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how to stop resenting my dear SiL for not being around to help with MIL?

(24 Posts)
saffronwblue Mon 15-Oct-12 05:36:04

I have always loved and had a good relationship with my SiL. (DH's litttle sister). For the last 6 years she has lived on the other side of the world. She went with her DH who has had a series of glittering expat positions and they now have two small DC. I have visited her twice to help when her DC were born and have always felt very close to her.

Sadly I feel that my relationship with her is being compromised by the difficult situation we are in with MiL. I won't go into all the detail but MiL has alzheimers, is in denial that anything is wrong, is trying to live on at home and expects my DH to be at her beck and call. She has always had a difficult personality and the illness has made it worse. At the moment she is temporarily in a nursing home after a fall but is insisting on being released back to her home. She has also tried to break out of the nursing home. We live in a kind of permanent black cloud of worry about MiL and spend many evenings ( when DH is home) arguing and discussing what we can do. Every weekend is framed around visits to MiL. Evenings can be filled with phone calls from her. We rarely go away and feel very guilty when we do. Meanwhile SiL posts on facebook about lovely family holidays, outings with friends etc. I know much of her day is spent wrangling small children and is not glamorous or easy, but I just feel it is so unfair that she has a life in a way that I don't feel we do any more.
She is coming to Melbourne at Christmas for a couple of weeks most of which will be spent with her inlaws. If it is like last year's visit, she will see her own mother two or three times while she is here. This provides no respite for us.

Last year I did say to her that I thought it was not fair and she has no idea of the daily impact on our lives of her mother's health condition. Her position is that their lives revolve around her DH's career and she does not have a vote on when or if they will leave the expat merry-go-round.

How can I preserve my fondness for her while I feel so resentful?

RobynRidingHood Mon 15-Oct-12 05:42:08

Write to her, speling out exactly how far gone MIL is. Tell her you need her help over the Christmas period, that you and DH cannot sustain the level of coping you are having to do.

Whilst she is there, perhaps a family conference is in order, with a view to putting MIL into a residential home full time?

I can understand your resentment but I also don't think SILs DH should shelve his career either. When you get married your first responsibility is to your partner, children, then it goes back up the line to parents.

How does your DH feel about his sister?

Even if MIL wasn't in the frame, would you still be a bit jealous of her lifestyle?

Anste Mon 15-Oct-12 06:12:22

If you look at the same type of situation in any family there's usually, repeat usually, one sibling and their family who does the 'looking after.' I know it's no help at all and it's not right but that's it sometimes. We had the same situation as my BIL and SIL live in USA and we did the looking after. Mind you they wouldn't have done anything if they lived around the corner. Same problem now with DH cousin and family, his brother lives about 20 miles away but doesn't like 'medical stuff!!'

I've no idea what help they can be day to day living that far away but how about when they come home you arrange to go away and leave them in charge for a few days. I do think it's time to start looking at residential homes though, it's a terrible illness and remember the staff in these homes are trained and do an 8 hour shift, you can't be expected to be there 24 hours a day. Good luck x

saffronwblue Mon 15-Oct-12 06:18:35

Thanks Robyn. DH loves her too, just feels cross that she is not around. I understand the point about her DH's career but in effect there is much of our lives that is now shelved. If we got an opportunity overseas we could not take it. We have just landed in the main carer role without it ever being discussed or acknowledged.
I don't envy her her lifestyle as I have lived overseas a lot and know the highs and lows. I do envy her the freedom of distance from the daily worry and the fact that she and her family can approach a weekend with a clear mind, only thinking of what they want to do, not fitting in several hours each day with someone who is angry, argumentative and manipulative. And ill.
They are not really a family for communicating clearly and a family conference would not work. I will try an email before they come out. We used to email all the time but I have basically stopped because I just feel too grumpy about the situation.

ajandjjmum Mon 15-Oct-12 06:41:51

Do feel for you - we have just returned from a weekend visit to my PILs, but the bulk of care for them falls on my SIL and her partner, who live just 20 miles or so away. Having said that, my DM lives with us, and the bulk of any care (although she's pretty self sufficient) falls on us, rather than my DB and SIL. It's the way life works out. There is a benefit for us though, in that we get to spend time with DM and my DC have a very strong bond with her. I think you and your DH need to decide what support you need, and speak to your SIL about it when she's over. Could she not visit at some other point, to give you and DH the opportunity to go away or something, whilst she takes responsibility for her DM?

daffydowndilly Mon 15-Oct-12 08:02:04

You (or your DH) need to talk to your SIL about how you feel, at the same time, it is not her job to move across the world to share care for MIL or her responsibility that you are getting upset. I think rather than harbouring growing anger that will be hard to heal, you need to sit down as a family when she is over and discuss the care situation and realistically get your MIL into sheltered accomodation or a care home. If you are feeling upset and overwhelmed, then it is time to get her professional care.

lotsofcheese Mon 15-Oct-12 08:11:53

I don't think this is about your SIL, at all.

It's about the impossible level of responsibility you have in caring for MIL.

Are SS involved? Or MIL's GP? It sounds like she needs an independent assessment of her ability to cope (or not) at home.And involvement from external agencies to devise a care package.

And a family meeting sounds a good idea when your SIL is back in the UK.

But it sounds like continuing on this way is not a realistic option for the future.

bringbacksideburns Mon 15-Oct-12 08:16:18

Been there. got the T Shirt sadly. It takes over your life and becomes all consuming. I would second getting as much help as possible for the future.

I think your DH needs to speak to his sister. Unfortunately, due to her circumstances she is not going to be much support but he needs to ask her for some respite over Christmas, surely? I think maybe her inlaws should be put on the backburner whilst she helps with her mum.

WaitingForMe Mon 15-Oct-12 08:20:12

I don't think the SIL is doing anything wrong. It's horrible when you have to override your parent but I've a friend that did just that. Her mum went into a home against her wishes and my friend carried on working and raising her kids. Everyone adjusted and her mum has settled into her new life.

If OP is happy to care for MIL then I truly admire her but SIL living miles away is hardly a flaw in her.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 15-Oct-12 08:27:19

My dad was in a very similar situation with my nan, with overseas siblings. As the people on the ground, you and DH have the lion's share of the say in what happens. You and he need to work out what you can handle and for how long or in what circumstances assuming that you will never have any help. If that is a nurse visiting regularly, sheltered accommodation, residential care - whatever. It cannot just be you two.

Remember Facebook is rarely good for knowing what's really going on - hide her updates if you like. But also remember she isn't a single person selfishly refusing to hop on a plane - she established a life and a young family there before this became an issue.

AngelaMerkel Mon 15-Oct-12 09:26:27

I think a couple of other posters have got it right and that it isn't about your SIL: what do you actually want her to do, and would you be happy to have someone put that level of expectation on you? I think you are projecting because you don't want to look after MIL, but haven't said it (and perhaps don't feel very good about this?).

The reality is SIL is not there to do 50%...or any % of the work, and you/DH are, so work from the reality rather than spending emotional energy on stuff that isn't going to happen.

My family was in your position..my grandmother came to live with us as teenagers until she passed on, and people with dementia don't cope well with a change in routine that different carers inevitably bring. (As an example...DGM stayed with uncle/aunt for 2 weeks while mum was in hospital having surgery. She was delivered back 2 days after Mum came home, and was supposed to be on 6 weeks recuperation!!!)

I'd also advise finding out all the supports you can get here in the UK and thinking abot a long term plan.

Best of luck, it is tough I know.

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Mon 15-Oct-12 09:36:14

I think the thing to remember is that you might be in exactly the same position if sil was closer. I know it doesn't feel like it, but people do have a choice in these things, some choose to take on caring and some choose not to

Caring is hard, it's exhausting and relentless. Its also a lovely generous thing to do, but everyone has their limits. You feel resentful because you are being pushed past your limit but that is not your sil's fault

The only way to stop being resentful is to talk honestly with your DH and decide where your limits and boundaries are, how much caring you are willing to take on and then seek help for the rest. It's not always easy to put that help in place but it can be done, after all want would happen if you weren't around to do it?

DIYapprentice Mon 15-Oct-12 10:47:09

Oh you poor thing. It's really not fair, is it?! I'm on your SIL's position, but I certainly haven't acted like her. I've been there for my DSis and DBro to talk to, have supported them as much as I can, and when things were really hard I went over for 5 weeks with my DC for the sole purpose of helping out, and giving them a break.

Can I make a small suggestion? When I was helping my DM and DF, there was magic in the phrase "I am over here from the UK to get some care/assistance sorted for my parents. I am here for 5 weeks and we really need to get this addressed while I am here and able to help with this. How fast can I have someone out to come and do an assessment (or whatever else you're after)". Knowing that someone was there to help for only a limited time really got the agencies moving. (So did being a bolshy cow who wouldn't take no for an answer! grin).

I managed to do more in that 5 weeks than my DSis and DBro could have done in months. I just didn't mention that my DSis and DBro lived there and were actually doing the usual care for them until AFTER things had been sorted grin.

So your DSIL could help, and in fact could actually get more done in a short space of time than you could.

HansieMom Mon 15-Oct-12 14:32:04

Is yout MIL safe at home? Can she cook, or would she leave stove unattended? Can she dose herself properly with her meds? If she cannot, she needs to be in a home.

glastocat Mon 15-Oct-12 16:00:44

I also don't think your sil has done anything wrong, although I do sympathise with you. It is entirely up to your sil how much care , if any, she wants to give. As indeed it is for you. You need to get a proper care plan in place, so that you can live your own life too, not sacrifice any more than you are comfortable with. It's not easy, but your sil is under no obligation to anyone.

2rebecca Mon 15-Oct-12 22:01:20

I think this is about you and your husband and not your SIL. People with alzheimers are difficult to care for and don't realise how demanding they are being. You and your husband have to decide how involved the 2 of you are going to be with his mum. His sister has to decide how involved she will be. It isn't your job to decide her level of involvement.
It sounds as though you need to back off rather than his sister help out.
I have seen family members making things worse for people with alzheimers and themselves and their young kids by responding to unreasonable demands for help at all hours of the day and night whilst the person with dementia refused any care saying "x will do it".
"x" has to refuse to do it and disengage to get the person with dementia the proper level of care they need. Your MIL may expect your husband to be at her beck and call, that doesn't mean he has to do it. She won't/ can't see her demands are unreasonable and making him unhappy. He has to stand up for himself as dementia is a selfish illness that can make many people hate the people their parents have become even if they were previously pleasant.
There is no reason you can't have holidays and a social life like your SIL.
Don't make her life worse, make your life better.
Your MIL won't remember or realise how miserable you and your husband are.

deste Mon 15-Oct-12 22:07:23

We are in a very similar position but DHs sister does help. Three times last week in the middle of the night he had to go over to her as she had fallen. "Surprisingly" she has not injured herself or bruised herself which makes us think she is bored and needs a wee bit of drama, not even considering the fact my DH is almost retiring age but still has to get up in the morning for work. Even he now says that she can't stay on her own now but it would break her heart to have to spend money on a care home.

saffronwblue Fri 19-Oct-12 00:34:00

Dear all thank you for your wisdom and insight. I do agree that much of the problem is between me, DH and boundaries. He just can't bear to think of his mother being lonely or confused or in need. He is a very kind man and very attached to her and I respect that. It just frustrates me that she insists on her capacity and her right to stay at home and will then phone several times a day to say "I have no money/there is no food/ I found a jacket that belonged to your father/I can't find my cat." Always with the expectation that he will rush over.
We have been talking this week about the impact on us and how we can manage it. No resolution but at least we are talking about it.
As to SiL - I will email her and ask if she can extricate herself from her inlaws over Christmas to come to talk to us about what it is like and how we can manage it. I think what frustrates me most is that she does not acknowledge how eroded and impacted our lives have become. It would help me a lot if she would just say that she knows it is hard and that it is an unfair set of circumstances.

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Fri 19-Oct-12 00:56:26

I do understand what a difficult position you're in saffron, but why should your sil admit the situation is unfair? The situation is of your own making, well yours and your DH's of course

Of course your DH worries about his mum and doesn't want her to suffer, he sounds lovely, you both do

But he is choosing this path, he is choosing to be her carer and to go to her when she rings in the night

She might not ever get to the point where she admits she is struggling and can't cope. But if you and your DH decide that you just can't continue with the level of care she needs then you will have to look at other options

Of course you should discuss all this with your sil and ask her opinion on where to go from here, but remember that she is doing nothing wrong and the situation is horrible but it's noboys fault

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Fri 19-Oct-12 01:36:14

Saffron, I'm sorry if that post sounded snippy, I didnt mean it to be at all smile

What I meant by it being of your own making was just that you and your DH (though obviously more your DH) have so far chosen to do this and that it's perfectly ok for your sil to have made a different choice

I do understand though that it feels as though you have no choice but to look after your mil because you love her and worry about her. But there are other ways, don't sacrifice more of your time/health/sanity than you can afford

saffronwblue Fri 19-Oct-12 02:40:23

Oh Maythe I didn't think it was snippy. I need a reality check and a reminder that this crappy situation is not SIL's fault. I do really love her and don't want our relationship to be damaged by the circumstances.
Trouble is that every time I go to email her I want to say passive aggressive things about her life compared to mine. Then I delete the email and just don't get in touch.

WelshMoth Fri 19-Oct-12 02:58:27

Saffron, your 2nd email on this thread is exactly what I would write to your SIL. it's not aggressive but it does sum up what you feel.

You're in a tough situation - one that DH and I are soon having to face. Is she on any meds for the Alzheimer's? At least with this horrible condition, it's only a matter of time before your MIL cannot remain in her home, and will have to accept some sort of formal care.

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Fri 19-Oct-12 04:36:53

I really feel for you saffron, it's a horrible situation and I know there are no easy answers

I think you should email your sil and tell her how much it is affecting your life, she might not realise just how bad things have gotten- it is so much easier to bury your head in the sand if you are not dealing with it every day

Tell her you are struggling, that you didn't sign up for this. If she's a lovely as you think she will be full of sympathy for you and might even apologise without you having to spell out to her that your feeling resentful. It's understandable to feel resentful, especially when if you start to resent the person causing it (mil) you feel guilty because it's not her fault. It isn't anyone's fault

I know the choices you have now are not easy ones, but don't be afraid to put yourself first when you need to. As someone said earlier sometimes by taking on so much it makes it harder for proper care to be put in place

Your sil has a choice to make, and that choice may well make your life harder, but don't ever forget you have choices too and your needs matter just as much

AThingInYourLife Fri 19-Oct-12 06:53:05

It's not her fault that she lives far away.

It very much is her fault that when she is nearby she is doing fuck all to give you guys any respite.

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