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My mother in law came to live with us after taking on the sole parental role of her new grandbaby from her other son who lost custody of his child the day his baby was born (the mother of her child also lost custody and the child became in CPS care but living with my mother in law). We have now adopted the little one (making our kid-count now three). My MIL still lives with us because she is getting up there in health (age too but mostly health+age). She also was this little ones sole provider for the first 7 months of her life. This has all since worn my MIL down and recently she had a pacemaker put in. She is doing fine but as far as our privacy for the simple things of raising our kids and living our life how WE want has gone out the window. She is retired and is a very high anxious person who talks at every quiet moment, who is always right there every time we walk into the kitchen or kids rooms or outside for a breather - she finds a way to need something. She also treats this little one we adopted (her grandbaby) different than our other kids. She spoils her to the point that this almost two year old throws HUGE tantrums with the smallest of things like leaving one room to another because she doesn’t want to. This kid loves corn dogs and we passed by them in the freezer section of the grocery store and she wanted one and literally threw a crying screaming fit. We take the bigger kids outside to help with some chores and she will say “oh you will get to go out there one day and play too, I know you want to go play I’m so sorry” In other words she “creates” an environment where this little one THINKS she is without/sad/in need of something/anything all the time. The middle child is acting out a lot because of the attention this new little one gets. It breaks my heart. My MIL is super sensitive and telling her straight out how we need our space will throw her over the edge in her fragile state of mind and body. My husband feels the same as me but doesn’t know what to do. she does help with watching the kids while we work when they are sick (two school ages kids are older and the new little is in day care now).


I have gone to my doctor and started taking medication because I am miserable living with her. She is a good person (overall) but we need our LIFE back. Any suggestions would be great!!


It’s hard to write everything in one Post so please ask anything to help guide your answers.


I'm depressed and my husband is too. We are not there for our kids like we want to be and feel the stress on our own bodies (husbands having some small chest pains). I don’t want to come home some days or any day when she is here - which is all the time. But I don’t want to be the person that gives her a heart attack and I do want to help her.

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Well.....first, I think you know that your MIL needs to go. Don’t let her manipulate you either. You said she made a comment about how her giving you space will throw her over the edge? She’s manipulating you when she says things like that. She’s trying to guilt & manipulate you. You need to shut her down when she says things like that. She’s not going to go over the edge and it’s not your responsibility to keep her from going over the edge!

it does sound like you could all benefit from counseling. I do think that MIL deserves a little more consideration here because she’s got a child and a grandchild that been through something awful and whatever it is that led your adopted parents losing custody of their daughter, no doubt affected your MIL. Being that you have an adopted daughter, your family should eligible for special services including counseling through health & human services. Please look in to it and try to get the family in to counseling.

I commend you for recognizing that you have a serious problem here & for being willing to address it. I can relate to your post because I too had a MIL who had a stronger bond with her grandson/my nephew and when it came to him, she behaved similarly. In our situation, his parents had custody of him but for the first 7.5 years of his life, he was constantly with my MIL. She was his primary caregiver because his parents are lazy and dysfunctional. For a long time, there was little stability in his life other than my MIL. His parents split up twice, they moved every year, he was 6 or 7 when he got his first bedroom! Believe me when I saw he was exposed to a lot in his short life. And it had a profound affect on him.

My MIL favored him. She treated him differently than the other kids. Always bought stuff for him. She would never correct his behavior, there was no discipline. He was spoiled rotten and I couldn’t stand being in his presence! My MILs excuse was that “he needed her”. And she was open about the fact that she felt sorry for him. Her other grandchildren, she held them to a higher standard, she corrected their behavior. She had an obsession with sharing. Everyone had to share with my nephew even if he was totally uninterested. One afternoon, she was on the patio with my nephew and there was a box of toy cars. My son went in to the box to get some cars to play with and my MIL just stood there while my nephew ran over and told him he couldn’t play with them. My son did something similarly once and she freaked out and told him that if he brought toys to her house, he had to share with my nephew! There was another time at a birthday party when my nephew threw a fit because he wanted all of the ball pit balls and she stood and watched him punch a little girl who wouldn’t give him the balls she was playing with! (I was the one who jumped up and told him he couldn’t be have that & made him apologize). I could sit here forever telling you our family story but I won’t LOL.......I will just say that years of my MIL spoiling him rotten & treating him like the victim & the behaviors going unaddressed for years was very detrimental. He was kicked out of school because he was out of control & started getting violent with the teacher. He could not get along with anyone (the victim mentality. He was always the victim & the other kids were just bullies). Counseling is what finally helped. He had to change schools and the new school as luck would have it, had a program just for kids like him).

your kids will notice your MIL favors their sister and it will affect them too. So you are absolutely right to advocate for your family and move your MIL out. I pulled away from MIL, I distanced us from her, in order to protect my kids. I let my husband decide when we would see her. I refused to go to her house without my husband. He worked weekends and holidays and I refused to go to her house on holidays if he was working. It was necessary and it saved our relationship with her.
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worriedinCali Jan 1, 2020
I didn’t even have enough space to go in to as much detail as I wanted.....so I want to add that it wasn’t just my MILs favoritism and spoiling that caused my nephews behavioral problems. It was a big part of it but not the only factor. he was also IMHO crying out for attention from his parents. I almost wish I could say that they were out partying all the time because then there would be an excuse for this but.....they weren’t out partying. They were normal people who went to work, they just weren’t interested in being full time parents so they left him with MIL every chance they got! He needed stability in his life and he didn’t have it either. But going back to MIL, she is the one who basically raised him for years so when he started school, he lasted 4 months before he was asked to leave. He disrupted the class daily because he refused to follow instructions, he was used to being able to do what he wanted to do. My exSIL told me one day that when he was at school, he was the schools problem. And she resented them calling her and telling her to come get him.
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Hear hear on getting some intense family counseling and guidance! While intimacy is a big concern (this should resolve itself, once granny is out of the house), right now it is you 3 children who need to find continuity in their home and to learn to adapt to their newfound sibling roles.

Uunderstandably your MIL has grown very attached to the youngest child, as she raised her in infancy, but it is your other kids who will suffer if this family dynamic continues much longer.

Hopefully your MIL is a reasonable person and you two can sit down and chat about what is best for you, your kids and especially her going forward. She knows you want what is best for all the kids, and that will be for her to step back "gently" into her Grandmotherly role with All of her Grandchildren, but it won't be easy without outside counseling. I know that at 59, I could not properly care for my 3 grandchildren, even afterschool and also have to live with them full time, she needs a break in between, and time to recharge her batteries! I hope that in time she will see that living independently and still having access to you guys and the Grandies is best for all parties.

You are a great mother for looking into ways to make this situation better for your entire family, but don't wait, the baby is naturally learning all the ways to manipulate both you and Granny, and it's the other kids are going to suffer in the long run. So great that your family stepped up to take on the little one, but one really needs to learn to become one of 3, and not the special one, as they are All Special!
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Sorry - *you* have now adopted your husband's niece? You and your husband are this two year old's legal parents, do you mean?

Barb already asked what sprang to my mind, because parents don't lose custody of a newborn for nothing: any physical, mental, behavioural problems in the baby arising from the pregnancy?

Even if there aren't, you can understand the grandmother's temptation to overcompensate for the baby's parents' shortcomings; but it won't do, and you are the child's mother.

What would you do if your MIL treated one of your own children in this partial and damaging way?

I don't know, but maybe family therapy might be an idea. It's a difficult, delicate situation requiring very clear rules and boundaries, and professional guidance might give all of you the support you need.
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worriedinCali Jan 1, 2020
The OPs MIL is already treating her children in a damaging way CW. Her behavior towards the youngest isn’t just damaging to the youngest.

there seems to be assumption that the child’s bio parents were drug users. I would like to point out that another possible scenario is that they are both incarcerated and that that is why they lost custody.
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Multi-generational living just does NOT seem to work out for a myriad of reasons. On paper, it's fine. Reality is another story altogether. You took on the responsibility of adopting a child, which needs to be your first priority; that child, your other children, and your husband. NOT your MIL who is capable of living on her own. Like DollyMe said, you will not give her a heart attack by having her move out. That sort of dysfunctional thinking is what got you into this mess to begin with!!

Save the relationships here and ask your MIL to move out. Help her find a suitable apartment in a senior community with *preferably* a continuum of care so that she can move from independent living to assisted living, if/when necessary. You can go visit often and bring the children. She can still be your babysitter.

It's a win-win situation. You take your LIVES back and she still gets to sit for the children. Her granddaughter will grow up with boundaries and rules, which EVERY child NEEDS in order to thrive, and to grow into a functioning member of society. We all OWE that to each of our children. Keep that in mind when making your decision here.

Best of luck!
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First off you will not give your MIL a heart attack, that thinking perpetuates more unneeded drama, stress and guilt...and you already have enough of these emotions on the table.

The only way to resolve this mess is to have her move out, she will never stop favoring the little granddaughter , that is just fact and your other children will become very resentful of her too, not to mention you and your husband. Children carry their childhood into adulthood.

We each deserve to live our own life on our own terms, time to get your life back on path, you can help her by finding her a new place to live, she can visit the children when it works for you.

Obviously if you have to take meds to deal with her you have some real issues and a drug will not correct the issues, that is a band aid, not a solution. Become part of the solution, do not continue to be part of the problem..that applies to your husband too. Good Luck!
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Oh man, my dad tried to use his heart condition to manipulate as well.

She isn't going to die because you tell her that she needs to leave.

You adopted the child, she is now your responsibility. If MIL wanted the responsibility she could have adopted her grandchild. 66 is not old, so don't buy into her manipulative tactics.

From what you described, you are in for a hellish nightmare with all of the children being adversly affected if you and husband don't stand up for the health and welfare of all your children and yourselves.

Think of Sanford and son when he was always having the big one when he was called out for his atrocious behavior. Think that she doesn't know it gets her what she wants?

This may sound rude but, you guys are either the parents are you aren't, you better make your mind up quickly or all 3 of these children will be damaged by her behavior.
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For the 2 year old: To me real discipline is about a child learning to control their own behaviors, or self-discipline. Two years old is a very frustrating time for toddlers where they cannot express themselves well and must get accustomed to being told "no" when much of their life up to then we give them everything they want - food, diaper change, toy, etc. If the child has extra sensitivities from inutero exposures, then the escalation to a tantrum can be even more difficult for the child to avoid. I found requiring the child to sit/lay on their bed until they can regain control of themselves to be an effective method of ending temper tantrums without inflicting negative feedback on the child. The bed is usually a very safe and comforting place for a small child, surrounded with things they love and enjoy and memories of bedtime stories and kisses. Sometimes I would pick the child up during a tantrum and gently settle them on the bed with kisses. When the child is acting out because of fatigue, they often go to sleep. Without outside stimulation, they will get distracted and start playing with stuffed toys or books on the bed, then emerge back into the household when some sound draws their attention.

Now about MIL: Your MIL needs IL/AL where they are other seniors to interact with and activities so she can rebuild her own life. Perhaps as a first step your local senior center has a program? In our area they will even provide transportation. You and your husband should probably investigate nearby apartments and other senior residences, then talk with your MIL about a nice one and the amenities you believe she would enjoy. Maybe say you want her to remain close so she can babysit after school? Comment on how you value her taking care of the kids when they are sick so you don't have to miss work. When you talk with her about adult day care or moving I suggest discussing it as a mutual benefit for her and your children. She deserves to have friends of her own and not be so isolated in your home. You can understand she feels a special bond with the baby she nurtured from birth, but that child has been adopted and the favoritism she displays is disrupting the child's ability to bond and have normal relationships with her older siblings. At least for a time, it would probably be better for the children if their grandmother was a visitor and not a member of their home. Emphasize you want her to continue to be a big part of your family life, but you want her to have her own friends and activities too. When talking my own mother into attending adult day care, I found she still responds better to something that's in my benefit than anything we think she needs. Your MIL may respond better to distancing herself from the grandchildren so they can better bond than anything you see benefiting her.

Good Luck.
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It is completely understandable that you and your husband are feeling overwhelmed and I would hope that you both might get on an antidepressant that could help your brains to calm down some and sort through these emotions.

Are there finances for your MIL to live close to you but in an environment more suited for the elderly? You could still promise her visits with your adopted niece. Have you been able to accept becoming a parent again with this situation? I would think therapy might help you there. The age of 2 can and often is a very difficult one even in the best of circumstances. I have witnessed that with all 3 of my grandchildren. On the positive side the negative aspects can subside in time but the child needs direction with boundaries even if those boundaries seem fruitless presently. The unique situation of your MIL's relationship with this child as well as her issues with aging are complicated and I have great sympathy for you as well as admiration for the responsibility you have taken on. I hope there is some bonding between your own biological children and your niece.

What I think is most important as soon as possible is for you and your husband to seek help for both physical and mental conditions. If at all possible I would hope that there could be another living arrangement for your MIL. It might be explained to her that this is necessary for her health while assuring her she would still have frequent access to the grandchild. Without her constant presence in your home you might start in small ways to try to raise the child differently still knowing that a good amount of the behavior is age related.

I am sure others will offer profound advice. I hope there are ways to lighten the emotional load you are enduring. You certainly have proven to have more than stepped up to the plate with a challenging family dynamic.
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Amen to everything Alva posted. My mom is similar...doesn't recognize boundaries anymore and it often causes trouble and just exhaustion in general. Undoing the effects of her boundary-crossing takes up a fair amount of time. Since this is your MIL, your hubby should be leading her exit. But, you can be doing the research on facilities to keep things moving forward. Your profile says MIL is only 66! This could go on for decades -- and only get worse.

She won't like leaving, that's too bad. She may actually like being in AL with others she has more in common with. Does your hubby have durable PoA for her? This is the first thing that should happen (but do it before anyone mentions her moving out!) Tell her it's a condition for her to be "in your care". If she refuses to assign a dPoA, come back to this forum thread for more guidance on that.

Be supportive of hubby as I'm sure he dreads having to do this "to" his mom. His immediate family comes first. It doesn't mean his mom isn't loved. Don't feel guilty about doing it. Have your hubby read some of the thousands of posts on caregiver burnout on this forum alone. Good luck!
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I don't think you mentioned anywhere that you MIL has dementia. Given that she should NOT be living with you. She can live nearby and visit, you can visit, but she should not be living with you. This is too full a house with too many complications and at the point you are medicating yourself for survival it isn't right.
It is time to have "the talk". That you will help to find a good living situation nearby where you can help out. There is nothing special about a pacemaker. My partner is on his 4th battery change, second pacer and it is decades old. He is 79 and going strong. It is time to tell MIL that you love her very much, but that it is too difficult for three generations to live together in this manner. You owe your allegiance and time to your primary family now. Be kind, but be firm. It is not open to argument. After you and your husband conclude what you are willing to help her with you tell her gently, kindly and lovingly that this is what YOU must have now for YOUR life. This is your life. Your MIL could live decades more. You didn't adopt her. There is more than enough on your plate. You have my sympathy and none of this will be easy, but you need to do this. Hearing the gentle truth doesn't cause heart attacks. Don't worry.
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I am so sorry that you are dealing with this. It is important to have privacy. It is important that your MIL respects boundaries as far as raising your children and time for the two of you as husband and wife.

It’s especially hard to communicate with her if your mother in law is overly sensitive and doesn’t quite understand that she is overstepping boundaries.

None of you need the additional stress. I hope things will improve for you soon. I do feel like you need to be proactive though. She can’t continue to invade your lives to the point of no privacy for yourselves and your little ones.

Since she has health issues with her heart I suppose she isn’t very active in the community. Do you see that changing? Is she bored? Was she very active before or always a homebody? Is there something that she could become involved in so you can have some time to yourselves?

Does she feel overly protective of your youngest child? If so, why? Of course, that will cause friction with the other two children.

You’ve got your hands full. Hugs!
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I'm going to leave the eldercare issue to someone else.

Let's talk about your adopted child. Why did mom and dad lose custody? Was there prenatal drug exposure? Is it possible the behavioral issues are due to that?
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