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DH and I are in our 30's with two young boys and one problem teenager. We also both work FT+. A full plate and then some...

DH's mom is 67 and lives in an apartment near us. She has COPD from smoking and severe arthritis. She chooses not to really take responsibility for or really treat her conditions. She takes nothing for her arthritis, which renders her disabled. Her attitude is that it's her body and her choice. DH is her sole caretaker since she's estranged from every other family member (she's done some pretty horrible things). She refuses things that would make her burden on DH less. For instance, she often needs him to come over and help her out of her chair. She won't accept a lift chair, since she'd then see her son less. She will openly admit this.

Am I out of line here? I have told DH that he must set some boundries with her. She MUST play an active role in her health or he cannot help her. For instance, she should become medically compliant and try the drugs that can improve her quality of life so that she's not totally dependent on him. Also I've said that she needs to start paying caretakers for things that he doesn't need to be doing and doesn't have time for - such as cleaning her apartment or doing her shopping. Money really isn't the issue here, she has plenty. She simply prefers him doing those things.

I don't help her with anything, not that she'd allow me to anyway. But what happens is that I pick up the slack elsewhere and I resent it. I honestly don't think I would resent it if she COULDN'T help the situation. But the fact is, she WON'T because she LIKES depending on DH. With her declining help and refusal to do anything about it, the situation is snowballing and I'm afraid it's too late to change the rules on her.

I'm trying not to feel like a horrible, evil daughter-in-law that won't allow her husband to help his poor, disabled mother. Sometimes I think that is how it must look, even to my husband. He also feels that it's absolutely her choice what she's willing to do medically. That whole family has an irrational fear of the medical community. So he really doesn't get why it would upset me. He says that if my parents were in the same condition he'd do the same. What he fails to recognize is that my parents would ONLY be in that condition if they had no other choice.

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Mom2redheads, sounds like you got DH thinking...and feeling. That's always good. It takes time. It can't be easy for him, either. He's just in a different place, emotionally speaking, and very likely feeling just as overwhelmed as you are. Elderly decline is a tough pill to swallow as one sees one's parents' health declining. The feelings of powerlessness are awful. It's also normal that your MIL wants to retain control over the little she has left in life. Her declining health is a severe loss to her.
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Mom2redheads, I read another similar post on this site about a selfish, self center MIL. I advised them to read up on narcissistic personalities. Go to daughtersofnarcissticmother.com. I know this is about your husband, but on this site I learned about the behaviors of narcissistic people and it really helped me understand my own Mother. I hope this helps you and yoru husband understand what you can and cannot control with people like this. Mom does the same thing with not taking meds. then whinning about her "ailments", which she uses as an excuse not to do anything she doesn't want to do. So, good luck and don't let this womand ruin your marriage and your life. Take care.
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You might spend a little time articulating what your ultimate priorities are, and use them as guideposts: Like for example, "I want us to get through this stage of our lives intact and loving, having given our children the best care we could and done as right as we could by our elders too." Get agreement with your husband on the ultimate priorities: would he agree with a statement like that? When you rework it together, it might turn into something like (notice the "we"!): "We want to take the best care we can of our children, our elders, ourselves, and each other, with our marriage as the core collaboration that helps us accomplish this and live through the difficult times." Or something! When you have a statement like that, that you BOTH agree on, you could even post it somewhere in your bedroom or something. Then you can check your decisions -- individual and collaborative decisions both -- against that vision. It keeps you on the same side of the many individual problems that come up. The key thing is that when you think your partner is making a mistake you're not AGAINST him (or vice versa!): you're struggling, individually and together, to figure out how to move forward.
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Maybe a counselor can help you both by giving you both practical ways to reduce stress, and be a third party, dispassionate voice for setting boundaries. He might start to see his "unhelpful" siblings in a different light, too. The boundaries with parents thing is so tough to navigate: you want them to have the best, you want them to be happy, if only because their happiness charges old programming in yourself that sometimes equates to "if parent is happy=I can be happy/if parent is UNhappy=things are scary." So having a third party help him see that will be good for both of you AND MIL. You can set it up that you want 4-6 sessions and just end when that time is up, too -- it doesn't have to be an endless commitment.
Eddy is right -- there is a limit to everything. And right now, inadvertently, and in an attempt to do the "right thing," Husband is teaching MIL there are NO limits. You would do just the opposite for your kids, and probably are: "Here's the line; no crossing it." MIL needs the same treatment. Sending you love and light....
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MOM:

As I read your post, Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" kept playing in my head. Then I thought there's a limit to everything.

He's aware coming to Mom's rescue is having a negative impact on your relationship, but deep inside feels it's his duty to help her. His primary obligation to his own family, and I understand how hard it is to have a part-time husband and father.

Explain this to him in a supportive, loving way. If he begins to justify his mother's irresponsible, self-centered behaviors then Mrs. Moses is going to have to go to the Mountain. Needy people = entrapment, so remind her that those spur-of-the-moment whims are having a negative impact on your family. And while you're at it, suggest ways she can help herself. I would, however, discuss this with your husband 1st to prevent his mother from driving a deeper wedge between the 2 of you.

There's nothing wrong with fighting for YOUR man when you know you have a good one, but at the same time he shouldn't feel as if he has to make a choice between the 2 most important women in his life.
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Thank you Lilli and Cara for your thoughtful responses. DH and I had a long talk about this tonight. I talked about Lilli's suggestion of changing from this unhealthy path and Cara's suggestion of discussing tolerances and if/when lines will need to be drawn. Although I will admit it's very hard not to criticize MIL.

I did, however, point out that MIL can't be happy with her current situation either, since DH really isn't capable of being an adequate caretaker. He ignores some of her needs, such as hygeine issues. Those have gone largely unaddressed for months or even years. And the housekeeping he does at her home is deplorable. He's a man and I think immune to certain things, like filthy microwaves or corners of the floor! We talked about the fact that it's not fair to her to have inferior care and not fair to him to be burdened with it when there are reasonable and viable alternatives that will benefit everyone better. Part of the issue is that she won't spend her money, perhaps due to her frugal nature, her desire to leave something behind to benefit her kids, or as my SIL theorizes, to have money to wave over everyone else's heads as a controlling mechanism. I'm not sure the frugality is a common theme for the elderly who are still aware of money and how it's spent? We have assured her that we don't want or need any of her money and that she should spend it on her comfort, etc. because it's HERS and that's what it's there for.

Anyway, I've been reading here and I'm astounded at the difficult paths many of you are on. It's such a complex issue and really not one that I thought I'd be facing at 34 with a house full of kids. DH sort of lost it tonight and cried for the first time in years. He's under so so much stress. I hope that he realizes that my ultimate goal is to reduce EVERYONE's stress and make life a little easier for us all.
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You are not out of line in feeling overwhelmed, and possibly resentful, Mom2redheads. You are between a rock and a hard place. I do not agree that you can dictate the boundaries that your husband will choose to set, or not, however. It is ultimately his choice to do as he pleases, but you can offer him input without criticizing his mother. You can tell him exactly where and how you find yourself picking up the slack and explaining to him why it is hard for you to keep doing so. Ultimately, communication clarity will help each of you to decide how much is enough and when or where you may need to draw the line. Whatever you decide to do, wishing you the very best of outcomes. I know it is not easy.
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You are taking on this responsibility at a much younger age than most of us do. But what you have in common is being "sandwiched-in" with other responsibilities and, as you said, having a very full plate.
You can talk to your husband forever, but until he sets boundaries and puts these very reasonable ideas into action, nothing will change. There is something different about relationships between opposite genders (ie: Mom and Son, Father and Daughter) that complicates things. Obviously your hub is motivated by the ever popular guilt trip. Most of us are. But he needs to recognize that it takes a village to care for an elder. It is the biggest fallacy of our culture to think that one kid (and it usually ends up being one) can handle everything.
The longer he staves off introducing your Mom to paid caregivers, the longer it will take her to get used to it. She really needs more daily care than you two can provide.
Do not become discouraged or angry with the hub...he feels like his loyalties are being pulled in two directions. But sit down with him with a plan in mind. Set a date in the near future when these plans will be implemented. Share these plans with the MIL - if you can get any buy-in at all it will make life easier.
Start with hiring a housekeeper/errand person once a week, then gradually increase her care as needed.
But the first thing that has to happen is for the hub to recognize that this is not a healthy path he is on.
good luck
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