We’re coming up on almost one full year of living together with my sister’s family! In the past 12 months, we’ve gone from 2 kids to 3, and in a few weeks… there will be 4 kids under the age of 4 in one roof. I have to say, our home is looking more like a daycare each day! We have Toddler Pencil (3 years old), Cousin Pencil (2 years old), Cousin Baby Pencil (8 months old) and the newest Baby Pencil on her way in 3 weeks!
Is it difficult to live with a whole other family? Sure, it can be. But there are so many benefits because we’re all sharing the same life stage. I honestly don’t think this could work unless the two MOMS see eye to eye on most things. Luckily, not only are my sister and I extremely close, but we have very similar parenting styles. (And what I mean by “parenting style” is that we don’t really know what we’re doing most of the time.) We generally stay out of each other’s hair for most of the week because everyone is either working, traveling or running errands. It’s also really interesting that ALL the adults work from home! So the house is constantly alive, constantly hustling… and very, very loud! I’ve always thought the idea of a Home Alone house would be fun, but it’s often chaotic. I’m just glad the kids are all sleep trained and the house finally gets quiet at around 8pm.
Here are the ways that have benefited both families over the past year:
Entertainment: Having Toddler Pencil and Cousin Pencil play together from the start of the day to the end of the day… is amazing. They hardly need toys! They just play with each other and don’t really bother the adults as much. If Toddler Pencil was alone, he would constantly come up and ask me to play with him. But since he and his cousin are pretty much into the same things (play dough, bubbles, drawing, water play) all we have to do is supervise them. Cousin Pencil probably benefits the most in the house, because she loves her cool, older brother/cousin and learns a lot from him. She’s advanced in her talking, potty training and everyday routine just by observing and living with him. She’s also extremely distracted by playing with Toddler Pencil and had a better transition when her baby brother was born. These kids are so happy and play with each other so well, it’s so nice to have a play date pretty much 24/7 in your own home!
Meals: We have a white board calendar to fill our month with meal plans and appointments. Our family cooks on Mondays and Wednesdays, the other family on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays are leftover days and the weekends are pretty much up in the air depending on what our plans are. We have Gobble meal delivery 2x a week to help fill in any days. We are probably the best candidates for having Costco membership and go almost every week to bulk up on milk (SO MUCH MILK!), chicken, salads, toilet paper, cereal and other essentials.
Chores/Duties: It’s all about divide and conquer. One person from one family drops the kids off and someone else picks them up. One person is in charge of trash duty (which is insane, if you think about how much trash a family of 7 makes) and another person is in charge of bringing in the trash bins. I load up the dishwasher every night, and my husband puts the dishes away in the morning. My brother-in-law is an early riser, so he makes the kids breakfast before heading to his 8am meeting and my husband watches/feeds the kids. There are a million things that go on a week – the plumber needs to come by, someone needs to pay the nanny, the handyman needs to be let in, Amazon packages are constantly being delivered, etc. Within the 4 adults, we can usually find someone around to do these things. Our group chat is filled with messages like this: “Can someone open the door?”, “Starbucks orders please,” “Remember to pay school tuition today,” “Does anyone have $5 to tip the delivery guy?” It’s like your college dorm that grew up and had babies. It really does take a village! (Although several times, we all made plans and almost left the baby home alone because we assumed someone was home…!)
Saving Money: By splitting up the cost of a lot of expenses, we all save money. My husband and I pay a small rent, which is incredible because of the type of home and neighborhood we live in. The schools are top notch and we live right by the beach and great shopping malls. We would have never been able to afford such a place on our own! (Also, I’m experiencing having central AC for the first time in 10 years!)
Pregnancies: My sister was 7 months pregnant when we moved in together, and she had a very difficult pregnancy. She was unable to do many things, so the other 3 adults had to step up. Shortly after her baby was born, I found out I was pregnant and I’ve also been having a difficult pregnancy. (Still nauseous at 9 months here!) It was really nice that we could lean on each other and knew exactly how hard it was for the one that was pregnant. We were all happy to help and totally understood when one woman was “out.”
Happy Kids, Happy Parents: The KIDS benefit so much from this living situation. When Toddler Pencil comes home, he yells out “We’re home! Come here everyone!” He expects the rush of people to come to the door. The house is full of paddling feet and giggles. They have their routines, their potties, their toys, their chairs all set up. They feel safe and comfortable because the house is fun and full of family. I love that they’re going to have such great memories of this time!
Some things I didn’t see coming?
- Outings are exhausting… more than ever! Right now we can all fit in a minivan, but it takes about 45 minutes to get everyone’s shoes on, loaded and actually take off. I’m not sure why, but the hustle and bustle of all these people getting out the door is extremely emotionally draining. Simply going to the park seems like a huge feat. It probably would not feel that way with a family of 4. But with a family of 7, plus a giant pregnant me, it feels like we just spent a day at Disneyland!
- Bickering, nit picking, personal pet peeves, annoyances. Yes. They’re all there! They are all around us and can get under our skin every now and then. Especially when you don’t exactly have the time and space to officially confront someone or say it out loud. There will always be “roommate” issues, but very little time to hash things out. I think we’re still figuring out how to deal with this!
- We all totally thought that we would take advantage of this living situation and be able to go on unlimited date nights. But in reality? We’ve all barely done ANY date nights! I’m not sure why. It’s like the same mentality as having a pool in your backyard but never using it. We all just seem too pooped or lazy.
- Transitions are constantly happening. We recently combined Toddler Pencil and Cousin Pencil into 1 room. The nights have been rough – lots of time outs because they keep getting out of bed to play! We are still in this phase of making sure they stay in bed and go to sleep. It’s pretty cute (but annoying) because they get so excited to sleep in the same room. It’s basically a sleepover party every night! The entire family (including the baby) stays in the room for story time, singing and a goodnight prayer. But since the kids are so wound up, it takes a long time for them to calm down and actually sleep.
I realize there’s going to be another huge adjustment period after this upcoming baby is born. The Pencil family is going to share 2 bedrooms between two adults, one toddler and one baby. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this all works out!