Living with the In-Laws

Living with the in-laws is not usually a preferred course of action for newly married couples. It certainly wasn’t OUR plan going into our second year of marriage. But when Matthew and I prepared to move to Rhode Island for his MBA program, his mom and siblings were dealing with the repercussions of a husband/father abruptly leaving the family. My mother-in-law, Barbara, proposed a plan that would benefit us and them…we could help them with rent and the stabilizing presence of a big brother/loving son, and they could give us a place to live while we got our feet under us.

We took the plunge and entered an…interesting…season. For the most part, we were on the receiving end of their hospitality. Although we paid rent and had our own bedroom, living room, and bathroom, essentially we were long-term houseguests. Barbara had to share her laundry room and kitchen with me – the sacred quadrants for any homemaker – and I had to learn to respect her space even while using it. Sometimes the tables were turned. Because I often cooked dinner for the family and because Matthew and I still entertained friends, at times I played the hostess. Matthew’s family then tried to stay out of the way, which was awkward, since it was really their home.

During this time, I learned about showing hospitality to my (new) family (the “offering a pleasant or sustaining environment” part of being hospitable) as well as being a gracious guest, and I had to answer interesting questions for myself such as, “How vehemently can I insist that Daniel (age 14) eat the broccoli I cooked?” and “How should I react when Joanna (age 19) ummm…walks in on Matthew and me at an inopportune moment?”

Meal times caused tension on occasion, like when everyone was still hungry after eating my “light and healthy” main dish salad or when I not-so-silently fumed about the fat content of Barbara’s homemade mac and cheese. Ultimately, though, it was family dinners that bonded us. Especially when we could all laugh together, like the night I decided to try making pumpkin soup. We were out of fresh onions, and I didn’t know you had to reconstitute dried onions before sautéing them. I, uh, caramelized them and continued cooking. When I served it, everyone tried bravely to taste a couple spoonfuls.

Okay, first of all, who ever thought of pumpkin soup? And why did I decide to try it? Yuck! On top of the general weirdness, all you could really taste was the badly burned dried onion. Finally, I laughed out loud and said, “I can’t eat this! It’s disgusting!” Everyone immediately gave up the polite façade and also started laughing, and assented that it was truly awful. We threw it out. As we ate the main dish, stories flew: “Joanna, remember the time you mixed peaches and peanut butter and it tasted like puke?” “Remember when Dad made the oatmeal that even the dog wouldn’t eat?”

And now I’ve added to Miller lore. I was hanging out with Matthew’s siblings recently and got to say, “Remember the time I made that pumpkin soup?”

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  • Punky1974

    Have a Great Weekend!

  • simply_nikki

    He he. Where you have “How should I react when Joanna (age 19) ummm…walks in on Matthew and me at an inopportune moment?” juxtaposed with the cooking info, it sounds like you and Matthew like to create “inopportune moments” in inopportune places!

  • hannahbarton

    I really like the way you re-worked parts of this.

    Good, nay, GREAT to talk to you yesterday.

  • Monyikka


    i have enjoyed these so thoroughly!

  • whomhavei

    Yes, I remember when you served a salad.  I ate it, then was horrified to find out that that was dinner and not merely the precurser.  I am still scarred from that event.

  • stforever

    Cute! I enjoyed this! I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  • IssyExley

    I’ve been enjoying your last hospitality posts just been terribly busy and not able to post a “thanks” sooner.

    So thanks!

  • daniellehanley

    We had my brother-in-law live with us on several occasions. The last time it was himself and his wife, for nearly a year. It was no so successful. I’m glad it worked better for you guys.

  • mmmattress

    At least it wasn’t coffee custard or bread-in-the-soup.

  • whomhavei
  • semajski

    I have to say that I enjoy reading your posts. They are articulated very well and absolutely entertaining.

  • curlybecca

    Where the heck are you Becky? Are you in the mountains or something? Here in Charlotte it’s been alternating between being hot-as-blazes and raining. Right now it’s sunny and I’m in a spaghetti-strap tank top, light capris, and barefooted. And I went on a lovely walk last night, perfect temperature.

  • Story_singer

    Funny you talk about the weather– here we’re just celebrating the first snow-free play-date w/ the neighbor kids.

    Ha! as above on the “inopportune moments” mentioned. I forget where I read it, but I agree you’ll find a whole new layer to this idea when you reach the stage that “you’d rather have your parents walk in on you than your children.” You might add, “(Or siblings!)”

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