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His mom still expects him to do everything in her house when he doesn't even take care of things in our own house... we hire outside help. She will NOT let ANYONE else in her home to help her, what should we do? The situation is getting out of hand and my husband's health is at risk. I have never gotten along with her so it is impossible for me to talk to her. Please help.


(This question is being asked by a wonderful friend that has not yet decided to join this group, I hope everyone out there can give her wonderful suggestions and bring her along to join us and she can get some support like I have;)

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Even when my FIL was alive, MIL would con my husband to do normal maintenance and emergency repairs around their house. Her reasoning was “because of their age” (younger than we are now). Hubs at first was flattered & because he was younger & had 3 sons helping, he could do it. Then it slid to me helping in other areas.

When WE started hiring outside help for our home & he would do the same things at their home, I put my foot down. Frankly, I didn’t care what they or anyone else thought. Him doing those chores for them when he was paying someone else to do them at our home affected us in many different ways.

Suddenly, I was back to being “that witch”, ungrateful (for what?), and worse. Forget all that I did in the previous 10 years — I guess it was expected. Anyway, hubs was now on his own with helping them, which made him realize he couldn’t do it all. He had to say no. His compromise was to arrange for help and be there when the work was being done. MIL did try saying they didn’t have the money, blah blah blah. Hubs response was if they couldn’t afford to stay in that home, then time to downsize. Suddenly they found it.

I couldn't change them; I could only change my reaction. Hubs couldn’t find the strength to change himself until circumstances changed. MIL & 2 SILs (FIL has since passed away) now are totally feeling the brunt of me no longer helping. I, meanwhile, feel like I have been liberated. People are commenting how relaxed we both are.
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Reply to kdcm1011
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dinamshar9 Jul 11, 2019
Good for you! You make sense to me - people still don’t realize / You reap what you sow!
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My aunt (I call her my aunt but she’s really my husband’s aunt) had no children of her own but 10 nephews she helped raise.
When she needed something done, she would say, we’ll get the boys to do it. I would say “ The BOYS are all in their 60’s and have heart problems”!!
Three of them have since died, including the one she had digging a grave for her beloved dog after it died. He was on a heart transplant list within a couple of years of then and knew he was doing something foolish at the time.
She is 92 now and my husband and one other are the only two she still sees on a regular basis. All of them have heart and other health issues. Four can’t or shouldn’t drive. So imagine, in her mind she had the equivalent of 10 sons and None are able to do manual chores for her anymore. They would have never turned her down. She would never see them as anything but able. I just took it over.
Have your husband take his “helper” or his “friend” with him and get the chores done. Tell mom he needs money for “parts” and get it done. If the “parts” are too expensive she can look elsewhere for help. He will be amazed at how easy it will be once he decides he can no longer do the chores alone. She probably does need him there to direct the work. Good luck.
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Reply to 97yroldmom
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dinamshar9 Jul 11, 2019
That is a perfect solution in my estimation! Take his little helper!
great advice
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Sometimes we have to step back and let the senior fail before they will make any changes.

It is difficult but it is a must if it is effecting your husbands health.

What would her options be if he dropped dead? Maybe a family friend could help her understand that she looses everything if something happens to him, so he should be handled with care.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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It is up to him to say no, if he is too weak to stand up to her, nothing will change. This is not an uncommon problem, many men don't have a backbone when it comes to their mothers.
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Reply to DollyMe
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When my FIL died my MIL did exactly the same thing. 1.5 hr round trip Then she started getting him to do things for her elderly neighbours. So one day she rang and told me to tell “her son” that she needed whatever and I just said No. He’s too busy working and then I just wouldn’t pass the messages on to him. It didn’t take long for her to work it out. She sold up and bought a very nice flat

you and your husband (you know this means you, right) just have to start saying no
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Reply to PandabearAUS
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“Adult child in lieu of a paid professional” was, basically, my MIL’s & FIL’s identity.

For 50+ years, every home repair and modification was a clumsy, 2-or-3 generation DIY job.

A qualified plumber/HVAC/electrician/roofer/general contractor never set foot on my in-laws’ property. My in-laws never had a door/window/appliance delivered and/or installed.

Nope. That’s what adult sons are for.

It transcended poor-mouthing. Moaning and groaning about money was just the ruse.

My in-laws’ prime directive was The Attention Show.

MIL & FIL had 3 grown sons who lived within 10 miles of them. (The Golden Child - son #4 - lived at home his entire adult life and was exempt from any sort of contribution.)

The predictable pattern: Spin the chore wheel. Start working the phone. Pit “the boys” against each other.

If Target #1 said no, it was inevitably his wife’s/girlfriend’s fault. (No matter what the real reason was. Up to and including being out of town.)

Call Target #2 with the job request + a verbal smear of Target #1 and his entire household.

If Target #2 didn’t deliver, Target #3 got the “you’re my last hope” shtick. Buttered up with unflattering tales about how #1 & #2 had the audacity to coach his kids’ soccer team... or take a vacation... or have a Crohn’s disease flare-up.... or be up to his armpits in his own home maintenance. Masterminded by #1’s & #2’s dreadful women. Always.

When we were younger, it was “just” MIL’s & FIL’s annoying tic. Time went by. We got older. We gained perspective.

And we all decided [in our own individual ways] that this contest was not worth winning.

After the a decade - then 2 decades - it became impossible to ignore how infrequently the phone rang to congratulate a grandkid on a good report card. Or ask how our grueling jobs were going. Or offer help/support after a surgery. Or invite us to do something - anything - with them that did not involve a ladder and a toolbox.

MIL & FIL were incapable of recognizing what they created. Where were the warm fuzzies they saw on TV? And heard about from their peers (who got off their duffs and attended a grandkid’s hockey game or high school/college graduation once in a while)??

Return on investment, geniuses. Treat your offspring as unpaid staff, and they’ll eventually respond with “take this job and shove it.”

Worth noting: The love was always there. We’re not ogres.

But MIL & FIL lacked the emotional generosity to sustain dynamic, rewarding relationships. And all the toilet installations and drywall projects in the world couldn’t fix that.
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disgustedtoo Jul 11, 2019
Your last sentence got me thinking... Often husbands get out of things like laundry chores by screwing it up... maybe a bad installation or two would reduce or eliminate the calls to action!!! It could work... Maybe worth a (sloppy) try or two...
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I too didn't have a great relationship with MIL. I was nice to her but I never loved her. Hard to explain. I allowed my husband handle his Mom in his way. TG she lived in Fla or once his Dad died he too would have been going things for her.

Time for you to step up to the plate since he won't. You need to tell her that at 70 your husband is a Senior too. As such he is slowing down. He can't do what he did 10 yrs ago. He, like her, is aging to. And if there is a health problem with him, tell her. Tell her u don't want to lose him because he is caring for two households. She needs to pay help. But, if your husband is like mine, he won't appreciate u saying anything. So, drop a hint every so often.

This is coming from an almost 70 yr old married to a 72 yr old who is just realizing his limits.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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It is not impossible for your friend to talk to her. It just means that there will be a row and the problem can’t be ignored. MIL should be told that either she hires people to do the things she needs, or she will have to go into care. Lay it on the line that your friend is not going to see her husband die because of his mother. Someone has to have the guts to front this, and if it can’t be your friend's husband perhaps it has to be her. Or can you think of someone else that can do the dirty work… even you! That's not such a bad idea anyway - the row will still happen, but as long as they don't back off, it is there on the table without either of them being 'at fault'.
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Reply to MargaretMcKen
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My uncle passed away of a heart attack at 62 when he was mowing the grass at his 90 year old father's house. Hire help.
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Reply to Maryjann
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Sometimes we have to JUST SAY NO. Something like -- I'm sorry but I'm not able to do these things because my health issues. My doctor has recommended that I avoid situations that aggravate my health and safety. I will find a qualified contractor to do things as needed. And I will be present when they are there.
She won't like it, but she will get used to it. And the only way she will get used to it is for him to stick to the plan.
Sometimes when I tell Mother NO, she says, "I know you hate me." But I stick to my guns. Otherwise, she will think she can guilt me. I'm the mommy now. 😂
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my2cents Jul 12, 2019
I don't think it's a matter of 'we' saying no. It's 'he' needs to say no and doesn't appear he's willing to do that.
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