“Don’t live within sight of the in-laws”. When I say that in a workshop it results in lots of laughter and some guilty looks. Yes I know some people live very close to each other on the farm yard and get on fine. In fact they find it useful to have baby sitters on hand. However I have seen the other side on frequent occasions.
Living too close to the in-laws can result in divorce and serious mental health issues in my experience. I’ve met daughters-in-law who feel they are being bullied by their mother-in-law and sisters-in-law and sons who feel they can’t get a break from an over bearing father. Therefore deciding where you live is a serious decision.
It can seem the ideal solution to convert an old farm building so that both generations can live on the farmyard, particularly if the older generation are not ready to leave. But this can result in more problems than it solves. Different generations can find it difficult to work together anyway and if they can’t get away from each other at the end of the working day that can place a huge strain on all involved. Add to that the in-laws and their need for autonomy and privacy and it can be an uncomfortable arrangement.Yes it can be a more affordable option but a divorce can be very expensive!
Of course I am aware that sometimes the planners or land agents view conversion of a farm building as an ideal solution but they often don’t understand the effect that can have on the family involved. This is something we all need to make them aware of. This of course adds to the need for more affordable and suitable rural housing.
There can also be difficulties if a barn conversion adds more value to the farm and is seen as a problem when splitting assets between siblings. It may not be a good idea for a brother or sister who is not farming to inherit the barn conversion. This often means the farming brother or sister gets all the assets and this can cause problems.
However we are where we are and if you are living close to the in-laws there are a few things you can do to make life easier for everyone. Make sure everyone has their own space on the yard to park cars etc. Also a part of the garden to hang washing and leisure use. Maybe you need to set some ground rules like knocking on the door instead of walking right in. Times when people are ‘unavailable’ except in an emergency.
All this boils down to having a thorough and open conversations about living arrangements at an early stage and being aware of the pitfalls as well as the advantages.