Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Healthy multigenerational living = a reprieve

by Kanesha

As busy and working parents, hubby and I know uninterrupted time with our children is a luxury and a priority. As I’ve mentioned before with our multigenerational household, hubby and I make a point to create a space for nuclear family time.

This weekend we decided to head to the mountains and rent a rustic cabin. We wanted some private time, with just the four of us, to play, create, maintain connections and *unplug.

The rustic cabin. There were 3 beds, a table with 4 folding chairs, a ceiling fan-light and electricity.

When I asked my 11-year-old what she thought about this trip, she said,

“It’s important for us break-up our multigenerational family time because you get to do big family stuff and then spend independent time with fewer family members. You get a chance to do different things and just take a little time off. I don’t know. It’s just a good idea to have the breaks.”

My kiddos dancing and playing with the AEROBIE.

In Tips for Multigenerational Households, Elizabeth Mullins said something similar:

“Figure out what is family time, personal time and big extended family time. For instance, we like to all have dinner together a few nights a week but my daughter, husband and I still want a few nights just to ourselves.”

For our nuclear family getaway, my mother-in-law helped us prepare by grocery shopping, helping with the laundry, and purchasing craft supplies.

We love Cherrybrook Kitchen’s products! This is a great food solution for my son’s allergies and the food is tasty!

We had these chicken apple sausages for lunch. Delicious!

Craft supplies for our wreath

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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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National Working Parents Day…I’m all over this

by Kanesha

Today is National Working Parents Day, and nope, I won’t turn my nose up at this one.

Photo credit

No, I’m not making this up! No, I do not spend all my “free-time” searching for random and made up holidays. (I might start doing this, though.)

Here’s what happened…

I work with some great folks in my office, and we try not to take ourselves too seriously, even though we are doing serious business. We work hard, we work a lot, and we try to have a fun celebration every now and then.

When I returned to my office from a “way too serious meeting”, I asked my assistant to Google wacky September holidays. We were overdue for some wacky office fun (yes, we multitask!).  And on the list my assistant found – National Working Parents Day.

Fantastic! Time to celebrate!

I quickly texted my mother-in-law and told her the party was on! Hubby is away on business travel and we (me, granny, and the two kids) were going out for a night on the town.

Translation of “night on the town”…We were heading to a local eatery with mediocre food and an awesome play area – and we would skip tinkering in our own kitchen! Since my mother-in-law likes to eat dinner on the early side, we would benefit from some happy hour libations as well.

As the kids played Wii in the play area (I know!), my mother-in-law and I sipped our beverages and talked about books and movies. She reads lots of nonfiction and biographies. I read about education, leadership, puberty, and Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy Town. We both enjoy biopic movies. I’m obsessed with who the actors are, how they fit into these roles, and awards they have won. My mother-in-law often cannot remember the names of the actors, but she can tell you what other roles they have played. I like to read books before they are turned into movies. She tries to keep her own book visuals from clouding the book-into-movie visuals.

We had a great time watching the kids play and talking about adults things (like cute actors). I like sitting around with my mother-in-law chewing the fat. It’s casual and relaxing and it’s what we do as a multigenerational family. I can let my hair down and I don’t need to do any pretending. Same goes for her.

If you are considering multigenerational living, you have to prioritize authenticity. Showcasing a representative of yourself will not work and you’ll be overly exhausted. You have to cultivate a relationship that is real and comfortable, otherwise you’ll be miserable and resentful. You need to spend time finding out what common interests you share so that you can continually discover gems about each other.

National Working Parents Day will for sure go on the family calendar!

(It’s also National Guacamole Day – but let’s not get crazier!)

The other ice cream cone picture is currently ...

Image via Wikipedia

As far as the wacky office celebration…

We will be celebrate the invention of the ice cream cone on September 22. Yup, my co-workers do put up with me, and so does my multigenerational family!

a multigenerational approach to parenting

Before I get started on this subject, which could be sensitive, let me say that my family is pretty basic – college graduates, married, kids, careers, etc.  I am sure that my 2 brothers and I recall “incidents” from our childhood that were yuck – but overall – our childhood was fun and it was good – we love each other.

We were lucky for many reasons – our parents were focused on our education, we traveled and participated in ballet/sports/after school stuff and they were supportive of us – even though we sometimes acted as if we had not a brain in our heads.  My dad had little patience for bad grades or behavior, but my mom rarely raised her voice and often ran interference with my dad when we took stupidity to a new level. 

So here we are in 2010, my husband, our 2 kids, and my parents all sharing a house.  There are bound to be differences in the way my husband and I raise our children in comparison to the way in which I was raised, right?  Our ages alone would suggest that “when our kids were young…” could be the go-to phrase for my parents while illustrating our shortcomings as a mom and dad. 

But quite happily, it has not turned out that way.  In fact, my parents are down right “hands-off” when it comes to passing judgment on the way we parent our son and daughter.  And they do not get involved with discipline unless we are not home. 

Based on their reactions, there have been occasions where I could tell they disagreed about the way my husband and I were dealing with a discipline issue.  However, I give them credit, they do not chime in with their 2 cents…and I think that makes a huge difference in our comfort level in having them in the house and spending so much time with our children.  They respect the way we parent our kids and do not interfere – and for the most part, they enforce our standards when we are not at home.  It would be terribly hard to have to parent our children and then justify the way we do that to my mom and dad. 

Ironically, it is my dad who now has the patience of Job as a grandfather and asks if he can go into their rooms and talk with his grandkids when they are in trouble?  To which I answer, NO – they are in TIMEOUT!!! and where in the world was this calm head of yours when I was a kid?

I think we got lucky because I am certain that we never really discussed the issue of parenting styles before we all moved into one house.  But don’t take that chance – I highly recommend talking about this before anyone else takes the multigenerational household plunge.

Fun grandparents vs. rules driven grandma? Uh oh!

by Kanesha

I’m sitting here, alone, in my parents’ house. It’s cool and quiet and I’m thrilled!!

Hubby and my stepdad have taken the kids to the park, and my mom is off running errands and possibly buying my children yet another gadget they don’t need. (As she would say, “It’s just what grannies do!“)

We’re having a GREAT time!

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When we first arrived, my hubby told the kids to ask their grandparents for the rules of the house. I chuckled and my daughter looked at her dad sideways and promptly said,

“Daddy, you know there aren’t any rule here!”

My mother quickly added,

“Yes, she’s pretty much right. Not too many rules here for our grandchildren.”

Then I started to think; my kids spent close to two full weeks with my mother-in-law and my hubby’s sister (and sister’s hubby and sister’s two kids). They are very structured and rule driven people (yes – this is very true).

Since my mother-in-law lives with us, there are the day-to-day rules that must be enforced as well.

And now we are with my parents who will stop, drop and roll for these two grandkids. My parents will uphold rules that deal with safety, but that’s pretty much it as far as rule enforcement.

So, is this a case of fun grandparents vs. rules driven grandma?

Is this really fair to my mother-in-law’s relationship with my kids or is this not my problem to worry about?

I had not thought about this until today.

Hubby chimes in:

It’s just the way it is (fair or unfair).  When we look at the big picture – we all have several hats that we need to wear to make life work and the world go round.  Sometimes my mom is grandma – but most the time instead of grandma she is caretaker.

To provide a stable and safe environment for the kids, she needs rules and they need rules. Rules offer freedom and encourage their development.  It is different with the short visits from the non-caretaking grandparents.

Side note from hubby:

Our youngest was about to start playing with the POOL TABLE when I asked for the RULES.  It was such a perfect toy for a three-year old – with no rules.  And I had seen his eyes light up as he looked at the perfect green field laid out before him with a small ball (not a pool ball) in his hand and a truck.

We are flexible and we all want to have a good time, but even a house with minimum rules will need a few to keep everyone safe and happy.

Everybody Loves Raymond…especially when it’s NOT my reality

by Kanesha

Summer vacation is going great!

We’re sightseeing, eating too much, spending time together, and watching silly TV.

Last night when the kids were snoozing, hubby and I were snuggling and watching a super old syndicated episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. It definitely made the oldie but goodie list.

This episode was the one where the five adults are playing “Scruples” and Marie, in her overbearing and “who me?” manner asks if Ray would TAKE HER IN when she’s elderly. The squeamish, passive aggressive, and “five-year-old” Ray says YES.

Of course Debra is horrified and immediately follows Ray into the kitchen to ask him what his problem is.

“Shouldn’t this be a decision that should be discussed?… Marie might be taking you seriously.”

Click —> full episode synopsis

Hubby and I immediately looked at each other and laughed so hard our stomach muscles ached.  Yes – it seemed innocent.  Yes – it was just a game.  BUT – Debra was right – Marie was serious when asking Ray. (And let me point out  how manipulative Marie was being in making up the question in the first place. Boo, Marie, boo!!)

Debra from a separate episode:

When I got married, I didn’t just get a husband; I got a whole freak show that set up their tent right across the street! And that would be fine–if they stayed there! But every day–every day–they dump a truckload of their insane family dreck into my lap!

Hubby:

When we originally discussed my mom moving into our house, Kanesha was pregnant and we were looking at childcare.  We don’t remember who first mentioned the option nor if we were serious when it was first discussed.

Kanesha:

I totally remember who suggested it. You’re mother! She said something like, “Well, maybe I should sell my house and move in to help you all with the baby since I didn’t know I could still get grandchildren.” We didn’t know how serious this was at first…

While I watched Debra imagine her future with Marie living with her (and not just across the street from her), I felt myself saying:

1.  How dare he make this decision without consulting you! I would shake him!

2.  Debra, does Ray even realize the dynamic of your relationship with Marie? Is is really a blind fool? (I’ve watched the show enough; YES he is!)

3.  This development (the “invitation” to Marie) calls for drastic measures. Debra, you may have to go on whoopie strike or find a referral for a good divorce attorney.

3.  Put your foot down and tell Ray that all of you need to go to family counseling before you will even CONSIDER this multigenerational set-up.

4.  Start drinking heavily, but no driving.

5.  Continue the whoopie strike!

Had my mother-in-law been like Marie, conniving, controlling, and overbearing, there is absolutely no way I would have considered having her live with us. Before our multigenerational household was realized, my relationship with my mother-in-law was already one of friendship, camaraderie, discovery and proper boundaries. She is NO Marie!

Here are some quick and dirty tips, from me, if you are considering setting up a multigenerational household:

1.  Don’t consider multigenerational living if you recoil in horror just thinking about it. It’s not for everyone.

2.  Be honest throughout all discussions about living with parents/in-laws (or other family members). You’re not going to become a saint for saying YES, when you really want to say NO!

3.  If you have a hard time being honest and articulating your ideas during verbal discussions, write your thoughts down and create talking points. This is not the time to be a martyr.

4.  Seek out a mediator (e.g. counselor, life coach, clergy member, psychologist, etc.) to talk things through as a group. This may make any challenging discussions safer.

5. If finances are the catalyst for you considering multigenerational living, be sure to look at all possible solutions so that you are not being backed into any corners.

Multigenerational living is pretty comical and there are lots of stories that could be scripted for a sitcom.  Do you have any stories that you can share with us that are worth of a sitcom?

Living with parents – a lesson in good manners for my kids

1. Thank  2. You  3. Notes.

Three little words from my childhood that made my brothers and me groan, and caused my mom enough frustration that her eyes would cross.

My dear mother is a stickler for good manners, always has been.  She is not discriminating about any one particular form of good manners – she likes them all.  Some of her favorites –

  • holding a door open for the next person walking into a building
  • pushing buttons for everyone if you are first to get on an elevator
  • men walking closest to the street while on a sidewalk
  • “thank you” and “please” to wait staff at ALL restaurants
  • offering a glass of water to every guest who enters your home

She patiently weathered the youth of my two brothers and me as we violated every one of the rules.  I recall us placing elbows on the dinner table, chewing with open mouths, and contributing to conversation with a range of bodily noises – mostly just to annoy her.  Even though we misbehaved terribly, we all learned the basics of good manners.

And without exception, the basics include the “thank you note.”  Witty, brief, personal, and appreciative – those are the basics of a well-written thank you note.  One was to be written after birthday parties, Christmas, holidays, trips, special outings, and the monster of all – a wedding.  I even got a book about that one… I have written hundreds of thank you notes.

And now it is my daughter’s turn.  She recently turned 7 and finished 1st grade.  (Don’t worry, my son will also be tortured upon his 7th birthday…) After a flurry of birthday parties and end of year gatherings, she had several thank you notes to write.  I now know the agony that I inflicted upon my mother because I got it back in spades from her – complete with whining, moaning, and groaning.  Sound familiar?

But this is where I own my mom a debt of gratitude and have one more reason to be thankful my parents live in the same house with me and my family.  When my daughter trudged downstairs to complain that her mean mommy was making her write thank you notes, her grandmother would have none of it!  My mom essentially told her, “too bad, so sad, get upstairs, and finish the notes.” 

I want my daughter to appreciate why thank you notes are important – as I do now – knowing that a well written thank you is an act of gratitude and says “I appreciate what you did.”  Not to mention that it is simple common courtesy.  But like me at that age, she was unmoved by it all.  In the end, I did what my mom did, I cajoled, pleaded and begged.  She finally wrote them, begrudgingly, annoyed the whole time.

That night, as I sipped my gin and tonic, I wondered if the thank you note was passé?  Do we ONLY communicate electronically?  Can an email take the place of a lovely written thank you note, on fine Italian stationary?   No I realized, the sheer force of nature is more powerful, my mom tortured me with those damned notes, and now I get to pass it along!

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