Wednesday August 8, 2012
Multiple generations under one roof
THERE are many families who still believe in the traditional model of three generations living under one roof.
Accountant Michelle Mah has been living with her parents-in-law, sister-in-law, husband and two children in a three-storey shophouse in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, for the past six years.
The ground floor is the family-owned grocery shop managed by Mah’s husband Hee Ket Lun, 34. The second floor is their warehouse, and the family lives on the topmost floor.
“Before we got married, my husband asked if I would agree to live with his family. He was very open about it and said if I felt uncomfortable with the idea, we could always find a place of our own. Seeing that I’ve always had a good relationship with my then future in-laws, I agreed,” recalls Mah, 31.
Mah and her husband come from a small family, with only a sibling each.
“When my brother got married, he continued to live with my parents. If he had moved out, I think I would be worrying about my parents’ wellbeing all the time. That made me realise how important it is for my husband to stay close to his family,” Mah says.
Things have since been running quite smoothly in the household, even after two active kids, now aged two and four, were added to the equation.
“During the day, my daughter would be at a daycare centre; my son, at a babysitter’s house. After work, I’ll pick them up and return home, where I’ll bathe my daughter while my husband watches over my naughty son,” Mah shares.
She rarely has to worry about household chores, as her in-laws help out.
“Dinner is always ready once we’re all settled; my mother-in-law always makes sure of that. After that, the family spends time in the living room watching cartoons with the kids. I can’t imagine what would happen if we were to stay on our own. Would the kids even have dinner on time? Would we still have any spare time left to spend with them?”
Differences do still exist, what with so many adults living under one roof.
“My parents-in-law are Buddhists while my husband and I are Christians. There are some areas in which we handle things differently based on our religion.
Once, my mother-in-law wanted to bring my son, who had eczema, to the temple to pray for his recovery. She sought our permission first and when we said no, she never asked again. I’m really thankful for her understanding and respect for our religious views.”
For Mah, communication is key.
“I’ve heard of many cases where children are spoilt because their grandparents are against them being disciplined. This happened to us too in the early stages of disciplining our daughter, so we had to explain to my parents-in-law that we only want what’s best for our kids. Now we share the responsibility of disciplining them together.”
Last year, the family went on their first vacation together. The trip to Hong Kong was initiated by Mah’s husband, who is considered the head of the household.
Come 2013, the Hee family, with nobody left behind, will be moving to a bigger home.
“My parents-in-law think of me as their own daughter, and to my sister-in-law, I am the sister she never had. I love them like my own family.
“There’s always love and respect in our household – it’s values like these that get passed on from generation to generation,” Mah opines.
Family in the vicinity