Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Hate that My Husband Takes Care of His Mother”

In the beginning, I absolutely adored my MIL and had no worries about the promise my husband had made (long before I knew him) to always take care of her because she had a stroke several years earlier. Now, my husband has medically retired from the Army and I am a full-time student and mom. When he retired, we found out I was pregnant so we talked about moving in with one of his parents until his VA pay kicked in. I chose for us to move in with his mother not realizing how bad off she was.

The very day we got to her house she began accusing us of taking things, and just finding any and every complaint she could find to make. Here we were deep cleaning her house, since she let it get really nasty, just so we can live there with my 8-year-old daughter (from a previous relationship), and she’s picking arguments with us almost daily for six months. We pay the majority of the bills, take care of the house, provide the groceries, and drive her to and from her appointments. Whenever she asks us to do something she always says, “Whenever you get the chance, doesn’t have to be right now.” Yet, if the request isn’t fulfilled shortly after, she gets pissy. Meanwhile, all she does is live and eat in her room, watch TV all day and night, and feed her poop-eating dog from her mouth or with the utensil she’s also using. Plus, she has unhealthy hygiene (like, she only bathes once a week and sometimes does not wash her hands before putting them in shared food like chips or shredded cheese), and she lets her dog, who stays cooped up in her room all day, use puppy pads that she keeps until either my husband and I complain about the smell.

On top of all that, she has a bad memory and the worst judgment and I don’t want my daughter or newborn to be around her. When my husband was two, she gave him weed to try to get him to go to sleep, and saw nothing wrong with being naked around him and allowing other females to be naked around him clear up to his teen years. One day, she and I were talking about how babies get hiccups and I told her I used to give my oldest a little bit of water and she suggested to give a bit of honey to coat the baby’s throat!!!! She falls walking on a flat surface with nothing in her hands but she is super mad that my husband and I have made it clear that she will not be caring for the new baby or holding it while walking. In addition, she has fallen asleep with candles still lit, and left knives on the counter (I almost impaled my pregnant belly on one!). She is not to be left alone for a single second with the baby.

I’m literally days away from my due date and my blood pressure has been going up. I have made my concerns clear to my husband that I do not want her living with us when we move out. My FIL (who has been divorced from my MIL for over 40 years) says he’s on our side but that my husband made a promise to his mother and that makes it my promise too. He has directly told me that I’m simply hormonal and I’m just using my children’s safety as an excuse to get my way. But when my husband made the promise to always care for his mother, he wasn’t married, didn’t have a step-child or a brand new baby on the way.

My husband is wonderful but he seems to believe that since his mother is willing to pay part of the bills when we buy a house that she is needed. I’ll graduate in a few days and have been applying to jobs that will hopefully hire me shortly after my baby is born so that we won’t need any of her finances. Am I wrong for wanting my husband to break his promise to his mother that he made sooo long ago? — Not My Promise

So… let me see if I understand this. You’re willing to make the enormous sacrifice of living rent-free with your horrible MIL now, while you can’t afford your own place, but as soon you have a job and “won’t need any of her finances,” you will no longer be willing to make any kind of sacrifice when it comes to her and believe your husband should break his promise to take care of her? Is that right? Well, that’s just the shittiest.

Your MIL sounds ill — maybe mentally ill, in addition to suffering whatever lasting effects she has from her stroke. Not only does she sound like a danger to her grandchildren or anyone else living with her, which you’ve made clear is your concern, she is a danger to herself. Clearly, she does not seem capable of living alone without some care. Where’s your compassion for that? You complain, complain, complain about everything you have to do for her and how grossed out you are by her and about this horrible promise your husband made to, gasp, care for his ailing mother, but wouldn’t you want your kids to show some care for you if you weren’t able to care for yourself and they were in a position to help out a little?

I don’t know the details of this promise your husband made, but to me, caring for someone can be accomplished in numerous ways. It doesn’t have to be living with them (while taking their money, ahem). It could be — and really, should be, in your husband’s case — finding adequate home care or a living environment where his mother will get the physical and medical attention she obviously needs. It could be sitting down with her and going over finances and researching programs she could apply for to help pay for this kind of care (and even contributing to that care if one is in a financial position to do so). It could be visiting her frequently and driving her to appointments, as he/you have been doing, and taking her out for recreational activities (as opposed to just letting her basically rot in her own filth in her bedroom all day and night…). It could be taking her to get her hair done, helping her clean up after her dog, doing yard work for her, etc. It does not have to be living with her. And you really need to discuss with your husband how he can fulfill his promise to “take care of” his mother without sacrificing your nuclear family’s safety and comfort.

Finally, you need get your own place and move out of your MIL’s house. Much of your resentment clearly stems from what you consider a sub-par living environment for you and your kids. So, get your own place. And if you can’t afford your own place yet because you and your husband are both unemployed, then TOUGH SHIT. You don’t get to complain about the free place you’ve been crashing in for however many months, no matter how much deep cleaning you had to do to make it livable. Sorry, but between you and yesterday’s LW, I’ve reached my limit with the sense of entitlement and lack of compassion for ailing parents I’m seeing. Be an adult, support yourself, and if you need help, accept it graciously and compassionately and don’t look your gift horse in the mouth (i.e. totally abandon her) as soon as you no longer need what she’s been giving.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

67 comments… add one
  • avatar

    jlyfsh June 18, 2015, 8:19 am

    I’m with Wendy. I just can’t believe you are perfectly fine using your MIL for a place to live now, when you need her but, you’re unwilling to help when she needs you. Hopefully your children treat you better when you are your MIL’s age than you’re treating your MIL.

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    • avatar

      ktfran June 18, 2015, 8:25 am

      Right? These people, who don’t seem to give a shit about aging, ailing parents, are the worst! I hope what goes around comes around. I mean, think about how you would want to be treated by your own children then apply that to your parents or your partner’s parents. It’s really not that hard.

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  • Raccoon eyes

    Raccoon eyes June 18, 2015, 8:22 am

    Slooooow clap for Wendy!!!
    *
    LW, presumably your husband was fulfilling his promise sufficiently to take care of his mother before you all moved in with her… so what steps can you take to get back to that status quo? But realistically, it sounds like it was just that you lived separately and helped her out less? Because if so, wasnt she stewing in her own filth then too? The situation of her living alone, in her house, should be remedied. If anything, it sounds like she is starved for contact, whether she knows that or not. I think it is time you all started looking into retirement community-type things. You know- where folks can get an apartment-type setup, but they can get the level of help they need- be it someone to clean once a week or day or to help them get to appointments or take meds or whatever. Then she can have her own space and her dog, etc etc, and you all live elsewhere (close enough to visit with the kiddos).

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster June 18, 2015, 8:40 am

    Yeah, this is pretty horrible. You essentially resent your MIL for being elderly. Elderly people often lose the capacity to properly care for themselves, and if she was already mentally ill, or even eccentric, I’m sure the issue is exacerbated.
    .
    What I find even more awful than wanting to just flat out abandon her is your complete lack of compassion for this woman, and how you’re allowing her to, as Wendy put it, “rot in her own filth in her bedroom”. She needs professional care. I’m not saying it will be easy or that she will agree without putting up any resistance, but your husband, and maybe even your FIL, should be the ones sorting that out while you SUPPORT him in a loving way.
    .
    Also. LOL about the “almost impaled my pregnant belly” on a knife comment. Hey, drama queen, I think you dropped your tiara. Unless she like nailed the knife to the counter and booby trapped the kitchen Indiana Jones style, I’m pretty sure you were just annoyed it was left out, which is reasonable, but jesus. It wasn’t the red wedding.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh June 18, 2015, 8:43 am

      LOl wasn’t the red wedding, I love it.

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    • Raccoon eyes

      Raccoon eyes June 18, 2015, 9:21 am

      Haha, I thought the impaling comment was overly strange too, but in my mind presumed it was preggo hormones making her overreact. In my mind’s eye, she was, like jumping on the kitchen center island to demonstrate how to swim the butterfly or something. 😉

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover June 18, 2015, 10:22 am

      That one could be real, it almost happened to me once (not while I was pregnant). Someone left the knife on the counter with the blade sticking out. Like, angled so that the blade was over the edge of the counter, almost parallel to the counter. I walked around the corner into the kitchen and the knife was right there, almost touching me. I don’t think it would have done much if I’d hit it, but still. And if I’d been pregnant, I definitely would have run into it. Someone just left it carelessly, is all, and the configuration of the kitchen meant you could come around the corner without seeing it.
      .
      That could have been her husband too, though. I’ve noticed men are careless with how they leave things (even knives) on the counter. Now that we have a toddler I’ve really had to remind my husband about it.

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    • redessa

      redessa June 18, 2015, 11:15 am

      Seriously. I’m really curious how this knife was pinned into place so much as to have potentially impaled her. Of course it’s not a good idea to leave knives sitting out, especially with a child in the home but even if she ran right into the blade of a loose knife, it would have just slid over or gotten knocked off the counter. Maybe a cut would have occured, but not anything as dramatic as the LW presents. It does make me think the FIL has a point about her exaggerating safety issues as an excuse to try to get what she wants.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray June 18, 2015, 8:47 am

    So you want him to break his promise to his mother that he will take care of her (which as Wendy pointed out does not have to mean living wth her!). I kept thinking what if you need to be taken care of someday by your husband? I have a feeling your tune would be very different. Sounds like your husband is trying to make good on his promise (though his motives don’t sound great). Wouldn’t you want the same or is everything supposed to benefit you in some way? Have some compassion and don’t treat people like inconveniences when they are helping you out financially.

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  • avatar

    ele4phant June 18, 2015, 9:35 am

    Jeez, I think these responses are kind of harsh. I for one, aknowledge that these living conditions must be very difficult. Living with someone who requires a great deal of care – who is incapable of caring for themselves, is very hard. Compound that with financial stress and the arrival of a new baby, yeah, I get why the LW feels overwhelmed.

    But I do agree that the LW needs to reframe how she sees this. The MIL just can’t be left to care for herself. She’s not capable of it, nor is it morally right to leave someone high and dry just because you can’t do it yourself. I agree with Wendy that “caring for someone” doesn’t mean having to live with them and care for them yourself. In fact, someone else may be a far better option. Hiring live in care, or convincing your MIL to move to an assisted living center nearby where she can be taken care of by people who are equipped to do so may be the most benefical to everyone, particularly her.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh June 18, 2015, 9:42 am

      The thing is if she wasn’t happy she should have moved out. But, she couldn’t because financially they needed her to provide a place to live. That’s her fault not the MIL’s. If someone provides you a free place to live complaining about them makes you look like a jerk.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant June 18, 2015, 9:53 am

        Oh, come on. She didn’t know what she was signing up for. It sounds like they are all (MIL included) living in pretty shitty conditions.

        She got in way over her head. I’m absolutely not saying it would be okay for her to cut ties from the MIL when she and her husband are finally able to and leave her to fester without getting her proper care, but I totally can understand how the LW feels so panicked about the situation, and how she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life continuing to live in the same house as her MIL, as it seems her husband wants to.

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      • avatar

        jlyfsh June 18, 2015, 10:02 am

        So you talk to your husband and you move out. You don’t write four paragraphs about how terrible you think she is. And honestly if a post stroke victim is living in shitty conditions maybe you can be a little more compassionate? And she is still getting a free place to live and wants to continue getting a free place to live and not move out right now, until she gets a job. If it was that awful, she should have put her foot down and moved before now. And honestly maybe not have a baby when you can’t afford a place to live? I just don’t really feel that bad for her. These were her decisions to make. She could have written in about the husband and issues with navigating her MILs care and left everything else out. It really puts her in a terrible light, in my opinion.

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    • avatar

      Ale June 18, 2015, 9:45 am

      That is true, she may be overwhelmed. But she married her husband and he comes with her mother. It is absolutely wrong to leave her to her fate.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy June 18, 2015, 9:53 am

      Oh, I have no doubt she’s overwhelmed. And I feel bad that this column is being published right when she’s having a baby, but this is when she wrote to me. She’s the one who asked whether she was wrong for asking her husband to break his promise to care for his mother after they are done needing her free place to live in, and, sorry, but the answer is yeah. Even if you’re overwhelmed and exhausted and hormonal and emotionally drained, the answer is still yeah, it’s wrong to abandon a loved one who needs care (especially when you no longer need anything from him/her) just because it’s inconvenient.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant June 18, 2015, 10:27 am

        All I’m saying, a lot of this responses are piling on the LW and telling her to have sympathy for her MIL (which is true, she needs to find that and take on a more compassionate view of the situation) while at the same time being pretty unsympathetic to what the LW is going through.

        She came into this house totally unaware of the current state of her MIL’s condition, was totally unprepared to handle it, and her husband seemingly isn’t on board with making changes (ie he wants to buy another house eventually and keep on living together). I don’t dispute she needs to change her attitude, but I also understand that the amount of stress she’s under is perhaps making it difficult for her to see the situation clearly. And personally, I think a little sympathy would be more helpful in getting her to think rationally and kindly about the situation than telling her she’s being entitled and being a bad person.

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      • avatar

        Ale June 18, 2015, 10:46 am

        Those aren’t excuses. Not knowing what her MIL was going on isn’t an excuse to ditch her and move on. It was her idea to live with her MIL because she needed her, and know that she won’t she just plans to leave her to her fate, and make her husband leave her too. I agree that it is too much to handle, but her solution isn’t the right one.

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      • avatar

        ele June 18, 2015, 10:59 am

        Never said her “solution” was good or right. I’m an not saying she should get the thumbs up to just move out and leave her MIL as is.

        I’m just saying the tone at which people are responding to the LW is off. It’s one thing to say “Look, I see you’re living in very difficult circumstances, and that the stress of that is probably clouding your judgement. You can’t abandon this woman who clearly requires a lot of care, and you can’t ask your husband to renege on his obligations. Have you considered getting in home care, getting her into assisted living, ect”. It’s another thing to tell her she’s a jerk and entitled. Same advice as to what she should do, but different tone.

        This woman is living under a mountain of stress in pretty crappy circumstances with inadequate support. So maybe instead of being a jerk she’s ill-prepared and panicked. And sometimes ill-prepared panicked people aren’t model human beings who can clearly assess every situation and respond with the appropriate amount of compassion. Sometimes they’re just desperate to get out of their current situation without thought to what is actually the right best thing to do.

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      • avatar

        Ale June 18, 2015, 11:55 am

        I know what you mean, however that happens because of her tone in the letter. Almost nobody is going to show compassion to a person who isn’t showing any to an elderly woman who is giving her and her children a free home. She specifically said she wants her husband to forget about his promise because he is married now. She definitely needs to be called on that.

        Nobody has said that she has an easy life, all of us understood she is having a hard time, but, I don’t know, just her tone and the way she talks about the woman who’s helped her and plans to ditch her, makes me feel like she is really entitled.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy June 18, 2015, 10:57 am

        While I can appreciate how stressed and overwhelmed she is, I absolutely think she’s acting with a kind of entitlement and lack of compassion that needs to be called out. As for being totally unaware of the current state of her MIL’s condition before they moved in? Why was that? The woman’s her MIL. Was she not in touch with the woman? Had she never visited her? Never asked her husband how she was, what her life was like, how she was managing living alone, post-stroke? At the very least, you’d think if she cared nothing for the MIL, she’d have at least cared enough about her 8-year-old daughter (if not herself) to check out the situation before moving in. I understand that she must have felt desperate, but she’s calling out her MIL for having bad judgment (as a mother and grandmother), when it seems like the LW’s judgment is questionable, too. Unless it was an emergency out of my control, I wouldn’t stay overnight in a hotel with my child that I hadn’t researched thoroughly, let alone move him into a home for many months whose state I was completely unaware of.

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      • something random

        something random June 18, 2015, 11:47 am

        Wendy, I think your column was great advice for this letter writer. And I don’t think the anger the commenters are feeling is inappropriate, either. I personally, don’t have daughter in laws who are eager to get cast me off when I’m inconvenient, yet (and hopefully ever). But I don’t personally feel as much anger towards the letter writer as some of the other commenters. I think I would have a really hard time accepting this situation if I were the letter writer. I like to believe I would never have gotten into it to begin with. But she did and now I can’t help feeling for her, a little bit. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s okay for her to try to get her husband to wash is hands of his mom.

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      • avatar

        Sara June 18, 2015, 11:35 am

        ele4phant, I’m with you. The message would be the same, but the approach could be a lot different. Telling someone she’s a bad person isn’t likely to make her take the advice, but reframing the message i in a kinder (but equally blunt) way would make her more likely to take heed.

        I’ve seen some wonderfully compassionate but at the same time “get-your-shit-together” blunt responses to folks who needed to be knocked upside the head multiple times, and I’m not sure why those morons deserve the compassion but this lady does not. Yes, she needs to reframe this and not leave her MIL out to dry, but FFS, she’s pregnant and stressed and dealing with a horrible situation. Tell her to reframe, tell her not to welsh on her MIL, tell her it’s the price she pays for being family and getting a free house, but why is it so wrong to do it with with a different tone?

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy June 18, 2015, 12:13 pm

        Fair enough. But the tone in my response was inspired and informed by the tone in the letter (which I thought was a lot crueler/ unkind/ unsympathetic than my response and most of the responses I’m seeing in the comments), but for what it’s worth I’m glad there are dissenting opinions in the comments and that the LW is getting at least a little range of responses.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite June 18, 2015, 9:37 am

    Gah, absolutely everything you described that’s currently happening is almost word for word post-stroke symptoms. I can’t believe how willing you are to drop her without any support vs. setting up support from afar. Some of the over the top descriptions (impaled from a knife on the counter?!? what were you doing on the counter?) makes you sound super petty and ridiculous. Get her somewhere with regular care or take care of her, just quit using her for her money. Depending on how bad she really is you could already be financially exploiting her and that’s elder abuse.

    Also, my entire job is trying to mitigate or prevent the self-neglect you describe. It sounds like she has some assets so she probably would need to private pay but check out disability/elderly services with your county to see if there are local community based options to try and take some of the weight off of the caregiving which may make it more tolerable or help connect you with a care center for her if she is too unwell to live on her own again with sometimes help.

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  • something random

    something random June 18, 2015, 9:38 am

    I like Wendy’s response. But before all the commenters go on parade, I will say I can feel from where this letter writer is coming from. It’s really easy to theorize what it is like taking care of a wacko (through no fault of their own). And it is very easy to assume one can imagine what it takes to care for someone. And maybe it wouldn’t be too hard. For a few weeks or months. But how many people here have actually taken care of an ungrateful, belligerent, careless, angry (through no fault of their own) in-law for years on end? It’s a daunting prospect to consider and I don’t blame the letter writer for wanting out (on a purely emotional level)

    Now I’m not reeling from yesterdays letter (I didn’t have time) but as far as entitlement goes its one thing to think you’ve made an arrangement that is mutually beneficial for everyone involved, its another to realize you’ve signed on to be the tenet and care-taker for the landlord from hell for the next few decades. Of course this is family (a parent!)and it’s very different. I like Wendy’s suggestion that the letter writer finds a way to honor her obligation to her mother in law in way that doesn’t dry her out from resentment year after year.

    Maybe this means finding a duplex so people can have their own space, or helping MIL downsize to a place that is far more manageable and she can afford a cleaner once or twice a week. Or maybe MIL stays put and letter writer moves somewhere close so her husband can put in an hour or two daily with MIL and letter writer goes a couple times a week. There are ways to work this out without going crazy or ruining your marriage. Good luck.

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki June 18, 2015, 9:45 am

      Duplex is a great idea. I own a duplex with my mom (she lives on one side, we live on the other) and I think that will come in handy years down the road when she needs care but wants to keep her independence.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 18, 2015, 10:26 am

        How did you get them?? Did they both come up for sale at the same time? Or did one of you already live in one and when the other one came up you bought it? It’s a great setup but hard to get into, no?

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki June 18, 2015, 10:40 am

        We bought the entire building because the owner was selling it. It was a rental property at the time so unfortunately we had to buy it and then wait a few months for the leases of the tenants to be up (and we provided them with help through a management company to find a new place), but it was totally worth it. Built in babysitter/dogsitter right next door!

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      • something random

        something random June 18, 2015, 10:49 am

        Duplex’s seem awesome.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki June 18, 2015, 11:02 am

        It’s a great solution and if you can find the entire building for sale, its actually often cheaper to purchase than a home that would provide you with the same amount of rooms. For what we have (3 bedrooms, 1 bath on one side, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath on the other and a usable but not completely finished basement on both sides that are the size of the upstairs) we would have paid at least twice as much for a house with the same number of rooms (or even fewer). And we even asked a contractor about the possibility of putting in an internal door in the future just in case.

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      • something random

        something random June 18, 2015, 11:04 am

        That has to be so amazing to have your mom so close with your baby on the way 🙂

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki June 18, 2015, 11:21 am

        Its awesome even without him on the way 🙂 But my mom and I are really freakishly close (think Gilmore girls) so we’re odd that way. And even my husband loves having her nearby.

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    • TaraMonster

      TaraMonster June 18, 2015, 10:07 am

      Not that I think you have to have experienced giving care to a difficult elderly/disabled person to comment on this, but I have. And I still think the LW is being a jerk. For whatever that is worth. I *DO* appreciate how difficult that has to be for the LW, and I can empathize with that frustration. However, I didn’t see an OUNCE of compassion in this letter. And quite frankly, compassion is the best tool in your arsenal when dealing with this type of situation. And not because of some grandiose moral notion of kindness, but because not being able to access that compassion makes every single moment of the process strained, draining, and just all around awful for yourself and everyone involved. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

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      • something random

        something random June 18, 2015, 10:11 am

        Well how nice of you to presume to know that about me. I agree compassion is often the best tool when dealing with difficult people. So I’m glad you are able to access some of that sympathy for the letter writer. From your original comment I wouldn’t have known.

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      • TaraMonster

        TaraMonster June 18, 2015, 10:36 am

        What am I presuming about you exactly? Not sure what you’re talking about.

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      • something random

        something random June 18, 2015, 10:39 am

        I’m sorry. I just read your comment again. I read it too quickly the first time and thought you wrote “Not that I think you have experienced” instead of “not that I think you have to have experienced” It changed the whole tone. My apologies for my careless reading and commenting.

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      • TaraMonster

        TaraMonster June 18, 2015, 10:57 am

        It’s cool. 🙂

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      • othy

        othy June 18, 2015, 11:09 am

        This is why I love this site – any arguements due to misreadings are address and moved on from quickly. Keep up the good work!

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh June 18, 2015, 10:13 am

      I haven’t cared for an in-law but I have lived with someone in hospice care who could no longer take care of themselves long term. And it is stressful and daunting. And I wasn’t even the primary care giver! But, man like Taramonster said the LW doesn’t seem compassionate at all. Maybe before moving in with her (for free) she should have visited? Seen how she lived and what the conditions were? Taken time to learn what the MIL’s issues really were and what kind of care she needed. I think leaving when she no longer needs the financial help from the MIL and washing her hands of it just makes her seem crappy.

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      • something random

        something random June 18, 2015, 10:27 am

        I hear you. I think this letter writer is giving off the impression of being a bit self-centered and entitled and it might be helpful to point this out to her. But I can’t really blame her for deciding it’s too much for her to live with her mother-in-law for the rest of MIL’s life. She probably should have figured this out sooner but she didn’t. Now that she knows this about herself and also knows caring for her ailing mother-in-law is an unbreakable condition for her marriage, she will hopefully look for solutions that work for everyone.

        I will add that I don’t think it is wise to buy a house she can’t afford. Banking on getting a job right after graduation is not a good idea. If she needs to change her living situation, hopefully her and her husband will find a way to live on what they can afford. It sounds like the MIL is going to need all of her own money so that she can be taken care of. It sounds like the son wants to collect her money and provide the care himself. But going this route just doesn’t work for the letter writer. I think it is important the letter writer is honest with herself and her husband about this before they commit to buying a house. I really think they should move out and rent awhile and find an alternative way to take care of the MIL. But straight out choosing to abandon MIL and not worry about it isn’t right.

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki June 18, 2015, 9:44 am

    LW – I’ve been trying to come up with a compassionate response all morning. I get that living there is hard for you. I wouldn’t exactly be thrilled to live under those conditions either. But instead of attacking your MIL, you should be looking for solutions. Talk to your husband about what he means by “caring” for her. Does he mean that he *must* live with her? Or is he open to other ideas that wouldn’t require your family live with her but instead using some of Wendy’s ideas? If not and he wants her in the same home, how can you make it a better environment? Hiring a maid or part time help. Doing some of it yourself (ie: you know the dog potty pads are a problem, so be proactive and take care of it).
    .
    It sounds like she may have lasting effects from her stroke (judgment issues, memory issues, etc) and who knows, maybe she has other issues as well. Maybe she’s depressed. Maybe she needs a more active social life. Is there a senior center in your community? They often have tons of options for activities and just getting out may help her mental and emotional well being. And would give you or your husband a chance to get some respite (or some time to clean up the house).
    .
    I understand that you don’t feel comfortable allowing her to care for your children. I wouldn’t either (especially with her issues with falls and a newborn). But not wanting her anywhere near them ever doesn’t seem like a good solution. It sounds like she is/will be a loving grandparent who just needs boundaries. And some of your concerns – being naked? Who the fuck cares? I grew up in a family that didn’t make the human body sinful or sexual in nonsexual situations. The honey thing? You do know that years ago it wasn’t well known that babies shouldn’t have honey, right? Don’t be so damn condescending just because you don’t believe in how she parented 30 years ago or whenever. Thank her for her suggestions and make your own decisions as a parent. My mom put whiskey on my gums.
    .
    Overall, I feel for you. But you need to get over yourself and recognize that your husband is stepping up and doing the right thing by caring for his ailing mother. Do what you can to make it easier for all of you, help out, and chill.

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    • avatar

      Ale June 18, 2015, 9:51 am

      I was thinking the same about the honey thing. It isn’t such a big deal, but the way she mentions it it’s like she flipped out about it. Being an older person, she must have a lot of wisdom to share and the LW isn’t accepting that. Also, imagine telling a grandmother that she won’t be able to take care of the baby, basically telling her that she is useless. No wonder she keeps herself in her room all day. I am not saying she should take care of the baby alone, but there are ways to say things.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki June 18, 2015, 10:02 am

        Right? There’s a nicer way to present it. Hey MIL, I am a little concerned because of your health problems about the safety of the baby, but I’d love if you’d help with XYZ when you can and if you want to.

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      • something random

        something random June 18, 2015, 10:02 am

        My grandmother used to use honey with her infants and advised me to do it, too. But now honey under a year is considered a big no-no because of tiny spores which can be life-threatening. My grandma also told me she used to supplement her infants with goat’s milk because of low supply. I have mentioned that I love living now?

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    • avatar

      ktfran June 18, 2015, 9:57 am

      I loved this response!
      .
      I forgot about the honey thing. My mom gave me a teaspoon of sugar for hiccups, and I certainly did not have a sugar addiction, in fact, I didn’t like overly sweet things or soda or icing when I was a kid. It was only once I started eating more fruit in my adult life that I started liking sweet treats more. And I can just now stomach pineapple. Talk about sweet! Also, I saw my mom naked all the time. No biggie.

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  • avatar

    Aubrey Ray June 18, 2015, 9:56 am

    You can completely remove all of the details of the living situation from this letter and there’s one thing that still sticks out to me. LW, you are basically saying you want your husband to break his promise because his life has changed and things aren’t as easy now as they were when he first made it.

    Now maybe it’s just me, but I would think any woman would be absolutely thrilled to see her husband follow through with a promise, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. If he’s willing to throw away a promise to his mother just because things are difficult now, what makes you think he wouldn’t do the same to you?

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 June 18, 2015, 11:00 am

    I want to know how messed up the husband is from how shitty of a mother he had. I mean seeing all that T&A surely must have messed him up.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray June 18, 2015, 11:29 am

    Amen, Wendy!

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  • Diablo

    Diablo June 18, 2015, 12:03 pm

    I want to weigh in here. I respect Wendy’s response, but I think that it may have been too harsh and too quick to judge. Keeping a promise and caring for another – these things sound great on paper. High moral principles. And I do think there is a contradiction on the part of the LW in accepting support but being unwilling to return it in kind. For those of you who have been raised by loving parents, even in difficult economic circumstances, this must seem like a no-brainer, a challenge but a sacrifice that any moral person should be willing to make. And yes, some of the LWs examples, like the knife left out on the counter, seem to be overly dramatic. But the mother sounds like a narcissistic nightmare. If she does in fact have mental health issues, whether or not they are consequent to the stroke, they should be assessed and addressed appropriately, but that doesn’t excuse her demanding and entitled behaviour either. The long-estranged FIL’s statement that the son’s promise is the LWs promise is utter horseshit. Why does he even get an opinion?The conversation that needs to happen here is between the LW and the husband. It is his first responsibility to see to the needs of his wife and children, including the stepchild. Promise or no, he does not owe allegiance to his mother OVER them. He needs to adequately defend their needs and manage boundaries. Giving care is one thing. Tolerating what sounds like abusive behaviour from his mother is another. She’s not bedridden, so while helping her with whatever is fine, there may be lots she can do for herself. Seeking more interesting shared activities is fine, but she may not be creating any desire on the LWs part to be in her company. I think the usual rule with inlaws should be that the blood child is the one who manages the relationship, and I think the husband needs to do a better job managing Mom’s expectations as well as the LWs. For my part, I simply cannot imagine living with either of my parents. The stress that would put on me every day. The challenge to my marriage. My parents neglected my emotional needs consistently in favour of my more challenging sister. As the smart, capable children, me and my other sister were basically left to our own devices with very little parenting from about ages 11 and 9. We were always made responsible if our youngest sister got angry or had a tantrum. We were always responsible for working around her illness and walking on eggshells. My parents didn’t and don’t see what they were doing. They feel they are just protecting their vulnerable child, with little awareness of the effect it has had on me and other sis. (Little sis called CPS on my father at age 14, claiming he was physically abusing her, which is absolutely not true, and put herself in to foster care. Only in the last couple years, since she has formally disowned me and my nice sister for no good reason and stopped speaking to us entirely, have they gotten her to accept any kind of therapy, and they have run through a number of therapists. My point: not all families or bonds are the same.) I think there is room for a grain of salt here in how we judge the LW. It may be that her attitude needs some adjusting, perhaps due to the immediate stress of the baby’s impending arrival. But relationships go both ways, and I think all parties need to give a little. The fact that Mom is providing the roof currently does not give her carte blanche for any and all bad behaviour. I feel like we need to try harder to see all sides here. am i projecting like a mf’er? Possibly.

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    • Raccoon eyes

      Raccoon eyes June 18, 2015, 1:07 pm

      Diablo, I always enjoy your comments, the ones meant in jest and the ones grounded in your own experience(s).
      *
      Im now realizing that I misunderstood the “promise” of LW’s husband when I read this earlier and replied. Soooo I think that Husband promised to step in and take care of his mother. (Right?) Earlier I was thinking, “what does she mean, a promise to take care of his mother? That is pretty much human decency to help your parents out as they age and cant handle everything themselves.” But now I get it- Husband promised his mother to take care of her, like, physically, not just help out and such. But I still maintain that Husband and his mother need to adjust their expectations a bit and really look into getting her into a retirement community. Because with or without LW and husband physically living in the house, mother’s life doesnt sound so great, especially compounded by whatever lingering issues from the past stroke, etc. So I suppose I really not adding much to the conversation here, so I will just end there.

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    • Ika

      Ika June 18, 2015, 1:21 pm

      Having worked with many stroke patients, the behaviour described sounds very typical. Also, with the balance issues there probably aren’t many activities MIL can do entirely independently, unless the house has had major adaptations to it (railing etc), and I am willing to bet that is not the case.
      They had to know going in what the situation would be like, but hey! Free housing!
      And I would assume husband had an OK upbringing, hence the promise to always look after mother.
      .
      FWIW I wouldn’t want to live with either of my parents either, or take on the role of caregiver. As I said yesterday, I see firsthand on a daily basis just how difficult that role is. But because of that I would never move in with either of my parents for free rent either.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom June 18, 2015, 1:43 pm

      Since the husband was coming out of the military I don’t think they had much chance to see how the MIL was living and how she had changed. They probably weren’t stationed anywhere near the MIL so her condition was a surprise. It’s one thing to know that someone had a stroke and quite another thing to know how much someone may have changed, especially if you aren’t there to see it.

      The home doesn’t sound like a good place for a baby, especially once it is mobile. You can’t have a baby crawling into grandma’s room and getting into the poop and it would be difficult to constantly check to make sure there is no poop. I’d suggest putting a child gate across the door to grandma’s room but grandma might not be able to open and close it and certainly doesn’t sound able to step over it. She can’t be left alone with a baby, not even holding a baby while the parent walks into the next room. Would she try to pick up the baby while it was sleeping? The husband has a responsibility to both children to keep them safe, and that includes not allowing his mother to harm them, even if unintentionally.

      I’d look into a home health aide. They can come several times a week and help the MIL take a bath, wash her hair and change clothes. That would help a lot with the hygiene. Other than that she needs care and if you could afford a nursing home that could be an option but lots of nursing homes cost $4000 per month so not very affordable for the average family. To pay for a home she would need to sell her house.

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    • something random

      something random June 18, 2015, 5:10 pm

      @Diablo, I think the comments chiding grown children for not having infinite patience and tolerance for aging parents might hit a nerve for adults who aren’t as close with their parents or in-laws. I think there are plenty of valid reasons grown children might choose to distance themselves from their former parents/ caregivers. I think it is natural to feel a little defensive when stranger’s comment on how shitty someone is for not caring about their poor parents. I think it would be an act of compassion to carefully consider that other people may have their own reasons for having a completely different set of expectations for themselves regarding their parents/in-laws besides just being a bad son or daughter that doesn’t care about a helpless elder. And not everyone wants to go around sharing their motives with the strangers of the world. Of course people are going to judge. But its nice to have a reminder that these judgements are only taking in account face value circumstances.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark June 18, 2015, 2:01 pm

    Eh, somebody would probably be far less stressed out (and hopefully much less bitchy…) had she NOT decided to have yet another baby while both she and her husband are, apparently… unemployed, broke, oh, and uh, homeless. I dunno. Maybe next time — fucking wait till you have your shit together? Radical thought, I know… Sigh.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom June 18, 2015, 2:09 pm

      Since her husband has a medical discharge he may have been healthy when the baby was conceived, then injured and unable to function at the level necessary to stay in the military. It can happen very rapidly, one day everything is fine then the person is injured and in the hospital and when released they are discharged. It happened to my cousin’s daughter, although she wasn’t pregnant.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom June 18, 2015, 2:12 pm

        But if he was already heading for a discharge I fully agree. Make sure you can support a baby before getting pregnant.

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      • something random

        something random June 18, 2015, 4:50 pm

        I agree. If they moved in with his mom because they were always planning to buy a house with her and care for her and a medical discharge just pushed everything to happen faster, that is more understandable. It makes sense for the letter writer not to delay graduation or accumulate debt or dip into savings during a temporary situation if they were ultimately planning on living with the MIL, anyway. Now If they moved in because he chooses not work right now and they thought it would be easy to just have a free place to crash and that the MIL would be an, easy convenient baby sitter for their kids, then that is something else.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna June 18, 2015, 3:23 pm

    The combination of an elderly MIL recovering from a stroke, a husband on disability, a kid and another on the way, AND looking for employment is definitely very difficult. I for one would be going nuts if I were in this situation. I know it’s tempting to ask “how the hell did LW get herself into this situation?”, but the more important question is how to get out of it.
    Can your husband take over the majority of the care work for the children, including the baby, while also looking after his mother? If so, I’d say you need to prioritize finding a job for yourself and making some money so that you can get your own place at some point. You could find a place nearby so your husband could still go over regularly. If your husband is not able to be the caretaker for both the mother and the kids, is there anyone else in the family who can help out? Is there any money that can be spent on ‘outsourcing’ care for the mother?

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  • avatar

    dinoceros June 18, 2015, 4:21 pm

    I’m sympathetic to the LW. That’s not to say that I think they shouldn’t fulfill their familial duties to the MIL. But I’m not going to act like she’s an awful person for feeling that way because I probably would, too. Sometimes in order to be a good person, you have to accept crappy circumstances, and I don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge that you don’t like it.

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  • avatar

    Kriskros June 18, 2015, 8:43 pm

    I have to agree with all of the people who chimed in about mother sounding like a very typical right hemisphere stroke patient. I do stroke rehabilitation with older adults and one of the nasty parts of having a stroke is that sometimes people’s strokes leave them with defecits in self awareness, attention, balance, problem solving and social skills. Much of the therapy I do with these particular patients involves forcing them to confront the deficits that they refuse to see in themselves since their strokes. I am also very sympathetic with the LW. Working with people in this condition is taxing, so I really can’t imagine living with them. They tend to be confrontational and hard headed. It’s impossible to prepare families for what dealing with a R Hemisphere stroke patient will be like and I’ve seen my fair share of long term marriages fall apart when once spouse has this type of stroke. Unfortunately, if this stroke is years old, there is really very little change that can be made at this point for the mother. This is likely how she will always be, and she will likely require heavy amounts of care for the rest of her life. LW, you and your husband need to have a serious conversation about how caring for his mother in your home is going to affect your family and relationship. I also know that its easy to talk about hiring care takers, but reality is that home care is very expensive and often difficult to get reimbursed by insurance. You’ll need to come up for a plan for the next ten years about how you’ll plan to continue to help your mother in law with her care, and what your game plan is as a family. Know that you’re not alone in this struggle, there are support groups for family members of stroke victims (try an internet search) It might be worth checking them out to get ideas from others in your situation about what they have done for care of their relatives when problem solving deficits are leading to unsafe living conditions.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra June 18, 2015, 10:59 pm

    Wow, well I do think this response is pretty harsh.
    .
    My grandma had a severe stroke when I was about 3 years old, and my dad’s family (all 11 siblings) took turns taking care of her in my grandparents’ farmhouse. I don’t remember much of it since I was so young, but from what I hear now as an adult it was really difficult to physically be able to take care of her. No one had medical training either so that made it extra difficult. Eventually, a few years later, they had to put her into a nursing home. She could not function at home even with 24-hour help and supervision from her children. It ended up being the best thing for her. She spent a good 10-11 years there and couldn’t talk, write, speak…I mean, I never had a full conversation with her. She always signed my birthday cards, but it wasn’t legible because she couldn’t write.
    .
    My point here is that stroke victims are greatly affected by even the most basic of things: cooking, cleaning, taking care of themselves, etc. When you approach this you HAVE to have some empathy. I’m sure she *wants* to do those things, like take care of herself and clean her house, but she physically *can’t*. There is a picture of myself and my grandma when I was about 4, so right after her stroke, and we are baking and placing M&M’s on some cookies about to go in the oven. She was conscious and present, but she physically had difficulty even just doing that.

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  • avatar

    cna June 19, 2015, 8:41 am

    I am leaving a different comment than the rest.I am on the lw side.It seems like the husband is not really taking that good care of his mother.Just being in the same house does not equal care.I bet most of the care is on the lw.She cannot handle that with being so pregnant and going to school so it looks to me the care this lady really is getting is lacking.First off why are the pee pads just sitting there?Hubby should be picking them up many times a day then scrubbing the floor each time.Why is her room gross?Hubby should be cleaning that daily also.Since he does not work he should be cleaning her whole house daily also.Her hygene is lacking?Hubby should be taking care of that too.I bet the lw does most of the work and is just very overwhelmed.I would not bring a newborn in to that situation right there…but then there is a very scary safety situation with mil wanting to pick up newborn and she falls alot.Then the germs this mil creates with her dirty ways.Hubby is not really taking care of her and I say this because if he really was none of thease things would even be a issue.It is time for the sake of mil being safe and looked after in the right way to be placed somewhere.Also for the baby to be safe.If hubby does not do that no matter how much you love him I would leave if I was her just to keep the baby safe.In the usa this lack of care would be called elder abuse and comes with a jail term.I worked in nurseing homes.Even with staff to help it was the hardest job I ever had.

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  • avatar

    Tess January 3, 2017, 6:38 pm

    The husband is a coward for not making his wife and kids a priority and the MIL is a mentally ill selfish bitch for expecting everyone’s life to stop and care for her 24/7. Put her in an elderly home already!

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  • avatar

    Nicole February 24, 2017, 11:06 am

    I want to point out how rich it is that LW’s FIL is lecturing HER about broken promises…isn’t he the one that married MIL and made a vow before God to take care of her in sickness and in health? I understand that they are divorced but I wanted to point out the utter hypocrisy of him trying to hold his son to a promise made long ago.

    Also, yeah it totally sucks that MIL had a stroke but having compassion doesn’t mean that LW has to subject herself or her children to abuse and unsanitary living conditions. Our first responsibility is ALWAYS to our minor children.

    Also, I don’t really like my MIL. She used to live with us and didn’t treat me well. She was FAR nicer to me than LW’s MIL is to her. I don’t hate my MIL but we will never be close. She doesn’t live with us anymore and I never reach out to her. That is for my DH to do since it is his mother. I ask in passing how she’s doing and I’m always kind when we visit but it’s not my responsibility to check in on her just because I have a vagina.

    I guess I’m one the posters that understands how stressful and difficult this situation must be for LW. I have compassion for both LW and her MIL. It sounds like the husband/son is dropping the ball and not fulfilling his promises to either party.

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  • avatar

    Nicole February 24, 2017, 11:43 am

    FiL has some nerve lecturing LW about broken promises when he is the one that (presumably) vowed before God to take care of MIL through sickness and in health. Whadda hypocrite!

    LW sounds like she is living in an abusive and unsanitary environment. It’s all well and good to lecture about having compassion for the stroke victim but LW’s first priority needs to be the safety and well being of her minor children. It sounds like LW did not know what she was signing up for when they moved in. It also sounds like she is doing the care that her husband should be doing seeing how it’s his mother.

    My MIL and I are not close. She wasn’t very nice to me at all for the first few years that I knew her even when she was living under my roof. I am always kind and civil and I do ask my husband how she is from time to time but I do not contact her in any way. Frankly, that is not my responsibility. Having a vagina does not automatically sign me up to take care of my husband’s elderly mother or to act as his social secretary.

    Actually, as much as I love my own mother I would rather move her into an assisted living than allow her to abuse and berate my husband…I made vows to my husband not my mother. Speaking of which…who among you plans to hold your adult child to a promise made when they were younger and living a different situation? I promised my mom that she could live in the east wing of my giant mansion…guess what…she’s not holding me to a promise I made as a child. Ridiculous. Like LW has to be held responsible for a promise her husband made in his youth before he had the life experience to understand the possible ramifications. I for one love and respect my son enough that I would never make him feel guilty for living his life. Do I hope that he still makes time for me and does what he can to help in my hour of need? Of course, but he is not obligated to sacrifice his life or his happy home for me.

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  • avatar

    Lisa March 17, 2017, 12:05 pm

    Sorry, but is the MIL is that bad off, she belongs in a place where she can be looked after 24/7 and there senior citizen apartments that have such care that comes with them. Her husband’s promise isn’t a promise, it’s a life sentence. And frankly is she’s that mentally ill and incapable she needs to see a physician pdq! Yes she had a free place to live, but how free was it considering they payed the bills, bought the groceries and more. The suddenly MIL has the money clear out of the blue to help with finances after they buy a house when she clearly didn’t have the money to do so in her own place? Nope, sorry don’t buy it. He’s feeding her a line. I’d say, yeah, she needs to run like hell and find her own place before she burns the place down cause she’s walked off and left the stove on with food cooking on it.

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  • avatar

    ChickenNugget April 1, 2017, 12:51 pm

    Wow- LW sounds horrible and whiney, poor husband,he married his mother.

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