For many millennials, COVID-19 has meant moving back in with parents and delaying future plans. And the same has been true for many recently married couples, who find themselves taking a similar step backwards — instead of forward. Rachael, 35, a newlywed living with in-laws during quarantine shares what the experience was like after six months. As told to Carolyn Steber.
Soon after we got married in October 2019, my husband and I moved to the next state over to live with my in-laws. The original plan was to get to know their neighborhood, look for new jobs, and then buy a house nearby so we'd be closer when it came time to start a family. I don’t think either one of us ever thought we would live with them for more than three months, but then no one expected or could have anticipated COVID-19.
At first I was excited about the move; it was going to be a new adventure with my husband, and a chance to get to know my in-laws better. But as three months turned into six, and it became clear the pandemic was putting our plans on hold, we both started to wonder if moving was the right choice.
Any adult likes having their own space, so one of the toughest parts is not having the privacy we're used to as a couple. We'd come home from work before quarantine began to my in-laws watching FOX News, The Cowboy Way, Pickers, and HGTV, so we'd find ourselves going down to the basement to hang out with our dog and watch our own shows, like Waco and the new season of Ozark. We've been using the basement as our escape.
Before moving in, I was used to having lots of time to myself, too, especially in the mornings while my husband was at work. But when living with four people in quarantine, you don’t really have the freedom to do that. If my in-laws do leave for a while, and I find myself alone, I just think, "ah, this is nice." It's these little moments, though, that make it obvious we're guests.
You don't think twice, for instance, about going into your own kitchen to cook. But now we have to plan who is making dinner in advance. It feels like we're kids getting permission to make a special meal, like being in high school again. My mother-in-law also does our laundry and leaves our clothes folded on the stairs, waiting to be brought up to our room. It's nice to have someone offer to be so helpful, but at the same time when you are used to doing things yourself, you don’t want to put that on someone else.
The sense of "you are staying in someone else’s home" was always present.
She also assigns my husband "boy chores," like asking him to fix things around the house. He happily helps out, but he's anxious for our lives to get back to normal. We are both very structured people and while you can have structure living in another household, it may not be the same kind of structure or routine that you may have in your own home.
My in-laws definitely go above and beyond to make us feel welcome and that their home is our home. But no matter what, it's never truly "your" space. My husband and I are comfortable, but the sense of "you are staying in someone else’s home" is always present. There are times when we feel frustrated and have to reel ourselves back in, and remind each other that this is all part of a bigger picture — and that it isn't going to last forever.
My advice for anyone else living with parents: If there is an issue, find a nice way to address it and move on. And always, always make sure you have plenty of wine. With that said, now that we've purchased our own house and are officially moving out, we can’t imagine living with them again.
These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.