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So I love my mother in law dearly but she is 4 months into grieving my father in law. She doesn't drive or speak good English. She was so used to taking care of her husband (he was 20yrs older) and cooking. She was basically a homemaker. She cries alot for him and I feel bad for her. I've on the other hand kinda feel like she is looking to my husband as her male figure. She has the need to take care of him, he opens the car door for her, walks into the stores with her. Things he used to do for me. She had a way of taking care of her house and to me it seems like she wants to take over my house. I do things a certain way, and without seeming to harsh, I tried to explain what I like done in my home. She told my husband that she is scared of me, and she will ask me if it's ok to take a shower. I clearly explained to her that she doesnt have to ask to take a shower or eat food we have or to do her laundry. She makes me feel like I treat her like a monster. I bought her puzzles, word searches, painting rocks, adult coloring books, to try to get her into a hobby. She double bagged them and put them in her closet. Me and my husband been arguing and I feel like it's putting a wedge in our relationship. Please, I need advice!

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I’m adding to my previous post. I agree with Jacobsen. My 85 year old MIL lived with us and we got on despite the fact that she had an adult version of oppositional defiant disorder. Example: On one occasion I arrived home from work and mentioned that my coworkers and I had commented what a beautiful clear blue sky day it was and we wished we were outside enjoying it (NW PA near “dreary Erie”). Her response: I sat by the window and never saw anything but clouds. She insisted it was a cloudy day, although there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I ended it, smiling, “oh, Mom, you are funny” and gave her a hug. She was a retired nurse, had many interests and non-stop curiosity. Believe me I worked hard to make her feel loved and useful (household management and care); given her personality it wasn’t easy. But. She raised an amazing son, my husband, and we both loved him so I kept that fact in mind. She’s gone now, but I have to say she became one of my best girlfriends. So, in my experience, two women can live harmoniously in the same home together.
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I think that there is a difficult head set here for both of you. You feel that you have and should have the ‘woman of the house’ title, and that MIL is 'a guest'. MIL is confused about her title – not a guest, perhaps DH’s mother, or the ‘wise elder’, but also a ‘I keep putting my foot in it’ nuisance. The reality at present is that you are all house sharing. Think about how those young people manage it. No-one is ‘queen’, but individuals have a ‘special dish’ that they cook occasionally for everyone. Someone has the job of remembering to take out the rubbish bins, etc etc. Try hard to talk it through with DH. If he understands the issues, and how you are trying to resolve them, he can help both of you. If he doesn’t understand, it’s a rocky path ahead. It might help for DH to read the different approaches you have had, and talk them through with you.
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It could be that she can not stay at your house. Make that statement, "my house" frequently. If she says you are mean, ask her if she is trying to get rid of you as "the woman of MY HOUSE?" There needs to be clarification. Let her know that you and your husband are fighting because of her. You don't like that fighting goes on in your house - she is the cause. What changes is she going to make to have the fighting stop? If she says that "I never intended ... Now that she knows the facts, how is she going to deal with all the fighting that goes on in "MY HOUSE"? Is it her intention to cause you stress?
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Screennamed Apr 2020
... Maybe you should just take her out in a field and ...
talk with her to learn her interests and thoughts, using google translate. Guaranteed she has a lifetime of experiences that could contribute to that household. If she doesn't like you, then she doesn't want to live with you. Which means it's time for you and your husband to:
1. evaluate cultural differences
2. discuss finding her a different place for her to live
3. Perhaps research independent living arrangements?
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This dynamic may not work. Perhaps your mother should consider Independent Living.
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If your MIL is still relatively young, get her situated in an Independent Living apartment of her own after she's been with you for a while and her grief isn't so raw. Help her move in and get set up, etc, and let her know you're available once a week to help her with whatever. That's my advice.

The worst mistake my mother ever made was having her mother come live with us after her husband died. An Italian woman with no hobbies, no friends, no interests in learning new things or making new friends, language barriers.....all the same traits your MIL seems to have. All they wound up doing was getting on one another's nerves and fighting over who was in charge and who did what chores. Two stay at home women enmeshed in a foul relationship with nothing to do but cook and clean. And fight. Leaving me in the middle of the chaos, and my father working grueling hours to escape himself. Grandma lived with us for 25 years and wound up living to the ripe old age of 91. She was sent to other children to live with after mom had it, but none were able to cope, so off she went to a nursing home.

Two queens in one castle doesn't usually work. Especially with cultural differences and expectations that don't jive with today's reality.

Have a talk with DH and make a plan to get her reestablished elsewhere within a certain time frame. Or expect the rest of your life and YOUR marriage to continue declining.

Good luck
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The power is in your hands, even if that's not your intention. She knows it's your house. She has no function. Can you create one for her? Give her an opportunity to make a contribution to the "day to day"?
We all need to "shine" in someone else's eyes.
What is she particularly good at that can be enjoyed or experienced by the family, so she gets verbal feedback about her efforts?
Is there some card game or board game you can all play that would let he feel included? Could you get some paints and small canvases (or large) and share some times painting together while listening to some music she likes?
If you have a son of your own, try imagining him in your husband's position when YOU are the older mother and your son is married, but walking YOU into the store and opening doors for you. How would you want HIS wife to feel about that?
Maybe she fears you could be angry or hurt about it, and at the same time, she needs it. She raised him to BE that kind of man, for you, for her, for the good of the world.
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I just wanted to chime in with some remarks regarding something I saw in my own family. My maternal grandfather was over a decade older than my maternal grandmother, but she died 6 years (at 72, mainly as a result of cancer) before he did (at almost 89). He was always a rather "tough customer" while my grandmother was a very lovable woman. After her death, my grandfather spent quite a bit of time at my parents' place (in metro NJ, he otherwise lived in rural PA). He was "true to form" while there, and my father once remarked that if my grandmother had been the one to live longer, she could have moved in and they would all have gotten along very well (of course unless some form of dementia developed later on). I believe this because when my grandparents visited, my mother and grandmother got along extremely well, like best friends. My grandmother loved to keep busy, and she helped my mother all the time.

One time, when I was visiting in PA, a local friend of my grandparents asked me if my grandmother "took over" when she visited us, and I could honestly say she didn't--she cooperated and fit in nicely. It was the same way when my parents, sister and I went to PA to visit there, sometimes spending several weeks at a time there.

I realize there may be differences between a daughter (only child) and mother, vs a DIL and MIL. (I should add that my GM said she loved my father "as if he were my own son").

My reason for writing this is to say that, contrary to many comments I've read or heard, it IS possible for two women to get along in a house, as I've seen it myself. (Okay, I'll admit it brought tears to my eyes to write about this.)
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There is a lot going on here that isn’t out in the open. You are aware, husband is not aware, because he is not directly affected. His mom is the one pulling the strings but isn’t really aware of the fallout. If you let guilty feelings silence you, you will feel like a prisoner in your own home.
having a talk with husband who wants to shove everything under a rug and let you shoulder the blame (“you wear your feelings on your sleeve”) may not work. It’s a pain, but sometimes I have to write down what I want to say first. Maybe even give him the paper so he can react to it in private, before you talk. Try to say some positive things, not just let it all out. Maybe offer some solutions that would work for you. There is a chance he won’t listen or help you make a plan. Then it is definitely time for some outside support. Counseling, pastor, a job, new pastimes that take you away from home. Not another love interest (adultery in your mind) but more independence.
a lot of the advice you got told you to think about your MIL’a feelings. But you have been doing that and stuffing your own feelings. It is difficult to stand up for yourself, but in so many cases the one who should stand up for you won’t, and becomes part of the problem.
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This is an ages-old dilemma. You are the primary woman of the house and your husband needs to be on board. Create separate spaces if possible for “down time” - explain how you intend that to work to the household, find new, joint endeavor hobbies, perhaps. Is this a time to create a memory book with MIL, talk about a few old photos everyday and let her narrate, start a journal, volunteer together in a community project? Maybe garden together, exchange recipes and take turns with meal prep and planning responsibilities? Is there a craft she could share with you.

i have old family letters - after my great-great-grandmother was widowed, she wrote to her still-single, 20 year old son with her worries about becoming the “second woman” if he married and she needed to come live with him and his future wife. The year was 1883! Which is why I mentioned this as an ages-old issue, ie, just as current as it was more than a century ago.
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She is looking to her son like she always has without his dad. He is letting you see how he has treated his mother in the past. She wants to maintain her abilities to "do". The three of you decide what you let her do...so she can get into a past routine for where she is living. This meets her mental health needs. let her get what she has gotten in the past for her mental exercise. You can not change her interests. You can not change her. you just meet her where she is. Be thankful she wants to be there and you and your husband want her to be with you both. Have weekly talk times.
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You summed it up as feeling like she is taking your position in the household. Try to look at it as two women who love the same guy equally. She's been taking care of a house and husband all these years and now...nothing. Let her have some chores. Let her cook - there has to be some meals that hubby dearly loves that only mom can cook! Let her. If she doesn't do a task exactly right, is it really that important.
I always think about my sig other - when we got together he would try to clean up and it was totally different than the way I would do it. Mopping the floor was the biggie and I would remop. Then I finally realized how pissed I would be if someone came behind me and did it as though I wasn't clean enough. I LET IT GO. He was so good in so many other ways, why criticize. He mopped one week and I did the next in a manner that suited me. Overall the house was clean, we both contributed and I wasn't getting aggravated over something as silly as a mop job.
Don't drag home projects for her. Take her to a craft store (when you can) and see if there is something particular that catches her eye. Go online, for now, and show her some projects (quilt if she sews, crochet, etc) and see if any interest.
She's already in the home - don't get into a show down with hubby by asking him to choose you over her. It's his mom - what do you really expect him to say.
--Let go of the little things ---
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Your MIL is hurting. The life she knew has died, and her grief is very raw. Emotions are haywire. She lost more than her husband and her lifework of caring for him and their home. She had no control of this life event, and is currently trying to transition to a new world, in the midst of her sadness. Think about what you can do FOR her to ease her suffering, make her feel valued, and Wanted. Everyone needs to wake up in the morning with a sense of purpose and a feeling that they are loved. Smile at her a lot. Encourage her to just sit quietly with you, not speaking, just feeling each other’s spirit, hold her hand or put your arm around her shoulder. Ask her to teach you some of her family’s recipes, talk about your husband’s favorite foods or meals growing up (if you don’t already know, ask what they were). You’ll feel better about your own feelings if you simply Listen to hers. Your husband sounds like a gentleman so you could tell your MIL you are grateful she raised such a quality human being. (Your husband will love you all the more!) If you feel overwhelmed and displaced by her intrusion into your home, especially your kitchen, please seek counseling. And know that counseling for all three of you together and/or separate could help you navigate this challenging transition in your lives.
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First & most important - Get some counseling for yourself & hopefully your husband. If you don't the situation will only get worse & your marriage may be doomed.

Just a thought . . . Is there no possibility of either making part of your house into a "separate" efficiency apartment"? Or if you can afford it & there is enough space on your property there are pods that can be procured that are made specifically to be "mother-in-law" type separate living quarters for a family member who you need to look after.

Counseling! Counseling! Counseling!
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Yes, your MIL is grieving and needs comfort and understanding; however, your husband cannot become her new hobby. Your husband needs to learn to establish healthy boundaries with his mother so that he does not allow himself to fall into the role of her little boy.

Why did she have to move from where they lived. Was it a cultural expectation? Was it financial?

Your MIL was 20 years younger than her husband so that makes her, what, 60-something years old? Was her moving in supposed to be temporary or permanent?

I think you will continue to get good answers if you share a little more information about how this situation came to be.
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Sorry for your loss. Did you and your husband talk before moving your mom in? Me and my hubby just went thru this last year. My mom stayed with us 6 weeks until I could find an apartment near us but not in walking distance. It may sound harsh. But I had to move her out for my own sanity and to preserve my husband and I’d relationship and that of my children’s. I would suggest talking to your husband about how you are feeling. Work together to come up with a plan of what to do. That works best without destroying your marriage. Your feelings are valid.
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Tell DH it is not working, get marriage counseling if needed.
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It is hard to have another woman in your home.  Ask your husband how he would feel if your dad moved in and all the sudden he wanted to take over all of the tasks that your husband had control of.....and then you started baking your dad all of is favorite dishes and watching movies together and what not.  Your husband would feel a bit out of place as well.  Your everyday life and everyone's role has been disrupted.  There is no shame in saying that you're having some difficulty with things.  I don't know the nationality of your MIL, but in many cultures, the elder female and elder male rule the roost.  So maybe she is expecting you to bow out and let her run things the way she wants..  There are many things at play here, but communication is key.  Have a conversation with her and your husband at the same time so that everyone can speak and listen to each others concerns. 

Communication is key.  Good luck.
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Aalways hard for two Femsles in the same kitchen so to speak.

Your Mother in law is still in the grieving process and you should be more understanding and just let her at this time as you know it will get better.

For right now with the Virus, there's not anything you can do.

Aactually, take advantage of your mother in law preparing the meals or helping out with housework or whatever to keep her busy and help keep her mind off the loss of her husband.

As soon as the Stay Home is off, you'll be able to start taking her to whatever language she speaks Church and meeting places of others that just loss their spouse, ect.

Once she makes a friend things will get easier.

Abd don't worry about your husband being attentive to his mom, afterall he is still her boy and she his mom.

Your husband can still open the door for both of ya'll.

Your husband will love you more for showing love to his mom, especially at this time.

Put yourself in her place and give it a few months.

Let her feel comfortable in your home before making up Rules and Boundaries.

Try learning her language and in return she'll be learning yours without even realizing it.
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FloridaDD Apr 2020
I know you are trying to be helpful, but your answer is VERY unrealistic.  

Yes, DH CAN open doors for both, but he doesn't.  OP cannot control that.

Learning another language = unrealistic

Yes, MIL can cook, and if she makes a mess of kitchen who cleans.

And NO DH is NOT her boy anymore, he is a married man with a wife, and if wants that over, his choice.
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It is never easy to live with a family member, mother in-laws included. I would sit Mum down and tel her the rules and try to compromise to make a long situation more pleasant. Hopefully....
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jacobsonbob Apr 2020
"It is never easy to live with a family member..." I guess this helps to explain the divorce rate :) (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

More seriously--yes, having a discussion about "the rules" is appropriate as long as it is done sensitively and not in the form of a lecture. Perhaps "traditions" is a better word than "rules" because much of what happens in a household is probably a matter of habit.
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It can be very difficult living with a mother-in-law. She has a special relationship with her son (your husband) and he also has a special relationship with her (his mother), for his whole life. Try not to create conflict around this relationship, you may not win! Try to see her side of things and be as flexible as you can. Can you get some advice or counseling from a social worker, grief therapist, or psychologist on how to handle this? She may also need some grief counseling and professional advice on how to handle this new situation. Don't forget, she used to be in control of her own house, and now she's not. That's hard for her to adjust to. You don't mention how old she is or her condition. If she is still able to live by herself, do you think she'd like to have her own apartment, maybe in a senior residence where they will provide services? Is that feasible?
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Don't even consider it, it may be OK now but it will only get worse and once she is in your house you will never be able to get her out.
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Sometimes when a new relationship, like that between you and your MIL since she moved in, can benefit from intentionally spending time together and getting to know each other better. Would you be able to take some time when you and she could just have coffee or tea together and talk? Was she born in another country? What was her childhood like? How did she meet her husband? What was their life together like when her children/your husband were young? What are some of the things she misses most about her husband?

She is still very much a "new widow" and she is probably suffering from shock and grief. It really takes a lot of time to adjust to one's "new normal.". Grief is not the only reason for the awkwardness in your relationship , but it probably makes it harder for your MIL to cope with her new situation.
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It sounds like you are having trouble saying ‘don’t do that’, and MIL is worrying that anything she does is going to be wrong. Could you develop a sign that means ‘stop’ – say crossed forefingers. A ‘thumbs up’ sign for ‘good’. Tell MIL that unless she sees the crossed fingers, everything is fine. With crossed fingers, you aren’t in for a conversation about what she’s doing wrong, just stop.

I can understand some of the confusion, as I would expect a visitor to ask before taking a shower. Some people have a lifetime of needing to ration water or water pressure. Don’t expect her to know what’s on in your house and what’s not on. CM’s suggestions are really good too.

I remarried at age 55, and we had both been single for many years. My DH certainly isn’t a Queen (!!), but I had to adjust to doing so many things a different way. I did have to learn not to ‘wear my heart on my sleeve’. Mind you, he had to change too. Now he eats most vegetables, not just peas and chips!
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Laugh
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Okay, I have to ask Shad. Are you a man or woman? LOL
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She is adrift in your home. She lost her hubby and her way of life. She is uncertain... so she defaults to her regular ways of doing things.

Is your MIL going to be staying with you forever? If so, try to create zones: "MIL zones" that simulate an apartment that she can do as she wishes, "yours and hubby's zones" that preserve your privacy and doing things your usual way, and "everybody zones" that everybody uses and cares for together. It will take some talking together to create and adjust until the "everybody zones" work well.

My mom had problems living with us since her stuff kept creeping into other areas of our home and we couldn't agree on ways to work together. For us, it was better when she moved into her own small condo. My sister's MIL moved into an apartment-like set-up in one of her daughter's homes. Each has her own little queendom. Some daughters and moms are just like each other - like my mom and my younger sister - and have the same ground rules, attitudes and cleaning regimens. The last are usually pretty rare. So don't feel you have to stick with only 1 set-up.

Talk with your hubby about your MIL's needs and your concerns before you address them with her. Try to come up with a couple of options that you and your hubby can agree upon. Then, plan a time to talk with your MIL and give her the options you agree upon. She might surprise you and come up with an even better idea.
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I once heard the saying "go on as you mean to end",, so make it known nicely that you are the "Woman of your house",, BUT.. find something that MIL can be in charge of.. her way. Something real that will make her feel needed. She does her own laundry? Why not ask her do all the laundry? She will feel usefull. So what if she folds things "wrong"? Its a chore you will not have to do.. maybe have her cook a dinner her way, that she plans once a week? One less dinner you have to cook! ( My hubs has taken over all the cooking for the most part since he retired, I love it) As for your hubs being there for her, opening doors, helping her shop.. maybe you could look at that as a clue as to how he may be for you one day. If she wants to be helpful, and I am sure she needs to feel like she is needed and not a burden , find her a real purpose in your home, and you may both feel better. And honestly, although I know you meant well,, if I got my 89 YO mom coloring books, rock painting kits, etc she would bop me on the head.. that is treating her like a child you want out of your way.
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I think culture is involved here. Does Mom from a culture where the man is head of household. Where even if you are married the parents still have some controll. Matriarchs and Patriarchs.

I have always said, I did it my parents way when I lived home, when I got my own home I did it my way. So, MIL needs to understand that you welcome her into your home but its your home. If she wants her room a certain way, thats OK. But its your house and as such you like it a certain way. Your husband needs to understand this too. If you were living with her you would have to do it her way.
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lkdrymom Apr 2020
I have to agree. She needs to be needed so find something she can be in charge of. With that said, she needs to know that this is YOUR house and you get to set the way things are done. If you were living in HER home you would expect to have to do things her way. Why is this any different?
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It’s hard having anyone live in our homes. It just is. I am sure it is just as hard for her to live with you.

This is a tough time in her life. She does seem helpful and she desires to feel needed.

Do you feel that she truly desires to be helpful or is it a ‘take over’ personality. Did you get along with her prior to her moving in?

She misses feeling needed. She cared deeply for her husband and that’s gone now.

If you can compromise and find something that is helpful so she will feel needed and her activity is something that may satisfy both of you.

I am sorry that you and your husband are arguing. That’s hard too. As the wife, it’s important for you to feel as if you are number one. I get that.

Your husband feels caught in the middle. This is tough for him too. He lost his dad.

I hope things improve for all of you soon.
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Sgarza Apr 2020
Thank you.
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The things you do a certain way...

What sort of things?

Why do you think the gal needs a hobby???

She's lost the husband she spent her adult life waiting on. That was her hobby. She's missing it dreadfully. And it's only four months.

Set yourself a private deadline - end of the year, say. Something like that.

Put yourself in MIL's shoes. Think what would make you feel genuinely welcomed and cherished. Not colouring books or word searches. How about, being asked to demonstrate a recipe? Given respect for your experience. Having the pain you're in handled tenderly.

This will be a LOT easier if there is a definite limit to how long you have to keep it up. Of course you can't openly say to MIL (or DH, not just yet) "how long are you staying?" But you can start framing a schedule in your own mind, and shaping a plan for the end goal.

This lady needs to heal, so that she can then begin to look forward. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to make her healing process a really good experience for all of you.

Tiny example - instead of feeling miffed (who wouldn't?!) that DH opens the car door for MIL, open the car door for her yourself. Help her into her coat. Thank her for setting the table, even if you personally never do it her way. If you take control of these special little touches DH won't have to and it won't bug you so much.
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Beatty Apr 2020
What a caring & insightful response.
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Someone on this forum once said *a castle does not need two Queens*.

It sounds like your MIL is also trying to find her place in the new family dynamic. She is used to having her own house & being needed as you say, so may well focus that instinct onto your husband. Oh boy.

Is it possible for her to live nearby instead? Say a nice little apartment?

If not, I'm thinking a suite of rooms? Like a bedroom, small sitting room, bathroom. If space & $, some people build an extention.

A separate space she can be Queen. You obviously are Queen of the main house.

My Gran did the live with daughters thing for a time as didn't want Assisted Living. But such energy to fit into others' spaces, always being a guest really. When she did move into AL, it was her own little space. It was a better fit for her.

I'd say give it a go. Especially to get through the virus. Then take your DH out for dinner & discuss. How it IS working & how it is NOT. This is your house too & your life & you get a vote sister!

(A three person marriage is not a workable arrangement for most).
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