On living with your in-laws

PIP DOYLE
Last updated 09:31 14/01/2014
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SACRIFICES: This kind of behaviour doesn't really fly when living with the in-laws.

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I moved out of home in 1997. I was 19 and, as coincidence would have it, Jebediah's 'Leaving Home' was dominating the charts. 

I wasn't really getting along with mum. Nothing serious, but leaving would save some tears and tantrums - namely mine.

I remember telling her I was moving in with my best mate Sash (who is now a professional taxidermist and ballroom dancer) and some stoner guy call Jeff who loved to use the oven, not to cook a great dinner of fish fingers, but to dry out the pot he sold in the winter months when he wasn't working at Adventure World.

Part of me wanted to break mum's heart. And I did. Terribly so. Clearly I was a typical angry teenager that listened to far more Alanis Morissette than was good for me.

The reaction I got was exactly as I predicted. My words were like little horrible pieces of gristle I was forcing mum to swallow.

I think about it now and scold myself for being such a piece of work. Anyone who has met my mum knows she lights up the room (and my heart).

Anyway, I knew this was it. No going back. No being a boomerang. (This was when a boomerang was actually a boomerang and not the name of a generation of people who use the parental home as a base, not a place you actually leave for good.)

The Mister had a completely different experience of living at home. If he hadn't taken the job in Kalgoorlie (and met me in the process) when he was 27, I hazard a guess he'd still be living with his folks.

His parents never made living at home too difficult for him, my parents never made it too easy to stay.

So you can imagine my eye-popping alarm when he suggested we move into a granny flat at his folks' place for half a year before the tenants are ready to move out of our new house.

After the first couple of days of our stay, after The Mister's mum hid the wine from me, I realised this was going to be just like living with a couple of middle-aged housemates; housemates that use the oven for food - not drug - preparation.

Speaking of food, it's everywhere.

Having middle-aged housemates means that they like delicious sourdough bread (not just the cheap white stuff), Yorkshire Gold tea and a top-notch selection of cold cuts along with a fully-stocked pantry.

I still shed a small tear at such a sight.

I also noticed a distinct plummet in constant questions about when we're planning to get knocked up and start a family.

Not that I endorse buying a house purely as a distraction to the endless abyss of foetal interrogation, but in our situation, people are too engrossed in why you've moved back home and 'what's going on with the house' to bother with the reproductive inquisition.

Which brings me to.... there is no easy way to say this.

Look, when I was living at home, there was no way on this planet that I was allowed to have a boyfriend stay the night, let alone stay the night in my room. Even if it was a reasonably long-term relationship, there was much slaving to the 'not under my roof' policy.

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Now, especially now that we are legally sanctified, we have the green light for our temporary digs to be an on-tap passion pit of wanton desire.

Instead of being sneaky about it, now it's expected, if not encouraged. And if there's no rules or risk of being caught, well, where's the fun in that?

But there are plenty of other rules, unspoken and otherwise.

Such as when the shower suddenly goes cold, you have to get out immediately. The thought of your father-in-law standing naked in the shower in the other bathroom can be all too much, especially if you start to think that he's thinking that you're naked in the shower with cold water rushing all over you.

My father-in-law has the infuriating habit of locking doors. All the doors. All the time. Even when we're all home. So when I need to make a cup of tea or go get some more ice for the wine I just found in the back cupboard in the linen press, I have to remember, like a warden, to take the keys with me.

While I'm still the newbie in this side of the family, I still can't help but act like a guest, awkwardly slinking around the kitchen and making sure I wear a bra underneath my PJs because hey, I'm just not that kind of comfortable just yet.

But the way to my parents-in-law hearts is the little things - like they are with any housemate - replace the milk if you use it all, replace the wine if you drink it all, replace the Cold Power if you use it all, hang out the washing and (my father-in-law will appreciate this one) lock the damn doors behind you.

Anyway, despite me having a good rapport with his folks from Day One anyway (I met them in the meat section of a supermarket in Kalgoorlie three hours before I was meant to be all dolled-up making the best first-time impression), living with them has actually improved our relationship with them.

I really do commend those people that choose to make it very easy for their adult children to move back home - I know it's something that I would struggle with, only as I believe in 'once you're out, you're out'. When I left home, my parents promptly turned my room into an office as soon as I was halfway down the street with my life packed up in my orange vinyl-roofed Escort. Same went for my brother, except he was well into his 20s before his bedroom was also turned into an office. So if you're in the market for a house with one bedroom and two offices, you know who to call. I don't think I was particularly lucky, I just got myself a job at a surfshop and lived with some friends and hoped for the best.

My best piece of advice, if you do find yourself back with the rents, it's important to always have the Exit Strategy conversation on high rotation. The Mister and I talk about the new house constantly and give the parents weekly updates on what is happening - even if nothing is happening. It's imperative to them and us that we're not here for a free ride, we're here purely as a stopgap measure.

It's like any relationship. Except I don't believe in 'give and take'. If you constantly give, and they constantly give, it ends up being a sustainable relationship anyway.

As soon as one tires of contributing, or starts to take advantage, that's when it all starts to unravel.

Try to move out before the welcome mat is pulled from underneath you.

You'll know when it happens. It starts with your father-in-law wearing his shorty dressing gown about the place and not much else.

- Daily Life

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