In a perfect world, the 93% of Singaporeans who want to have a flat before they have kids would be happily sprucing up their new nest and decorating the nursery awaiting the arrival of their first baby.
But this world is far from perfect, which is why in reality many Singaporean couples end up raising kids while still living in the home of one set of parents. Often, it’s because they’re waiting the 3-5 years before their BTO flat is ready.
While some married couples choose to live apart until their BTOs are ready because neither party wants to live with their in-laws, when a child enters the picture things change, and it is usually necessary to move in together.
Couples who are thinking of having kids before their flat comes along and have no alternative accommodation should think of doing the following just to make sure they don’t ruin their relationship with their parents and in-laws.
Discuss cost-sharing with the family
One of you is going to be moving in with in-laws. No matter how nice (or not) they are, you have to remember that you’ll be living under their roof, using their water, electricity and internet, and probably eating their food from time to time.
While it’s true that you’re now “family”, be aware that if you don’t at least attempt to have a discussion about cost-sharing with them, resentment might build.
For example, just because your family wouldn’t expect your spouse to pay rent under their roof doesn’t mean your spouse’s parents will feel the same way—remember that the values of Singaporean families can vary wildly.
So it’s polite to at least initiate a serious discussion with your in-laws on how costs are going to be shared now that you’ll be living with them. You might be asked to contribute to utilities, buy groceries, pay a bit of rent, or (if they’re particularly thick-skinned) even give them an allowance. But don’t forget to gently remind them of your own familial duties, too—you might be giving your own parents an allowance or paying your own parents’ bills, and it never hurts to be honest about your situation.
Also, as your spouse’s parents (and yours!) are likely to be the ones looking after your child when you’re at work or need a break, it’s also important to acknowledge this and show your appreciation for the free childcare.
The important thing is to show that you’re willing to contribute and that you’re not just a freeloader. Even if they tell you you don’t have to pay a cent, showing you’re not just there to sponge off them goes a long way towards starting the relationship on the right foot. The last thing you want is having your in-laws plot to poison your coffee or worse, turn your own kid against you.
Have a plan for acquiring your own home
If you’re one of those couples who’s decided to live with one set of parents indefinitely, this doesn’t apply to you.
But for many couples, living with their parents while raising a kid is a temporary situation, to be tolerated until they can collect the keys to their BTOs, or until they’ve saved up for the downpayment to buy their own homes.
Whatever your plans might be, make sure you and your spouse have a serious discussion and set out concrete timelines and goals to work towards.
Living with parents or in-laws while trying to cope with the rigours of being a new parent can be stressful, and when you add misunderstandings or unmet expectations to the mix, you’re asking for a lot of pain. A bit of certainty and knowing what to work towards can remove a lot of the stress of not having your own place yet.
Charting out your plans for the future also lets you get your finances in order ahead of time. If you’re waiting for your BTO to be ready, you want to be prepared for when you have to start repaying your home loan.
If you’re still searching for a property, you’ll want to schedule viewings, come up with a budget and ensure you’ve got enough cash and/or CPF funds when you make a decision. You also need to know when events like renovations and moving house will take place.
Take breaks every now and then
Some people are fortunate enough to have wonderful parents and in-laws they get along swimmingly with. Others aren’t so quite lucky.
Living with parents or in-laws that one or both of you don’t always agree with is tough, especially when you’re already sleep-deprived and exhausted from juggling work and child-rearing. On top of that, unless your in-laws live in a big house, you’re probably not going to have much privacy or space.
It’s important to take care of yourself every now and then, too. Go on a staycation as a couple, or head overseas for a weekend trip every now and then. Getting away from home occasionally can do wonders for your sanity and help you to be a better parent and spouse.
Many people feel guilty about taking breaks, thinking that leaving their kids behind makes them bad parents. Obviously don’t go overboard and leave the house suddenly, only to return when your child is ready for primary school.
But remember that if you prioritise your own mental health and actively find ways to de-stress, you will be a more patient, less reactive parent, as well as a more tolerant daughter and son (in-law) to the parents you’re living with.
Would you consider having kids before getting your own home? Tell us why or why not in the comments!
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