Being the live-in companion to a bunch of guys young enough to be my sons, I had to make a concerted effort to not be the ‘mom’ of the house. We came up with the ‘bossy big sister’ role instead.
It can be a difficult role to navigate, the live-in person to a bunch of guys who are old enough to live independently, want to make all of their own decisions as young adults, but who are still in need of support in order to succeed. So I tried to imagine them as younger somewhat annoying brothers who leave their trash around the house, hog the TV, inhale all the good junk food, and who don’t really care if their socks smell or if they have gone four days with out a shower. Once I got that picture in my head, our relationships fell into place. ‘Self-determination’ is a tricky balance of minding my own business and declaring my right to an odor-free living environment. I have now had a year of practice not saying the first nagging thing that comes to mind as I enter the kitchen and everyone’s dishes are in the sink…with food on them. I can’t ‘demand’..but boy can I whine!
I spent many years in a university setting getting various college degrees. During this time, I lived with other students in big houses with lots of bedrooms. Everyone has their own pet peeves in these types of living situations, I was the ‘kitchen police’. I love to cook…. and I clean up as I go when I am preparing a meal. I never had a lot of tolerance for housemates who trashed the kitchen, and I still don’t. So when the guys leave food out, or they don’t throw away trash or wipe counters… I whine until they do. I am still learning to NOT sound like their mothers.
I also am the one to call a house meeting to talk about dinner schedules, household chores, or group trips coming up. But it is the rest of them that bring up their own pet peeves, and that’s great. They reprimand each other when the music is too loud…. or if someone takes a giant serving of lasagna or eats too many Clementines. Trouble is, they sound like each other’s mother when they do it too! Still working on that one.
By the way, these 6 guys are absolutely the best housemates ever. I have never laughed so hard in my life, or had so many inspiring things happen every day. Somewhere around mid-summer last year, I began to realize that I was not here doing them a favor anymore, I was not just doing this for ‘other families’ to replicate. How lucky am I… to have not one, but six amazingly loyal, caring , interesting, hard-working and brilliantly funny best friends sharing a home. Definitely worth a few smelly socks on the bathroom floor.
(coming soon: how to find and keep a live-in companion for your family member!)