Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Think My Mother-in-Law Has Alzheimer’s and I’m Afraid to Leave my Kids With Her”

I am a stay-at-home mom. My mother-in-law is our primary babysitter on the rare occasions one is needed. She loves our kids so much and they have a great time with her. On my husband’s side of the family, there is a history of Alzheimer’s. I’ve noticed many times that, unless I write down explicit directions, my MIL usually forgets them. It’s rarely a big deal, and I don’t mind writing things down for her if they are important.

The other day, though, I got a little bit of a scare. I came home and she was holding the baby, who was asleep. My other kids were eating their lunches, perfectly content. When I asked how the morning had gone, she told me how the baby had loved drinking water from a cup. The cup she held up was coated in grease and I was sure it had been in the sink with some filthy dishes when I’d left. (I’m bad at house keeping). I hadn’t been able to get the lid off the cup, so it has been sitting in our sink for almost a week. Each time I washed the dishes, I tried to get the stupid thing open and it wouldn’t budge. So, there it’s sat.

After I clarified that it was, indeed, the cup she was talking about using, I asked where she’d gotten it, thinking maybe my husband had washed it without my knowledge, but she couldn’t remember where she had found it. She first told me she’d found it in the dish drainer, then that it was on the counter. But she was completely confused. I told her that it had been dirty and she said “Oh. I think I washed it and put fresh water in it.” I asked her how she got the lid off and then she looked confused again, and said, “Well, maybe I didn’t wash it. I thought I did.” She assured me, though, that she’d put new water in it.

She felt really terrible, and it made me really uncomfortable, so I just acted like it wasn’t a big deal. (This is the same baby that eats crumbs from our floor. I doubt she’ll be hurt from drinking some greasy water, even though it makes me want to hurl.) After my MIL left, I pried the cup open and saw that the water was dirty, and now, I’m completely at a loss for what to do. I know that my MIL feels absolutely horrible about the whole episode and I truly don’t want to make her feel worse. However, I seriously think that she needs to get checked out at the doctor. She should have been able to remember where she got the cup and whether she washed it before giving it to the baby, right? She doesn’t take Alzheimer’s seriously, and has often made excuses for her own mother’s forgetfulness in the past. Anytime I’ve brought it up, she gets skittish and changes the subject.

The other issue is: how to we broach the subject of whether she should be caring for our kids? I don’t want to hurt her or frustrate her further, but I wonder if it’s still safe. Like most moms, my kids are the most important things in the world to me. I don’t want to put them at risk. — Worried Mom

I don’t know… I can appreciate how grossed out you must have been, not to mention concerned for your kids and your MIL, but unless this incident is one of several similar ones (and needing written notes to care for multiple children doesn’t count!), I think it might be a bit of a leap to think your MIL has Alzheimer’s. She’s a senior citizen who doesn’t spend every day with kids like you do and she was watching three young children (maybe more?), including a baby, in a home that, apparently, wasn’t very tidy (at the very least, there was a sink full of “filthy dishes”). I can certainly understand how she may have felt a little overwhelmed, especially if the baby was crying, and may have just grabbed the first cup she found to quiet the yells. That does little to make YOU feel better, I know, and I don’t think you’re wrong to feel concerned about your MIL’s ability to watch your kids regularly, but I do think you’re probably over-reacting a bit, at least when it comes to diagnosing your MIL.

That said, there IS family history of Alzheimer’s in your husband’s family and you and he should keep notes of strange behavior, the cup incident included, to help in a future potential diagnosis. I also think it should be your husband’s job, not yours, to talk to her about the illness and nudge her to get examined at the appropriate time (which could very well be NOW, especially if there has been other questionable behavior).

You have a few options when it comes to your MIL watching your kids. Instead of asking her to watch all of them at the same time, you could ask her to watch one at a time, or just the older ones while you care for the baby. You could ask her to come help while you’re home with the kids so you’re there to supervise and are better able to see how she interacts with them. That won’t give you the full-on, free babysitting you occasionally need, but you’ll still get some help while giving your MIL and your kids a chance to spend time with each other. And if you still want to let your MIL watch all the kids unsupervised, you need to continue writing detailed notes, and leave a clean house with no dirty dishes in the sink or food out on the counters or anything that might confuse your MIL or pose a threat to the kids. You could also ask that another adult be present — maybe another relative who would appreciate spending time with your children. I would also choose times to have your MIL babysit when your children are lower-maintenance…. if there is such a thing when it comes to multiple children. For example, when we have friends or family offer to babysit for free, we try to have all the hard childcare work done for the day so that the only thing left to do is read Jackson a few stories and put him to bed. We still get a free night out (well, as far as paying for childcare goes), but we’re not leaving anyone with an overwhelming work load.

Finally, I think it’s probably time to find additional babysitters if you don’t already have some. Relying on a grandparent — one you fear has Alzheimer’s — as your sole babysitter probably isn’t the wisest move. You say you only rarely need a babysitter, so start budgeting for those occasions, and find someone you can trust to watch all your kids for the time you need help. Let your MIL be a doting grandmother instead of your primary babysitter. If she DOES have early Alzheimer’s, the last thing she needs is the stress of caring for several young kids all by herself.


You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

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

178 comments… add one
  • bethany November 14, 2013, 9:22 am


    Since there’s a family history, you and your husband really need to be keeping track of incidents like this one. And HE needs to be the one having health related discussions with her.

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  • katie November 14, 2013, 9:27 am

    mostly i very much agree with wendy’s last point- honestly, i dont think a parent should ever only have just one babysitter. not only could it present logistical issues, if the one babysitter gets sick suddenly or whatever (happened to my coworker, definitely a pain), but for emergencies too. having backups is always good!

    that said, i dont think your MIL is unfit to babysit or anything. i mean, a dirty cup? eh. it was honestly probably good for the baby… the clean-obsessed society we have become has created all the crazy allergies and asthma everyone has now, its very interesting actually (i think anyway haha). if this keeps happening, or if it was an incident much more serious, i would then get more worried. but some dirty water isnt really something to call alzheimers on.

    i would just keep an eye out, let your husband deal with the potential for alzheimers, like wendy said, and invest in alternate childcare options.

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    • AliceInDairyland November 14, 2013, 9:42 am

      OMG, so we were learning about this in class and it totally blew my mind. Pregnant women who spent a significant time on farms were much less likely to have children with allergies. Women who didn’t spend time on farms (aka, clean environment) were more likely to have children with allergies.

      The whole concept is called the hygiene hypothesis and it’s really fascinating from a biology perspective:

      Anyways… I still wouldn’t want my baby to drink out of a gross cup because my MIL couldn’t remember where it came from… but I like to thread-jack with medical knowledge.

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      • AliceInDairyland November 14, 2013, 9:47 am

        **even IF the baby spent zero time on a farm/was in a clean environment after it was born**

      • Fabelle November 14, 2013, 9:47 am

        Yes!! my boyfriend was reading about this recently (we were in the same room, doing different things, & all of a sudden he’s like, “Fabelle, we’re gonna live on a farm & raise our children there, okay?”)

        This info has come out before, though, right? I remember saying something once (IRL) about having my hypothetical children snort pollen & cat hair to immunize them against allergies, haha

      • AliceInDairyland November 14, 2013, 9:57 am

        Oh yeah it’s been a concept that’s been around for a really long time. Back when farms had like a handful of every kind of animal, farmers would feed egg yolks from their own chickens to newborn animals that needed a “boost” or to any young new animals coming onto the farm.

        Why? Because the chickens that wandered around on the farm were exposed to ALL the pathogens that were on that specific farm, and then they would produce antibodies to those specific pathogens in their eggs. It helped immune compromised animals (babies) stay healthy while they were being exposed to all these new pathogens. Every farm/location has a different microflora so it takes some adjusting when animals are moved from one place to another.

        Am I saying feed your child raw egg yolks from chickens that wander around? No… I just think it’s really cool and shows how long people have been learning about this stuff.

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 9:58 am

        Now I really want to feed my hypothetical children raw farm eggs. I don’t care if that wasn’t your point. haha

      • katie November 14, 2013, 10:01 am

        oh, similar to that, ive heard its a gypsy thing to have every member of the family spit into a newborns mouth. i have no idea if thats true, but i feel like its a great concept in general.

        the egg thing is awesome though.

      • bethany November 14, 2013, 10:11 am

        Either that or they can get immunotherapy like me (aka allergy shots), once a week for the rest of my freaking life! Not really, but it feels like it. I’ve been getting 2 injections weekly since February. 🙁

      • AliceInDairyland November 14, 2013, 10:26 am

        Okay in dogs you can either give them shots OR liquid drops that you massage into their gums twice a day. Have you heard of this in people?

        I feel like some people would prefer doing the liquid drops themselves at home, even if it was 2x a day…

      • bethany November 14, 2013, 10:30 am

        My Dr doesn’t do those because if you have a reaction, they want you in the office, so they can take care of you. You have to stay for 20 minutes after you get your shots to make sure you’re ok.
        I have heard of people doing the drops though.

      • AliceInDairyland November 14, 2013, 11:35 am

        That makes sense and is really smart. We just send dogs on their merry way…

      • muchachaenlaventana November 14, 2013, 10:52 am

        I don’t know if this has been covered but I also have read that people who grow up in houses with animals are less likely to have allergies, so sort of along the same lines.

      • lemongrass November 14, 2013, 12:37 pm

        I’ve heard that too. We don’t have any pets so I really try to expose E to animals. It’s not hard, most of our friends have them and he loves to chase them around. He was chewing on my friend’s dog bone last weekend. And no allergies so far!

      • septicidal November 14, 2013, 1:15 pm

        I started doing weekly shots in October. The protocol at my allergist’s is 30 stages of doses (which may take longer than 30 weeks, depending on how you react to the shots/if they are able to increase the dose every week, and dosage can only increased within 7 days (so if you miss a week, you have to re-do the last dose and then increase the next week)). They also do 30 minutes of wait time after each shot. I may or may not have a calendar item for my 30th (maintenance-level!) week of shots.

      • bethany November 14, 2013, 2:59 pm

        This fall I reacted horribly to my shots (and was out of town a lot), so I had to essentially stay on the same dosage for almost 3 months. It was so frustrating!!!

      • katie November 14, 2013, 9:59 am

        yep! i think its super cool.

        i read about it in context of how cleanliness has evolved over time as well, as a cultural thing, as well as just the biology aspect of it. i love that kind of stuff.

        and, yea, i was born on a farm- not like a literal working farm, but …. a hobby-ish farm? and i have no allergies other then kiwi which i only found out about a few years ago and obviously doesnt impact my day to day life.

        also i never, never, ever use hand sanitizer. im all about the germs. lemme at em!

    • meadowphoenix November 14, 2013, 1:36 pm

      Well, the rest of your comment is valid, but I don’t know why you diverted into whether the dirty cup was healthy for the baby. The LW specifically says she doesn’t care that the cup was dirty. The LW says this baby eats off the floor.

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      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 1:40 pm

        I get that babies eat anything they get their hands on and sometimes shit happens, but the idea of a baby drinking out of a week (?) old filthy cup is more than disgusting. Can mold grow after a week?

      • katie November 14, 2013, 2:27 pm

        It depends on what was in the cup…

      • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 4:24 pm

        Mold can grow in like a day in FL. It’s ridiculous.

      • starpattern November 14, 2013, 5:23 pm

        Yeah for real. This summer I forgot to wash a bowl that was soaking in the sink before I left for the weekend, and I came back 2 days later to find green and blue mold growing on top of the water. Urgh. (I live in Alabama)

      • katie November 14, 2013, 2:26 pm

        To talk about dirty-ness and allergies obviously.

  • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 9:29 am

    Um, forgetting if you washed a particular cup one time is not Alzheimer’s. Its not even dementia, nor a sign of either. I forget if I put sugar in my first cup of coffee this morning. Trust me, I do not have Alzheimer’s.

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    • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 9:30 am

      Frankly, I’m more concerned that you are having this elderly woman watch THREE kids, including a baby!, at the same time.

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      • katie November 14, 2013, 9:37 am

        well, to be fair, we dont know if she is elderly. LW doesnt mention her age or ability.

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 9:39 am

        I guess, but if I had 2 kids and a baby, I wouldn’t even have my under 55 y/o mom watch them all day all at once. Maybe once in a blue moon.

      • katie November 14, 2013, 9:41 am

        i guess to each their own, because im sure that happens.

        my guess is its the cost aspect more then anything…

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 9:43 am

        Oh I’m sure it happens too, I’m just saying its a lot for anyone. I’d be overwhelmed and I’m fairly young.

      • katie November 14, 2013, 9:56 am

        oh definitely. my friend is a great-aunt to a 2 year old (i think? about 2) and she only watches her for a few HOURS each week and she says its exhausting

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 10:00 am

        Exactly. And I bet your friend would never refuse to, or even say she was exhausted. But I also bet the mom of the 2 y/o has enough of a clue that its a lot for your friend and yet is selfishly taking advantage to save $. Maybe I’m oversensitive to this, but I see it happen and it really pisses me off. I know saving $ is important, but come on.
        That’s not to say grandparents should never babysit of course.

      • katie November 14, 2013, 10:04 am

        well, with their situation it happened the other way around. the niece was screwed (her husband just left one day. just up and left, never to be heard from again) and she couldnt afford full time childcare, and so her mother, and then her aunt, who is my friend, volunteered to help her out. so i dont think its a taking advantage situation thing for them, but i completely see your point.

        ive always thought that the only way id have a kid is if i talk my mom into coming and living with me. i guess that isnt the greatest idea? haha

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 10:09 am

        I’m not trying to bash people that have their parents live with them! I promise. Most parents have their parents help out sometimes, its just a matter knowing when its too much. I don’t think its a grandparents’ job, even if they want it to be, to essentially play the role of full time caregiver like a full time nanny would do. I’m realizing I’m projecting though. In emergency situations, or a few hours a week if its not too much, I think its great.

      • katie November 14, 2013, 11:02 am

        real question: is it like an asshole thing to ask? like, you’ll only get a grandkid if you promise to help take care of it?

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 11:07 am

        Hmm, I guess it depends on your mom and what she’s like. Obviously, if she’s been telling you she can’t wait to travel for the rest of her life, or something like that, then yes, it’d be asshole. But if she’s talking about how she can’t wait to babysit for grandkids, then no. I don’t think its the coolest think to flat out tell your mom that you will only have kids if she helps/moves in with you, because if she just wants grandkids to see once in a while, then you are putting it on her tremendously, but I think of Peter’s mom and know if I said that to her, she’d be thrilled, her bags would be packed and she’d be throwing away my birth control, haha. His grandma lived with him when he was young and he loved it. His mom was a SAHM though, so grandma wasn’t stuck with the kids all the time.
        I guess my answer is anything in moderation. As long as you are not expecting her to basically play SAHM role for you, and she seems like the type who would like to live with you, say ‘wouldn’t it be amazing if you lived with us when we starting having kids?’

      • jlyfsh November 14, 2013, 9:43 am

        even if she asked and wanted to? i mean i know SO many grandmothers who do it willingly. i don’t think it’s as weird or off base to everyone as it is to you. one of my sister’s friends has two year old twins and her mom (who is over 55) watches them all week long while she works. because she wants to.

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 9:46 am

        My point was that its not easy on the grandma, even if she wants to do it. Its a very difficult job to watch 2 kids and a baby every day. My cousin had my grandmother watching her 3 kids a few years ago a few days a week and it was exhausting for my grandma, but of course she wanted to do it and wanted to help, so she never said anything and my cousin (in my opinion, selfishly) allowed her to continue doing it because, hey, free sitter!

      • starpattern November 14, 2013, 9:55 am

        Yes, I agree with you! I have a cousin with 4 kids, an aunt with 1, and often all 5 kids (ranging from ages 4 to 12) are dropped at my grandfather’s house. My grandmother died several years ago, and so my 76 year old grandfather is left wrangling 5 rowdy kids when he’s not accustomed to childcare anymore, and it’s overwhelming and hard on him. Of course he will never say he doesn’t want to do it… but I think the parents know what kind of toll it takes on him and keep doing it because, like you said, free sitter.

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 9:58 am

        Thanks! I was starting think I was the odd duck here.

      • MMcG November 14, 2013, 12:41 pm

        @lbh… I don’t think you are the odd duck, but I don’t like listing an age like an auto cutoff point. There are plenty of 70 & 80 year olds out there who are in much better shape than 40 year olds… I think it’s just something to judge on a case by case basis taking someone’s individual health and fitness into account. Also depends on the kids 😉

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 12:44 pm

        That’s a very good point.

      • starpattern November 14, 2013, 1:28 pm

        Yeah, I agree with this too – I think the core of it is that parents should try to pay attention to how the grandparents are handling it and make changes as needed so that they don’t overwhelm or overburden the grandparents, even if the resulting arrangement is less convenient for them.

      • jlyfsh November 14, 2013, 10:00 am

        well and i don’t think that she should be expected to watch them either! but, i think it does happen a lot. and if the grandparent is in well enough shape I think it can work out great. especially if it’s not a daunting all the time thing. a few hours a week or less if the person is still able to handle it might not be awful. but, regardless this MIL is obviously not able to so it should no longer be expected of her. however, I think the hard part is going to be when the husband of the LW has to tell his mother the next time they need a baby-sitter that she won’t be it. maybe she’ll be super excited because it was too much, but i know a lot of grandparents who would be really hurt, to have the status quo changed. not that it doesn’t need to happen! but, i think that’s a perfect time for the husband to talk to his mom about the other things going on.

      • MMcG November 14, 2013, 12:43 pm

        Yeah… you don’t want grandma to feel like she was demoted for something outside of her control.

      • BecBoo84 November 14, 2013, 10:07 am

        I have to agree with jlyfsh. I think there are tons of grandparents who love doting on their grandkids and want every opportunity possible to take care of them. My 62 year old mom lives out of town and comes to visit about once a month, and she’s always trying to push my husband and I out the door so she has times with our two little ones (5 years and almost 9 months). She would be utterly offended if we got another babysitter while she was in town. She also watched our baby all summer after I was off maternity leave but before he started daycare, b/c she wanted to, and expressed quite clearly that her feelings would be hurt if he went to daycare when she was available to watch him.

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 10:13 am

        Like I said to katie, I think its a matter of when its too much, even if grandma says its not. I’m not trying to offend everyone who has their mom watch their kid once in a while at all!
        I have friends whose parents want to babysit their 2 y/o all the time too. They agreed to let his parents watch 2 days, her parents watch 2 days and daycare 1 day. I thought it was a great solution.

      • Lindsay November 14, 2013, 11:58 am

        I don’t think wanting to and being exhausted/overwhelmed by something are mutually exclusive. I’m sure my mom would love to watch my hypothetical children, but it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be hard. I think a lot of things related to parenting are like that, and I think the same can be said to getting older, you know?

      • ApresMoi November 14, 2013, 11:47 am

        Who said the MIL stays with kids all day? LW said she uses her MIL on the rare occasions that is needed and if she came home by lunch time during this particular incident, she must have only been gone a few hours. You’re definitely projecting here.

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 11:59 am

        Yea, saw she said rare occasions after I wrote that.

      • Amber November 14, 2013, 12:42 pm

        so now 55 is elderly? oh boy.

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 12:46 pm

        Um, no, nor did I say that. I was first discussing Lw’s MIL, who I presumed was elderly (obv could be wrong) and then was discussing my “younger” mom, who I consider NOT elderly.

      • bcamber November 14, 2013, 3:05 pm

        ohhh okay…sorry that was a hard one to follow.

    • jlyfsh November 14, 2013, 9:36 am

      I know you’re not trying to make light of memory issues, but yes there are times when confusion over a cup (especially paired with other things that the LW may have noticed) does point to Alzheimer’s. Or at least point to needing to at least talk to your Doctor about it. I don’t think she’s necessarily making a bigger deal than she should about this. And I think it’s good to be concerned, especially considering the family history. She does need to be careful in how to proceed and talk it over with her husband like Wendy said and have him take the lead. But, for the benefit of the MIL I think at least talking her in to going to her primary care physician at this point is a good thing.

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      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 9:42 am

        I don’t disagree that a checkup with a doctor is a good idea, but having several family members with Alzheimer’s who I care for often, ONE instance of forgetfulness, especially when juggling 3 kids, is not a sign of it.

      • jlyfsh November 14, 2013, 9:44 am

        You’re assuming it’s one instance and in the letter she said there are other things that are making her concerned. So yes, I think it’s more than a valid concern and she shouldn’t be made to feel bad for worrying about her MIL.

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 9:48 am

        Well, like I said, a doctor checkup is never a bad idea.

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 9:54 am

        I must have phrased that in a way that seemed accusatory, but I’m not trying to make her feel bad.

      • Amber November 14, 2013, 12:07 pm

        I doubt the LW would have written this letter if this was the only instance ever.

    • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 10:13 am

      LBH, I’m with you about the cup. I forget if I’ve done things all the dang time (did I put deoderant on this morning?). A check up is never a bad thing, but yeah, that seemed a little cray to me.

      I do disagree about the grandparents though. 55 isn’t that old (heck some people have small children at 55!) and LW says it’s only occasionally. I will absolutely be letting my mother, and possibly even grandmother, babysit my hypothetical children. Even go for overnight visits!

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      • theattack November 14, 2013, 10:16 am

        I forget about little things like that, but it would be hard to forget about being in someone else’s house and having to look around and find the dish cloths, using their dish soap, and washing a cup over a sink full of dirty dishes, trying to make sure the cup didn’t touch anything dirty. To me that experience would be memorable, whereas things like deodorant and sugar in the coffee aren’t.

      • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 10:19 am

        Yeah. I hear ya. I’m also the person who would probably wash the entire sink full of dishes so.

        I could totally see my mom having zero recollection of where she got a cup, so IDK, it’s really person specific.

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 10:25 am

        Yeah, I’m sure it’s person specific. It just seems like the more steps there are to something, the harder it is to forget it.

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 10:23 am

        Fair enough, but would you be having them watch your 3 kids every day, especially if they might be in poor health? Probably not. (which, yes, I realize this LW isn’t doing either)

      • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 10:36 am

        If I **knew** she was in poor health, no. But thinking maybe something might be up but really not knowing? If this instance is the straw that broke the camels back…yeah I’d re-evaluate. IDK, a dirty cup is just…not that big of a deal to me. Kids do all kinds of dumb shit (eat leaves, play in the toilet (true story), eat boogers, etc) one drink from a yucky cup, whatever.

        Honestly, I’m more freaked out this LW left a sink full of filthy dishes when someone (even, or maybe especially a MIL!!) and kept a cup around for weeks that was so caked with crap she couldn’t get it clean. Throw the cup away!

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 10:39 am

        haha, that is pretty gross!
        Anyway, yea once in a while is not a big deal. 3 little ones very often is.

      • painted_lady November 15, 2013, 12:01 am

        I think yeah, if it’s just the one thing, then sure…but even that one thing might depend on how it happened. I forget crap all the time – my students are forever handing me my cell phone back when I’ve wandered off and left it. But if you’ve ever had a relative with Alzheimer’s, sometimes it’s not that they tell you they don’t remember something, but *how* they tell you. There’s this look that happens that you realize means they have made a total break with the present moment…it’s so scary. So maybe it was that? I don’t know. But she says she suggested she get checked before now, so maybe that’s just one example.

  • Fabelle November 14, 2013, 9:36 am

    I don’t think we can say based off of one incident that your MIL is showing signs of Alzheimer’s, but if it’s in the family, & she’s been seeming forgetful—then I totally understand why you’d be worried. I’m not getting the sense you’re a helicopter mom or reading into things that aren’t there; I’d be worried too, if in this situation (hell, my ex’s family had a history of Alzheimer’s, & I used to look up what foods are good for memory & try to feed them to him. When he was only like 21.)

    But anyway, I agree with Wendy that your husband should be the active person in your MIL’s health. Is HE worried? Or is his tactic of the sticking-head-in-the-sand variety as well? Basically: there’s no harm in accompanying her to the doctor, & mentioning that sometimes she’s forgetful, I don’t think.

    Obviously, we ALL are forgetful at times, but there’s no harm at all in bringing it up to her doctor? However, yeah, this is your husband’s job. (And in the meantime, follow the advice about finding different babysitters. Don’t let MIL feel like you’re taking the kids away from her, so try to frame it as easing her burden & just letting herself enjoy the time she spends with them, rather than needing to actually babysit)

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    • Fabelle November 14, 2013, 9:39 am

      Also, I would familiarize yourself (if you aren’t already) with the signs of Alzheimer’s. Does she still drive? Can she work her way around a grocery store? etc.

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  • theattack November 14, 2013, 9:57 am

    You can’t force someone to get medical attention, but you and your husband should talk about the best way you two can gently encourage her without being pushy. As far as your kids go, you should only leave them with someone when you feel 100% comfortable about the situation. You don’t have to justify changing your arrangements at all, but maybe you should hide some of the occasions you hire a sitter from your MIL so that her feelings aren’t hurt.

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  • starpattern November 14, 2013, 10:04 am

    I don’t know, I wouldn’t be that worried. There’s a history of Alzheimer’s in my family, too, and I think it’s good you’re aware of it and watching for it, but you don’t need to intervene just yet – you do need to keep a record of these instances you think are strange and have your husband (or someone in her immediate family) accompany her to her next checkup and try to mention it to the doctor beforehand so the doctor can try to assess whether that’s something y’all need to worry about. When she gets confused about where she is, can’t remember the way home, etc. that’s when you need to press the issue.

    For now, though, she just sounds… old. Do you and her both a favor and be prepared when she comes to watch your kids. I totally understand being bad at housekeeping (believe me – I finally hired someone to do it for me), but if you don’t want her to have to wash cups (and maybe use a dirty one by accident) you need to have a clean cup set out when she gets there. Same with the food, drinks, diapers, etc. that you want her to use with your kids. Don’t expect an old lady to flawlessly navigate a house and kitchen that is not her own, while caring for 3 young children and trying to remember everything you told her she needs to do, you know?

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  • kaluu November 14, 2013, 10:20 am

    Well my concern is that she used a dirty cup that was in the dirty sink. In would be very uncomfortable about this. I agree that she shouldn’t watch your 3 kids, and you will need to clean any hazard areas like the kitchen before she comes to help. One of my friends left her one baby with her diabetic mil for less than ah hour and the mil fainted so the baby was just crying on the floor when she came back.
    Plus, a cup of water story, my mother in law came to help us and I wanted her to entertain the kids while I decluttered. But she insisted that she would just box things up. She boxed things up so randomly, one box had a baby bottle of water in it.

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  • NavyWife November 14, 2013, 10:36 am

    This reminds me so much of when my own grandmother was diagnosed with Louis Bodies (which is a degenerative brain disease similar to Alzheimers). Anyway, my aunt had children later in life, including a set of twin boys, and my grandmother (in her late 60s) would occasionally watch the 3 kids (all under 3). It was really hard on her physically…3 kids that small is tough! My mom finally had to speak with my aunt about not leaving the kids with their mom; as much as my grandmother loved those children, she was just not up to taking care of them for extended periods of time by herself (or even with my grandfather’s help) but didn’t want to hurt my aunt’s feelings. Shortly thereafter, my grandmother started having a lot of issues and was eventually diagnosed…and in hindsight, there were so many “red flags” that our family overlooked initially (while she was caring for my aunt’s kids) because we had never really dealt with a disease like LB/Alzheimers before.

    So I guess the moral of my long-winded story is, I think it is fair for the LW to be concerned, especially depending upon her MIL’s age and since there is a strong family history of the disease. Alzheimers and similar conditions present like that…it’s little things that build over time. Also, it very well may be that even if her MIL is healthy and does NOT have Alzheimers, taking care of such small children alone is just not within her capacity anymore. I’m currently pregnant and my 58 year-old mom is in terrific shape and I’m sure will be thrilled to watch the baby on occasion, but I can imagine even she would be tired out by 3 young kids for long periods. (Heck, I’m 29 and I’d be tired out!!)

    I think Wendy’s advice–to make things as easy as possible for MIL when she comes to babysit–is good, assuming MIL is not having memory issues and the LW just caught her on a “bad” day.

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  • Sue Jones November 14, 2013, 10:54 am

    Um… I often cannot remember details like that. I am terrible with spatial relations and spatial organization. I have really had to put systems in place so that executive functioning abilities are working well. But I have good memory with most other things. I think you should watch for a pattern. A lapse here and there in someone else’s disorganized house is one thing. Lots of lapses might mean something else.

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  • Lindsay November 14, 2013, 11:33 am

    I’d have to hear more examples of forgetfulness before I was convinced that she had Alzheimer’s. I’ve done some really dumb, forgetful stuff before, and I know that I don’t have it. Someone at my house left the gas on on our stove, which is far more dangerous than drinking out of a dirty cup, and they also do not have it. I realize that you’re concerned because of the family history, but unless you have a lot of other obvious signs, then I guess I’m not super convinced. Honestly, I’d first wonder if she was a little overwhelmed by taking care of so many children. That can be really hard on older adults. And older people DO lose some cognitive abilities/memory, even if it’s not part of a serious illness. But I do find it bizarre that she’d pull a cup out of a sink, which implies that it’s dirty, than get a new one out.

    I do agree that you need other babysitters. Personally, if I had more than one child, I would probably want to primarily use someone younger (sorry if that sounds ageist) and who does babysitting as a job (even just as a part-time one) because watching a lot of children is hard, especially when one is a baby. I don’t think you have to frame it as you thinking your MIL is incompetent so much as that you feel like your kids are maybe getting rambunctious enough and she’s paid her dues raising her children, that she should enjoy the perks of being a grandmother, where you just get to have fun with them, not be required to take care of them. Or even that you want your kids to be more comfortable with strangers for their socialization.

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    • bcamber November 14, 2013, 2:43 pm

      General carelessness or forgetfulness is not the same as being asked a direct/simple question and becoming confused.

      I leave the house without my keys, sometimes leave the fireplace on, what have you. But I would be able to recall where I got a glass of water from if asked.

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  • mandalee November 14, 2013, 11:36 am

    I understand that the LW is sensitive because Alzheimer’s runs in the family, but the cup incident alone wouldn’t be a warning bell for me if it was an isolated event. I mean, I look for my phone when I’m *on* it sometimes and have put my keys in the fridge, etc. Some people are just more forgetful, less attentive to detail than others. Also assuming she was caring for multiple children, maybe the youngest was crying and the simple thought was “grab anything to make her stop”. Caring for children is hard enough, but I can imagine it gets more difficult as you get older and your natural responsiveness declines. You just may be asking too much of her to be a caregiver for your children, and it leads to forgetfulness because it’s taxing on her.

    If it helps when my grandfather started displaying signs of Alzheimer’s, it was very apparent and wasn’t your normal run of the mill forgetfulness. He would do things like go out for the newspaper and come back an hour without it and confused about why he went. He couldn’t remember details of things he loved to do and started forgetting to eat dinner, etc.

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    • rachel November 14, 2013, 11:56 am

      Haha, I always look for my phone when I’m on it. Like I’ll feel for it in my pocket and my heart will skip a beat before I realize how dumb I’m being.

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      • katie November 14, 2013, 12:10 pm

        i just did that exact thing on the airplane on monday- while i was pinteresting on phone.


      • mandalee November 14, 2013, 12:22 pm

        Haha I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  • SasLinna November 14, 2013, 11:59 am

    So this story does sound a little odd to me. Specifically, if I understand correctly, the MIL was holding up a cup covered in grease and saying that the baby had been drinking from it? I guess to me that doesn’t really add up with the fact that LW was unsure whether MIL might have cleaned the cup – if it was dirty as the MIL was showing it to LW, how could that have been the case? Or did she think it had gotten dirty again after MIL used it? Anyway, I guess it’s odd to me that someone would just use a greasy cup without noticing, if that really was the case. I can understand not remembering where the cup was found, but I can’t understand not noticing the dirt on it and just using it as is. That IS weird. Doesn’t mean it’s Alzheimer’s, obviously, but it gives the impression that MIL was indeed confused. .

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    • SasLinna November 14, 2013, 12:02 pm

      That said, I agree with Wendy that there are many explanations for the MIL being confused, that it could be that she was simply overwhelmed looking after three small kids at the same time. That is a pretty exhausting task.

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    • Matcha November 14, 2013, 1:44 pm

      Well, I think it was more a case of the LW seeing the dirty cup, remembering how greasy and dirty it was and that she couldn’t open it, but the MIL was saying she cleaned it. So I think she was trying to jive what she knew (the cup was dirty and greasy) with what she was being told.

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      • SasLinna November 14, 2013, 2:41 pm

        If the cup wasn’t visibly dirty then I can’t really blame the MIL for using it. I was thinking of a visibly greasy, dirty cup, but it’s not 100% clear in LW’s story. Funny how often there is room for interpretation like that.

  • MMcG November 14, 2013, 12:37 pm

    WWS and I just want to give you kudos LW about the way in which you seem to speak to/about and approach your MIL. It seems like you are concerned without being overbearing or helicoptering, and are taking a very cautious approach with your MIL out of compassion. I think it took great restraint to not show more upset at the cup situation, and I do think you have a right to be concerned. Talk with your husband, look into the signs, and continue to show respect and compassion for your MIL while working towards a larger support group for babysitting 🙂

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  • Bittergaymark November 14, 2013, 12:45 pm

    Eh, if your kids truly ARE the most important thing to you and you want to keep them away from filth — maybe wash a fucking dish or two. Sorry, but a stay at home mom who not only leaves filthy dishes in the sink and nasty closed lidded cups around for days on end really can’t throw any stones here. Maybe the cup WAS on the counter. Funny, you seem to be a bit vague about where you left it… But whenever i visit my friends’ CLEAN houses, I often spy these cups all over the place and all of them are clean, filled, ready and there to be used at any given moment. (Not everybody is a gleefully shitty housekeeper.) If the cup was lying around — maybe YOU left it on the counter after trying to open it? — I can see how grandma might have grabbed it. And, oh, perhaps simply assumed it wasn’t some cesspool of grease.

    I dunno, maybe it could be that I’m in a shitty mood (I am!) but this letter rubbed me the wrong way. The headline should read: HELP! I MIGHT LOSE MY FREE BABYSITTER (because grandma might have one of the most horrific diseases ever.) Really. Grandma’s wellfare is such an after thought. Hell, is it even mentioned?

    It is such an entitled attitude. And it’s fucking gross. It is also sadly more than typical of all the me.Me!ME!!! generations born post 1980.

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    • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 12:48 pm

      This is EXACTLY how I felt reading it too, Mark. To be fair, I’m not in the best of moods either though.

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    • katie November 14, 2013, 12:54 pm

      well, i mean, honestly, even if this was the beginning of alzheimers, wouldnt the kids and the grandmother’s welfare be the first things you think of? because on one hand you have kids who need to be adequately looked at, and then a potentially ailing parent on the other. they both need weight given to them, no?

      …and isnt that exactly what the LW did? worried about the MIL, wanting to get her to the doctor, and then also concerned about if she should be watching the kids, and how to break that news to her?

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      • Bittergaymark November 14, 2013, 12:59 pm

        Whatever. This letter expressed concern for the MIL only so far as it would affect the LW’s freebies. There was no compassion towards the MIL. Not even so much as a single note in a rather vast symphony of ME!ME!!ME!!! narcissism.

      • llclarityll November 14, 2013, 12:59 pm

        Yes but it’s such a huuuge jump to make. G-Ma *might* have used a dirty cup, so let’s find a way to tell her she’s not safe around my kids anymore.

        If LW can provide no other concrete examples of red flags, then I’m inclined to believe that she is being dramatic.

    • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 1:10 pm

      As someone born post 1980, I acutally agree with you. I read the letter in the same exact way.

      Do people actually leave dishes out that long? When people are coming to their house?

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      • Bittergaymark November 14, 2013, 1:20 pm

        I dunno. But it freaks me out… How hard is it to do the dishes? Ugh. People are just gross.

    • starpattern November 14, 2013, 1:43 pm

      Ok, yeah, at the root this is what it boils down to. I don’t want to pile hate on the LW ’cause she seems really nice, but girl, you gotta wash your dishes.

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      • AmyP November 14, 2013, 10:12 pm

        Or just throw out the gross cup. I bet she’s got a million of them. (I do.)

    • Ani Nani November 14, 2013, 1:59 pm

      So it’s understandable that the grandmother is so overwhelmed watching three kids that she can’t recall if she gave the baby a dirty cup filled with dirty water, but it is preposterous that a mother of three who is the primary care giver can’t keep her house spotless? You’ve never soaked a dirty pan if it was extra greasy and needed an extra scrub? I just don’t find it super ridiculous that a mother would have some dirty dishes in her house. I’m not a mother, but I have dirty dishes in my sink. I don’t necessarily think that one mistake with a cup means the grandmother has Alzheimer’s, but I really don’t understand ragging on the mom for having dirty dishes.

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      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 2:01 pm

        Dishes that are a week old though? No one can keep their house spotless, but I think most manage to wash dishes over the course of a week.

      • Ani Nani November 14, 2013, 2:12 pm

        LW says that she tried to wash the cup, but couldn’t get it open. Maybe she meant to ask her husband to see if he could do it and forgot. Maybe she was soaking it to try to get the lid off. Maybe her husband does the dishes and didn’t get to it. I just find it intresting that people are jumping all over her for not washing the cup. As if she is lazy or entitled because she is a stay at home mom who doesn’t keep a super clean h ouse while caring for three kids. And yet, at the same time, excusing the grandmother who can’t remember if she washed a cup because caring for three kids is so difficult.

      • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 2:19 pm

        If it’s taken a week of prying to get a lid off of a cup- throw it away!!! Nothing that is that caked with crud is worth serving food on again.

        I don’t think she is necessarily lazy or entitled, but piles of dirty dishes that long…that’s kinda funky.

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 2:25 pm

        I don’t know. I think that’s pretty wasteful. Bleach the thing afterward if you want, or sanitize it. Donate it after you’ve washed it if you don’t want it anymore.

      • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 2:35 pm

        I’m a very earth friendly/recycle oriented person, but there are things that just aren’t worth it any more.

      • AmyP November 14, 2013, 10:15 pm

        That kind of cup is pretty much a consumable. They’re plastic, they eventually get warped or melted by the dishwasher, they get dropped out of strollers and lost at the zoo, babies chew the spouts to bits, etc. This is not a Ming vase.

      • Ani Nani November 14, 2013, 2:52 pm

        The whole dirty dishes uproar just seems to be a whole lot of Mom-shaming to me.

      • starpattern November 14, 2013, 5:08 pm

        I disagree with this. It’s not implying she’s a bad mom to be like, hey, that’s kind of gross, you really need to stay on top of that for the sake of everyone who visits your kitchen. I think that responsibility falls on LW’s husband, too – he’s just not the one that wrote in. If you want to say it’s messy-person shaming, ok, I can see that argument. I just don’t get mom-shaming from the general dishes discussion (I’m not counting the SAHM comments).

      • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 9:03 pm

        Yes, exactly. Saying the dishes are gross is completely independent of her parental status.

      • ApresMoi November 14, 2013, 2:45 pm

        The LW did admit she was “bad at housekeeping” so who knows the extent of what that really means, but if we are talking about ONE cup, then yeah I think its a bit harsh to pile on and also a bit of a stretch to assume that all dishes go unwashed for over a week . Granted there were other “filthy” dishes in the sink, so the kitchen might have been a mess. However, by LW’s account, the grandma seemed really confused. Maybe her eyesight isn’t the best, but I would not just pick up a dirty and greasy looking cup from the sink and assume its ok to give to a child.
        Remaining as objective as possible, I think its fair to say that the LW should not jump to conclusions because of one incident, but perhaps start paying more careful attention to Gmas forgetfulness and get her to a Dr if necessary. I also really liked Wendy’s advice about making it as easy as possible on the baby sitter, so LW, definitely make sure that you have a tidy kitchen/environment when she comes over and even leave snacks/ drinks/ etc per-prepared before you go.

    • bcamber November 14, 2013, 2:50 pm

      I’m not getting that vibe from this LW at all.

      Although the dirty dishes thing – isn’t she a SAHM? If I were a SAHM I would assume one of my roles is keeping up the house.

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      • Ani Nani November 14, 2013, 2:58 pm

        I wouldn’t assume that all SAHMs are responsible for the upkeep of the house. Maybe she mows the lawn and her husband is supposed to do the dishes. Who knows how they allocate chores in their house? She shouldn’t be responsible for keeping up the house just because she is a SAHM. It’s not like she doesn’t have a job. She does. She takes care of the kids. Just because she doesn’t leave the house to do her job, doesn’t mean that the upkeep of the house falls exclusively to her. I would hope that Wendy doesn’t feel like she has to take care of Jackson, run Dear Wendy, clean the apartment, make dinner, do the dishes, etc. all on her own just because she works out of her home while Drew leaves the house for work.

      • bcamber November 14, 2013, 3:03 pm

        But Wendy works out of her home AND takes care of her kid.

      • Ani Nani November 14, 2013, 3:09 pm

        So if the LW had a business that she ran from home and had a sitter come in a few times a week, then it would be okay if she shared responsibility for cleaning the house? But because LW is a SAHM, she doesn’t get to share responsibilities? I am not slamming Wendy at all. I just find it interesting how many people think that having dirty dishes makes the LW lazy or entitled. As if her husband doesn’t share in the responsibility at all because he has a job that pays him outside the home.

      • Ani Nani November 14, 2013, 3:24 pm

        You are implying that she isn’t because the dishes aren’t done.

      • lemongrass November 14, 2013, 3:32 pm

        I am a sahm and do most of the day to day cleaning and I can assure you it is no easy task. My husband does help a lot. And I only have one kid. Caring for other children and being a mom are so different so please don’t assume that babysitting or even nannying is the same amount of work as being a sahm. Especially since every kid and age is different. Right now my son is at an age where he cries almost all the time I’m in the room. He’s happy as a clam with others until I step in the door. I have to strap him on my back to cook dinner. I rush to do the dishes during his very short naps. The rest of the housekeeping I do after he goes to bed. I take 30 mins to rest before going to bed and I’m still getting up sometimes 3 times a night. It is fucking hard. Nowhere near as hard as caring for someone else’s kid. It’s like saying that you rode in an airplane so being a pilot isn’t that hard. Cut the lady some slack if she isn’t a Pinterest perfect mom and has a couple dirty dishes.

    • bethany November 14, 2013, 3:02 pm

      Can we amend that to “post 1981”?

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    • tbrucemom November 14, 2013, 3:48 pm

      BGM-I love that you always seem to say what I’m usually thinking and put it in such plain language! I know sometimes people comment that you’re being mean but I think you’re usually spot on.

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  • llclarityll November 14, 2013, 12:56 pm

    I don’t know, something else strikes me as off in this story. Maybe it’s just the way the LW wrote it, but it seems really weird to me that G-Ma would say that the baby enjoyed drinking out of a glass in response to “How did your morning go?”

    If this did in fact happen as LW thought it did, then we’re talking about three separate events here that are questionable judgement/memory-wise: G-Ma pulling a dirty cup out of a dirty sink; G-Ma giving dirty cup with dirty water to infant; and G-Ma forgetting that she used that particular cup. That’s a huge string of forgetfulness to just assume on the LW’s part.

    I really don’t think this woman has Alzheimers based on this one incident. I’d say it was more a case of her pulling the cup out of the sink to wash it to use it, not being able to get the lid off or some other reason that she set it down and forgot about it, using another cup for baby, and then getting confused when asked by LW. Kinda like a, “Oh shit, DID I use that cup?!”

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    • Bittergaymark November 14, 2013, 1:03 pm

      I don’t get this at all. The news of the baby drinking water from a cup is parallel to things I say all the time while working.

      “How was your morning?”

      “Got the set up and painted. Off to Ikea I go.”

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    • rachel November 14, 2013, 1:06 pm

      Yeah, I’m with Mark on this. That seems like a reasonable update to a how did it go type question.

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  • mylaray November 14, 2013, 1:03 pm

    I agree with everything Wendy said, and I agree it’s probably time to find another babysitter. But I think it would be very, very hard to leave my future child with someone other than my MIL. I imagine it’s hard enough leaving your child in someone else’s care. And I feel like maybe some of the LW’s concerns come from those fears of leaving someone else in charge.

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    • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 1:07 pm

      I think that’s sort of what I have a problem with…
      I totally get wanting to only leave your children with family. Totally get it. BUT, is that really fair to them? That us parents just expect that our parents/relatives want to spend the 50s, 60s, etc., essentially raising a new family? Sure most grandparents want to spend time with the grandkids, but choosing to do so while not “working” while doing so is so different than HAVING to no matter what and instead of fun times, a lot of it is working. I’m not wording this well, but rather than wiping butts and making dinner, I’d rather have grandma stopping by for two hours to read a book and relax and be able to leave whenever she feels like it.

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      • mylaray November 14, 2013, 1:16 pm

        Yeah I get what you’re saying. I don’t think it’s fair if the grandparent/family member didn’t willingly sign up for that. My MIL is a retired kindergarten teacher and I know she’s excited to help out with childcare as much as possible (she even wants us to move in) so I’m sure my opinion is blurred by that. I think there are people who abuse that privilege, and that could definitely be happening here.

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 1:23 pm

        This is exactly what my mother and my MIL are like, so I’m with you. I would never even dream of asking either of them to do it, but in reality they’ll probably be fighting each other over who gets to take care of the grandchildren every day. Really most new grandparents I know are like this.

      • mylaray November 14, 2013, 1:32 pm

        Haha maybe it’s a southern thing. I see it a lot here too, but my parents up in NYC are not like that.

      • lets_be_honest November 14, 2013, 1:35 pm

        I’m a NYer. My parents love being grandparents, but don’t want to be nannies, so when they have my kid, they do fun things, not babysitting things. My boyfriend’s mom on the other hand is like your parents.

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 1:37 pm

        Maybe it is. I know a lot of people who try to time their retirement with their grandchildren being born. I can guarantee you that if I got pregnant this year, my MIL would take an early retirement so she could nanny full-time. (She’s also a kindergarten teacher, so maybe that’s part of it too) She was very hurt when my BIL and his wife rejected that same offer, so she’s really counting on us I think.

      • iwannatalktosampson November 14, 2013, 1:20 pm

        Yeah I think that’s a HUGE burden to put on relatives. It’s one thing if it’s a once a month thing while you go out to dinner, but do babysit your grandkids while the parents work 8-5 is such a huge responsibility. I would love it if my mom would watch my kids, she’d be the best at it, but I can’t justify putting that on her. She has friends and hobbies and other shit she wants to do. She wants to be grandma and not nanny.

  • iwannatalktosampson November 14, 2013, 1:11 pm

    I ate some weird shit as a child and I turned out just find. I would talk shit about the dirty dish, but I decided last night I want to have 3 kids, so I will now give slack to all parents with 3 kids.

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  • something Random November 14, 2013, 1:43 pm

    If I ignore the title and just read the letter I’m not getting a narcissistic vibe. I would read it differently if LW didn’t say babysitting was rare. I probably would have thrown a cup away rather than let it sit at the bottom of a sink for a week; sorry if that’s judge-y. And I do think lw sounds more concerned with how to break the news that grandma that she doesn’t get to babysit than getting her help for a terminal illness. But I’ll give her the benefit of doubt and assume that she isn’t emphasizing that because she doesn’t want to jump the gun. My advice regarding childcare is simple; if she feels uncomfortable with MIL’s judgement then get someone else to babysit. Don’t tell the MIL but she should make sure MIL gets plenty of other time to bond with the kids. As far as Alzheimer’s goes I don’t have any experience and I don’t have an informed opinion.

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  • Matcha November 14, 2013, 1:55 pm

    I would advise the LW just … keep an eye out. It could have just been a bout of forgetfulness.

    However, I think it doesn’t hurt to go to a doctor. Medication can reduce and stabilize symptoms. I’d get a second opinion, however if the first doctor doesn’t diagnose her or you feel differently. My grandmother’s PCP told her she was just aging but she was convinced something wasn’t right. Turns out she had Alzheimer’s but the doctor didn’t diagnose her until she was severely impaired.

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  • theattack November 14, 2013, 2:12 pm

    Just going to admit it: There are always dirty dishes in my sink. We seem to always be behind one night on dishes, plus whatever crap is supposed to be handwashed that P doesn’t get around to. It’s his job to do them, so he’s more disgusting than I am, but I never just step up and do them when he’s neglected it. There. Everyone judge me. I have no children, and my kitchen is messy anyway.

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    • theattack November 14, 2013, 2:21 pm

      I also have dirty clothes spilling out of the top of my hamper, and I leave my socks under the coffee table at least once a week.

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    • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 2:25 pm

      We will often leave pots and pans over night to soak, and I think that’s really normal. But a week??

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      • theattack November 14, 2013, 2:35 pm

        I don’t make a habit of doing that all the time, no, but it’s happened before. Sometimes something slips under the radar that it’s been in the sink that long, and it happens. I do always at least rinse things before leaving them in the sink, but it might be a few days before P gets around to washing something (which is against the household rules, but it happens anyway because apparently husbands aren’t trainable – who knew?).

    • rachel November 14, 2013, 2:37 pm

      Haha, I always have dirty dishes too. Though I would definitely make an effort to clean them if someone were coming over.

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      • theattack November 14, 2013, 2:39 pm

        Yeah, same here. I never let people see my mess, and this is really the first time I’ve admitted it to anyone even. I like for my kitchen to be spotless (although it never is through the week), so when people come over I just pretend it’s always like that. haha

    • katie November 14, 2013, 2:43 pm

      I’m right there with you. Judge away everyone.

      And, I would *never* throw out a cup I just couldn’t get the lid off. That’s the worst reason to throw something out in my opinion. Cups cost money people!!

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      • theattack November 14, 2013, 2:49 pm

        Me either. I would find an old case knife or something and pry that sucker open. If it truly was unpriable (?) after hours of trying for a few nights, I would eventually stab a hole through it to drain it out (assuming this is plastic since grandma is giving it to a baby) and recycle it.

        Also I’m glad you have dirty dishes, Katie. I was worried you would tell me I should never cook/bake for anyone again. haha

      • katie November 14, 2013, 2:59 pm

        Haha. Having dirty dishes is different from being unsanitary. They are not linked.

        Also I may or may not have created a Pinterest board for your fancy party.

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 3:06 pm

        No you didn’t!!! I am in love with everything you just said. Logging into Pinterest now…

      • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 3:06 pm

        Well now I feel the need to clarrify that I would recyle it if possible (like you’re describing). But I wouldn’t necessarily keep it to serve my family in.

        I was the crazy lady at the tailgate last Saturday pulling beer bottle out of the garbge to recycle them…

      • bethany November 14, 2013, 3:09 pm

        GG, I’d toss the cup, too. Just like I toss plastic containers when they get gross. (by toss, I mean recycle). Plastics aren’t made to use forever. If it’s stuck shut, I’m going to get rid of it (I’m assuming the kid’s cup was plastic).

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 3:10 pm

        haha, That’s awesome! Before I gave up and recycled though I would put hours into it. HOURS. I once got a cheap corkscrew stuck in a bottle of wine with a stupid synthetic cork that refused to open, and I tried to open it for THREE YEARS before I gave up. I moved that bottle to two different apartments and had almost every one of my guests try to get it open in that time span. haha It’s probably stubbornness more than anything, but I would not give up on that cup either.

      • something Random November 14, 2013, 4:04 pm

        I wouldn’t causally throw out a nice cup. But most of the lidded cups we bought for our babies were marked take and toss and were pretty cheap. I do try to recycle, but honestly it’s more miss than hit. So I guess that’s where people can judge me.

        And it is way easier for me to see one or two people having dirty dishes sitting for several days than a stay-at-home mom with several kids. I don’t say this from a place of holier-than-thou, more like I really can’t see making and serving functional meals and I don’t know how I could operate. But I’m guessing the dishes weren’t dirty all week, it was probably just the cup.

        I’m really not trying to make anyone feel bad. Maybe I’m delicate, maybe this is my own squeamishness but I think a kitchen sink is one of the dirtiest areas in a house. You get raw meat and left over scrapings and all kinds of bacteria in there. Its hard for me to think about a seven day old pool of sitting, greasy water that has been exposed to saliva going into a baby’s mouth as anything but unsanitary. We all have our weaknesses; for some of us its messiness and maybe others are wasteful. Call me wasteful, but that cup would have to go!

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 4:28 pm

        You haven’t made me feel bad at all! I definitely agree about it being easier to let dishes sit when you don’t have kids. If I only cook every few days because we’re eating leftovers, it’s easy to overlook the problem. People who have kids and have to cook more often are probably forced to wash dishes.

        For the record, I would definitely freak out if my (non-existent) baby drank out of something that dirty. I scrub the hell out of things that have been sitting in my dirty sink, but I believe in the power of soap, so I wouldn’t just throw the cup out forever over it.

      • katie November 14, 2013, 4:55 pm

        I’ll be totally honest here- you shouldn’t ever have raw meat in your sink. That is much more dangerous then a cup sitting dirty for a week.

      • starpattern November 14, 2013, 5:12 pm

        Serious question, how can you avoid having raw meat goo (tiny pieces of it or what have you) go in there with the dishes you use to prepare it like a cutting board and knife or whatever you marinated it in?

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 5:20 pm

        I always wipe that stuff off with a paper towel directly into the trash before putting it in the sink. Then I get a soapy paper towel and do a preliminary wash over the trash can before putting it in the sink.

      • starpattern November 14, 2013, 5:46 pm

        That is dedication, TA!

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 7:02 pm

        The only thing it’s dedication to is to not have to wash any dishes immediately. haha

      • katie November 14, 2013, 5:27 pm

        I would scrap all the bits of meat with your knife off the board, throw that out, then clean the board. And I get that you can’t literally clean a dirty cutting board without getting some of whatever was in the sink, but I’m talking more about having the actual piece of raw meat in your sink as many people do. There is no reason to do that.

      • starpattern November 14, 2013, 5:49 pm

        Ah ok. That’s what I do, except sometimes I miss a piece of it and gag while trying to dig it out of the drain cover. I just over-thought it as usual and was like “BUT HOW?” Haha.

      • Liquid Luck November 14, 2013, 6:18 pm

        Since you seem knowledgeable, what’s the deal with putting raw meat (like, fat trimmings or small pieces) in the garbage disposal? Is that ok, or should I not be doing that?

      • mylaray November 14, 2013, 6:32 pm

        Ah I wouldn’t do that. I used to drop in the tiny fat trimmings into the garbage disposal all the time without a problem, and then I did that last month in our new place and that was a huge mistake. It wouldn’t go through and the whole kitchen and apartment smelled like a dead animal before maintenance could come in and fix it. I used a whole bottle of febreeze to get rid of the smell, and they told me it wasn’t good to put them in disposals. I learned my lesson.

      • Liquid Luck November 14, 2013, 6:43 pm

        Ugh, I was hoping everyone would say it’s fine. I hate just throwing raw stuff in the trash because it makes our kitchen smell awful. We don’t have an outdoor trashcan (we live in a townhouse complex). We do have a huge dumpster that’s not convenient at all, but I wouldn’t walk there at night just to throw away a few pieces of animal fat, so even if we were going to do that it would have to sit in the kitchen until the next morning.

      • mylaray November 14, 2013, 6:52 pm

        Yeah I hate how it makes the trash smell too. Fortunately I can just walk the trash down to the end of the hall, but I also use the trash bags with febreeze in them (I think by Glad) and with a closed trash can, it helps a lot. Can you set a small bag outside overnight or is that not allowed?

      • Liquid Luck November 14, 2013, 6:56 pm

        We’re probably allowed, but we have raccoons and the one time we tried that they opened the bag and got shit everywhere. So I don’t think we’ll be trying that again.

        Sidenote: Why does spell check not recognize “raccoons”? Am I only allowed to discuss one raccoon at a time? That seems like a very strange rule.

      • starpattern November 14, 2013, 10:43 pm

        So what I do with meat scraps is put them in one of those plastic shopping bags and tie the top and then put that whole thing in the trash can. That usually keeps it from smelling until I take the trash out like usual. Plus my big green can that goes to the curb will get super rank if I don’t try to isolate that kind of stuff as much as possible, ha.

      • SimonTheGrey November 22, 2013, 3:27 pm

        I bag those kinds of things in a little separate bag. I know it’s wasteful, but if I can have a small bag from the grocery store hanging on the side of the sink and throw scraps into it while I cook, then I can tie that bag closed and toss it in the dumpster on my way to work the next day and it doesn’t stink up the house.

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 7:01 pm

        I wouldn’t do it because particles get stuck in garbage disposals all the time. I’m weird about disposals though, and I won’t use them for anything.

      • Zepp November 14, 2013, 5:51 pm

        If the cup was greasy, there had to have been meat involved. Maybe it wasn’t raw when it went into the sink, but after a week…. yikes

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 6:59 pm

        Meat is not the only origin of grease.

    • bethany November 14, 2013, 3:06 pm

      Me too! I’m too exhausted at night to bother with them. My husband and I have a “I cook, you do dishes” system, but he seems to be slacking on his part lately…

      I started getting up early and doing them in the morning. It makes me happy to have an empty sink when I get home from work.

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      • theattack November 14, 2013, 3:14 pm

        That’s our broken system too, Bethany. I might have to give in and start doing it in the morning, but that would mean I would have to like… grow up. Not sleeping until the very last minute? That sounds too much like being an adult. I’m scared.

      • bethany November 14, 2013, 3:18 pm

        It’s actually really nice! I have some nice alone time in the AM to snuggle the cat, or drink lots of coffee. I highly recommend it. Plus, you can be lazy all evening and not feel bad about it, because you’ve already been productive!

      • GatorGirl November 14, 2013, 3:31 pm

        I wash, always. GGuy hates it and it makes him irrationally angry so I always wash the dishes. He puts them away and cleans the toilet in return. It totally works for us. (I irrationally hate putting dishes away.)

      • rawkmys0cks November 14, 2013, 3:43 pm

        Oh man, doing dishes makes me irrationally angry too. I’d rather have a sink full of dirty dishes than do them myself. Yup!

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 4:37 pm

        Yes! See, here we are bonding (or is that just me?) even after the homeschooling thread.

      • rawkmys0cks November 14, 2013, 5:06 pm

        Haha yes!! People can’t agree on everything all the time 😛

        I’m trying to be more involved in commenting because I think its kind of weird and creepy that I feel like I know you guys but nobody knows anything about me when I just happen to pop in randomly, haha.

        Anyway, this is my life pretty much every day.

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 5:10 pm

        Haha, We’re probably all a little creepy, but yes, you should definitely comment more!

    • rawkmys0cks November 14, 2013, 3:41 pm

      Yep. I’m exactly the same. I cook everything and do all the grocery shopping, and it’s my fiance’s job to do the dishes. But you know, most of the time we’re tired by the time I’ve gotten home from work, cooked, and eaten because its late. He doesn’t do the dishes that night (or sometimes several nights in a row) and I don’t do a damn thing to them either cuz its not my job! So, messy kitchen.

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      • theattack November 14, 2013, 4:35 pm

        Yes, yes, yes. This is exactly my life. And since we’re trying to take walks after dinner now, it’s even harder. Throw in random other life projects or having to work late, and the sink of dishes is not happening. I’m not losing any sleep over it.

      • rawkmys0cks November 14, 2013, 5:08 pm

        Oh oh oh, what about when we both get home from work, and I have to cook, and he’s being lazy and doesn’t want to wash the dishes, but I’m like “I HAVE TO COOK” and so I tell him the essentials of what I need, like, “seriously, just wash the knife, the cutting board, and this pot, and we’ll be gravy.” Or some variation thereof…

        I want to start taking walks after dinner too…but its so cold out now.

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 5:18 pm

        Haha, We’ve had that same conversation before too. If he wants dinner, he has to provide me with the tools. I can play that game all day, because I’m fine with eating Boo Berries for dinner.

        When we moved to our new apartment, I offered to switch up roles and take on half of the dishes if he would take on half of the cooking, but he refused and insisted he would do it. It’s still not happening. Does your guy ever cook, or just you?

        The after dinner walks suck right now because of that. It’s too cold to be outside, and we’ve been poking our noses around where we shouldn’t have been lately, and I’m afraid an angry criminal is going to attack us on one of our walks. The other night he took out the trash and went on an impromptu half hour walk, so I thought he was murdered.

      • rawkmys0cks November 14, 2013, 5:29 pm

        Hahaha oh thank god I’m not alone. I am adamant about never doing the dishes. I just get pissed if I have to do them. I also just don’t feel like fighting him about him doing them every night. I’m lazy about other things I do too, so we give each other a lot of slack while we don’t have kids or other major responsibilities. These are our lazy years!

        I’m the only one who cooks. My dad is a chef who taught me how to cook, and it’s kind of just ingrained in my mind, and I LOVE cooking so its kind of a hobby of mine; I get a lot of pleasure from it. Fiance never cooks, ever, partly because I’m a control freak in the kitchen, and partly because he has no idea wtf he is doing. Nobody cooked in his family. I have no idea how they even ate.

        I got my wisdom teeth out a couple weeks ago, and I had him make butternut squash soup, and he spent the entire hour he was cooking asking me a million questions. Which was fine…but talking was not what I felt like doing at that time.

        The thing I really dislike is grocery shopping, but if I’m the one cooking and I know what food we need to buy…I have to do it. Though, now I just order my groceries online and get them delivered to my door (yay NYC!) This is my answer for pretty much everything I hate doing. I also don’t do my own laundry. Yep, lazy years!

      • theattack November 14, 2013, 5:37 pm

        You have no idea how often I wish we had grocery-delivery services here. It’s weekly at least. Also liquor-delivery. Liquor stores would seriously make so much money doing this. It’s not like you can just drive to the store for your second or third bottle of wine, ya know?

        I hope he at least remembers how to make the soup so that he can treat you to that in the future. Maybe all of that talking will pay off? I had to walk P through how to make grilled cheese last night (for the fourth or fifth time, by the way) to go with the tomato soup I made. haha I have no idea how he survived his bachelorhood. What do people eat when they don’t cook? What does that even mean?

        And YES to the lazy years! Our sinks might be gross, but at least we’re getting some much needed time on the couch/with a book/whatever that we might not have in the future.

  • Zepp November 14, 2013, 5:43 pm

    Is this going to be a thread where we all have to pretend that having dirty dishes in your sink for A WEEK isn’t disgusting and health hazard and crappy parenting? Because that is absurd. I love how people replying to this are like, “When your a mom you cant have a clean house every second!!” as if that is the same thing as a WEEK. As if there isn’t 6 days in between that time. The 6 days where mold grows and bacteria spreads. Where the dishes pile up so high a child can easily reach into the sink and have them spill out and glass break and go everywhere.

    This is so foul, and so unacceptable, and I think the LW is latching onto her MIL to displace the guilt she should be feeling over allowing this disgusting dangerous situation to even happen. How was the MIL to know that cup was in the sink for a week?!?! That is NOT normal. I highly doubt anyone on this board grew up in a household where the same dishes were in the sink for a week. Seriously?

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    • theattack November 14, 2013, 6:36 pm

      Sorry Zepp, I can’t hear you because the horse you’re on is so tall.

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    • rachel November 14, 2013, 6:37 pm

      The CUP has been sitting there for a week. She said each time she did dishes she tried to open it. This means that the current dirt dishes are more recent than a week.

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    • ApresMoi November 14, 2013, 6:39 pm

      I said above, but I’ll repeat here. We are talking about ONE cup. She mentions doing the dishes multiple times and leaving the cup in there, which granted, is gross but now you’ve turned it into a story “where the dishes pile up so high a child can easily reach into the sink and have them spill out and glass break and go everywhere.”
      And if said cup was so disgusting (even from the outside, which is what it sounds like), would you just pick it up and give it to a baby? Maybe its poor eye sight, maybe the Gma WAS overwhelmed, maybe she IS having signs of Alzheimers.
      And yes this LW should try to find some better coping techniques, or even get additional help with the house. But the way some people are freaking out on here is a bit much and truly kind of sad.
      This may be a completely separate tangent, but I remember writing to an advice columnist a few years ago and the way strangers on the internet pick people apart can be SO hurtful.

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  • Shandra November 14, 2013, 9:59 pm

    LW, I don’t think you’re a terrible mum if you had dirty dishes in the sink, although I do think it would make it a bit harder for other people coming in. But I also don’t think this is necessarily a sign of Alzheimer’s unless there are a lot of other ones. I think it is great to listen to your instincts about who is safe to watch your kids.

    I also think that if you are tired out with 3 kids and sleep-deprived, it would be easy to take the adrenaline of realizing that your kid drank gross water and have that kind of swirl around free-floating and then land on The Alzheimerz. So I would take some deep breaths and see what’s what.

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  • Heather June 15, 2017, 8:01 am

    In all of these ‘ask whoever’ articles, the answer always is to babysit your own children while looking after an incompetent elder whIle paying for babysitting just so the elder can have ‘a relationship with their grandchild’. The real correct answer is to protect your child from toxic in laws by making them be responsible for their own behavior or elose they get no contact. Being a parent isn’t easy, protecting your children should be the number one priority over hurting some seniors feelings.

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