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Should I get between DH and this MIL?

(142 Posts)
Madinche1sea Mon 10-Oct-16 10:55:55

I don't think I can face dealing with MIL today sad
Just for background - MIL was unfortunately widowed last year. She had been previously living in Argentina with late FIL, but did not wish to remain there alone. It was decided that she would come and live with us in London and we would convert our basement into an apartment for her.
So three months of renovations earlier this year. MIL was living in our house with us and was consulted all the way about choice of flooring, decor, etc. When the work was more or less completed, she then decided that she didn't want to live "down below" in a basement after all! Btw, it was not at all dark or pokey - we had even had the back garden re-levelled so that she had direct access to it via sliding glass doors.
Anyway, DH is used to his mother being quite high maintenance, so got her an apartment with 24 hour security down the road. She moved in early August and seems quite happy with this arrangement.
The problem is that she now expects me to visit her EVERY day. During the week, I'm expected to facilitate her contact with the outside world. DH has organised various home- help / cleaners for her, but she shouts at them all, accuses them of stealing from her, etc. So this is all falling to me as a result. I think she's gone through 3 different companies now. She is 68, but looks early 50's. Very good health and one of the most glamorous women I know.
When she lived with us, she was on a mission to get me cooking more Persian food (she's originally from Iran). She says DH should not be deprived of this and it is also our DC's heritage (we have 4 DC). Now she still comes down on Sunday mornings to "help" me cook all this food as she sees fit. Yesterday was a nightmare. She came when DH was at rugby and I was trying to supervise 4 lots of homework. She took over the whole kitchen to "help" me make all this food when I would have rather just waited for DH to come back and gone out for lunch. I was exhausted and close to tears by the evening because of her.
Then, in the night, she called DH at 3am (she often does this) because she was having one of her "panic attacks" / suspected she had an intruder. DH walked down there and calmed her down. When he got back it was 4.40 and he had to leave for his flight at 5.30 anyway.
Now DH is away until Fri and I don't think I have the patience to deal with her this week. I do feel sorry for her. She was very dependent on her husband and I appreciate she is getting older. Am I being reasonable, or should I just say nothing to DH and accept how she is as an elderly person and his mother?

HereIAm20 Mon 10-Oct-16 11:01:49

No - you need to speak to your DH about it as soon as possible and set the proper boundaries that you want in place.

If her being at a separate but nearby location isn't working she can have the choice of moving back "on site" or staying where she is but with guidelines as to when you will call round etc.

If she wants to cook iranian food perhaps she could be encouraged to do this at home and bring it round or you to visit as a family to eat there.

With these type of new family set ups it is best to be honest about what is not working and what isn't to start. Don't get bullied into living a life you don't want. But try to remain compassionate about her circumstances. Are there any clubs etc she might enjoy? Our gym has a "club" for active seniors and they go to the cinema, for coffees etc.

Softkitty2 Mon 10-Oct-16 11:03:54

If you let this go on and give in, its what you will be doing for the rest of her life. Put boundaries in place NOW before it becomes a habit.

Softkitty2 Mon 10-Oct-16 11:06:44

Oh have you heard of the saying there can't be 2 queens in 1 castle? One of you will have to give.

Madinche1sea Mon 10-Oct-16 11:09:37

Thanks Here and Kitty. I know I do bmneed to get boundaries in place, but she can be very difficult and won't accept outside help, unless it's me. She used to be quite offhand with me when we first got married. DH says she has come to see me as the daughter she never had!

justilou Mon 10-Oct-16 11:10:41

Thank goodness she moved out of your place! I think it'S time you sat her down and told her to grow up.

Madinche1sea Mon 10-Oct-16 11:11:38

She won't live in this house because she says there are too many staircases confused It would probably be too much tbh.

cowbag1 Mon 10-Oct-16 11:14:13

I disagree that she is elderly! She's 68! My DM is 67 and lives alone and would be mortified to rely on anyone the way your MIL is relying on you (if she is in good health, as you say).

Just stop doing it. Do you work? If not, find something else to do with your time and make it clear that you are unable to help. It's wrong that this has been foisted upon you and if your DH disagrees, then you have a DH problem as they say.

It would be different if she were in her 80s but even then, I would be insisting that she move into the space that was renovated for her. You have enough of your plate with 4 DCs and it seems that eveyone expects you to run around after them. Put your foot down now.

NeedsAsockamnesty Mon 10-Oct-16 11:14:25

So tell her if she refuses the help she has to do the job herself because you won't

ohfourfoxache Mon 10-Oct-16 11:14:53

She's not elderly- she's only 68!

ohfourfoxache Mon 10-Oct-16 11:15:44

X post Cowbag (fab name btw)

justgivemeamo Mon 10-Oct-16 11:17:37

Hi OP. What a nightmare situation!

are there any other siblings your DH?

My eyes are watering at the cost of leveling gardens and renovating basements! It sounds like your DH has bent over backwards to accommodate her already .Living close by is a wonderful compromise but not at the expense of your lifestyle, this is awful!
You need to say to your DH that your patience is running thin and she needs to start behaving like an adult and accept the help she gets from outside agencies. YOU need to say you cannot visit her every day and you wouldnt want to even if you had NO dc !! Whilst you dearly love grin and respect his DM you do not want to spend so much time with her!

He needs to tell her - we do not shout at staff in the UK or treat them like shit. She will have no help, You need to start concentrating on your dc.

You also need to say its NOT OK TO COME IN on s Sunday morning and start dominating your kitchen and simultaneously undermining your cooking skills! You need to say something - you need to sound tough on this. You will not budge - this is not said - in a soft....IF ONLY voice - this is said in a strong I WILL TAKE NO MORE voice.

On the other hand op - I adore Persian food and if you cant cook it - its one area I would learn from your mil! Its amazing!!Some of the best food and curries EVER were made by a person friend I had! I dearly wish I had learned how to cook the dishes. Get her to teach your dc too. Infact maybe this could be used to set proper time limits to control it.

Ie rather than her randomly forcing her way in sunday am - say " we all want to learn this amazing cuisine, the best time to come and teach us all is X for two hours"

Softkitty2 Mon 10-Oct-16 11:19:21

Reading what you are saying you are making excuses for her. If you let this go on you will be a regular poster on here about things that irritates you.
Maybe you can suggest 1 day during the week you are willing to do things for her..if something comes up thats not an emergency then it can wait until then and stick to it.

You have 4 dc a husband and household to run. You dont need the extra stress

justgivemeamo Mon 10-Oct-16 11:20:05

DH says she has come to see me as the daughter she never had!

ah thats lovely! So sweet but this daughter is not going to fall looking after 4dc and a sprightly difficult old lady as well. A daughter of hers would I am sure be no door mat...having seen mum in action grin

myownprivateidaho Mon 10-Oct-16 11:20:13

Well, realistically she's moved across the world to live down your street, so you're probably going to see quite a bit of her. But sounds like you need to hand over Sunday lunch Persian cookery duties to your DH. Do you work? If so, can you just not tell her your hours so she doesn't know when you're in in the week? Then at least she can visit in the evenings when your DH is in too. Even if not, can you just find reasons not to be at home during the day and therefore unavailable to see her? Also, could you use her to your advantage and send the kids to see her on their own sometimes?

Madinche1sea Mon 10-Oct-16 11:20:15

Well yes, I agree 68 is not elderly if you're in good health. She is s very nimble woman. She will want me to take her to some certain shops today and will be careering about. When DH takes her for walks though, she has "dizzy" spells - she had one on Saturday in Hyde Park. I do think she's getting more eccentric, though I think she's always been quite high- maintenance because FIL did everything for her.

myownprivateidaho Mon 10-Oct-16 11:21:46

Also could your DH help her find more of a community in London? It is hard moving to a new country after all. Maybe she could join a club/start a hobby/volunteer or something?

Madinche1sea Mon 10-Oct-16 11:26:11

Oh she knows London well. She brought up her two boys in this area. She only moved back to Argentina about 10 years ago because FIL came from there and wanted to retire back home.

Somerville Mon 10-Oct-16 11:26:25

Eccentric or the start of dementia?

But to be honest, either way she is primarily your DH's responsibility. Yours is to support him in looking after her. Not to do the looking after. Obviously that may mean checking in on her while he's travelling for work if he can't get out of going.

He needs to accept that rugby and the like needs to go on hold for a while. A FT job, 4DC and an (in essence) dependant parent means there will be very little time for hobbies. You might also need to cut down on your DC's commitments at weekends and after school for a while to help keep home life simpler.

APlaceOnTheCouch Mon 10-Oct-16 11:28:01

Can you direct her attention elsewhere? My DM is in her 80s and attends a dance class, meets friends for lunch, etc. Surely your MIL must have some external interests. She needs to build a friendship group so she can share her focus with them. I'd look into a cookery group or an expat group. You could suggest attending with her at first then whilst you're there, you can help her to find and create new links. Or, buy her tickets to a class as a gift.
She's new to the country so is going to feel lost but there's a point where this tips from settling in to being a habit so I think it would be good to start to widen her horizons beyond your immediate family.

APlaceOnTheCouch Mon 10-Oct-16 11:29:58

Ah, cross-post, I've just read that she brought her DCs up in London. I still think it's different being in London as a young family than being a widow in your 60s so she will still need help to adjust, find new hobbies and peers.

justgivemeamo Mon 10-Oct-16 11:31:48

She will want me to take her to some certain shops today and will be careering about. When DH takes her for walks though, she has "dizzy" spells - she had one on Saturday in Hyde Park

can you film her!!!

it sounds sinsiter

lborgia Mon 10-Oct-16 11:33:11

Is it too early for me to mention <cough>narcissism<cough>...

This woman has had a colluding husband (as in, he put up with whatever was required), and cannot now fathom a life where she is not central to the universe. This is a very very old story, and you can find many examples on here.

You need to make, and keep, the clearest possible boundaries, make sure your DH is entirely on your team (it is very difficult for children of people like this to go against them, even as adults), because you can't do this alone.

This has nothing to do with your duty of care, or how fragile or strong she is. This is a life-long set of personality traits, and it's a miracle that you haven't had to deal with it before.

If you manage to contain this, then by all means make the most of being able to learn Persian cooking, but no skill set is worth the damage that this kind of behaviour could wreak, given that there might be another 25 years or more of this.

NellysKnickers Mon 10-Oct-16 11:35:23

Unless she has an illness, mental or physical, she is playing on the age thing.......68 is not old. My MIL is 81 and very independent despite various ailments. Could you encourage her to join any classes/groups to meet friends?

Madinche1sea Mon 10-Oct-16 11:38:28

Thankyou - yes she does need to adjust, I have been trying to help her. She still has friends round and about, though most of them still have their DHs so I totally get how that might be difficult for her.
On Friday, she told me that if it wasn't for me, "everyone would be dead!" I am a bit worried about her mental health. DH says, she has always been dramatic and to just keep an eye on her. She has a lot of jewellery that she is very paranoid about people stealing from her. I offered to keep it in our house, but she's having none of it. Yet she goes out every day wearing a ridiculous amount of jewellery and this doesn't bother her at all. I'd be scared of getting mugged.

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