Meal Time Rules & Conundrums

IMG_7876

Multigenerational living is tough for a variety of reasons. One of them being arranging meals and who does what. Did we sit down and discuss exceptions and what would be fair? Nope. That would require people to be openly honest, not worry about social customs and/or potentially being impolite. Even getting my in-laws to state what they would prefer for dinner is IMPOSSIBLE. #1 Talk about it  

When we first moved in, my father-in-law began making dinner during the week and we would make lunch and dinner on the weekends. It made sense since we both work full time jobs and our daughter goes to daycare all day. I told my FIL several times that I appreciated his efforts since I know it took effort on his part. #2 Show gratitude  Sometimes my husband would complain to me on the side about his creativity in meals but I reminded him that the effort counts and not to complain.

Something to note also, is my in-laws had a traditional family setup with a homemaker wife and working husband. Somewhere along the way (in the last few years) my MIL has stopped cooking all together. We think its best since she tends to forget things like leaving a burner on low ALL DAY. The other day she made a sandwich, put it in the toaster oven and forgot that she even made the sandwich. Those were the only two times she has done anything regarding using heat to cook in the whole 4 months we have been here. One point being is she’s unable to perform the task which is partly why we are here. My other point is my FIL hasn’t been cooking for the household for the last 75 years and only recently started. Therefore he doesn’t have a wide variety of meals and I think he stresses about what to make at times. #3 Understand other’s limitations

Recently, there was a disagreement between my husband and FIL so he went on dinner strike and stopped making it all together. We appreciated him making dinner but we can manage on our own just fine. We got over that hurdle after a week but now dinner is hit or miss. Basically how it goes is, we come from work and either dinner is already in the works or its not. If its not, then we are expected to make it for the whole family. Nothing said. They will literally wait hours for dinner without a word sometimes or my Mil will come over and ask when dinner is. Clearly we need a better format but here are my concerns:

If we start doing a schedule about who cooks what night, then we are obligated to cook those nights. What if we get stuck at work? What if we have a crappy day? What if we want to go workout and not stay home for the evening? It’s a lot of work making dinner and putting a toddler to bed.

If we decide to do meals separate, as in they are responsible for their own meals and us ours, that leaves my constantly munchy MIL at the mercy of my FIL to make them food. She likes to eat a lot and is always scrounging through the kitchen and asking when dinner is. She also doesn’t get to have the same sit down opportunity at the table with our daughter and that is a majority of the interaction they get on weeknights.

One thing I’m not doing is cooking every night for a family of 5. I get up 5 am and don’t stop until 8 pm every weekday. I barely have time for myself much less taking care of everyone else more than I already do.

Ideally, I would be a stay at home mom and could take care of the household but thats not our reality so we have a conflict of couple who works full time with a toddler (exhausting) and elderly parents who see us as a young couple who should be able to take care of everything. What would you do?

Communication Complications

A big part of living in a multigenerational household is the need to communicate. Its tough enough sometimes communicating within your own nuclear family. Factor in age, generational differences, and cultural differences to the mix and you have a whole new challenge.

The other day, after coming home from work. My FIL made a suggestion that we just have leftovers for dinner. I said thats perfect! My husband and I had been thinking exactly the same thing earlier that day. The conversation ended and we continued on with the evening.

I fixed Arya dinner. My husband, Jae Sang went to go workout and would be back in a few hours.  While Are was eating, I heated up some leftovers for myself and she hung out on my lap while I ate. She got a bath, brushed her teeth and went to bed.

As I was working on my laptop, my MIL came up, after dropping off some cereal bowls at the sink, and asked where Jae Sang was.

I told her he was not home and out.

She wanted to know where.

I just said he was out.

She wouldn’t leave it at that and and asked if he was shopping,

I said sure – he’s shopping (he wasn’t but I don’t need to answer to anyone else where my husband’s exact location is).

She then asked if I had dinner.

Yes.

When? (acting)

Earlier….

Without us (her and FIL)? Yeah….

The whole conversation was rather difficult and felt not nice. I didn’t understand what was with all the questions. I talked to FIL about dinner earlier so there should be no issue!

The next morning, I mentioned my conversation with MIL to FIL. Apparently, they were expecting us to heat up the leftovers and call them over for dinner…. Did they say that? Nope. Did they come and ask when dinner would be ready? Nope. Did they ask if I wanted cereal? Nope.

I explained to FIL that to me, leftovers me you help yourself to what you want. That means you pick what you want and heat it up yourself. There aren’t enough leftovers from one single meal for another whole family meal so I don’t know what each person would prefer. From different leftovers, there is enough for everyone but first come first serve!

A big obstacle is there is not a lot said to each other in general. So people tend to say what they need to and leave it at that. Or my FIL hands my husband a house bill – not saying anything but expecting it to get paid…. I can’t fix a families style of communicating but need to definitely try to be more specific myself so expectations are clear.

Saturday is Pool Day

poolpic

In an effort to take full advantage of the amenities offered in our new community, I have declared Saturday mornings as Pool time! My daughter is a year and half old and I want her to start to learn about swimming and getting used to the water.

We literally live across the street from the community pool and can walk there. There are also tennis courts and a (still being built) playground which we are anxiously waiting to use.

The pool area is attached to the club house. It has a large deck area, lounge chairs, tables/chairs and access to very clean restrooms. There is a small kiddy pool that is heated and a large pool that is not but still pretty warm. Its open from 8 am till 9:30 pm on the weekends! We have been going at exactly 8 am on sunny days and later if its cloudy to avoid the strong sun. It’s brutal here in the Sunshine State.

Any advice on teaching a toddler to swim?

New Normal

IMG_5705

Three and half weeks living with my in-laws and we are settling in to a new normal. I’m not sure how “normal” it is … but it’s how life is for us now. After a few days of initial anxiety, my nerves calmed down and I realized I had to separate reality from my WORST fears. It really hasn’t been bad at all…. Here are the Pros and Cons to date:

PROS

  • My father in law has been making a majority of the dinners during the weeknights. Home cooked meal when you get home? BONUS! Saves me time and mental energy.
  • Mother in law can entertain my toddler (Arya) for periods of time. Gives me a little break although I am still cautious about them having items out that she could get into (like prescriptions etc).
  • Its nice spending time with family and watching everyone interact. Especially watching my daughter interact and entertain her grandparents.
  • There is always someone available at the house to meet the repair man/delivery girl etc.

Cons

  • Small things like the kind of dish soap you use or the brand water you like to drink may not be the same. Don’t you know Aquafina has a high PH level!!!
  • Lack of privacy…did they just walk into “our” bathroom? Did you need to take a look around? And NO you cannot fold our laundry. I had to explain I don’t want my MIL folding my underwear – I draw a hard line there.
  • After I told my mother in law no more food before dinner for my daughter, she snuck food to her when I turned my back. Seriously? Behind my back? I saw you!
  • My in laws speaking Korean constantly. However, I do not. I usually don’t mind but sometimes I would like to know what the dinner conversation is. It’s especially puzzling when my mother in law speaks directly to me in Korean. Like I know whats she is saying…. surprisingly sometimes I do understand. Not her words but her intent.

I will leave this at an even score for now. So far, we are pretty happy and enjoying our new lifestyle of living in the suburbs with family. We have our moments of “Did that seriously juts happen?” but that was to be expected to a degree. We also have our moments of “We made the right decision”. We still have plenty to iron out and more boxes to unpack. Have you had any similar experiences with family? Comment below!

Reality Sets In

A few days after moving in with my in laws, reality set in.  I notice on my way home from work on Tuesday (moved in on Sunday),  I start to feel anxious. The kind of anxious you feel in your chest and back. Wait… why am I feeling this way? This was partly my idea and I was EXCITED about the concept of multigenerational living and all the benefits it can offer. But suddenly it hit me …what will it be really DSC_0139like? Will my mother in law smother my daughter for attention? Will she try to snatch her from my arms? Will my daughter be able to play on her own?

We get home and there was no snatching. My daughter was very clingy for my attention and I was somewhat relieved. Although, I didn’t know what to do! My whole coming home routine was in limbo. I couldn’t make my coffee since someone was in the kitchen right in the way (yes I drink coffee when I get home from work). I can’t clean my daughters lunch box either. Well…. I decided to take a little walk to the park across the street and back.

My father-in-law cooked dinner and honestly it was nice not to have to think about what to cook. It saved us some stress since we also had no idea where anything in the kitchen was or even where any of OUR kitchen items were. Nothing is more frustrating than not having something on hand or having to wade through a sea of boxes EVERYTIME you want a new utensil or cooking tool. I was grateful for the prepared dinner and started getting my daughter ready for bed.

As I rock her in my arms, I start to think about all the ways our decision to live in a multigenerational household may affect her. Will my inlaws be a positive influence on her? Will they enable behavior that we don’t want to reinforce? Will they undermine our parenting decisions? Is this what’s best for our daughter? Are we doing this for the right reasons? We will loose our identity as a nuclear family? Will I still be just as important to her?  At the end, as I’m rocking her to sleep, tears are streaming down my face. I’ve been holding them back all day but I can’t hide from my thoughts as I hold my little girl.

I talk to my husband that night about how I am feeling and some of my thoughts. He reassures me that it will be ok.

What have we done? Is this really the BEST decision for our family? Only time will tell…

Worst Moving/Mother’s Day EVER

We did it! We officially moved out of our awesome condo and into a single family home with the in-laws. Due to various reasons we picked a Sunday – Mother’s Day. We agreed we could “celebrate” the holiday the following weekend since there is no way you can move in one day and manage anything else. So …why the dramatic title?

Well lets back it up a bit. The previous week my throat had been feeling a little sore in the morning but would go away. It started on my right side then both sides. We went away for the weekend (the weekend before the move) and I didn’t think much about it. I was extremely tired on our way back from our trip that weekend but chalked it up to a non-stop schedule. Tuesday my morning sore throat didn’t go away and my coworker suggested I go get it checked out. YEP I had strep throat. She prescribed me some antibiotics and I went to fill it that night. I’m glad I did because that evening it got noticeably worst. The next few days were a series of exhaustion and sharp pains in my jaw and back of my tongue. I tried to finish packing between work, toddler and when I had the energy.

Towards the end of the week, we got an email from my daughter’s school stating a stomach bug was going around – GREAT. You can see where this is going. Saturday, I am feeling 99% better from the strep throat. Perfect, we move tomorrow and I can finish packing …. queue toddler vomiting on me. The stomach bug hit and t-minus 24 hours till I get it. Because I WILL GET IT – thanks to little fingers always being shoved in my mouth while nursing.

I strap the sick toddler in my baby carrier and pack everything I can til bedtime. Maybe its in my head but that evening I start to “feel” the sickness circulating inside me and I defiantly eat my pizza for dinner knowing full well it may come back to visit me.

Next morning aka moving day aka Mothers Day, the stomach bug hits me full force.  I don’t really have the luxury of being sick. Thankfully, patient zero (aka my daughter) seems to be in much better spirits today and holding down food. My husband can’t operate alone on a day like today so I suck it up.

We load up what we can in the car for a family drive to the new home. On the way, I desperately call my father for last minute re-enforcements to help me at the new home. My husband drops my daughter and I off at the new home. He heads back to meet the movers at the condo.

My father arrives bearing gifts of watermelon and gatorade – my go-to for an upset stomach. After he helps re-arrange a few things in preparation for the movers coming, he takes my daughter for a stroll in her stroller so I can nap. I surprisingly squeeze in 30 mins (thank you!).

My husband and the movers arrive to the new home. Our new living/family room quickly fills with boxes and furniture that frankly has no place to go. Moving is discombobulating but moving into an all already full house is even worse. Where does a third couch go? Porch. How about a third dining table? Porch. Coffee table? Yep, porch. The only furniture that we had designated places for was the bedroom furniture for the two bedrooms. Unfortunately, the movers could not fit our queen sized bedroom or even the crib into their bedrooms. My father and I had to take apart the crib and reassemble it. My husband and father both managed to take apart the IKEA bed and put ti back together in our new bedroom. I have no idea how they managed that but I was so happy I had a real place to lay down.

The rest of the evening I spent hiding/resting in the bedroom. I still didn’t feel well and had no motivation. My husband forgot some things at our old pace so he made a run back. My daughter was taking a long nap. I basked in the few moments of quiet. The end of a horrible and exhausting day finally came to a close.

Learning to Let Go

IMG_5449One of the biggest challenges of deciding to live in a multigenerational household is having to learn to let go of shit. Yeah I said it….. all that crap we tend to hang onto and accumulate. I know we (my husband and I) have way more than we need or even should have in our own condo. You can’t fit two household into one resonably without letting go of items on both sides.

The past few months with a little inspiration from the minimalism movement and The Minimalists , I have slowly been selling our things on eBay. It’s been a wonderful way to remove outgrown or unused items while gaining monetary value back and being eco conscious. I now have small stash of cash in my PayPal for little purchases here and there. I’m also allowing someone else to gain reuse perfectly good items which is even better than recycling them. We tend to toss things in the trash too quickly when we don’t want to deal with it or just want it quickly out of our space. Since I also have an Esty shop I already have a scale and packaging to ship items. It’s easy – I can wrap and label at home then drop off at the post office by my work!

Decluttering, cleaning out or minimizing is no mundane task. Its mentally, emotionally and physically draining. You have to sort and think about every item. Do I use this on a regular basis? Will I need this in the foreseeable future? Does this add value to my life? Does this bring me joy? I spent $ X dollars on that! What is this item costing me now? (in terms of space, frustration, additional clutter, maintenance/cleaning). There is a price to holding onto items as well! Is it really worth it? I’m tired just thinking about it and theres where the problems lies. I don’t want to me tired by my possessions. There is too little time in life and I have better things to do!

I’m sure by now you have heard of the minimalism movement. It really has resonated with me along with the concept of financial freedom. They all go hand in hand. You can’t be financially free if you keep buying a ton of “things”. You can’t relax and enjoy life if you are constantly having to take care of and clean up all your stuff. I am mother of a 14 month old and being a parent is hard enough without adding additional weight on your shoulders. It has really shown me that I need to stream line my decision making, my daily routines and my life in general. Feeling like you are constantly running and exhausting is not fun. Loosing patience and feeling the stress build up in the middle part of my back is not fun.

There fore, I am taking to the opportunity to try to streamline our possessions. As we pack we are trying to make conscience decisions on what we bring with us. We simply don’t pack the items that we don’t need. We sell and donate. It’s a really life packing party and I’m seizing the opportunity! Have you been decluttering and minimizing your things? What approach has been successful for you? Please comment below!