Despite some nerves, fear, crying, doubts, and just knowing we’d made the wrong decision to live with my in-laws instead of getting a short-term apartment, I have a happy ending to share with you today.
Yes, I had a total meltdown a few days after Jonathan was born because I didn’t have my own space.
Yes, it was difficult to have a nursing newborn in the same house as a father-in-law.
Yes, after the first few days of tenuous adjusting, we thought for certain that we would be better off in our own space, even a lousy 2-bedroom apartment in the wrong part of town.
We were wrong.
How rare it is to appreciate being wrong! This happy ending is worth it.
The irony can’t run much deeper than when I reflect on my initial apprehension verging on dread when we were actually moving in with my husband’s parents, considering the complexity of six people living sharing a three-bedroom home and two very different lifestyles colliding.
Juxtapose that with my overriding emotion as we closed on our new home near the end of October: fear.
Yep, I was finally getting what I wanted, what we had made so many sacrifices for, and all I could think of was, "How am I going to survive without my mother-in-law?"
I’d come to enjoy having another adult in the house all day and deeply appreciated not only her immense amount of help with the children, but also the camaraderie and comfortable rhythm of living and working together. Even in the kitchen, and perhaps especially there, after all my worrying.
Imagine getting dinner ready and having someone else finish up a craft with your kids, help them clean up, and set the table. Did your mental stress level just decrease?
Imagine a superbly busy day when you haven’t really planned dinner, and someone else says, "I was thinking we could make such-and-such for dinner," and then they cover for you so that things are ready when you get home from the kids’ religion class. Heaven.
Now imagine having someone to talk to while making dinner, someone who is also cutting a cucumber so that when you say, "Dinner’s ready!" you really mean it, instead of: "The main course has been cooked, so as soon as I wash lettuce, chop some raw veggies, get drinks and set the table, we can eat."
And last but certainly not least, if you can possibly stretch your imagination this far into the dream-world of idealism, imagine that when you come downstairs after bedtime routine with the children, the dishes are completely finished – all of them! – and even put away. I know, I know. Too good to be true, right?
That was my life.
When I transitioned from two kids to three, I had this much help.
I didn’t know if I could float on my own.
I wasn’t sure we’d be fed.
I figured my kids would probably be so bored they’d self-destruct.
I was scared to move out.
I also benefited from the stripping down of my kitchen, which was a surprising and rather fascinating advantage of the whole temporary living situation. You know how you get comfortable in your environment once you’ve been there a while? For example, even though a certain drawer might not be the most convenient for your contact solution, it stays there because that’s where you put it the first time you bought some.
When I had to pare down everything I use in the kitchen to the bare essentials, I tried to be really austere and hard on myself with what I brought along, out of respect for my in-laws’ space. Ironically, once I got to the end, I realized there were probably another few dozen items I could have sent to storage.
Now that we’re in our new house, my kitchen organization has been directed heavily by what I learned in someone else’s kitchen:
- Although I have a bazillion spices, there are about 6-12 that I use all the time, like once a week or much more.
- I go through a lot of pots and pans.
- I make homemade yogurt more than once a week and water kefir every other day, so those items need to be easily accessible.
- Electric stoves and gas stoves act differently with my no-dishes homemade yogurt method! This was a huge surprise…
- I can do a lot without a lot of space.
- I don’t like non-kitchen things being in the kitchen. I knew that before, but it was confirmed!
- Like the spices, there are certain kitchen tools I literally use almost daily. It makes sense that those should be easy to find and put away.
- We eat a lot of fresh vegetables. Also a nice surprise to me…
- I really do work hard! I could see through the eyes of my in-laws sometimes, like when my father-in-law would ask in amazement in 10 p.m., "Aren’t you done running around yet?"
- I make humongous messes in the kitchen, even when I’m NOT cooking everything I usually make. Uh oh…
- I go through glass jars and glass storage containers like nobody’s business.
- We use certain food items every couple days or daily, too – makes sense to have them close at hand.
- It’s fun to be able to give people scientific excuses for eating real butter and real salt, since those taste better than the diet recommendations of the Standard American "Healthy" Diet.
- Homemade chicken stock in the slow cooker is pretty cool, but people do think you’re weird when you put bones in there…
- And mostly, I was reminded just how far away from the "norm" of the culture our family’s eating habits really are.
Beyond that, I learned some wonderful things about my mother-in-law:
- She LOVES to do things for other people, and not only that, but she really gets what people like and tries to serve them well.
- She loves her grandkids to death, and she’s so proud of everything they do (her kids too).
- She is an incredibly non-judgmental person.
- She’s flexible and tolerant – evidenced by the fact that she didn’t kick us out after seeing the messes I make in the kitchen!
- She’s a great shopper – this I knew, but I sure was thankful for the clothes and food she’d pick up for us when I didn’t want to go a zillion places just after John was born.
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for two months now, and of course, I know there were about twenty more items I was supposed to include, but since I didn’t write them down right away, *poof* they’re gone.
Suffice it to say that, in the end, I highly recommend to anyone to live with your extended family for a time. Just make sure they’re as amazing as mine are and you’ll be counting your blessings a hundredfold.
I’ll give you a kitchen tour of my new home later this month so that you can see these lessons in action. I’ve been having fun organizing it JUST SO. Be sure to subscribe using the links below if you want to see how I do it!
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