Under one roof

Anna Grummitt reflects on the surprising joys of living with her in-laws for months - and the enduring value of in-person relationships.

My in-laws are currently staying with me and my husband, and it’s going much better than I expected.

Before they arrived from Peru in August, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about their visit. On top of all the cultural and generational differences we could clash over, the prospect of squashing four adults and a toddler into our two-bedroom/one-bathroom apartment until December just felt like a lot.

But surprisingly, it’s been great so far. Sure, there have been moments of tension, and I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time on Domain wistfully looking at bigger places to live. But having their help with our 13-month-old son has outweighed these challenges. It’s also been so beautiful seeing him get to know and love them.

Because of course, before this, he didn’t know them. Despite our frequent video calls, at the airport my son clung to me, understandably shy in the presence of “strangers”. But after seeing and touching and interacting with them in person, he quickly became attached.

There are some things lockdowns seem to have changed permanently – Zoom meetings and telehealth and remote-work are still common. But once again, people are paying exorbitant sums to travel across the world to see family – because when it comes to deep, personal relationships, video-calls just don’t cut it.

Reading his letters in the Bible, it’s clear the Apostle Paul shared this view. “We were orphaned by being separated from you … out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you,” he writes to the Thessalonian church.

Letters weren’t enough for Paul in the first century, and video-calls aren’t enough for us today. Loving, in-person relationships are central to being human, and to child development. It’s worth sacrificing some space in my apartment for that.