*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Having a close relationship with your in-laws can get difficult at times, but when they're out having fun a lot more than you and you're all living together, arguments about getting rest or looking after the kids will easily show up.
How should you react if your in-laws have no clear schedule and you can't convince your kids to go to sleep because of the constant parties while you must go to work the next day?
How long could you handle getting tired until you decide to adjust and party too or move out? Is saving on rent worth going through all that trouble?
My friend Cassie, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, has been married to Tom, her husband, for four years. They have two sons together and are living with their in-laws.
"We couldn't afford to get our own place when we got married, and we didn't want to pay rent either. So, we moved with my in-laws in Phoenix because I thought we would save faster if we only contributed to bills and groceries each month. My relationship with them wasn't great while we were engaged, but I felt it was worth making this effort to be able to buy our home in Phoenix sooner," Cassie said.
The couple moved in with Tom's mom and dad right after their wedding. Things went well during the first two months, but after that time, Cassie's relationship with her mother-in-law began to change. They had several disagreements about cleaning, the way to do laundry and cooking.
"It wasn't because I didn't know how to cook or clean. Gina, my mother-in-law, just doesn't feel like doing those things at all. And she left everything to me. She doesn't work, but I have a job. I know we don't pay rent, but she didn't ask Tom to do anything, only me," Cassie said.
As time went by, the chores just got more, and Gina was less careful about dusting or even putting her clothes where she should. Cassie had to get her clothes and wash them, or else they would be in the living room, on the couch, or thrown on top of the tv or on the table all day long.
"It was like I was looking after her, and I didn't realize she would expect me to do that. I was very close to being a maid, an unpaid one. And the benefit of saving for my home was not much compared to how tired I got while keeping that house tidy," Cassie said.
Tom didn't think it was a reason to argue with his mom or even to make her understand Cassie wasn't the only one responsible for housework. Instead, he pointed out to his wife that rent would be more expensive and that it was just a temporary inconvenience.
Things didn't change much after Cassie found out she was pregnant, and since she only worked part-time during those months, Gina still felt comfortable avoiding chores.
"I had always assumed it would be her telling me to be better at cleaning or showing me how to cook Tom's favorite dishes, but Gina can't be bothered with all that. My father-in-law watches TV mostly and lets her do whatever she wants. And there's no one on my side. I mean, no one who stands up to her to make her see this is not how things should be at all and that she's not doing anything to make our relationship work," Cassie said.
After she gave birth, Cassie couldn't be as active around the house, and Gina asked a neighbor to help, but she didn't give up on doing what she liked best. She either went to parties around Phoenix and came back very late and spoke loudly to wake everyone up or just invited people to dance in her backyard, and no one could get any rest until late.
Cassie mentioned several times that her sons needed to get used to a sleeping schedule and that she also wanted to get back to full-time work and had to sleep earlier, but none of that helped. And the situation wasn't much different once Cassie became a mom for the second time.
"She parties late at night and wakes up the kids; we live with her without rent. Tom doesn't care because he can sleep through the noise, but the kids and I can't. And we're all close to exhaustion. My father-in-law did tell Gina once that she should end the parties at least an hour earlier, but she didn't pay much attention to him," Cassie said.
The couple doesn't plan on having more kids, and Cassie wants to get her career back on track. Her relationship with her husband is affected by the constant arguments they have concerning his mom's behavior, and Cassie is beginning to doubt whether it's useful to live there anymore.
"I appreciated their help when they invited us to live with them, but I don't know if I can work and look after my kids while my mother-in-law keeps partying and preventing us from resting. That's not ok, and she won't change. Maybe it's time to go," Cassie said.
Tom is hesitant about leaving his parents' home, and he's not eager to spend money on rent in a different place. He's convinced Cassie is overreacting and that everything would go back to normal if she could just be a bit more positive and try to get along with his mom.
What do you think about this situation? Is Gina being fair in expecting her daughter-in-law and her grandsons to adjust to the loud noise and her parties? Should she change her behavior and try and improve her relationship with Cassie so she can still have her grandkids around?