Two Homes, One Roof


It’s not always easy to explain to new friends how our family has chosen to have two homes under one roof. For some people, the idea of having their in-laws living just below their feet brings immediate anxiety; for others, it almost gives them a sense of relief.

I recently started participating in a moms group at my church. When I went to my first meeting a couple of weeks ago, we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves. There were 3 questions to answer.

  1. State your name.
  2. Tell them about your family (kid’s names, ages, husband’s name, number of years you have been married).
  3. Give a “fun fact” about yourself.

I stood and listened to the other moms answer the questions, they provided all kinds of “fun facts”… their favorite ice cream flavor, their favorite travel spot, or maybe a cool hobby they had. When it was my turn, I started my response, “Hi, I’m Erin Darnell, I have 2 boys. JJ is 4 and Harrison is 2. I have been married to my husband Zac for 8 years and my “fun fact” is that…my in-laws live with us! As the words came out of my mouth, there was a resounding “gasp” when I mentioned this fact. Not necessarily in a bad way, but I heard comments like “Free babysitting!!” and “Oh my goodness I could never do that!” so, I got to thinking about the subject. I’m sure there are a lot of people wondering why we have chosen this living arrangement. I figured this might be a good place to clear up some questions and maybe help others to see how instead of it being a scary idea, it’s really actually genius. Let me explain…

In late 2017 the main level of our house flooded, and we had to go live with my husband’s mother and step-father in their 3 bedroom ranch for a week while everything at our house could be dried out. At the time, my children were 2 years old and 3 months old, and I had a job working from home. The idea of being cooped up with my in-laws in their home for 7 days straight was stressful, to say the least…but we hunkered down and made the best of it. That week was really not as difficult as I expected it to be. My father-in-law spent a lot of time playing with the boys while I got work done, and I was able to cook meals for the entire family. I was surprised how supported I felt and how much less isolating it was having my in-laws around.

It was during that time that we sort of dreamed up this idea. They were interested in downsizing and finding a way to have less maintenance for their home plus having more freedom for travel, etc. We were interested in moving to a new location while also simplifying a bit since we had plans for me to become a stay-at-home mom in early 2018. The idea actually started as a joke between my husband and his mom. They would say, “What if we just bought one big house all together?!” After the idea was planted, we both really starting thinking about it, and it actually seemed like something great. After a few months of searching, we found a house that really met both of our needs very well. My in-laws have a completely separate living space in our basement with its own kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a full bath, and plenty of living area. Our family of 4 has the main level and upstairs of the home with 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. The house works so well for all of our needs and we all love our neighborhood and home so much. We strive to respect each other’s privacy but also really enjoy spending time together. My boys love their special time to go to the basement and play and hang out with their grandparents. I also REALLY appreciate being able to leave the baby monitor during nap time to run an errand or go grocery shopping alone when they are able to keep the boys for me. Almost daily, while I am cooking dinner, “Papa” will come upstairs to play with the boys or even take them to the park. It’s truly a joy having them around. I feel like I have hit the jackpot in the world of being a stay-at-home mom. It gives me such a good balance in my life. Our living arrangement has not come without its challenges, but in the last 18 months, those times have been few and far between. The “good” majorly outweighs the “bad.” So, now you can tell me what you think… scary or genius?!


  1. I believe this is ideal in many families and of course some it would never work. I feel you are very blessed and are a blessing. So happy this is working the way you all hoped.

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