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770551 tn?1305578901

Live in Mother in Law

My MIL has lived with us for 3 years.  She is 55 in good health.  This is a temporary thing that was suppose to last about a year or until she got job.  She then wanted to go back to school, I supported her in this.  She has now chosen not to go for a job in the field she has now trained in.  She has watched my children from time to time but not for more than an hour or two due to the fact she won't take them out of the house (not even the back yard).  They end up watching TV all day & are stir crazy by the time I get home so I pay for child care.  She helped us out with some plumbing expenses over a year ago & has given $10 or $20 every two months or so towards groceries.  If averaged out this is less that $75.00 a month over the last three years.  I plan the meals, Shop, Cook, and serve the meals.  Never once has she whole heartedly offered to make dinner even though she has been home all day and I work full time.  I clean the house, budget & pay the bills.  

Due to some unforeseen events I could not budget in the cable bill this month.  I told her the cable would be out between today & my next payday.  I asked if she would be willing to pick up the bill this month (she watches the majority the TV in the house, about 7 to 10 hours on the living room set a day on average).  She said the outage didn't bother her she was going to be gone this week anyway.

It wasn't even that she said no, it was the fact that she acted like if it didn't effect her why bother.

She is a quiet & small women.  I would discribe her as mouse like. Her reaction to confronation, conversation & suggestions makes me fell very aggressive and almost bullying.

I have made her a place in my home, supported her when she left her husband, supported her to find a new career.  I am starting to feel resentful that she is taking advantage.  

Any words of advise for this situation would be helpful.

I'm not so full of sunshine today.
5 Responses
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765715 tn?1235398661
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL

Dear Sunshine,

You may have the tendency toward pushiness, but it's not evident here. From what you've told me, you do need to nudge her gently toward more self-sufficiency.  I think you and your husband have made a great start, with your agreement about her monetary contribution.

I think the key to the next step is not her but your husband’s awareness of his evidently unconscious tendency to protect her from the “bad husband.” The little boy, on the white horse indeed, protecting mom. And himself, insofar as he was also the victim of his father’s mistreatment, forced to separate from his mother way too early.

I'd pose it as a question. Tell him you know that when this kind of thing happens, it can be confusing to figure out what the “protect-ee” really needs. How much protection is necessary, and how much a holdover from the old days? Suggest he try to work on this. If he's up for it, say also that you know (you read it here first!) that people in this situation can feel very guilty if they set limits on the protect-ee.

If he gets it a bit more than at present, his mother may sense this, and may not be be so averse to either paying her share or even getting a bit of counseling to set herself a new course in life, instead of waiting out her life, drifting. Awareness of the effects of what we went through are often critical for genuine behavior change, and have major positive, long-term payoff. If she balks, sulks, or shuts down, ok, but she still has to pull her weight.

Another tack would be to have the three of you do a bit of family therapy. This would illuminate the issues past and present for everyone, and take the onus off the MIL, while allowing her to understand her issues over time. My guess is that this would be a very fruitful approach.

Finally, you may want to share our conversation with your husband. He's certainly welcome from my point of view! I'd also be happy to speak with him about this matter, any time.

Sincerely,

Dr. P.
Helpful - 1
765715 tn?1235398661
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Dear Sunshine,

Excellent! I didn't think it would be so easy, at least initially.

I think the key to continued smooth running is the quiet conveying of expectations by you and your husband jointly, as mentioned previously. You two need to be on the same page, the same way you need to be with a child. If she understands in her gut that her cooperation is part of a (mandatory) long-term plan in which she's EXPECTED to participate, REGULARLY and CONTINUALLY, she's more likely to do so.

If she balks, you can go ahead and activate the ideas we developed. But maybe you won't have to. Wouldn't that be nice!


Regards,

Dr. P.

P.S. I'm glad you're past the guilt. It's not justified unless we do something bad to a person, for no reality based reason.  


Helpful - 0
770551 tn?1305578901
SO FAR SO GOOD
She paid the Cable & put another $100.00 towards groceries.  We have talked a little about a plan.  She is going to start putting out applications next month.  This month she has committed to helping while our niece (her granddaughter) earns her High School diploma (driving her to and from the class etc.) which I am totally more than OK with.  I know better than to think this will run smoothly, but now I am prepared to give her a push without feeling guilty.
Thanks Doc.
Helpful - 0
770551 tn?1305578901
Thank you so much.  

After posting the original message I did speak to my husband.  We are trying to find a way to compromise and agree on an action to take.   We have agreed the she should take 1/5 of the straight household expenses (water, gas, CABLE, etc.) to start.  I was hesitant to ask this of her when she moved in.  I didn’t want her to assume that staying at our house as a permenant situation, but three years is too long without some regular contribution to the household.

My husband views his mother as I described before, a mouse that needs to be protected.  This comes partly from the way he saw his father treat her.  So it is hard to get him off his white horse and realize she is a grown woman not a helpless damsel.

After going over and over this in my head I see a woman who allows herself to be over run so that she doesn't have to take responsibility for the things in her life (good or bad).  
She was forced to work because her husband couldn't hold down a job.  She was forced to let my husband live with his grandmother from age 4-8 because her husband was abusive.  She has blocked out so many incidents from my husband & his sister’s childhood because she doesn’t want to see how she played into them.  Many times I have felt like she is trying to push me into making decisions for her (things as small as a dinner order in a restaurant to whether she should quit school for a job she was offered).   She did leave her husband of 38 years, but still talks to him 10 times a day on the phone.

I don’t want to come off as a witch.  I love my MIL.  She is a good person & loving Grandmother.  I want her to see she is a strong person.  I want her to live a full life.    
I think she could benefit by going to counseling.  I don’t want to make it an ultimatum (If you live here you need to go see someone).    Any advice on how to approach this?

Am I being to pushy?  I do have a tendency :-)
Helpful - 0
765715 tn?1235398661
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Dear Sunshine,

I'd tell her that it just wasn't working for you the way things are set up. That you're working very hard, and that you're having to pay too much for extras. A few simple things on her part could help, such as ACTIVELY minding the children, so that you wouldn't have to pay for a baby sitter, contributing some more money to offset the extra cash you have to lay out for her, making dinner, etc. Some significant contribution is needed at this point. I'd say it in a clear and firm, but quiet voice. Let her respond any way she wants. But it will be up to you to NOT let the  matter drop.

It may be that she sees herself as “retired,” or that she's afraid to be in the world any more, or just wants to be taken care of. In any case, she won't get the message unless you deliver it right into her brain, perhaps many times. It will probably be like getting a teenager to clean up the dishes. Many repetitions may be needed, and there may be many excuses offered before she complies.

If she says she'll change, but doesn't, get her to specify exactly what she'll do, and when. Then, WITH YOUR HUSBAND’S KNOWLEDGE AND AGREEMENT, keep at it, reminding her. If necessary, if she either digs in, gets passive-aggressive, or gets mad, have a meeting with the three of you. Have several if necessary, periodically. The whole spirit is that you're reasonable and practical, but unflappable, and just keep on a-coming. It may take months. Don't capitulate if she gets into tears, anger, or anything else.  Eventually she'll probably just shape up because if she doesn't, it will mean another of “those awful meetings!”

Two other things. First, make sure you and your husband are on the same page with this. Talk about how it's going periodically. Unconsciously, she may try to play the two of you off against each other, or go to your spouse and tell him how you said “awful” things. Second, you need to realize that you're not being bullying, just realistic. If you have any doubt, ask your husband to hear exactly what you are going to say, and how you're going to say it. You definitely have my own input that what you're about is appropriate, NOT overly aggressive, sadistic, or unrealistic. You're not actually torturing a mouse. You're talking to a grown woman who'd rather not get her rear in gear and contribute to the family! You can change this, and I think you will!

Sincerely,

Dr. P.
Helpful - 0

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