What’s the correct amount of time for a family to live under one roof?

I’m stunned by how many moments in each passing day that are, what I like to call, “throw away” moments.  Things you choose not to react to because what would be the point, knowing that speaking your truth, or your mind would gain zero ground in the given situation.  This doesn’t happen all that often for me, because as my entire family likes to remind me; I’m “confrontational.”  Lately, this label has felt less like a positive, but more like the negative they perceive it to be.

Which of course has me questioning:  In our lives that we share with other people, how much of ourselves should we “dumb down” in order to get along?  I watch for this in my three girls.  I see how they bite their tongues when they don’t agree with me or Yannick, torn between being our “little girls” and being the independent free-thinking women they’ve become over their twenty odd years on this planet.  I do it with Yannick when he’s driving me crazy, and he does the same with me when my attitude rubs him the wrong way.

Making the choice to fall silent, rather than stand up for your beliefs/feelings.  Is this wise, or is it self-sabotage?

Is this why marriages don’t last?

Is this why children stop calling home, and stop visiting?

Because the burden of “going with the flow” becomes too much?

So many “hmmms”…that my head is spinning.

Perhaps it is because we just spent ten straight days together that has me wondering these things, or maybe it’s just the passing of time in a long-term relationship.  Either way I can’t help but wonder if while living and breathing under one roof together are we being our true authentic selves?  Are we fully living out loud, allowing our freak flags to fly high and proud, or are we playing it safe?  Being the “characters” we think we must be so as not to upset the balance that others require within their own souls to live in peace?

Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm.

I mean there is an element of “playing by the rules” that happens in a family.  There are character traits within ourselves that we manage, because, after all we’re all deserving of being happy in our own homes, our own lives, and our own skin.  So how do we continue to do this dance all these years later, as we humans, family members, lovers, and partners settle more and more into ourselves?  Yannick and I discuss this all the time, wondering out loud to one another if our friends who have met later in life have an easier time of “getting along” in their intimate relationships because both are settled into themselves, or, is it better to grow up with one another?  It makes us both go “hmmm” and truly leaves us without any answers, since the only truth we know is that we’ve spent more of our living years together than we ever did apart.  Which means we’ve done considerable damage along the way.  Treated one another in ways that, one would hope, a mature “together” couple wouldn’t.  Plus there is the seemingly constant struggle to communicate in a positive, constructive way.  One would think after all these years together, as husband and wife, mother and father to our girls, that we wouldn’t fuck up with saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Yet, despite all this history we still manage to upset the family balance seemingly daily.

How can that be?  Isn’t that so strange that after all these years, and all this time together we all don’t have a shorthand that doesn’t offend, upset or get misinterpreted when shared?

Which has me wondering just how long cohabitation should go on for, and how much of it is actually “normal”???  How many years should we all live under one roof?  In many cultures, it is not unusual for families to share homes.  Mothers and fathers on one level, with children, and grandchildren on another.  Sharing all the burdens, and joys of this thing called life, living as one big happy family under one roof.

But I wonder is this ideal, and is it best for everybody involved?

After spending a week and a half with our girls, as well as we all get along, I can’t help but feel that in order for us all to be our best, most authentic selves it is better that we all have some autonomy.  We even navigated a few extremely shitty/stressful moments on our adventure with little (not none) drama or upset.  But YB and I have noticed that the dynamic in our relationship shifts significantly when we’re living with our girls, and neither of us are really quite sure why that is.  I just know one thing for sure, something I didn’t know even twelve short months ago; my girls are adults, I miss the simplicity of our lives when they were little, I miss the structure and the schedules.  I miss my youthfulness, and definitely my taught skin, and perky breasts, but I definitely believe that I’m ready for this next phase of my life to begin.  I’m ready to be myself, unedited, authentic and true. I’m ready for some space, not because I don’t love them, not because I’m angry, but because I think we’ve all grown, and we’re all ready for the next stage of our lives.  The part where we go out into the world and become whole, and hopefully within that self-discovery we gain a couple more son in laws, and some grand babies; beginning yet another chapter in the Bisson family book of life.


  1. Great post! 2 of our 3 children are out on their own. The 3rd one is still at home. Since the 2 older ones live out of town, when they visit, they stay overnight. They always say they’re happy to visit but couldn’t live with us anymore. They’ve established their own habits and routines. My husband and I bite our tongues when they take over all of our horizontal space. Their clutter multiplies! Now the younger one is just establishing her career and because we’re downsizing, she’ll be leaving the nest in 6 months. Secretly I wonder if she laments to her siblings how mom and dad drive her crazy. Don’t get me wrong, we are a close and
    loving family. The dynamics change in the house when it’s just my husband and I. It’s obvious that you’re a loving Mom. I had the privilege once of meeting your lovely daughter Brianna. I asked her if her parents were strict. She paused and thoughtfully said: “Only for the important things” What a tribute to you and your husband!

  2. I think it all comes down to communication. We simply do not do a great job of expressing our feelings without attributing motives to others. It’s human nature, we say.

    But, I think we just don’t get enough instruction/ training in how to express ourselves clearly, without anger ( perhaps because we’ve bitten our tongues for too long on an issue) and without the assumptions we so often make about the actions of others. We rarely try to see an issue from the ‘other’ perspective.

    But, I’m a communications major, so I’m probably biased!

  3. The picture makes it look like you all survived and thrived over those days. Hopefully you were all able to fly some of your ‘freak flags ‘ and not play it safe all the time, We find that flying those flags and laughing a lot makes living under that one roof a bit easier.
    Not sure the ‘girls’ were ever perky but do miss the youthfulness. with the kids being adults an started off on their paths in. life, the next phases will be exciting Growing families, fun and laughter and some drama along the way. Cherish the time under one roof when you have it But Be sure to find space for you as well as for you and YB.

  4. Very provocative post. The conflict between individuality and group dynamics. If statistics are any measure, more and more Westerners are chosing to live independently because it’s easier. Hard work getting along. In other cultures, custom and poverty keep larger family units together, but I can’t imagine they have any secret to getting along either. Parts of our lives by necessity intersect and we must keep the peace at the expense of our individuality. But there are parts of our lives no one else invades and that is our space to be ourselves. I don’t think it’s negative or positive how we behave if we love each other. We just are human and we have to forgive. I’m in the grandkids, saggy skin stage of life. I’m doing my thing 90% of the time and loving it. But I am a bit of a loner and know I have to have my space or I’ll go nuts. Fortunately, my kids respect this, as I respect their needs to privacy and in raising their kids as they see fit. If I disagree, and sometimes I do, I let them know and that’s the end. I don’t hammer on them because as you point out, it’s counter productive. The questions you pose are universal ones of finding balance in your lives and I doubt they are ever solved, but it’s good to ponder on them.

  5. I believe you hit the nail on the head! But I also may add that once each of us “family members” goes off on their own, then comes back, the family dynamic changes. This is where you see the divide very clearly. Now, adjusting to it is another thing. I saw it first hand when I moved into my own apartment at 19 years old. I was working, I could take care of myself, handle money, etc. I did that until I got engaged, then I moved back home to save money for the wedding. That move home was difficult at first with my parents still trying the “while you’re under my roof,, my rules apply”. That didn’t fly with me. I had to straddle their rules and my independence. Eventually we all calmed down and accepted our respective growths. I know we were all happy when I finally moved out and we all settled into the next phase of our lives. It wasn’t easy for my parents, but eventually, we all lived our respective lives peacefully, respectfully and admirably.

  6. I live with my twin sister and have for almost all of our 57 years – except University and my moving West first. After our Dad passes, Mom decided she would winter with us from Ontario!!!! She is now up to 6 months. They should have had more kids not stopping after us to share the burden. I work in healthcare and feel like the caregiver when I get home. You do what you have to do for family, though it is a bit much at times. The Dynamics change.

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