We moved into HER house...

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Two years ago my recently retired husband and I moved out of state to move into my mother's house. My father's been gone 10 years. My mother is 81, has had some health issues, but for the most part is in good health. She still drives. She lived alone for 10 years after my dad's passing. I have severe fibrymyalgia (am on permanent disability) and was not able to handle the stairs in our home. My mother's home is all on one level and is handicapped "friendly" due to my father's illnesses. She also informed us that she was beginning to run low on funds, having had sole responsibility of the house and all its expenses for ten years. So, we took the plunge, put our house on the market, and moved out of state two years ago to move in with her.

It hasn't been all bad, most days it works well. Two of the biggest problems are that 1) it's still "her" house, and 2) my husband tends to hold onto things. He's not as far gone as a hoarder, it's just that he grew up in a financially deprived household, and was raised with the thought that it's better to hold onto something, you may need it. My mother, on the other hand, hates any kind of clutter. She'll throw things out just because they're "in the way," whether it's something she'll use or not. My husband has pulled event tickets and even envelopes containing cash out of her recycling trash. As for me, I'm smack in the middle of them, trying to explain him to her, and her to him.

And what doesn't help at all is my overall relationship with my mother. If I tell you she says, "I'm the parent, and you're the child, and that's one thing that will never change!" does that give you a clue? I'm 62 years old, and she can make me feel like a 10 year old with absolutely no effort. I don't feel like we're 3 adults living in this house -- we're two kids living in HER home.

We need to make this work -- our home in another state, while not "sold," is unavailable to us to move back in to. The arguments are beginning to come more frequently. Of course it's also causing tension between my husband and I, which isn't pleasant.

Does anyone have any advice for us on how to handle (live through) this situation?

4 Comments

You must make it work since you moved and i think it is possible but some fine tuning is needed. Home depost sells nice rubbermaid sheds; then there is the shed company; in short have a nice shed placed in mom's backyard for your husbands collections; wala! oh its "tuff shed." they have really nice walk in sheds; you could even put a small counter and window in and your husband could sit at the counter. this way the clutter is not in the house or find a space in the garage for your husbands collectibles. keep his collections out of the living space. just an idea. in terms of feeling like a child. i think you will have to learn to buckle up on that one -- the only thing i can think of to do is some affirmations aka I am a woman in my 60's not a child like mom tries to make me feel. post it on a cabinet or place where you will see it...if you have a bettter affirmation use it! Good luck to you

Before worrying about the emotional toll of living with your mom, I'd get squared away on the legalities. I think you'd benefit from a visit with an elder law attorney. You said your mom's resources are limited so I assume you and your husband are contributing to the upkeep of the house. If your mom ever needs to enter a nursing home and must qualify for Medicaid (due to her limited resources), things get complicated with regard to your position in the home. There are considerations if you and your husband are your mom's caregivers. But, I don't know how that's impacted if you are receiving disability income. Do you have siblings? What's in your mom's will? These are questions you should bring ASAP to an attorney. It will be worth the several hundred dollars to not have nasty surprises later.
As for the discord between you, your mom, and your husband, it sounds like things mostly work out OK, but that you get on each other's nerves at times. That's to be expected with a husband and wife. Add a mother (-in law) into the mix and...well, it can't always be rosy. Keep the lines of communication open as possible. When your mom asserts her role as mom (and reminds you that you're the 'kid'), it's probably just because you get on her nerves sometimes, too, and she might long for the time when you were an actual kid and she could assert herself more easily. The living arrangement you've embarked on isn't an easy one, but it sounds like it's working Ok for the most part.
As a practical matter, it's probably best to provide areas for your husband and your mom that are 'off limits' to the other person. A clutterer can't stand their 'treasures' being vulnerable to being tossed out and someone who abhors clutter can't be expected to live comfortably when someone else's 'junk' is allowed to accumulate in every room of the house. If it's just the three of you, can't you designate a room as a 'man cave' for your husband (and make it off limits to your mom)?
I moved in with my dad a little over 10 years ago. I tend to hold on to things, especially books and papers, and have never mastered a good sense of order! Dad is the other extreme, so at first we clashed, but I later was able to keep all my stuff upstairs and he wasn't allowed up. If we were all on one level, I would have probably taken the advice above and carved out a single place for my clutter and left other places clutter-free. It is really important for Dad to have as little distraction as possible, as he is now 97 and memory-challenged.

I also want to compliment the advice given by InstEasy, for this is all important (I had already taken care of legal things before I arrived). This stuff is important!
Thank you all for your comments. I especially thank IsntEasy for the legal advice. Mom has a will that she and my father had drawn up years and years ago, but the situation has changed, and I don't think it'll do what she intends it to do when she passes away. I will look for a good moment to try to introduce this topic, and see if we can plan a visit to the lawyer. As for the other advice, we have a back apartment that was supposed to be my husband's lair when we moved in, but now she's lamnting that it's not available as a 4th bedroom when family arrives to visit. I tried reminding her that she was the one who said my husband would need his own space, but that conversation is lost in the clouds. She keeps saying I have too much "stuff," but how do you come out of a 27-year marriage with only the clothes on your back? I have things that I treasure, too, and there's no place for them. I live surrounded by all of her belongings, except in my bedroom. As for SuzMarie's advice that I just have to buck up regarding always being treated like a child, I'm finding that if I refuse to allow her to treat me that way, then it stops. It's not always comfortable, but i'm making my point. We'll get through this, we have to, as there's no other solution, but it's going to be a day by day type of thing. Thanks so much for listening to me and sharing such wonderful advice!

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