Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should We Buy My In-Laws’ House?”

Hi, everyone! This first week with Joanie has flown by, but we’re all starting to settle in and adjust to new family dynamics (Jackson, as to be expected, is having a bit of a rough time — more on that later). So far, Joanie is the easiest, sweetest baby ever (she rarely cries and literally sleeps about 22-23 hours a day, waking only to eat quickly — and more often than not, we have to wake her to eat — and have her diaper/cute outfit changed), and yet somehow my domestic duties seem to have doubled, if not tripled. (This is exacerbated by the timing of Jackson’s summer camp ending last week and his second one not starting for a couple weeks, and the aforementioned jealousy issues). Bear with me if posting is a little slower than usual as I find a balance in this haze of new responsibilities. Here we go:

My husband and I have been married for seven years and have two children. We’ve been living in a city halfway between our parents but have been looking constantly for a farm house, finding we cannot afford anything in the nearby area. His parents have let us know they are ready to sell us the family farm, which would mean moving farther from my family. My family helps with the children almost weekly and my husband’s family only about once a month or less. I’m afraid that, by moving near them, we wouldn’t get much help and that more responsibility would fall on me. My parents are not ready to move from their farm. The reason this is semi-urgent is we are hoping for baby number three and don’t know how we’re going to fit another person into our tiny house! We thought neutral ground was going to be good for us, but it seems fate might have something different in mind. What do we do? Keep living halfway or move back to his hometown? — In a Halfway House

You ask only one true question here: whether you and your husband (and kids) should keep living halfway between your two sets of parents or move to your husband’s hometown, but within that inquiry are many more unanswered questions:

1. Are you ready for the responsibility of caring for a farm house? I’d assume it’s much bigger than the “tiny house” you currently live in, which means more maintenance (costing time and money) and much more cleaning.

2. Is the house on an active farm that you and your husband would have to manage and, if so, do you both have the experience and interest to take on farming? That’s an enormous job and, if you already rely on assistance just to care for your two children, I’m wondering how you expect to add “farmer” or even “farm wife” to your already busy load.

3. What kind of community surrounds the farm house and how would it affect your children and their lifestyles (school, friends, activities, etc.)? You say you live in a city now, so what kind of urban amenities would you sacrifice by moving to the country and are you prepared to give those up?

4. You say you’re hoping to have a third baby, but you don’t have room in your current “tiny house,” and you rely on your parents’ weekly help caring for the two children you already have. Without the help of your parents and in-laws, both in childcare and in selling you a house/farm you may or may not actually want, can you even afford a third baby? What if you stay where you are with the thought that your parents will continue helping you and, God forbid, something happens to either or both of them? What if simply getting older limits the amount of help they can give you? Can you and your husband truly care for three children on your own? Can you care for them and potentially care for aging parents should they need your assistance in the future?

5. What kind of expectations might your in-laws have for you and your husband if you buy their farm house? Are they so attached to it that they would expect you to leave it as is and not renovate or decorate to your aesthetic? Have you talked price with them? If they give you a good deal, do you think they’d continue to feel an ownership of the home? Are you worried about their dictating how you run the farm or being overly involved in the business (if there is, in fact, a farming business involved)?

Obviously, you have a lot to think and talk about with your husband. Living close to your parents is kind of the least of your concerns in all of this, but, if you think you need their assistance in order to comfortably care for a third child, then obviously that’s a big part of the picture. But I would think rather than frame the question as whether you should move, you should be asking: “Should we really be having a third baby?” It can be difficult to be brutally honest with ourselves, but before you bring another life into this world that you’ll be financially and emotionally responsible for, I hope you will address and deeply consider with your husband all the questions I pose above. We can desperately want something (like another baby), but that desire doesn’t always (or even usually) mean it’s the wisest decision for us…

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

15 comments… add one
  • Ika

    Ika July 15, 2015, 9:27 am

    I’m so happy things are going well Wendy!!! Yay for Joanie being a good little baby 🙂 Sorry Jackson is having a hard time.

    LW, seriously WWS. If you search on DW there have been several letters from people asking about buying, or having bought (and regretted buying) the house of their inlaws or parents.
    This line stood out to me: “I’m afraid that, by moving near them, we wouldn’t get much help and that more responsibility would fall on me.” I’m sorry, but whose responsibility exactly do you think YOUR KIDS are???? Hint- it’s the people that decided to bring them into the world. WWS completely, I really don’t think a 3rd kid is a good idea. FWIW I have 2, sometimes I would love a 3rd, but I know I don’t have the patience for another, not to mention the huge lifestyle change (and we could afford it, and live in a big house, and my work timetables are totally adaptable). 2 kids is plenty.

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    • Ika

      Ika July 15, 2015, 9:28 am

      I got so excited when I saw there was something new on the homepage haha.

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    • kare

      kare July 15, 2015, 9:32 am

      That line stood out to me too. I don’t have children, but I was under the impression that responsibility typically falls on the parents. Plus, if you’re not sure you can handle two kids without weekly help, maybe you aren’t ready for a third. And even if the house isn’t an active farm, any property with land is going to require a lot of maintenance.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy July 15, 2015, 9:38 am

      Such a good point, Ika. Your kids are YOUR responsibility!! If you can’t handle that much responsibility, don’t keep having babies, geez.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph July 15, 2015, 9:46 am

    Good work Joanie! May you continue to be a great sleeper, for your parents’ sake!

    As for the LW, yeah this is a mess and the house is the least of your issues. You can’t handle your 2 kids without your parents help, you definitely shouldn’t be moving farther from them or having another kid, and you shouldn’t be moving to a bigger house that will require more upkeep and cleaning. Work on getting your life in order to the point where you and your husband can care for your existing children and house without help (in case it becomes necessary) before you add more responsibilities to the mix.

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  • findingtheearth

    findingtheearth July 15, 2015, 10:10 am

    I live in Montana so when I hear farm, I think of crops, horses, live stock, being at least an hour out of town, and long days and short nights. Farmers spend a lot of money on upkeep, usually rarely making much of a profit for the first few years. I also know in other places, a farm means quaint land in the country with an oldish looking house.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros July 15, 2015, 10:11 am

    Not sure if you’re joking about fate or not. It might seem like the option to buy the farmhouse just fell out of the sky at an opportune moment, as though it is fate. In reality, as families age, oftentimes the selling of a family home does coincide with younger couples expanding their families and homes. It doesn’t mean that the younger family moving into the family home is meant to be. So, it’s best to keep fate out of it and just make a logical decision based on what is best for your family.

    I also agree with the points Wendy and the others have mentioned. It’s one thing to prefer to have family nearby and to accept their support. However, if you feel that taking care of your children without your parents’ help would be unmanageable, I would definitely think long and hard before having another child right now. As Wendy mentioned, even if you don’t move, there’s no guarantee your parents will be capable of providing child care or will be willing to as time goes on.

    If you for sure cannot fit another child in your home, then I’d suggest moving to another house near where you live now. The fact that you can live in a place in which both families are close by is something that a lot of people would be envious of.

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  • becboo84

    becboo84 July 15, 2015, 10:16 am

    I took the LW’s comments a little bit differently, but that could be because my parents also “help” us out a lot with our kiddos. Three to four days a week during the school year, my daughter takes the bus to her pop pop’s house, who lives just a few miles from us, and then he brings her home about 40 minutes later after my husband or I are home from work. During the summer, my daughter goes to a lot of half day camps and then spends the afternoons with her grandparents. Personally, I consider us incredibly blessed that both sets of grandparents are able to be so involved in my kids’ lives. And sure, it helps us out (although we would simply pay an after school sitter if my dad wasn’t available and send her to full day summer camp) because it saves us $, but more importantly, everyone involved is benefitting from these close relationships. I wasn’t close with my grandparents at all growing up (both sets lived several hours away and were pretty elderly by the time I was born), and I am so happy that my kids have those relationships. I have no idea if the situation with the LW is similar, but I think it’s possible people jumped the gun regarding the help she receives from her parents and in law.

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    • Ika

      Ika July 15, 2015, 10:19 am

      But the way LW phrased us is the issue. I also was lucky to count on my mum for a lot of help when the kids were little, or during school vacations now. But I have never considered her “responsible” for my kids.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover July 15, 2015, 12:26 pm

        I didn’t read it that she thought her parents had responsibility for her kids. I read it that she thinks that she’ll be the one with an added workload if her parents aren’t helping (as opposed to splitting the extra work with her husband). It’s a reasonable concern if her current workload is based on her parents’ help. If she has to, for example, cut back hours at work to cover the time that her parents used to cover, then that’s potentially a hit to income and career. I didn’t get the impression she doesn’t think it’s her job to take care of her kids, rather that the shift in who does what will end up with her having more work than she might be able to handle.

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      SpaceySteph July 15, 2015, 10:28 am

      I do agree that there’s no shame in taking help from family. I would love it if my family were available because I do think everyone benefits from the arrangement more than just leaving kids with a babysitter.
      But I think the reason people are a bit rankled by this LW is this section here:
      “My family helps with the children almost weekly and my husband’s family only about once a month or less. I’m afraid that, by moving near them, we wouldn’t get much help and that more responsibility would fall on me.”
      Such a sense of entitlement. She’s worried if she moves, her parents won’t help out as much and she’ll have to take care of her own kids more. Um, sorry, but they are foremost your kids. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for her. If she said she was worried that her kids would miss out on time with her parents, then the tone of the responses would be different.

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  • avatar

    FossilChick July 15, 2015, 10:35 am

    LW, the options you’ve presented are 1. buy the farm house so you can have a third child that will result in you getting less support than you have now with just 2 kids, or 2. stay where you are, and either delay/not have a third baby or give up “constantly looking for a farm house” and look for affordable options in your current location, where your parents are giving you more help with the kids. To me, one of these is a no-brainer and the other sounds like a nightmare.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom July 16, 2015, 7:42 am

    One thing to keep in mind when making any big decision. It only works if it works in all aspects of your life.
    .
    If the childcare aspect doesn’t work then that is a big deal. Partly that depends on how long you will need help with childcare? How old are your kids? How long would you need a childcare option? If you had a baby then five years. How much extra stress would this add to your life and is the farm worth it? How good are the schools in the school district with the farm? Even if you home school property values are very much dependent on the quality of the local public schools so a bad school system will mean that your property value doesn’t increase and might even decrease. If this farm was your biggest investment in life then you need that investment to grow. Would you farm or rent the farm? How would it affect commute time or would you both find different jobs? If it increases commute time and it makes childcare more difficult I don’t think I would do it because the added stress is a huge negative in your life.
    .
    I understand the desire to keep a family farm in the family. I grew up on a farm. My brother now owns the farm where my dad grew up. My mom was raised in the same house her dad was and my uncle lives there now. My sister is married to a farmer who lives on the family farm that his grandfather owned. Still that family farm only works for you if it does actually work for you. Many of us who grew up on family farms don’t live on the farm.
    .
    To discuss this with your husband I think the two of you need to talk about the pros and cons of living on this farm. Be realistic with both. Can you afford it? How does it affect your ability to get to your current jobs? How would it affect your kids? How would you handle childcare? If you can’t figure out a workable solution for each con on the list then you shouldn’t do it.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom July 16, 2015, 7:51 am

      Also, is the house in good shape? Are the floors level or sloped? Sloped would indicate the foundation is shifting. Is the plaster being held on the wall by layers of wallpaper? I know of many farm houses with the two above conditions. Are the bathrooms the originals? Many old farm houses have one very old bathroom. Can you afford to remodel if needed. How is the wiring? Most of the work done on a farm house was done by the farmer who lived in it. Some did excellent work and some didn’t. Which type of work has been done on this house.
      .
      If you are in an area that irrigates is the water table able to sustain the irrigation? If the farm doesn’t use irrigation is it in an area that keeps experiencing drought conditions? Drought conditions are probably going to become more common, interspersed with increasingly heavy rains that wash out crops and knock down crops near harvest. Are you up for that? Can you handle the uncertainty of not knowing if the farm will generate any money in any specific year or will you work off the farm and the farm income will be irrelevant?

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom July 16, 2015, 10:05 am

      What taxes does the farm have? Don’t assume the tax level is the same as your current home. The taxes may be much higher than your current taxes.
      .
      If you plan to farm will the sale price include the machinery? Is the machinery seriously dated. Has his dad kept things running by rebuilding them every year?

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