My entitled 90 year old mother-in-law...HELP!

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My mother-in-law has lived with my husband and me for 10 years. We invited her to live with us when we got married as my husband was a widower and his teenage children had lost their mother 4 years earlier. Thinking she would be a wonderful female family figure for the kids, we thought her smiling face and super social personality would make a big difference in a positive way for a blended family.

During the first 5 years, the kids were in high school and hubby and I both worked full time while Mom stayed home and read or tooted around in her car. Then she had to have knee replacement surgery and life went downhill from there.

After surgery, she had to spend 6 weeks in a local rehab facility but she didn't like the dinners, thought the sheets to too harsh, etc. So we would go visit twice a day, take her freshly laundered clothes and sheets, bring her dinner, etc. She was overjoyed. We learned then that she can't take any pain, expects to be waited on and all the real entitlement of her rich girl upbringing came out of the closet. She bossed us around like the help, as she continues to do and manipulated us into giving her whatever we wanted. Then two more knee surgeries, one for infection, now a permanent infected draining wound, etc.

Present day, I had cancer 3 years ago and was forced to retire (I'm 66, husband 64, is a Catholic school teacher). My energy level is low and I have assorted problems leftover from harsh chemo and just can't keep waiting on her anymore. She has money "but I'm saving it for my boys (3)" was her response when I asked her to hire someone to clean her level (the grand main floor, we "live" upstairs, rather humbly). I realized that the woman I've been treating as a beloved mother actually just used me to save money. Truth is, she plans on getting to be 100 and wants to continue declaring "I'm still a millionaire" when her stock statements arrive.. She becomes enraged when she forgets something and is reminded of it, tell me "I never said that" and "You're making it up because you have chemo brain and you hallucinate" (totally untrue.) She is in total control of our lives and has a wide social circle from her hometown 2 hours away ; she calls them and complains mightily about us with her "poor me." I am sick of her entitlement.

My husband, like his deceased father, always giver her her way. He cannot stand up for me. We rarely go anywhere because when we come home we hear "While you were gone I had a terrible dizzy spell and almost fell." The manipulation is continuous because she does NOT want to be left alone and refuses to hire someone to help her because "I"m independent and never ask for anything." (She won't ask; she manipulates us into doing things. Example: "I just spilled coffee on my rug but I'll get it later." That's my cue to go do it. She never asks but all of her wishes are addressed.

There is a nice assisted living facility nearbyl. It is a flat fee $6000 a month. She has stopped giving us $700 per month toward her living expenses. She tells anyone who will listen that she would "have money to spend if I didn't give them so much every month (never mentioning the amount.)" Then she bought 10 summer tops at Lands End in one order. She has plenty to spend, just not on anyone else.

Any and all advice appreciated. I told my husband that if she refuses and nothing changes, I will go to live with my best friend in FL for a while. I am a nurse and a natural caretaker. I cannot have her here and ignore her; for me that's ethically and morally wrong. But I must be relieved of this someone.

Thank you.

21 Comments

I think you found a great solution. Florida it is. Let your husband and MIL get along without you for as long as is possible for you and your friend. When your husband wants you to come back, to him, not them, have your ground rules in place. Take time while you are away to figure things out for yourself. When you go back, it's your way or the highway for MIL. This is a great opportunity to shake up the status quo. You are still young and have choices. Take advantage of an opportunity to take an extended leave of absence. If you are prepared to leave your husband and hope that this will be a catalyst for change, do it. Before you go you might consult an attorney to see if there are any financial bases to be covered, especially if toy don't go back after you leave.
Correction, you, not toy.
Thanks for your well thought out comments. I just spoke with my bf and she reminds me that I'm welcome any time for however long and that might just be the best approach. MIL is now at her "summer home" with sister in law caring for her 24/7 for a couple of months. I'm going there to tell her that she hires someone or doesn't come back. Husband is wonderful but does not have my back. He cannot stand up to her. She insults me to my face and he says nothing. I thing Queenie ruled the roost and her deceased spouse took it or else.. Thanks again.
VTShan, I agree, go to FL and recuperate, regain your strength and join a cancer support group there. Don't expect any man to step between two women, it is a lose-lose situation for him. No man wants be caught between two Queen Bees. You take care of you. Leave him out of it. You need a housekeeper for your space, so get one. Don't wait on her anymore, she sounds healthier than both of you. Don't listen to her phone calls, just leave the room. Turn your ears off, pretend you are deaf, don't be played like a fiddle. Don't ask your husband what she said, what she thinks or how she feels. Mentally walk away.
You're right about not coming between MIL and her first born son. I'm aware of the primacy of that relationship and am not threatened by it but I can admit to disappointment that he can't defend me against her. Told him I could do it myself as I have my big girl panties on and am not going to back down anymore. It will work out as it should. And I do have a direct flight to Ft. Myers....
VTShan make sure you go on a sunset cruise in Ft Myers!
"She has stopped giving us $700 per month toward her living expenses."

i did not read you whole post carefully, will do so later, am busy right now trying to pull myself together, somewhat, for 9:30 Mass. i deal with a lot of the same around here, wealthy mother, 3M in assets, 'saving' it for her son and two grandkids, who haven't seen her for four years, never write, don't call any more.

long story short, i would flat out tell her you're not running a hotel. the minimum amount you will accept for her to remain in the current living situation is $1000 per month, due the first of the month. and if there is any change in her health care needs or other demands on your time, the rent will increase accordingly. i would definitely get some legal help to draw up an official lease document, like any apartment complex or other rental unit would require.

she is using you and loving every minute of it is my best guess. either demand some respect, financial since this is probably the only language she speaks, or i agree with you, a nice quiet little apartment, and daily Mass would be a great idea, away from all this insanity. you need her demons like a hole in the head.
You're right about putting my foot down, but it will go down with a lone "thump" Husband and his 2 brothers "just want mom to be happy" and though they may gently suggest something (as they have in the past re: hiring people) they are mute when she responds with a loud "NO!" Unfortunately, to make mom happy, it takes me as a slave, sacrificing the rest of my life for????? I just have to get tough. Daily Mass will return me to the martyr state and "offer it up" that the nuns taught me for 16 years; I think it would reinforce the "sacrifice" not my will to be strong. So much dissonance.
You're wise to recognize that the sons won't change. They've probably been raised to accept your MIL's domination and be obedient, and expect you to adopt that ingrained behavior. Sometimes it's easier for men who've been browbeaten to expect others to do the same rather than stand up to the person dominating the family.

I think a Florida trip would really be a great idea. Let the family that adapted to the dysfunction deal with it without your presence. I doubt if it will change anything, as MIL has clearly established herself as dominatrix of the family. But at least you'll get some respite and avoid being her servant. Just take plenty of sunscreen!
Maybe counseling with your husband? He can't see it or hear it from you alone, but maybe a trusted third party could give some perspective. This situation is not at all right and he is apparently too used to this kind of treatment (and NOT taking the brunt of it himself...isn't that what us women are for ?) to realize it.

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