*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 kids as they grow up will be a lot about mutual understanding, patience, and being open to accepting their choices. And if they get married, and you allow the couple to live with you but then can't afford to pay for everything and ask for rent, is it ok for them to refuse to pay or leave?
Would you try to have a positive relationship in these circumstances or make them leave because it's your home and not theirs?
My friend Sophia, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband, Angelo, for one year. They met while they were both still in college and planned to have a long engagement until they could afford to organize their wedding.
However, their parents decided to help them out with the costs, and they were able to get married one year after getting engaged. Since they couldn't afford to buy their home, Angelo's mom, Amelia, who has been a single mom all her life, invited them to live with her.
"She was nice enough to want us to save for our house instead of having to pay rent every month. I appreciated that a lot about her, and I could tell she liked me and wanted us to have a happy relationship," Sophia said.
The couple moved in with Amelia as soon as the ceremony was done, and they began organizing and adjusting to sharing chores and learning how to live together.
Amelia did most of the cleaning and cooking and only asked Sophia to help over the weekends. Angelo, on the other hand, was in charge of laundry and looking after the backyard.
"I think it was all good sharing our activities like that. It also contributed to my having a close relationship with Amelia. We'd often spend afternoons together when Angelo did overtime and talked about marriage and the issues me and her son had and how we could solve them while having our relationship as a priority. I loved how Amelia offered her opinion but never actually tried to tell me what to do," Sophia said.
Things went well for several months, but Amelia's situation has changed recently. She's getting closer to retiring, and she also wants to try a different job that won't pay nearly as much as her previous one.
And after calculating monthly costs and all other expenses, she realized she couldn't keep covering everything herself. So, she asked her son and daughter-in-law to pay rent.
"It wasn't as high as what they'd have to pay for their own place, but I felt like they should contribute something to our living expenses. I want them to be happy and not have to worry too much about money, but they both have full-time jobs, so it's fair for them to pay rent and part of the bills, too," Amelia said.
Unfortunately, Sophia didn't react well when she heard about what her mother-in-law wanted. And even if Amelia tried to explain why she was asking for rent, Sophia was convinced it was because she didn't like her anymore and wanted her marriage to end.
"It's not fair, and I feel like she's doing it because she suddenly disapproves of me. I heard her last week complaining to one of her friends that Angelo and I just worked and didn't have kids. She said that I wasn't great at housework, and she wanted me to be a mom sooner. I know her friends all have grandkids, but my relationship with Angelo can't get to that point yet. We're just not ready for it," Sophia said.
At the same time, Sophia and Angelo don't want to lose the advantage of not having rent and saving for house payments. They refused to leave and expected Amelia to pay for everything, just like usual.
Angelo is convinced his mom just reacted like that because she was worried, but she doesn't really want them to go.
"She's just thinking about her new job and the pay, but she didn't actually tell us to go. I know she said we can only stay if we pay rent, but we're family, and that relationship counts more than anything else. She'll come round in a few days, I know it," Angelo said.
Amelia, on the other hand, is confused about how she should go on, and she's not willing to pay for bills and other expenses by herself anymore. She'd like to avoid arguing with Sophia and Angelo, but at this point, it doesn't look like there's any way to prevent that.
"I asked them for rent; they refuse to leave. I know they got used to living like this, without paying anything and just helping out with chores. But I can't do it anymore, and they won't understand. It's very stressful, and I keep thinking we'll get behind with bills and not be able to afford groceries soon," Amelia said.
What do you think about this situation? Is Amelia fair in asking her son and daughter-in-law to pay rent even if they stayed with her for several months without contributing anything? Should the couple decide if they can pay something to Amelia or move to another place but still try and have a positive relationship as a family since it's not Amelia's fault that she's earning less?