Living with my son and his family has been the most enriching experience of my life. I used to live in the house that my husband and I bought. We raised the kids there and had so many happy memories, but when he died in 1988, all that I could see was the places where he was missing. He wasn’t on his side of the bed anymore, in his sitting chair, tending to the garden. He was gone, and it felt as though my happiness had gone with him.
When my youngest son suggested that I live with him, my first response was that of course I couldn’t do that. I would be too much of an imposition, and I didn’t want to get in the way of his life now. Looking back, I should have accepted right there and then, because even though I had turned the offer down, I kept thinking about how great it would be to live with part of my family again. He didn’t bring it up again for a few months, but then last year I had a fall and wasn’t able to reach a phone to let anybody know that I needed help. I was there all night before my daughter found me, which is when I realised that not only did I not want to live alone anymore, but I couldn’t.
Now that I’ve lived with my son and his kids for a year, I’m so much happier. I get to have the company of the people that I love, and I can help with childcare whenever it’s needed. I have also learned a lot while I’ve been here. The main thing is that despite my son being a father now, he is still my son and my natural instincts are to treat him like the young boy that he once was. I used to pester him daily with questions of what he’s had for breakfast and whether he drank too much on a Friday night. But now I have learnt to take a step back, as he navigates his way through his own parenting concerns. I’ve also learnt not to undermine my grandkids’ parents, as it was so easy to play ‘good cop.’ Whenever the kids would want dessert, or to stay up later they would ask me, knowing that their parents would likely say no. Being a live-in grandparent has forced me to take a slightly harder approach as I need to support their parents’ wishes, instead of just being the fun nanna.
The most amazing part of this whole experience has been seeing my husband’s fathering reflected in that of my sons. He is so caring and acts like he has all of the time in the world to watch Paw Patrol and play in the garden, even after a long day at work. His dad was a big believer in spending time with his children, and it has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life to see this way of fathering being passed down.
I would genuinely advise that if there is a grandparent living alone in your family, and you have the room, consider inviting them in. It might be a pain. You might crave more personal space, they may helicopter over your parenting – but give it time. Lay down some ground rules and open up a conversation about how you would like everything to work, and I guarantee that you will be bringing your family together, adding another crucial close family member into your kids’ inner circle, and you will be making an elderly citizen eternally grateful.
Mary lives in her youngest son's home with his wife and two children. Mary loves spending time with her grandchildren and learning to cook new recipes with her daughter-in-law. She has five other children and is proud to say that each of them has a degree in a different subject and check in with her regularly.