DS, DDIL and DGS1, aged 5 months at the outset, moved in with us for 7 months when they were between homes. And I can honestly say it was one of the happiest times of my life. We didn't have the need to set down rules and rotas, as stated above, we just all muddled along together and fitted in with one another. And things never once got "heated". Allowed to eat food in the living room, etc? What the heck's that all about?! I hope believe that we never let them feel as though they were guests here - we wanted them to be as much at home as we were, and to relax. And I wouldn't have dreamed of "interfering or commenting on the bringing up of my grandchildren", any more than I would now when they're living in their own house. Or stuck "do not touch" labels on anything, for that matter!

Synonymous Thu 10-Mar-16 19:03:26

Well I guess we are all different but we were a 3 generation family back in the time when that was normal. I don't recollect any problems just a lot of love and laughter with respect and communication the key which is probably what the article is really about.

grannyactivist Thu 10-Mar-16 19:18:47

Like Maggiemaybe and Synonymous my husband and I, with our three teenagers (and initially our au pair), spent almost a year living with my parents-in-law without a cross word between us, and no rules. All four of us adults were working and so we managed the jobs between us based on who was free at any given time. The menfolk took care of out-door and heavy duty chores and my mother-in-law and I simply did whatever was needed in the house. If she was going through a busy patch I would step up and similarly if I was held up or particularly overloaded at work she would do the same. We usually spend Christmas together, but that Christmas will always stand out as one of the exceptional times in our family life.

My parents-in-law continue to be two of my closest and dearest friends and last summer the shoe was on the other foot; they moved in with us whilst their own house was being extended - I expect they will do so again for a few more weeks when their current extension is nearing completion and I look forward to it. They know that if ever they need a home they will have one with us.

Elrel Thu 10-Mar-16 20:07:05

In the 1960s we had 4 generations in our semi and managed surprisingly well. My grandmother was in her 80s, my parents in their 50s. I was mid twenties and had a small child.

Elrel Thu 10-Mar-16 20:09:47

Rules?! No, we had consideration for others instead!

Elrel Thu 10-Mar-16 20:12:59

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Jalima Thu 10-Mar-16 20:28:34

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glassortwo Thu 10-Mar-16 20:48:01

My DH and I live with my DD, SIL and three children, we had bought a farmhouse where we would all live when we have finished the renovations. But DDs work place has changed and the travel will be unrealistic so when we eventually move in, which at the rate we are going the DGC will be in Uni, it will just be the two of us, but how DD and SIL will cope for childcare as we will be 40mins away, when that happens I dont know!

Its a difficult situation as I have taken over the running of the house and the daily care of the three DGC 10, 8 and 2. DD and SIL do nothing.
DD and Sil leave at 7am and if I am lucky if they are home at 6.30 ish.
The housework, cooking, shopping and childcare fall to me, and to be honest I am damned if I do and damned if I dont. The housework is never acknowledged as done but if its not some comment is passed, I feel like a live in housekeeper and babyminder.

OP I am glad your situation is working but for anyone in the planning stages of moving in please think this through.

As far as sex goes its worse that when your children were little, we get no time as a couple. The children appear in our room from 6.30am and as much as I love them a little time with DH would be lovely.

So no its not always all roses around the door, think hard.

Marmight Thu 10-Mar-16 20:57:04

Back in the late '70's we were gazumped and left, briefly, homeless so we - DH, 2 year old DD and I moved in with my parents for 5 months. Both men were working all day and it was lovely for me to spend time with my Mum and for her to have Granny-time with DD. Their house was big enough for us to have 2 bedrooms and our own bathroom, while the kitchen was obviously shared. My Dad and DH used to go off to the local pub at the weekends for 'man talk' which enabled them to develop a lasting relationship. We had built-in babysitters for the occasional night out and as the house was out in the country it was lovely to walk the DD through the fields and country lanes. I remember it as an idyllic time. There were no rules; we just got on with it!

daisytwo Thu 10-Mar-16 21:21:38

We chose 3G living for mutual support 18 months ago, my DH has mobility and now major health problems and the DGS are now 5 and 3, so we have the responsibility of child care at least 3 days a week. My son is often the intermediary if there are problems but so far just niggles. My husband and I have a separate lounge, shower room and bedroom at ground floor, albeit very small, the family have 4 bedrooms, bathroom and ensuite. We share the kitchen and when we have friends/family the larger lounge.
By and large it works well, DiL and I share much of the domestic duties but it can be fluid.
We had numerous discussions concerning finances now and possibly in the future but hopefully things will work out, at least I sincerely hope so as all our savings have been put into the house!
The girls know there can be different rules with Grandma and Grandpa, the same as when we lived separately.
It can be hard work but so rewarding. We all have some private space and I think that makes it easier.

Pittcity Thu 10-Mar-16 22:06:22

I was brought up in a 3 generation house for my first 18 years. It was a normal life to me with none of the setting of rules as in the OP.
How times have changed.

WilmaKnickersfit Fri 11-Mar-16 00:17:19

I think being brought up in a 3G house is a bit different because the hierarchy will have been well established, with everyone knowing their place or role. Plus the roles of men and women are nothing like they were during/after WW2. I find it hard to believe there were no 'rules', although I can well imagine someone telling the other(s) how things were going to be! grin I'm with Leila about the best approach when a family will be moving in together. You can't plan for every situation, but some planning will help prevent bad feelings later on. Nothing needs to be set in stone, just take the time to think about how things will work. smile

Pippa000 Fri 11-Mar-16 06:12:17

When by DS and DiL bought their present place, we were asked if we would like part of it as a base for when we were in UK and would we spend more time in UK than we had previously. I was given a free hand to do what ever I wanted, which was to knock down a wall to make a sitting/kitchenette re design the bathroom and completely redecorate. We now have two bedrooms, although our DD is currently in residence in one. I do most of the shopping and cooking when we are there and we now spend at least 5 months back 'home'. We do have 'lively discussions' but the positive out ways the negative. Having quality time with the family and being able to close the door when we want to works for us. The children have a hidey hole should things get them down and we have a home from home.

nightowl Fri 11-Mar-16 07:02:43

I notice Leila Glen has built in time for sex by ensuring her parents in law " take out our son to allow me and my fiancé some privacy. They get to spend quality time with their grandson and we get time to ourselves. It's a win/ win! "

Clearly, it doesn't enter Leila Glen's head that her parents in law might also appreciate some time to themselves. After all, they're not going to want to have sex at their age, are they? hmm grin

downtoearth Fri 11-Mar-16 07:54:15

That jumped out at me also nightowlgrin

PRINTMISS Fri 11-Mar-16 10:31:01

In my childhood we were sent to Sunday School regularly on Sunday afternoon, even though our parents never attended church. It was until I was older I realised the reason for this - a little privacy.

PRINTMISS Fri 11-Mar-16 10:33:44

p.s. it also explained why tea times were such happy occasions. Provided, of course an air raid had not interrupted proceedings!

TriciaF Fri 11-Mar-16 11:09:32

Mum and I moved in with her parents during WW2, Dad was in the Navy.
We were there about 3 years, and I remember it as a very happy time. Except when I had scarlet fever.
Mum went to work and Granny brought me up those few years.Two of Mum's unmarried sisters were still at home, and there were constant visitors.
We were a very sociable family, and I can't remember Granny getting flustered or upset, though she must have done at times.
It was a big house, and I slept in the attic - don't know where Mum slept.
No idea how they managed the finances, no-one had much in those days. And there must have been an undercurrent of worry for Dad.
I would do it again now, but I think it would need to be a big house.

TriciaF Fri 11-Mar-16 11:22:14

Just to add, I think the attitude towards children was different in those days. The adults were so busy, my friends and I had little supervision and we were free to roam and get up to adventures outside the house, playing out for hours on end. So we didn't get in adults way.
Nowadays children seem to be hanging around the house all the time, so that will cause more problems for family peace.

TriciaF Fri 11-Mar-16 11:29:12

BTW, I don't know if the photo is of the writer's family, but if so, when we lived in Singapore it was the tradition in Chinese families for the oldest son to live with his parents after he was married. The DIL had very heavy responsibilities towards her inlaws too, even if she had many children. We were friendly with a couple, she was english and had married a chinese oldest son, so had a busy life, especially with 3 children as well.

Jalima Fri 11-Mar-16 18:18:31

I know I'm being pedantic but they are not Leila's parents-in-law as she and their son are not married, so there is no legal relationship.

Jump on me if you like grin

Jalima Fri 11-Mar-16 18:22:52

Eggs, try, Granny, sucking, teaching and don't come to mind

Jalima Fri 11-Mar-16 20:35:57

Message deleted by Gransnet for breaking our forum guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.
Well, I don't know what I said - I was just explaining how DH was brought up in a household with several generations confused
and that this was the norm in the past.
and nobody made a song and dance about it

You can delete that too, GN, if it offends.