I am trying to balance wanting to help my husband care for his parents and protecting my own mental health. My mother-in-law, in particular, is very demanding and critical. She legitimately has an anxiety disorder, but does not believe in seeking help in managing it. This results in at least 1-2 phone calls per hour, either to my husband, or me, or both, if one of us doesn't answer the phone right away. This is problematic because we live in a very rural area, and our phone service isn't always reliable depending where we are on the property. We check in with her and my father-in-law at least 4 to 5 times a day.
My mother-in-law has also made it clear that she does not approve of me - she did not come to our wedding, and even after 9 years, continues to tell me that I "stole her best friend" when my husband and I got married. She also regularly makes racial slurs (I am Hispanic, my husband is not). These get brushed off as "jokes" or just the way she was raised (in the south). My husband assures me that she loves me - you can love someone and still be abusive. I don't think those are mutually exclusive, but certainly has an adverse effect on my own mental health.
I usually try to help by choosing activities that do not require a lot of interaction with her - e.g. - doing their laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking meals. She still criticizes me, but because there is not as much one-on-one time, it is easier for me to brush it off.
Last night, my husband and I went into town by ourselves. She called 4 times in an hour and thought it was wrong that we went out without taking them with us. Point of reference, we had seen them in person 3 hours prior. Then, we came home and had dinner on our deck. The internet was sketchy, and our cell phones and house phone were not working well for about 45 minutes. During that time, she left several frantic messages and was annoyed that we hadn't picked up even though we had checked in about an hour prior. There were 4 more phone calls within a 3 hour period, to the point where we could not even have our own conversation.
I have talked to my husband about setting boundaries, but he is truly struggling. His frame of reference is a childhood and adulthood trying to please someone who can't be pleased. My own relationship with my parents is completely different, so I sometimes, have a hard time relating. My husband's other two siblings died in their 20s - which, understandably, probably contributed to my mother-in-law's unhealthy dependence and anxiety about her remaining child. However, I am 52 years old and do not think it is fair that we have to tell his mother when we leave the house, what we are doing, where we are going, etc. It is also not fair that we are expected to include them in all our activities. I feel like a teenager again, and not in a good way.
I want to be compassionate, but I also want to enjoy my life with my husband. He and I generally have a very good relationship, but I am starting to feel like the 5th wheel in my own household and marriage.
My in-laws both have some age-related mobility issues, but are both ambulatory, and my mother-in-law still drives. A few months ago, against my advice, they purchased a house that is bigger than mine and are now having trouble taking care of it. I feel like they consistently make choices that cause my husband and I to have added responsibilities. I want them to be as independent as possible for as long as they can, but I also want us to be able to enjoy our own independence.
Thank you for listening.