Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Life with Mom

So how in the world do you learn how to live with a parent? In this case, Mom lives with my husband, Art, and me. Mom and Art and me make three!

Attitude is key. The first thing to realize when you decide to bring a parent home is that adjusting is a slow process.

I think it's harder than learning to live with a spouse. It's completely different than having your own children, because you start from the beginning with babies. Bringing an adult into your home means adapting two independent households which are usually very different.

What were we thinking!!?? :-D

(That's that sense of humor I talked about earlier...you've GOT to have one! If you don't have one, then develop one fast!)

I never expected, nor necessarily wanted, to live with a parent--either mine or my husband's. It's not that I don't love all of our parents. I definitely DO. I have had a good relationship with them all. But living with a parent changes everything.

If I can do it, you can definitely do it. Just know it takes time and will be bumpy sometimes.

Personalities are key. My mom and I are very different personalities, though we are both encouragers. I definitely fell right under the tree as far as that trait goes, but I'm in another orchard altogether for most of my other traits. Which leads to a lot of tension and frustration some days.

I will say that things are settling down now, and it has been two years. We are *learning* to live together a little more each day. I can see a whole lot of improvement just in this last year. The bumps are becoming less frequent and not so large, and we joke and laugh more than we did the first year, so just know it can smooth out over time.

Location is key. Since we all moved from two houses in central FL to one larger house in north FL, it's a new place for all three of us. My mom has the room across from ours and the hall bathroom is hers. The "suite" idea helps a lot. Mom is close, but she has her own space. Since she's still quite independent in most areas, I'm available when she needs me but she is otherwise autonomous.

Mom's furniture is all mixed in with ours, so we have a really "eclectic" decorating scheme, as you can imagine! Since Mom is still quite independent, it was important for her things to still be part of her daily life. My husband and I had to give a lot of thought to creating balance for all of us, including what furniture to keep. We all ended up giving up things, but the result is a home we all enjoy now. It's neither "yours" nor "mine." It's definitely "ours." :-D

In our case, it helped that one person wasn't moving into the other's established home. If you have a different situation where your parent is more care dependent, that may not matter for you.

Wisdom and grace are key. As I mentioned earlier, my friend Marlene led the way for me 6 years ago when she moved her mom in to live with her family. Being able to watch someone else adapt and manage over the years was the springboard God used in my life to learn that I could do this. When the time came to make the decision, I had a working knowledge of what to expect. If it hadn't been demonstrated for me, I would have felt I couldn't do it.

I think mothers and adult daughters have complicated, often bumpy relationships to begin with, and putting us under the same roof all the time just brings out the tension once in a while.

We learn to adapt and compromise, though, in order to care for our parent. We do it because we love them and want to honor and care for them, and God has to give us daily (hourly, minute-by-minute!) grace for the job. Art's and my goal is that "Life with Mom" is a simple, daily joy.

If you are a caregiver for your parent, I'd love to hear how you do it. What's your story?

Blessings! Joan


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