grandparents with young girl (multi-generational living)Of all the decisions I made when becoming a single mom by choice, embarking on a multi-generational lifestyle was the one that caught me most by surprise. Living in the same house as my parents — my daughter’s grandparents — was never something I expected to do!

I see myself as an independent woman and have been on my own for more than 25 years, sometimes living a few hours away from my parents, sometimes a few continents away. But as life would have it, and due to circumstances beyond my control — like a global pandemic, inflation, and cost of living — I ended up in the Boston area. And my daughter and I moved into our new home — a unit my parents built on top of their own house.

To the outside observer, this may be an idyllic situation — one big house, split into two independent units, with three adults who get along well and one toddler who everyone absolutely adores. Even the inside observer can identify, acknowledge, and be grateful for the benefits this living situation provides.

Still, there’s a difference between having doting grandparents who you see a handful of times a year — or even more frequently for those who live in the same state or town — and those you share a house with and see every day. And that is something that has raised some tricky moments for us. We are figuring out this new lifestyle that allows for many comforts and conveniences but also requires a lot of boundary setting and negotiations. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Sometimes, you have to let it go

My daughter has a cookie every day. It’s a routine. She knows where the cookies are at my parents’ house, and when she asks for one every morning, my dad hides the cookie behind his back and has her point to which hand she thinks it’s in. She always gets the cookie — even if she points to the wrong hand.

I don’t think she needs to eat a cookie every day. But I do know this is an instance where I just need to let it go.

It’s a special daily moment that she expects and cherishes with my dad, and as much as it’s my job to feed her healthy food, it’s my privilege and joy to see her develop this fun relationship with her grandfather.

And, thankfully, my fear that one cookie would lead to more and more has been debunked — she doesn’t ask for a cookie every time she sees my dad, nor does she go for the cookies on her own. It really is about that special moment between them!

Mother knows best

I’m a strong believer in having a routine and sticking to it. Also, I’m an exhausted mother who works full time and can really use the few solo hours I get after my daughter’s 7 or 8 p.m. bedtime! However, my mom is a night owl and generally does not prescribe to routines and what she considers “strict” rules — like my daughter’s bedtime.

So this is where I don’t budge. I’m my daughter’s mother, and I know what’s best for us. While I’m not super strict, and bedtime doesn’t look the same every day, when I tell my daughter it’s time to go upstairs and start getting ready for bed, it’s time.

Some days my daughter complies with no difficulties, some days there’s resistance and then acquiescence, and some days I carry her upstairs kicking and screaming. And sometimes my mom chimes in with a, “Let her [insert activity] one more time.”

But I hold firm. And regardless of how the transition goes, once our routine kicks in, I can see the benefits and comfort that brings to my daughter — and myself. And that reinforces my feeling and knowledge that I know best what we need!

There’s nothing more important than family

I recently stumbled across this reel — the accuracy is astounding, and the issues this brings up are real. My parents raised my sister and me many (many) years ago, and there is no way they are going to be up to date on all modern parenting matters.

Now that we’re living in such close quarters, I have to show them some grace when they do things with my daughter that I consider to be weird or outdated. I hope they are paying attention and picking up on the subtle differences in how I do things with her. I step back and give them space to be the best grandparents they know how to be, and they lean in and learn from me that parenting can change and sugar doesn’t equal love.

And we’re all just here together for this one kid who is being loved in abundance.

Michal Biletzki
Michal is a Single Mother by Choice to a double-donor miracle baby, Alma born in 2020, who was conceived in the Ukraine on March 10th, 2020 (you remember THAT week). Originally from Israel, Michal has been in the USA since 2004, with 9 of those in the Boston area – six as a grad student (many lifetimes ago) and three as a mom, non-consecutively. Getting to motherhood a little later in life, Michal holds a PhD in Political Science from Boston University and has been working in non-profit fundraising since 2011 – currently at Northeastern University, where she is setting her sights high (and far), planning to work there long enough to be able to get Alma through college for free! Michal and Alma live in Waltham, right next door to Alma's grandparents, with their beloved mutt, Grizzly. Michal loves the door motherhood has opened for her in building her and Alma’s community, surrounding them both with new friends and is excited to share her experience and diverse perspectives with the larger Boston Moms community!


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