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How tradition makes living with dad the obvious choice

This week’s storyteller has chosen to be anonymous.

Their cultural background made the decision to share a home with a widowed parent easy for one family. Our storyteller explains how the arrangement works and its ups and downs.

My husband and I married 14 years ago. For the first 5 years of our married life we lived with his parents in their home. Then we decided to buy our own house and moved out. After just a year my husband’s mum died suddenly, aged just 50.

My husband knew there was no option other than for us to move back to live with his father. Dad was a hard- working man but had no idea how to cook and run a home – that had always been mum’s job!

I agreed without hesitation. Embedded in our Asian culture is the need to look after each other. My own nan lived with us as I was growing up.

So we moved in and life settled down into a routine that worked for us all. The family still miss my mother-in-law and I remain sensitive to the routine that my father-in-law is used to. So, for example, I continued to cook Indian food 3/4 times a week just as she did.

After 15 months together we decided it would be good to have a fresh start. We bought a new home into which dad and our growing family moved. We are proud parents to 2 boys. The location of the new home is great. It’s convenient and means that dad can walk to town and the temple if he chooses not to drive.

In the new house dad has his own bedroom and we have two lounges so the family can spread out or relax together. We try very hard to make dad feel that this is his home as much as it is ours.

I take care of the household chores and all the cooking and cleaning. I also go out to work 3 days a week. Dad is very supportive though and helps me any way he can. 3 times a week he picks the children up from school and twice a week he takes them to school. The boys love him. They miss him terribly when he goes to visit family in India. I often find the boys in his bed when he is away!

In our current setting, my husband and I take care of all the day-to-day expenditure. Dad runs a car and finances that himself. He will also contribute financially in other ways from time to time, such as for meals out, gifts for family occasions and shopping but this is not an expectation by any means.

I believe the first and foremost reason that our arrangement works so well is that it’s very much a part of our culture. Members of extended family living under the same roof are common and expected in the Asian communities. We have all agreed on ground rules and as things occur that challenge one or other of us we talk about them. We all have respect for each other and our home.

On the other hand, it isn’t easy to catch up with the girls and socialising can be tricky. I would like to entertain friends from work and mums from the boys’ school at home sometimes, but it’s difficult.

Dad returns to India for 3 weeks each year and it is good for us all to have a break from each other – but apart from that we are always together. It’s been easier for me as the only female in the home. I can make the rules and the men and boys are pretty good at abiding by them!

We asked our storyteller’s husband how he felt about the success of the living arrangements. He said:

Because of the sudden loss of my mother and our eldest son only being 4 weeks old at the time, we had to make important decisions very quickly. Although we were both born here, our upbringing in Asian culture made certain decisions easy. I would like to add though that my wife’s decision to not only look after my father but also for us all to move in together was key and showed great respect for our tradition of looking after our elders.

The kids are a great distraction for my father, and they keep him busy and feeling young. I am a firm believer in practising our culture by looking after our whole family, and hope that our kids are also aware of how our family unit works and that they respect one another.

Do you have experience of living with a parent? Is it something you would even contemplate? Let us know in the comments below.

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