Making a granny flat work for you

There are pros and cons to moving into a granny flat in your grown-up child’s backyard. But as this woman’s story shows, if you take the right approach it can be a win-win for both sides.

When Astrid Donaldson was made redundant from her long-term job two years ago, she found herself suffering from adrenal fatigue and needing some support. She decided to move in with her son (and his wife and baby) – despite the fact his home was an hour and a half away – in order to recover.

Donaldson, 59, spent the first six months living in the house, before moving into the granny flat they had installed on the property. It’s a decision she doesn’t regret in the slightest. “It’s good being so close to them and being involved in their lives,” she says. “The security of having family there, especially when you’re divorced and on your own like me is really good too.”

The best parts
Living on the same property as her family has also given Donaldson the opportunity to bond with her one-year-old grandson. “He’s in day care three days a week and I look after him for two days a week, and I love it,” she says, adding that they’re all careful to respect each other’s privacy and not take advantage. “I enjoy having my own space and my own setup. And you don’t want your adult child to feel like you’re watching over their life.”

This arrangement has worked well for them, allowing Donaldson the time to create her own life in a new place, which she cites as her greatest hurdle. “I haven’t made any friends up here yet,” she says of the difficulty she’s experienced in moving away from her old area.

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Living in a granny flat has given Donaldson the ability to recover, both personally and financially, from her redundancy, and she’s now contemplating what’s next. “I’ve been looking for a part-time job,” she says, hopeful that this will be the final piece of the puzzle.

What to bear in mind
If you’re thinking of moving into a granny flat at your adult child’s home, you might like to consider this advice first:

  • Paying your way. 
    It’s important to have conversations about financial arrangements early on, to avoid any conflict. “I paid for my own granny flat, and I contribute towards utilities like electricity and gas,” says Donaldson. “It’s best to establish those arrangements up front.”
  • Setting boundaries
    Living in each other’s pockets would be a recipe for disaster, so it’s important to set limits. “We only have dinner together once a week, so I just look after myself,” Donaldson says, adding that this avoids them all living on top of each other.
  • Mutual help and support
    Helping each other out can make it a good arrangement for both parties. “I help with the washing, ironing and babysitting,” Donaldson explains, “while they cook me dinner once a week.”
  • No mothering.
    “You can’t tell your adult child what to do or how to live their life,” Donaldson says. “You have to let them do what they need to do, even if you think your advice would be helpful.” This can be tricky, she admits, but it’s an essential part of making life in a granny flat work.
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Have you ever had to live with your adult children? Have you considered moving into a granny flat? 

 

    This article has been sponsored by NRMA’s Living Well Navigator.  

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