My dad moved in with us in the spring of 2012. He moved in for two reasons. First, the neighborhood he lived in (and that I grew up in) was going downhill pretty quickly, I’m talking bullets flying regularly. Second, he has emphysema and it was getting harder for him to live in a house with stairs and no AC.
I guess you could say that I had certain ideas about how living with my dad would be and I was pretty excited about it. I’m a daddy’s girl and for a long time before I moved out (when I was 24) it was just me and him at home. We got along great, living with him was easy. But several key things were different when he moved in with me, first we were both 10 years older. And in those last 10 years, he had truly been the king of his castle. And it was a messy castle unlike it had been when I grew up in it. I hadn’t realized back then that my dad was really good at assigning chores and “managing” them getting finished, he wasn’t so good at doing them himself. Housekeeping is not his strong suit.
Another thing that was different was that it wasn’t just him and I anymore. I had added two other men, my husband and my oldest son, who at the time had just turned two. This changed the dynamic a bit. It was mine and Jay’s house, not Dad’s. This was quite a change for Dad, poor guy. He wasn’t able to blare his classic rock at 10 pm because TC was asleep. He couldn’t watch all his murder programs (NCIS, various Law and Order type shows, Game of Thrones, etc) while TC was in the room. Sometimes he would forget that. Also, no smoking in the house. This one was HUGE. Dad started smoking when he was 15 (hence the emphysema), before everyone knew how horrible it was for the smoker and everyone in the immediate area. To say that smoking inside was a hard habit for him to break is an understatement.
(And yes, obviously he shouldn’t be smoking at all. I know that, you know that, HE KNOWS THAT. Apparently, knowing it and doing something about it are two different things. This is what I hear. But I’m not happy about it.)
If you are saying that my life sounds like an episode of King of Queens, you wouldn’t be too far off. Except that I am not a nag like Carrie and Jay is anything but lazy like Doug.
So here are my tips for moving a parent into your house:
1. Put some distance between your bedrooms if you can.
When Dad first moved in, we were in a small cape cod style home. We were lucky that we had a finished basement with a bathroom so were still had some privacy. A lot of times Dad would spend his late evenings in the basement where he could watch what he wanted and also, watch TV later than we would upstairs. (When you are retired you have no bedtime.)
2. Maybe get your parent a hearing test.
Even though he was downstairs, we could still hear his TV upstairs. Sometimes VERY, VERY loudly. I had to stomp down there once to tell him to turn it down when the floor was vibrating and I realized he had it turned ALL the way up. Yet, he continued to tell me that his hearing was perfect.
3. Make Sure Your Spouse Is On Board.
I’m very lucky that my husband loves my dad and vice versa because they have had some disagreements that were on the louder side. They are always able to talk it out after the initial argument but if my husband hadn’t been so supportive of my dad moving in with us, it would be an entirely different situation.
4. Accept That Your Parent Isn’t the Same As When You Were Young
Living with Dad now is so much different than when I was younger. The roles are essentially reversed. A lot of times I compare him to having a teenager on summer break. He stays up later than I do during the week, his TV and music are always too loud, and he often forgets to straighten up after himself. He’s not exactly the same guy who woke me up once because I had forgotten to do the dishes AGAIN. You have to embrace those changes and find some humor in it otherwise you’ll probably want to drink a lot more.
5. Lay Out Important Rules Before the Move
Right when we started talking about Dad moving in with us, we made it clear that he wouldn’t be able to smoke in the house…EVER. We probably started talking about him moving in about a year before he actually did, I think it took him that long to process and accept those conditions. I can’t imagine springing that on him after he got there. You really have to think about those every day details and get them out there and agreed upon. It will help avoid any possible explosions.