How do I continue being a caregiver for an angry, critical, and ungrateful grandparent?

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My husband and I moved in two years ago to help take care of his grandmother. She is 85 and has declining health. While things were going well for a while, the situation is becoming so frustrating and stressful that we're not sure how much longer we can stay. We both are college students close to graduating with full-time jobs lined up. Although she is usually very sweet with my husband, she treats me very poorly. Nothing I do is good enough. I wake up super early in the morning to do chores around the house while she is sleeping because if I do them during the day, she hovers next to me and criticizes my efforts. She complains about me to my mother in-law, my husband, and her friends saying I do not clean enough around the house. Just today she was telling my MIL that my husband is in trouble since he has a "good-for-nothing wife". Even while she said this about me, her bathrooms were sparkling clean because I cleaned them this morning, and her kitchen floor was spotless thanks to my sweeping and mopping. Both my MIL and husband defend me and try to explain that I do a lot for her while I'm going to school and preparing curriculum to teach 3rd grade in the fall. Still she doesn't care or appreciate the efforts I make. I think some of this stems from the fact that I'm her granddaughter-in-law, but mostly from the fact that she grew up in a culture where women did nothing but clean and bake for hours all day. It drives her nuts that I'm planning on having a career and do not have kids yet (she's lectured me about that). We've asked her several times to share her expectations of what chores she wants done and how often, but she has no idea. My husband has told her to stop talking about me that way, which led to a huge argument between them and her giving us the silent treatment for 2 WEEKS. I'm fed up with doing so much for this woman and then being treated like dirt. It really hurts, and I don't know how much longer I can do this. What should I do? How should I cope?

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At least you are both graduating and will have decent incomes come Fall.
Although you did not say I am assuming that two years a go it seemed a good idea to move in with Gma as it would give you free lodging in exchange for keeping house etc.
Well that need is about to come to an end so have a heart to heart with MIL and explain that the time has come to find your own place.
No wonder MIL defends you, you are relieving her of the responsibility of caring for her narcissistic mother. Inlaws are not going to want you to move out.
Don't do anything rash, take your time a find something you can afford and move on. in the meantime do as CM says and don't try and please this old tyrant.
Old age and bad health are not an excuse for bad behavior.
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Boy, did she pull a number on you!

I am chuckling here. Your Gma-in-law may for all I know be a very sweet person in many ways; but in this particular instance, towards you, she has been evil - and you, you sucker, you let her!

STOP TRYING TO PLEASE HER. You are adding fuel to the fire. Clean as much as you normally would (I assume you like at least an averagely clean home, do you not?). Make jolly sure your other half does his fair share, too. If Gma starts up, smile kindly on her and explain "things are different nowadays, dearest grandmother."

There is a saying, only half true but in your instance I'd give it thought, that 'there are no victims. Only volunteers.' And here's the thing: when you 'volunteer' for your GIL's treatment, you encourage it. She picks on you because it gets a reaction, and it gives her a hobby. Stop making it so much fun!

You don't have to bite back. There are better options. You can:
ignore her
patronise her
love-bomb her, as you might a challenging teenager
or, best of all,
talk to her, woman to woman, grown up to grown up.

Assert yourself as a married adult woman, and - my congratulations in advance - a graduate with a meaningful career ahead of you. You don't need to shelter behind DH or MIL's approval, though I'm glad they defend you, and so they should. But you can insist that this woman at least respect you, even if she won't - for whatever reason, most unlikely to be anything to do with you - learn to like you. Deal with her on your own account. Don't let her frighten or depress you. Don't tiptoe around her, for God's sake. Act normal! Be yourself!

You see, it's even possible that the person she doesn't like is the one who mouses round the house and won't say boo to a goose and then cries and tells tales. Whereas the person who says "oi! Who are you calling good-for-nothing, missus!" or cleans the bathroom while loudly and pointedly singing "My Way"... that person she may in time warm to. And even if she doesn't, at the very least you'll have stood your ground, kindly and fairly. Best of luck, and extra luck for post-graduation - well done.
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Is there any reason you have to continue living with her? I think I might discuss it with your husband and find another place to move. He can tell her it's not working out and that she'll need to find someone else to come in and do whatever she needs to have done.

Living that way is just not fun and you both have a right to enjoy this part of your life. Don't take what she says personally. As you say, she's suffering from age related decline. Sometimes seniors are difficult to be around. Maybe, she was always that way or maybe not, but I wouldn't continue to live with it, unless I had no other choice. Negative energy isn't healthy.

Oh, there is a chance that she's having some age related mental decline that is causing her complaints. I stayed with my cousin to help her when she hurt her foot and she was very cross with me, complaining, accused me of messing up her counter tops, said I didn't leave the bathroom in the right condition, etc. I thought she was really crazy, because none of it was true, but, we later discovered it was dementia. She was having delusions about things in the house. So, you never know what could be going on with her, but regardless of the cause, I wouldn't sacrifice my happiness and peace of mind when I was working hard to help her. If you keep living there, you could see a counselor. That's the only thing I can think of. I mean, it is her house, right?
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If I was in that case, I would stop doing so much housework around the house as you have already found if your put the Martha Stewart touch onto the place it still wouldn't be good enough for your husband's grandmother... so why stress yourself out even more. I know, easier said then done.

I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head regarding why the grandmother is so critical... it's a huge generation gap. My goodness how dare you go to college... and work outside of the home. You should be home baking cookies. I also bet you aren't hanging the clothes outside to dry in the sun, and they better the whitest clothes in the neighborhood. Lord have mercy, what is the world coming to :P

Now, since both you and your husband will be graduating and have jobs lined up, who will take over the care of your husband's grandmother? Will his parents do that? Curious why they weren't doing that already, or were you and your hubby giving them a well deserved break?

Maybe it is time for your husband's Grandmother to move to Independent Living so she can be around more people of her own generation.... she could sit in the living room with the other women and join in the complaints about their children and grandchildren.... [sigh].
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