21 answers

Help with 82 Year Old Mother in Law Who Lives with Us

I am looking for advice and opinions on my husband and my situation.... my mother in law
moved in with us five months ago when we built a new home. She contributed money toward
the purchase of the house (she could afford it) and now lives here free. No expenses
doesn't pay for food or alcohol( she likes to drink wine, beer, anything) and doesn't
contribute anything toward utilities or toilet paper, kleenex laundry soap , etc. I guess you get my point, she does not pay for ANYTHING! Now when we were setting this up
we didn't have any intention of asking for any utilities paid for but she doesn't offer
a dime toward anhything. When she goes to the grocery store with me she will remind me
that we are out of milk or parmesan cheese, etc. She will buy her own tylenol or lotions
or things like that when we go to walmart but that is it. I babysit three of my grandsons every day and I bring them to our home part of the day. When I make their lunch like grilled chees or noodles whe will ask me to make her one. To get to the
point she won't do ANYTHING. I clean the bathroom she uses because it is the one guests
use(but she has it decorated in DUCKS for her taste) in the beginning I was doing her
laundry but put a stop to that when she would come in OUR master bedroom to put her
dirty clothes in our hamper! Then I moved it into our bathroom and she would come in
there while I was drying my hair(and scare the living daylights out of me!) and put her
clothes in our hamper in there! She also will not get a phone line for her calls, so
when the phone rings and it is for her I have to run to her an give her the phone! When
I am gone she will get up and look at the ID to see who it is. She has a cell phone
but only turns it on when her daughter in Wyoming calls every Wed. at a certain time!
Needless to say I could go on and on but just wanted to get some outside view!
Thanks in advance for your help! L. S

What can I do next?

More Answers

First I have to start by saying that I myself am only 28, but I feel a connection with your story because my Grandmother came to live with my family too. This was a while ago, I was still in High School and living with my parents. My Mom was always annoyed with my Grandmother (her Mom). It seemed like all the little things just added up to be a really big deal. Everything from criticisms and turning the heat up to covertly drinking alcohol. My Grandmother has passed now, but it wasn't until recently that my Mom started to feel horrible about being so annoyed with my Grandmother. Now that my Mom is getting older she sees how hard it is to age... how tired, sore and sometimes helpless she can be. She wishes she could take it all back. So, my advice would be to let it go. Be kind and gentle with her. Figure out the source of your anger... it may not even be your Mother in law. Work out to release stress and ask God for guidance. How would you like you kids to 'deal' with you when you are that age? I hope that helps. Good luck and God bless.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi L.!
It sounds like you were willing to have her come live with you, but are now unhappy with the lack of boundaries in the relationship. I highly recommend the book "Boundaries" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It helps you to better understand why YOU need boundaries and why you may be having a hard time establishing them.

I would highly recommend having a separate discussion with your husband about your needs and what boundaries you would like to set with his mother. Then, you both need to sit down with her and communicate your needs to his mother and work out some arrangement.

Your mother-in-law may not think her requests are burdensome. It is up to you to communicate what you need from her and what she should and shouldn't expect from you.

This is always a challenging area and I know easier said than done. But, if you keep practicing understanding why you need the boundaries you need, it will be easier for you to gently but firmly enforce the maintaining of those boundaries.

Good Luck and go with God's peace and wisdom.

1 mom found this helpful

How nice of you to let your mother-in-law live with you. It sounds like there weren't clear cut expectations in the beginning. The only way to solve the prob. is to talk to her in a positive way. I take it she is fully able to take care of herself. Doesn't she have her own part of the house? It doesn't sound like it. She has to know rules like everyone else. She has paid money for something, in her mind, part of the house is hers'. Just say, "mom, I really enjoy you here, I love you very much, I was wanting to talk to you about a few things that I feel need to be changed,I was wanting to talk to you about ect... now ask her what she thinks, include her in on the problem, give her choices?? This is kind of a tough one because of the money part, her age, and she's your husbands mom. You do have rights and so does she. Remember, keep your mind open and don't get defensive, be a listener, and keep focused, don't lose control or it could be bad. Does she get included in other things with the family. You know at 80's she is used to having things her own way. This is a big adjustment for her also, she might be clueless. Whatever you do, keep anger out, have your husband be with you, so she won't blame you, just in case. Life is short, but we want it to end a happy one. Expectations should be out in the open, on both sides. Remember, 80's are more bold, you know what I mean, since your 57, some thins just don't bother you as much anymore. You don have your hands full with the grandkids, you could tell her this si somewhat of a handful, and you'd love it if she could do some things on her own. Good luck on this one. Keep the peace.
D. E.

This is definitely one of those situations that we all hate to deal with. Let me say this about the phone situation, we have lived with our daughter and their 4 kids while huband was in Iraq and the easy solution to 1 phone line is Distinct Calling, your mother-in-law would have her own ring on the phone, it is approximately $4 for this service, but it is nice to not have to answer the phone if it is for my daughter. You can set up mailboxes with voicemail offered by the phone company as well.

As far as her not helping pay for anything, you and your husband need to sit down and talk with her before your frustration gets to the point of resentment. Do not be hostile, just simply do your homework on what it would cost her to live in a senior apartment including food, laundry service and toiletries. Let he know that you appreciate her contribution when you purchased the house, however, the expenses did not stop then and if she could contribute some it would be very helpful to the budget. Also, if she needs you to do things for her that is one thing, but, the proof is out there that the more seniors stay active the better for them.

You didn't say if your mother-in-law has any friends of her own? If not get her involved in the local senior center where there are activities for the elderly and this will give you a break as well. Many senior centers offer lunch at a very minimal cost, so check into that for your sanity. It is definitely a hard situation because many times what we forget is that just because they live in our home, they feel many times that we are trying to control them, so they do what they can to make chaos for us! This is definitely not a healthy situation.

As far as the bathroom being decorated in ducks, let her have her own decorations in her bathroom and her bedroom. Ask her for advice on things! Sometimes when our parents reach this age they feel they are no longer needed. Include her in things that need done for the house. It doesn't mean you have to take all her advice, but get her input! You might find she feels less like the guest and more like a part of the household. That is not to say you don't make her a part, but sometimes when we think we are including them they feel left out! They no longer have their own home, they feel like a guest. Let her know she is not a guest, but a member of the household and her contribution to keeping things nice would be appreciated.

I have been down this road and it is hard to do for sure! We tried to have my mother-in-law live with us, but there was no way, she is a person who lives with stress in her life and thrives on it! I do not want to live in a home where I feel uncomfortable and refuse to fight with someone every day! This has been her entire life, she was married 9 times and each husband was in some way abusive! Her daughter who is my age has been abusive to her mom. I refuse to become this person! Look at your mother-in-laws life in the past, what was it like? It actually took me sitting down with one of her brothers and his wife before I truly figured out that this is how she likes to live and she is miserable if there isn't some type of stress in her life. My husband and I decided for the sake of our marriage that it was not going to work and when we told her so she was furious and hostile. Now she lives with her daughter and her husband, her daughter sadly is like her mom, so they fight a LOT! Oh and my mother-in-law is 85, she turns 86 in March. Some things we cannot change, even though we want to.

this is a hard place to be for sure , i think u need to set ground rules on your space and her space and do it in a nice way . and you must remember she will not be around for much longer , pray for help from god , he will anwser . at 82 how much help can she really give ? talk with her and she may just not relize how she is putting alot of work on you . good lucky

Have your husband talk with his mother and if that does not help ask her for her help like could she load the dish washer while u clean the bathroom. if that dosent work you could always leave old folks home pamplets laying around I bet she would get the hint also see if she will play bingo or volunteer somewhere to get her out of your hair. love to all and good luck

It's hard to have anyone live with you. You have your routines & your expectations of how things should be/or not be. A lot of what you are experiencing is typical, no matter who it is that is living with you. It's hard to change all the rules now just 5 months later, but it sounds like there needs to be a little tweaking done to make it all work. Maybe if you sit down with your husband & go over the things that bother you, making a list of of your top 3 struggles that you two agree on. Then unitedly sit down with his mom & give her the opportunity to do the same with you. Likely there are things that you do that drive her crazy too. Maybe it will be that she pays for her alcohol - an extra in life, but not food. Maybe she needs to help with cooking by having days that she cooks, or if you could cook together & have that bonding time. I think it's important that she have her space & if she likes the ducks bathroom, so be it, but maybe one of your top 3 would be that she needs to clean it regularly instead of you. It sounds like she is probably struggling as well though & maybe she needs more activities that are focused on just her. Is she involved with any elderly groups? Do you give her time to share stories with you & those grandbabies? Are you giving her a time to shine, building her self esteem? She might very likely be feeling useless & tossed aside. Obviously she is not living on her own for a reason. The fact that she is 82 & sounds like she is doing as well as she is, thank your lucky stars that she is around. My husband & I don't have any parents left & we would LOVE to have ANY of them still alive & be able to take care of them. I always said that my mother in law took care of my husband when he was little & wiped his bum, as well as trained, loved & taught him. I wanted so badly to thank her in her old age by taking care of her, but I didn't get the opportunity to do that...not with any of our parents. I wanted that chance in life so badly. Be grateful & enjoy, looking for the positives in her. She won't be around forever. Remember too, your children are watching and still learning how to care for you when you are old as well.

Good deals become bad deals without the details of the living arrangements secured in advance. You have your hands full because your mother in law, whom you love (or you would not have let her move in, in the first place) could be attempting to prove which woman in her son's life is really in control. She is winning. You need to have better boundaries - those bottom lines, or this will go on indefinitely. Eventually bitterness and anger will replace patience and courtesy. Without hearing both sides of the matter, it seems like you are being used, but you are allowing it. Here are some fair but simple solutions, however you have to determine to do them. It will get easier after the first few firm times. Stand your ground.
1. Go the grocery store alone, when you want to and don't announce you are going. You need to get out of the house alone anyway if you are a full time caregiver for kids during the day. Mix up the times you go out but take at least a half a day each week for yourself. Take your mother in law to Walmart. Leave her there for an hour and go to a bookstore. She can buy her toiletries, her groceries and her own liquor, while you are relaxing someplace else, then pick her up. This is being loving but also being in control of your own life. Be sweet, loving, but very firm. Don't put your husband between you two and expect him to choose between his mother and his wife. If he does not like what you want to do, then tell him to handle it and he can take her to the grocery store. You still need to go alone for yourself. However, do prepare your husband in advance for the new changes you are doing so he understands. Ask him to support you as you attempt to make it better for all three of you so you no longer resent your mother in law and want to love her.
2. When the phone rings, look at the caller ID. If it is not for you, don't answer it. Many people do that now for teens and for spouses. If you miss a call, pick it up off the messages. You are not the enemy by doing so. You could also buy a set of phones with seperate chargers at someplace like Costco. She could then have one for her area, so she could check the ID when it rings herself, if you want her to be able to use your phone. Quit catering to her. You are not helping her by allowing her to be so dependent instead of independent. If you don't want her on your line, turn the phone off but keep it near. Most phones will light up when they ring, even if off. You can answer it if you want to that way for your calls. The quiet will do you good.
3. If you are making meals for kids anyway, make one for her. But make her exactly what you do them. If she does not want it or what is being served, eat it yourself so it does not go to waste. Your house is not a restaurant. Also ask her to pick up a loaf of bread and a few other items for her meals you prepare for her. If she doesn't, don't fix one. If she gripes to your husband, have him take her to Walmart the next time and help her remember her food. He will encourage her in his own way to eliminate him doing the Walmart trip.
4. The ducks and the bathroom are another matter. If she contributed significantly to the house costs, she deserves her own bathroom, even if shared with guests. She is elderly. It would be hard for her to clean it. Offer this up as a good daughter-in-law, but ask her to buy the cleaning items like Windex and toilet scrub for you when she goes to Walmart, so you can clean her bathroom for her. Move the ducks around a bit when you clean it, so it is more pleasing to you, but don't get hung up on it if it causes a fuss. Your guests will understand that this is Grandma's bathroom. Pick your battles with her by making a list of the problems most upsetting to you. Prioritize fixing what is most important to you, changing those. Do all of this without emotions or arguing even if rebuffed by her. You allow your buttons to be pushed. You can control refusing to fuss and making these changes. Do it lovingly but firmly.
If you don't make the changes you need, it could eventually hurt your marriage and your relationship with your husband and with her.


iam 57 an i no i could not have my mother in law live with me.

you have your hands full.i hope things work out four you.

but you are very kind. 2 do that. good luck

My elderly aunt lives with her son, my cousin, and his wife, and she pays $500 a month to help with expenses. I think your mother-in-law should AT THE VERY LEAST do that. And, if she's able, she needs to wait on herself. Perhaps a family meeting could be held, and these issues could be brought up. But, she definitely needs to chip in financially!!!!! And if she doesn't stay active and wait on herself, she'll get to the point where she simply can't and will wish she had!!! If you don't use it, you'll lose it!

OK...WOW!!! I am new to this site but this caught my eye. First, where is your husband? He is the one who should address your mother-n-law. If she is capable...IF...being the key word, of taking care of herself then that is exactly what she should be doing. I have a father-n-law who is 83 and he does his own laundry, answers the phone (if he can get to it 1st), in other words he is still taking care of him. Sure, he lives with my brother-n-law and his wife, but he is very independent! Up until last year, he was driving and going to the mountains to 4-wheel! lol....he is great! My grandfather was mobile and self-sufficient until the day he was admitted to the hospital where he passed two days later (he was 85). So, IF she is capable, she needs to take care of herself AND if she is financially able, she needs to help with the bills or give you guys some money. I am a strong believer in people taking care of their parents as they age, but there is a limit.

Again, your husband should be stepping in so you do not have to go there with you mother-n-law!

Have you tried talking to your husband about it? Is there something else going on in the background that makes this soo frustrating? It sounds like maybe something is going on beside this and this is in response to other feelings.

I am blessed not to have that problem. My mom is 88 years old and at this age things can be trying; however, she doesn't live with me. My mom is very independent and does like having her own way.

Maybe she is reverting to her childhood and feels left out from the grandchildren. Try a little tenderness and let her know in a tender way the things that are bothering you. She will soon let you know if her purpose is intentional or not!

It can be frustrating having "another child" to take care of. But try to think of it from her point of view. She is very old and has probably spent the better part of her life raising kids, including your husband, and most people hope that when they are old their kids will take care of them in return. I think every parent would want that. I dont know how much she contributed to your house, but that was a very generous thing for her to do and that may be another reason she thinks she should be taken care of. It doesnt sound like she is asking for anything too terribly inconvenient, just maybe getting on your nerves. please try to understand what it will be like when you are 82 years old and your body is not cooperating with you anymore, you know you are close to death, you have watched most of your friends and family die, and the only pleasure in life you have may possibly be alcohol. Im sure she doesnt know that she is being a pain, but choose your battles wisely, you dont want to risk your relationship with your husband. Maybe you could ask your hubby to help with taking care of her needs more so you wont feel so pressured. Taking care of the elderly is not always fun, but it is our responsibility to take care of our parents when they get old and your kids will do it for you when you get old too. Good luck and talk to your husband about how you are feeling.

Sounds like you and your Husband need a sit down talk with her. She seems to get along by herself okay, why isn't she in a place by herself? My grandma is in her 90's and still does just fine. of course family is always around in time of need but she is just plain taking advantage of a good situation. You could cancel your phone line and just keep cell phones. That you take care of that issue! Tell her she needs to start contributing her 1/3 of bill money because you need to start putting money away for your future and your children's future. Your bedroom is YOUR area. She has absolutely no business stepping one foot in there. She is not respecting your privacy. We had to talk to our children about that. Knock before you enter. You could talk to her daughter and ask her if she would like her "turn" with mom. My husband and I have discussed this very situation and decided we need a mother-in-law quarters. A room above the garage!!!! Don't feel bad about talking to her, she will respect you for it in the end. Shame on her for taking advantage of your kindness, sometimes people need the obvious pointed out to them. Good luck

I agree with Debbie D's advice about boundaries wholeheartedly. Determine with your husband what you'd like to ask her to change and only pick the truly necessary ones.

Once you know what you want, then you must broach the topic with her. I recommend first asking her how she feels about living with you. She may have already identified some of the same challenges you're struggling with as well. This will set the stage for compromise.

I also want to say that just because someone gives you money doesn't mean you've given up rights to your feelings. You haven't given up your right to speak up, either. I don't blame you for feeling frustrated, and if you don't speak up, nothing will change. Everyone will benefit from a peacful household.

My Father in law just moved in with us for health reasons. The way I see it, he joined our household so he's the one who has to adapt. He told me that sometimes he feels like he is intruding, and I said that we wouldn't have invited him to join our household if we hadn't carefully considered things--it was truly the best solution. However, I did take the opportunity to share my fears about giving up privacy and adapting our household chores, meals, budget, and that was the opening to set the groundwork for boundaries.

I hope you find a solution soon and that your household is peaceful once again!

God Bless you! What a wonderful opportunity you have to show God's love to the mother of your husband. It is wonderful that you have opened your home to her. It sounds like you are in need of a retreat. How often do you make time for yourself? How often does your husband help you with the household chores? Maybe you and him need to discuss how to manage all that is on your plate. Baby-sitting 3 grandkids and caring for your mother-in-law can be stressful and can make you resentful. If you discuss your concerns with your husband and pray about the situation, I know that it will all workout fine. It is a blessing to live to be 82 years. She has done all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, paying bills, etc. for her family and now you both have the opportunity to be a blessing to her whether or not she is appreciative of ALL that you do. God sees what you do and will reward you for it.
God Bless you !!!!

You should talk to your husband and have him explain that even though she helped by the house, their are other expenses in living in todays world. I have a friend in the same situation and probably will have my parents with me soon. Explain to her that if she were in an assisted living or nursing home, she would have to provide her own phone service, laundry and get her meals delivered everyday. The Senior for Aged and JJCA provides Meals on Wheels for this age group. Does she drive? If not, her doctor should claim that she is homebound and then medicare will help with all sorts of services

Whoa! I feel SO sorry for you. You are definitely in the sandwich stage of life.....taking care of aging parents and grandchildren!
Concerning your mother-in-law. My best advice would be to HAVE YOUR HUSBAND tell her that he appreciated her money in helping with the house, but that it can't end there. She needs to help with the weekly groceries, and donate to the montly utilities.
About her dirty clothes...put a hamper in HER ROOM. She'll get the hint!
Good luck, you're gonna need it!

I can sympathize with your situation. My mother in law lived with us after she became ill. It was difficult to deal with her and take care of my own children. Looking back it was a blessing to spend some time with her before she passed away. It would make things more bearable if your husband and you sat down with her and ask her to contribute, if not in money then just to help around the house or with the boys. Maybe she could make a short visit to the daughter to give you a break. Her experiences and view of extended family may differ from yours. communicate your feelings and expectations openly, for often hints don't work.

I recently moved in with my in laws to help them out with finances and health issues, we cover the house payment and they cover the few utility bills we have had to up the amount we pay (the house is still in their name) to help with the utilities. They still take care of their meals for the most part--even though there are many meals out of week I cook for all 6 of us and clean up-- and their own laundry, but I know there will come a day when I may have to be doing that for them and I feel that is my responsibility. They took care of my hubby until I married him, they never asked for money to help with stuff they did it becasue it was their God given responsibility. Maybe your mother in law feels it's time for her son to take care of her, which there may not be a lot you can do. Good Luck.

This is quite a situation you are in. I'm about the same age and I don't have either my parents or my in laws around any more, so maybe my advise won't be as good as if I too were experiencing what you are, but here is how I'm seeing the situation. First of all you have talked about this at the very beginning, when she gave you money to help with the house. I'm sure that she feels since she gave you money for the house, she has the right to do whatever she is doing. The only way you are going to get the situation changed to your satisfaction is to sit down with her and gently tell her that you need her to change a few things. Tell her that you are having a hard time dealing with the kids and you would like her help to make the household more organized. Give her chores to do that she likes to do and that will help you too. YOu don't mention how old she is, but I am assuming that she is able to do chores, and if she is able, she should be cleaning up after herself. She needs to take responsibility for her own room and bathroom. Just don't charge in and start demanding things from her, make it sound like you need her help and that you value her contributions to the family house hold. I really do understand your situation, but since you didn't take the opportunity to discuss this with her before she gave you the money, it will be hard. Please just remember that you didn't mind taking her help monetariy.

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