In-Laws, Caregiving & Holiday Visits

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Hi,
I just joined tonight. My plight is not as desperate as some, but I could use some advice or perhaps you could call it a perspective check.
We moved 2 years ago to my in-laws neighborhood. We changed states, left friends of 20+ years,and our church. We went from a middle sized city to a SMALL town.
My father-in-law is now a parapalegic and probably on his way to being a quadrapalegic. My mother-in-law is a complete control freak. They live in their own home and our help consists of picking Dad up when he falls and helping to care for the house and lawn. My mother-in-law has just recently accepted that some changes must be made to the house in order to accomodate Dad's disability.
She continually plays dirty tricks on me. During visits from family members she consitently invites the entire family for a meal and excludes my grown, only son who lives in the same neighborhood. She actually manipulated the situation on my last birthday so that my son was not invited to my birthday celebration. I am the recipient of catty remarks whenever I am alone with her. She will also tell me one thing and wait a few days for me to have time to tell my husband; then she comes over while I am away and tells him a different story. She comes into my house while I am at work and puts food she does not want in the refidgerator (my husband works from home but can't hear here enter the house).
Since my husband has 2 homes to care for I am picking up some of the slack with car and lawn care at our house and also doing small repairs at my in-laws. We also live in the north which means snow removal.
Here is what I want advice on. My husband's family all comes home for Thanksgiving, this includes his 4 siblings and their wives. this also includes all my nephews and nieces, even the grown ones, along with their children (babies). In other words 3 generations are coming home to see my in-laws.
Last Thanksgiving my mother-in-law insisted on planning the meal I was to cook, having it served at her home and not having anything enter her house until Thanksgiving morning. I spent 2 full days just moving the stuff from my house to hers and back and doing dishes. Nothing was allowed in her refridgerator so I had to keep a lot of food in coolers on the porch.
I kept 11 people in my home. I have only I spare bedroom (size 8X10). I gave up my room and slept on the bare floor of my dining room. Not one person who stayed in my home made a bed or carried a dish or sent a thank-you note. The bedrooms were all a disaster with clothes and towels and bed linen covering the entire floors.
All of my husband's brothers are much better off finacially that we are--one is worth several million dollars. My husband's single sister always stays with her parents. Last thanksgiving my cat was so freaked by the caos and smells that she wet my bed.
Here is my question. These people are not visiting me. They leave the house when they have finished dressing in the morning to return late in the evening-as does my husband when his family is visiting. Is it completely off the wall to ask them to stay in a hotel? My husband thinks this is totally inhospitable. We had agreed that we could keep one family only, but over Labor Day weekend a brother-in-law called the day before they intended to come and asked if we cold keep them, their daughter and her husband and baby. I already had 5 people staying in the house, so I said no. My husband was not happy, but I just got a look. My in-laws were chilly all weekend.
Also, Labor Day weekend my husband's oldest brother tok me out into the garage by myself and asked if I would be willing to take the in-laws into my home. My in-laws are well off financially, but will not spend money for a home helper. I told him absolutley not that I would not subject myself to the tyrany of his mother. Later, his wife told me that he had asked her the same question and she had given the same answer.

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This is fabulous, Bookdiva! I wrote about the holidays for AgingCare, last holiday season in "How Caregivers Can Stay Positive During the Holidays: Drop the Fantasy, Lose the Guilt." If you want to read it, just type in the search box a couple of words from the article with my name, or type in "Bursack" and the articles will come up. I can't give you a direct link here.

I will be doing another holiday article this year, and I'd love to encorporate your letter, with your permission and with credit to you, however you want it. This issue something I write about yearly for my newspaper column, as well. I'd love to talk with you about using your letter so that people who don't go on the forum can see it. If you are willing, we'll chat about how you'd like it handled.

Good for you for standing up for your rights and your health! Please let us know how people respond.
Carol
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Hi Everyone,
Here is a copy of the letter that I am sending to family members. (I blanked out the names.)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The holiday season will soon be upon us and I am taking this opportunity to speak with you candidly.

First, I want you to think back to previous holidays with Mom and Dad. If everyone came there would be 15 or 16 of us. Sometimes we were able to use the dorms at Grace. Often Dad would borrow bunks and all the guys (about 8 guys) would sleep in the shop. Last Thanksgiving _____ and _____ were able to house a family.

Now, let’s think about the current situation. There are now 22 family members, not including Dad and Mom. This is a wonderful thing. Children are growing up and having their own families. However, all these wonderful people need accommodation.

Also, _____ and I now live here. We are, so to speak, the ground troops. We deal with the every day discouragements, frustrations and needs of Dad and Mom. We are happy to do this. We also appreciate that you help whenever you are here. The guys especially do a lot of work during the “vacation” days that they are here. Also, Dad and Mom do their very best to take care of things themselves.

Last Thanksgiving we housed eight people, all of whom I love and enjoy. However, I spent two nights on the bare floor and almost two days and late nights just setting up and cleaning up Thanksgiving dinner. I was really tired.

As much as I love you all, I am not willing to face a long vista of years of chaotic holidays
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So well said, Gina! It's hard to do this, but something has to be done. In some families, third party (or more) help is all that works. One person can't do it all, especially when she's abused.
Carol
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What is wrong by saying "I would love to have you stay with me but I don't have the room!" Also, if I was going to do all the cooking everyone would be coming to my house or else I would say I will make the turkey and bring it over but everyone else could make the side dishes at the mother-in-laws house. Who are you the family slave?? I can't believe your husband lets his family treat you this way! He needs to step up and back you up. And don't wait for people to offer their services, delegate! You could always order a whoe turkey dinner and ask everyone for donations! And if my son wasn't invited to my birthday party, they could have the party without me! Shouldn't your husband have stepped up and invited him if noone else would?? Look, I know your father-in-law needs help but sometimes outside help is the best, especially if noone else wants to chip in.
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You will do everyone a favor by saying you can't keep anyone at all. That way you don't play favorites (even if there are no favorites). It's shameful to have them treat you this way. You are not the maid in a free hotel. Even is you were, being a maid is a respectable position and they deserve tips and a good place to sleep. You slept on the floor in your own home!

Your husband needs to stand up to his family and say that there's no way you can do this again, incuding the meal thing. Something needs to be worked out where everyone brings a dish and you can all eat at your in-law's or whatever, and clean up. Or else, say you are all going out to eat.

Now - reality. I know that is all going to be very, very hard. However, remind yourself and your husband over and over that what went on last year is chaos for everyone. This is a dysfunctional mess, and nothing will change until you and your husband change it. For your own health, please stand up and say "no more."

This circus will eventually make you unable to help your in-laws when they really need you. If you can make that point it may help. But don't expect cooperation from people who don't know how to cooperate. And backstabbers often don't change. Your husband is being manipulated and needs to learn that you are his wife, obviously a willing and good person, but you cannot do this anymore.

Blessings and good luck. You may need to haul in a third person - a pastor or counselor - to convince your husband that this cannot continue.

Keep in touch,
Carol
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