AIBU to be so unkind to MIL?(40 Posts)
We lost my FIL last year quite unexpectedly which was obviously devastating for us all. My MIL has never had a big circle of friends, her hobby is housework and shopping. She's now very bored and quite lonely so she keeps turning up at our house, everyday but unannounced.
It's grating on me now, am I being a total bitch? Is it my job to entertain her?
I try to stop and have a chat and a cuppa but sometimes I'm in the middle of something or I'm getting sorted to go out. It was less of a problem over Christmas but this week I'm back at work (pt), and kids commitments are back on.
I do a lot of volunteering and have suggested she gets involved in something similar but she's not ready to make a commitment. She keeps telling me how kind her friend is being by inviting her out and I can't help feeling it's a dig because I haven't suggested going out together.
Please be honest with me if you do feel I. Should make more of an effort with her.
How about making an arrangement so she doesn't drop in unexpectedly.
You: MIL, shall we meet in town for a coffee on Wednesday?
Her: Yes, that would be nice.
You: Ok, great. I'll see you then. I'm really, really busy catching up on Monday and Tuesday , I've been letting things slide gossiping with you so see you Wednesday, OK? Look forward to it.
Then if she does pop in you can just firmly and regretfully explain that spas you said before you are very busy. Would she like someone to go with her to a local volunteering bureau to find out what opportunities might be available?
Would she be helpful at your volunteering? I think "volunteer" can be overwhelming for people if they've never done anything like it before, so going along "to help you" might give her a chance to see if she enjoys it then if she does she can find something more long term.
You're not being unkind to her you have a busy life and are struggling to give her all the time she feels she needs.
Does she go to church? Retired family friends seem to keep fairly busy with church events, fun days out as well as coffee mornings and jumble sales.
The advise you have just gotten is good, but I would ad try utilising MIL to your advantage a bit more.
Ask her would she be available to take one of the children to one of their activities and drop them home. Make her feel useful, she gets to spend time with her grandchildren and it helps with her loneliness.
I know from experience of having only lost my dad this year how desperately lonely my mother is. Now my mother is fiercely independent and would not drop into any of us on a daily basis and would be very conscious of the fact that our lives are going on around her.
My eldest sister makes sure to meet up with her every Thursday for lunch and an after noon out. I see her a few times a week and get her to help out with the kids. My single sister drops into her for dinner Mon to Fri evening and my one and only brother just lives his life as if nothing has changed.
I am making this sound now as if I am using my mother but honestly - its working for both of us and we are both straight enough with each other to be able to say it doesnt suit today or whatever.
I am just saying be mindful of how lonely and devastated your MIL still is, she is feeling the loss worse then any of you because she is the one who has an empty house to occupy her.
I do understand how empty her life now is. And her son, my partner is her only living relative which is dreadfully sad. But he hasn't made any effort to do anything nice with her. He could plan to do something with her and the kids and I'd gladly have the house to myself to get it cleaned up.
Sadly there is a back story which has involved cross words in the past due to her being over bearing and controlling.
I wish that she would offer to collect the children one night a week and take them to hers for tea but she's really reluctant to have them at her house.
You sound kind, Cuppa and it's difficult when you have your own busy life going on and things to do - and you feel compelled to spend more time than you can spare with your MIL.
In your position, I'd be telling my partner that it's his mother and that he needs to put some time for her as well, it's not all yours to shoulder and that it's becoming a burden because currently he's not doing anything for her. He should be.
I've asked if I can drop the kids to hers while I clean the house or do some baking or go Christmas shopping and she'll say that she'll come and look after them at my house instead.
Your husband needs to be stepping up here.
Is there any reason he can't plan something nice with her and the kids, or just him, once a week for a while? Even if he just spends an evening there once a week watching tv with her would be something. She sounds very very lonely, and you are doing your bit. He should be doing his too.
Both DH and I have been in this situation with our parents, and it is very tough.
Suggest the WI if there is one local to her. I got ribbed by friends for joining (oh only for old ladies!) but frankly I've found them extremely welcoming & fun (in a gentle way but still fun)
Additional lovely element was getting a handwritten card through the post when I was ill - so thoughtful & gave me a warm feeling of being cared about - maybe just what your MIL would appreciate.
You can go along to try it out without signing up - maybe you could suggest this as an outing for you & MIL together, let her meet the local group & she might decide to join.
I've only been a member for a year, am the youngest in my group, but have found it to be an easy, welcoming, not too intense (once a month here) and enjoyable time. You choose how much or little you want to be involved.
Loneliness is very hard esp after a bereavement and WI may have just the people (with similar experiences re kids leaving home/bereavement/loneliness issues your MIL has.
And I can't bake or make jam - doesn't matter at all! Music, art, handwriting, sewing, singing all feature as competitions for those not into baking. And you can get into their international sections and their other campaigns if you want.
I was also going to suggest signing upto something like the WI with her, then maybe you could quietly encourage her to go, and start to go less yourself after a few months?
Is there something wrong with her house? Does she just not like being there since her DH died? Could she take them to a cafe for tea or to an activity?
Could your children be involved? 'grandma, could we come to your house for tea after school on Monday?'
However as I was typing the above, another thought. Is your MIL wanting to be out of her house, maybe being in her own home is painful. Maybe she genuinely does need to be elsewhere. Though of course your child could ask 'grandma, please will you pick me up from school and take me for tea to....
Does your MIL drive? I despair of some women my age, early 60s who are so dependent on their husbands. I often think how lost they would be if they were to be widowed. I can understand it more in women a generation older.
I have found the best way of making friends was through an adult education class. I have a much wider circle of friends now than when I was at work or a young mother. I have also joined the Embroiderers' Guild and got to now another group of people with a completely different interest and one that takes up a lot of time when I am at home alone.
However it is early days for your MIL and she is probably still trying to find her feet in her new situation.
I think it would be kind to put a lot of effort into this relationship with your MIL at the moment, yes. She has lost her DH within the last 12 months (possibly only a few months ago? Timing is not divulged in your OP). That's a very recent bereavement. I think sometimes when people talk about someone from an older generation losing their spouse, it's somehow not given the same weight as when it's a young couple with small children etc. Obviously from a practical or financial perspective it may be different, but in terms of the grief and heartache it's exactly the same. She must be absolutely devastated and feeling very alone and vulnerable.
It doesn't sound like you're being horrible at all, but maybe a little reluctant to continue making allowances/compromising on family plans for her. Whilst that is understandable, I suppose I might be more inclined to continue being flexible and try and slot her into our family a bit more since your DH is her only living relative. Which leads on to the point that all of this should actually be led by your DH. He should be supporting his mum through this.
Re her not looking after the children at her house, my mother won't either and is visibly on edge the whole time we are there, especially in her garden which is her pride and joy. I watch them like a hawk when we're there and honestly they are v good but its just that her house isn't especially child friendly (there are things that could get knocked over or smashed, old "special" upholstered things that can't be sat on etc) but the real reason I'm sure is that if anything were to get damaged or broken she is on her own and would struggle to repair/fix/get someone in to sort it. She also thinks that at least here they have all their things to entertain them. I'm not saying this is right btw, but kids descending on non-child house sometimes make the owner anxious especially if older and on their own.
I agree with idea above to pre empt her by fixing a meet up when you can do and saying sorry busy at other times.
You are definitely NOT mean!
I would make exactly as much effort as your DP makes. If that's none, then none it is. You have supported her so far and that's kind but she isn't your mother and if she has form for being overbearing then I can understand your reluctance to be too involved with her.
She does drive, she's a confident person. There is nothing wrong with her house, she's quite ocd about tidiness but if we do pop in after school she will usually offer to feed the kids and stick a film on for them.
I think you have made me realise that I do need to make an effort to spend some quality time with her instead of angrily thinking "What now?" When she turns up.
When my eldest was a baby they would turn up everyday, no notice, let themselves in and really overstep boundaries. It all came to a head after my second was born and we fell out, then they both took a big step back which was a huge relief.
Although it was awful falling out with them it was so worth it for my own mental.state. I suppose part of me is worrying about it getting to that point again where I feel really stifled by her.
she's really reluctant to have them at her house.
OK so could she come to your house and look after them while you go out shopping or whatever else you need to do? My mum used to do this all the time rather than have the kids at hers. She said they were better in their own home as they had all their stuff round them. And she always found time to mop the floor or do some ironing.
I really miss my mum.
And you're not being unkind to MIL. Her son needs to step up a bit and stop leaving it all to you.
There is a balance to be struck OP and I understand, given the previous situation, that you are worried. I dont think you are being unkind to be honest so I wouldnt say you are being unreasonable.
She is lonely now which is understandable but that should not be an excuse to no longer worry about your mental health. As others have said, she needs other activities and other people to communicate with. The WI is a good idea and local day care centres always need volunteers. If she worries about children at home she could host a couple of older people for tea and cake via Contact the Elderly. I wonder if its also possible to schedule with her when she is coming to yours. Make it a specific time and event and show her when the kids are at school, when you are working abd volunteering and when are going things that cant be interrupted. Ask if she can come down to look after one or help the other with homework etc?
Remember that you do need your own space and not to let her take that over.
I would suggest DH speaks to her again about having the kids at her house after school - explain it will be a massive help to blitz the house without them around, send a packed tea & a film if need be but whatever you want or need, get DH to do the asking plus he could then pick them up and spend a bit of time with her. I do think a bit of extra patience might be in order as she's obviously not ready to face the world yet but the burden should mainly fall on your DH imo
"I suppose part of me is worrying about it getting to that point again where I feel really stifled by her."
Sounds as if you are close to that already & sadly for her, if she hadn't overstepped in the past, this wouldn't even be a thought for you.
So yes you need boundaries & to decide how much you want or are willing to do.
Plus your husband also-yes, she was a pita in the past (& it sounds as if you bore the brunt of it!), but that doesn't mean that he has to hold a grudge (if he is doing), just be aware of not letting it get too much again.
I think that you have to get her interested in things that she can get involved in and have nothing to do with the family. It will widen her horizons and give her something else to think about.
If she drives and is an independent person that should be relatively easy. She just needs to take that first step. If that requires you or your DH to hold her hand while she does it would be time well invested. It should also make her much happier.
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