Living with the Extended Family – Pros and Cons


When the hubby first suggested we move in with his parents, I admit I had great reservations.  Firstly, let’s set the record straight – I would have had great reservations moving back in with MY parents had it been my parents in question.

Knowing how capable my MIL is and how determined I was to raise Gavin my way, I was sure I was going to end up bumbling along and feel like a complete idiot in my MIL’s eyes.  Then again, after reading Harvey Karp’s recommendation that more parents break away from the nuclear family style of living and expose their children to the extended family on a regular basis, I thought perhaps moving in with my in laws would not be such a bad thing (especially since my parents are living on another continent).

There was a reason for Karp’s recommendation, but I won’t go into it in detail in this post.  The gist of it was that nuclear family-living tended to be quite tough on the parents who didn’t have a chance to take a break from parenting.  While extended family living meant that more people should share the responsibility of looking after the children, giving Mum and Dad a chance to take a break and get a little “me” time.

To be fair, it hasn’t been as bad as I had envisaged.  For instance, it is always nice to be able to “drop the kids off at the pool” (read: take a dump, do the no. 2, defecate) in peace without your toddler grabbing onto your knees and wailing because you can’t carry him while you’re on the toilet.  The times when I’ve had to do the latter put a significant amount of strain and pressure on a sphincter that has already been traumatised quite extensively during the episode of childbirth.

Then of course, there are the times when my MIL helps to mind Gavin when I’m having breakfast or when I’m sick and need to rest, or even lately, when I need an hour off to exercise.  These are the times when I’m really grateful to have someone trustworthy to watch over Gavin so that I have peace of mind when I have other things to do.

That said, there are also times when it has been quite trying.  For instance, when Gavin shows a distinct lack of interest in food, it is a cause for alarm for his grandparents.  Let’s face it – in any Chinese family, there’s no such thing as not being interested in eating.  To a Chinese family, food is love, so I guess you could say that a rejection of food is like a rejection of love.

At other times, there is the unwitting attempts to help which have made things more difficult.  For instance, recently, I was trying to take Gavin to Kizsports so he could have another play at Playland.  At the same time, my MIL was leaving the house to go to the factory.  Because my car was behind hers, she had to wait for me to leave before she could go out.

Patience isn’t exactly a virtue of my MIL’s so when Gavin decided he was going to be difficult about getting into the carseat, she decided to “help” by suggesting he sit in her car while we reverse the cars.

In case you haven’t spotted the problem with that, let me paint a clearer picture to illustrate:

Gavin sits in grandma’s car without having to sit in a carseat or wear a seatbelt (albeit for the whole of a minute or however long it takes to reverse the cars), and then he has to get back into Mummy’s car where he has to sit in that nasty carseat and put on that restraining belt.

Now here’s my question:

How likely is it that he is going to cooperate and sit in Mummy’s car?

Yep, you guessed it – not likely at all.

Suffice to say we didn’t go out that day.

Then there was the time (which was honestly not my MIL’s fault as she was really trying to be helpful) when she put Gavin into the car and buckled him in without telling me.  There I was lounging over the newspapers and enjoying my cup of Milo thinking my MIL had taken Gavin for a walk in the garden.

Okay, let me explain again.  When Gavin gets into the carseat, there is a timer that goes off and starts counting down.  If you don’t get into the car and start driving before the timer runs out, Gavin will start going ballistic.  When I realised that Gavin was in the carseat, I had to rush like mad to get going.  It didn’t help that there were two cars behind me that needed to be moved before we could get out.

In my haste to get out, I also rolled over the chickens’ house because the maid (for reasons unknown to any of us) decided to leave it behind the wheel of my car.  You can imagine my alarm and shock when I ran out of the car to see the box smashed to smithereens and no chickens in sight!  Thankfully the chickens weren’t in the box but that was one very eventful morning!

Living with the extended family obviously has its pros and cons.  While it does have its benefits, I do know it isn’t for everyone.  If do you decide to try it, here is my advice:

Expect to get lots of advice on how things should be done.  Listen with a selective ear and put to practice the advice that makes sense to you.  As for the rest, you can conveniently “forget” about them.  Occasionally, try to humour the grandparents with things that won’t compromise your parenting philosophies.

Disclaimer: I do realise that living with the extended family is different for everyone.  For some it certainly isn’t as easy as I’ve made it sound.  While for others, it can be a breeze.  So take this advice on a case by case basis.


  1. Andrew – to each his own…

  2. I would rather live a nuclear life as opposed to extended family life!

  3. figur8 says:

    Li – Indeed! I think I was raving like a lunatic about chickens until Tina told me the chickens weren’t in the box. I’m sure Gavin would never have let me live it down if I had accidentally rolled over his favourite chicks.

    Suzie – Yes! It’s times like that I am really grateful for my MIL and my SILs who have been back home in turns and helped out with Gavin, too. I’ve recently been sick, too, and it was great to be able to catch a few hours of toddler-free sleep.

  4. Suzie says:

    As my hubby and I are quiet alone raising the kiddies I think about this a lot especially since i am sick right now and could really use a hand, taking a poop alone does sound great

  5. li says:

    thankfully, no animals were harmed in this incident 😉