Living next door to mum and dad


Why do some people choose to live next door to their parents? …

Peeking through blinds

For many of us, moving away from the family home is a rite of passage, with the idea of cutting the apron strings an appealing one.

But it’s not for everyone. These people explain what it’s like to live next door to mum and dad.

‘They help look after our pet tortoise’

Image caption Gail Randall shares a driveway with her parents

Gail Randall and her partner moved into the house next door to her parents Ken and Janet three years ago.

“The house was shared ownership so the affordability of it was good, but I did also want to live near my parents,” she says.

Gail’s front door is less than 10ft (3m) away from her mum and dad’s and there is a shared driveway connecting the houses in Plymouth. When she first looked into buying the house, Gail says “a lot of things” went through her mind but any doubts were quickly forgotten.

“They don’t ask where we are and when we are away, they look after the house,” she says.

Image copyright GAIL RANDALL
Image caption Gail and her partner Lisa love living next door to Ken and Janet

“The only reason we’d move is if we decided to have a bigger family. My partner already has a son but if we were to have more than one other child, we’d have to get a bigger house. We have joked about if we do have children, we could knock the houses through so they can come and go as they please! But we’d never move, because of my parents.”

Aside from finding it “comforting” to live where she grew up, there’s another benefit to having some familiar faces next door.

“They help do our garden and look after our pet tortoise,” she says. “We don’t have grass so she goes next door to Mum and Dad’s to eat theirs!”

‘I’d recommend it to anyone’

Image copyright WENDY LEWIS
Image caption Wendy Lewis with her mum and uncle soon after she moved in next to her parents in August 1966

In 1965, the house next to Wendy Lewis‘s parents was put up for sale – something she saw as a “perfect opportunity”.

“My mother had just taken in my disabled uncle and I thought she really did need a hand to look after him,” Wendy says.

Although the house in Charmouth Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, needed redecorating, Wendy and her husband Jim thought it was worth taking on “because it was very cheap for that road”. House price aside, Wendy’s husband was also “absolutely happy” to move in next door to his in-laws.

Image copyright WENDY LEWIS
Image caption A gate between the two houses meant Wendy’s children could visit their grandparents easily

“At that time, he was doing a lot of extra work for my father who ran his own business – design work,” Wendy says. “He spent a lot of time at my parents’ house drawing in the evening, so to be next door was absolutely ideal. We never had any problems at all.”

Living next door to her parents was especially advantageous to Wendy’s two children, Katy and Steve. “They were very fond of their nan and grandad,” Wendy says. “They spent so much time with them, they were always over there.

“My daughter Katy, when I used to tell her off about something, she’d say ‘I’m going to see Nan!’ and off she’d go. It was very safe for her to do so when she was four or five years old as there was a little gate between the house’s two yards. We never had any major problems whatsoever, everything was advantage.”

Image copyright Wendy Lewis
Image caption “It was so lovely to be right next door”

The living arrangements were also beneficial for Wendy’s parents. “They wanted us to move in,” Wendy says, “especially with the problems my mum had at that particular time with my uncle.

“It was so lovely to be right next door – I’d recommend it to anyone, absolutely.”

Animal instinct: Going back to the nest

Image copyright BSIP/Getty Images
Image caption “When the chips are down, you probably go to your parents”

“I think the psychological nesting concept is a really strong one, going back to something you sense is safe from your past,” says Cary Cooper, professor of psychology and health at the Manchester Business School of the University of Manchester. “If you look at the animal kingdom, they group together as a protective device.”

There are “obvious reasons” for people wanting to live next door to their parents, he says, including having babysitters nearby and for support during difficult times. He points out there is now “no network” like there was a few decades ago, when cousins and other relatives often lived in the same community.

“That’s gone now. We don’t have the social support systems and most of us now are isolated. We’re not near our extended family, we know a few of our neighbours but not many and that’s the society that’s developed over the last 30 years. Psychologically, given the pressures on people today, you’d think we’d want to be closer to our family but there is a stigma associated with saying ‘I’m moving near my parents’.

“People will ask you why you’re doing it, whether you can cope and the fact you’re not a kid any more. But when times go bad, who do you turn to? When the chips are down, you probably go to your parents. I don’t think that’s unhealthy, I think it’s quite healthy. You need that social support.”

‘Initially I wasn’t on board’

Husband and wife, Inderjit and Parminder Samra, from Smethwick in the West Midlands, have been living next door to Inderjit’s parents for five years.

For them though, that’s a lot further away than they were – having previously lived with Inderjit’s parents in their six-bedroom house along with his brother, sister-in-law and nephew.

“Our plan was to move out because we knew once we started having our own family, there wasn’t going to be enough space for all of us under one roof,” Inderjit says. “But nothing really came up in the area we were looking at – we didn’t like the houses. The house next door to my parents just happened to come up.

“Originally, we weren’t keen on the idea because we wanted to move to a different area but we looked at the house and the more we looked at it, the more it started to grow on us. The fact it was next door to the family meant if we needed childcare, we wouldn’t have to travel to drop the kids off. We just knew that mum and dad would be next door.”

However, for Inderjit’s wife, Parminder it took a bit of time to get used to the idea. “Initially I wasn’t on board, I’m going to be honest,” she says. “As much as we get on with the family, we wanted to move away and start our own life. As we were looking for properties though, it just didn’t work.”

The house next door to Inderjit’s parents had an identical layout to the one they lived in with them. “I think at the time for the kids – we only had one then but now have two – everything there was familiar,” Parminder says. “So in the end I just thought, bite my tongue and give it a go. If we didn’t like it, we could think of another option.

“If you asked me five years ago, I was dead against it but now I wouldn’t look back. My mother-in-law does a lot for us. My mum lives in Nottingham so for me, she’s mum all the time.”

Inderjit says their current living arrangement is “all positive”. “Both of us went into it half-heartedly,” he says. “It was a case of let’s just move in and let’s see how it goes, as the worst-case scenario was that we could sell the house – at least we’d given it a go.

“Now, we wouldn’t even consider moving to another area.”

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