Hi all, I need a bit of advice on how what to do about my mother in law, but mostly just need to vent.
My husband and I have been living in his mother's house for the past three months in a very small four bedroom bungalow. I just moved to England where my husband lives, and at the time we both thought nothing of living with his mum. I like her a lot, she's a really nice woman, have a lot in common, and we get along really well. However as the months have gone by, I've realised that it was a big mistake to agree to live with her, and how much I missed having my own home with my own space. My mother in law is very, very in your face all the time. She doesn't have a social life, so is always home in the house. Every night she comes to watch TV with us, and doesn't leave until we go to bed ourselves. She does the dishes, the laundry, and buys groceries for us despite us telling her that we would rather do that on our own. She's always insisting that she drives us places, heck she even came with us to dinner on Valentine's Day! The house is so small and cluttered with stuff, that we never have any privacy and the two rooms that we do have for our space are absolutely piled to the brim with our belongings that we really can't live in them. She's always coming up with suggestions, always getting into our business, always smothering us with attention and gifts. I feel like I'm 16 years old again and I can't stand it. Being 6 months pregnant, my need to move into our own home as become more and more desperate, I just can't raise a baby in the same house as her. As my husband agrees we have spent the past few weeks deciding how and when we can finally have a place of our own.
My mother in law however is a really clingy, nervous person, and does not like at all the prospect of living on her own. I really feel for her, her husband up and left her about two years ago with little warning beforehand, and last year my husband went to the States for 6 months to visit myself and my family. During that time she became very emotionally unstable, and had frequent panic attacks and health episodes, even having to go to the hospital a few times because she passed out in public. This was something that made my husband and I really step back and consider whether we really needed to move out away from her, and for a while I tried to grin and bear living with her. We looked into moving into a bigger annexed home with her, however England is such an expensive place to buy homes and we just couldn't afford anything that would give us enough room to live comfortably. When we were looking at an annexed home nearby, my mother in law made it pretty clear that she would not respect our space with the annex, and more or less said that she would be in our part of the house most of the time. Those comments made my husband and I really realise that unless we got a place of our own, we would not be able to have the privacy we needed.
So after putting telling her off for a really long time, we finally told her a few days ago that we were planning on moving out into a rental home nearby. She took it really well at first, saying that she understood and that it was fair that we wanted our space. She took it so well that I was really surprised and felt a little guilty about being so nervous and putting off telling her. But then as the day went on, she started to cry, and then she started to say how horrible it was going to be to be all alone, and how she wasn't going to have any pets anymore (My husband and I have two pet rabbits). And then she started to suggest things, like 'what if I put a caravan into the back garden and just lived there?' and 'what about buying a house with an annex that we can all move into?'.
The next morning she told us that she went to go see my father in law who said it was a bad idea to rent because you're just throwing your money away. She said that he would be willing to give her money to make an apartment over our current house, to which my husband said no, so she said that father in law would also be willing to chip in money for us to buy a new house for the three of us. My husband said that there wouldn't be anything on the market that would be in our price range. Later that day, she went over to one of our neighbour's house and after a strange turn of events they decided to swap houses with her- they have an annexed house with a "granny suite". We really didn't know what to say when she told us that, and after hearing about the annexed house nonstop for the next hour, my husband finally said that we would look at it after she asked us to. He said to me later that it would probably be better for us to just humour her and take a look at the house, and we can say we don't like it after we look at it. My mother in law has been going on and on and on about the house for the past few days now, has had the house owners over to look at our house to see if they want it, and she's been over there several times. She said that they would go through a solicitor to swap the house, which would "only" take 3 months. All the while she's been reminding us how bad of an idea it is to rent because of all the money you waste, and because of the expenses, and telling us that my husband's father will be very upset if they rent because he thinks it's a waste too.
Meanwhile my husband and I are still looking for rental properties, and we have a viewing on Tuesday. If we like this house, we would be able to move in within the next week or two, and that will be that. My problem is that I don't know what to do about my mother in law. I know that us moving out will be hard for her, but honestly she's not doing anything for herself to help her, except for trying her hardest to get us to stay with her forever. She says that she can't live alone, but she refuses to let her granddaughter come live with her, despite the fact that her granddaughter wants to move in with her and really needs a good home, and the fact that the two of them get along so well when they're together. She says she needs us in the house because she's scared of being alone in case she gets ill, but she has two sister in laws who live literally right next door, both of whom she gets along really well with and would be more than willing to come over if something were arise. She says it's going to be horrible to be in a house with no pets, but doesn't want to get a pet of her own. I suggested that she try to find an older, lower maintenance dog up for adoption at an animal shelter, and I told her that I could come over every day to walk the dog for her so she wouldn't have to. With the right older, low energy dog, one walk a day from myself would really only require my mother in law to give the dog food and love, and to let it out in the garden if he needs to use the bathroom. But she said she didn't want that because dogs were too much work. At this point my husband and I don't know what to do, short of simply leaving. I feel a bit evil for doing this to her, but I've come up with so many suggestions and solutions, none of which she has been keen on. I simply can't live with her anymore, I still like her a lot but I don't like living with her. I'm a new wife and mom, and I think that our new family deserves our own space and time to grow on our own. My husband and I have never really been able to live on our own together, save for four months last year when we temporarily rented a flat together. We only have 3 months until our baby comes, and then we have the next 18+ years of being parents, and our time alone together will be done. We're never going to get this time back, and I really want some quality time with my husband. We're looking at houses to rent that are a grand total of 5 miles away, we'll see her frequently and she will still be a big part of our lives. It makes me really angry sometimes, because I just moved so far away from my family who I was really close with. It was really hard for my parents to see me leave, but never once did they try to stop me from going. They said that they knew how much my husband meant to me, and were happy to see me entering this new stage in my life and going to be with someone I loved. It makes me mad that they let go of so much and were so understanding and helpful, and here we are now trying to move 5 miles away from his mom, and she won't let us. I'm having such a hard time coping with all of these emotions, and because of it I'm having a hard time stepping back from the situation and looking at what would be the best course of action to make this process go as painlessly as possible for all three of us.
Gosh I ended up writing an essay, sorry!
BTW, I'd stay away from the granny annex thing.... I don't think this woman will respect any boundary you try to set in place.
Find a rental and get out! If you let her talk you in to the staying and buying the bigger house with her you will be trapped forever. Her being alone is not your fault or your dh fault.
You might want to talk with her about her anxiety disorder (and by "you" I mean your husband). Because she has one. As one who has been there, a very common thing to do is to attach to a couple of specific people, and it sounds like your husband is one of those. These people represent safety. Going out into the world alone, or even being in the house alone is by default terrifying, but the presence of one of these people makes it bearable. Other relatives/friends just won't do, because they aren't the safe person. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be quite effective in treating anxiety/panic disorders, and of course there are medications if she responds well to them. Chances are your MIL doesn't *really* want to live like this forever, but it sounds like she's accepted that's how life is and has forged coping mechanisms (ie being with other people all the time). If she were offered, in a very matter of fact and non-judgmental way, another option, she might be happy to take it.
I feel for your situation. She sounds desperately lonely and realizing that you guys ARE moving on with your lives she is grasping at ANYTHING she can do to keep you there.
Don't fall for it. I'm not saying she is being malicious or anything like that, she is desperate and will do and SAY anything to keep you there.
She might fake a heart attack or make up an illness that she needs to be cared for, she might tell you she is afraid of being alone (well she has said that right?)...You have to realize this is a grown woman, she has her own issues and she is making them your issues.
You DO NOT want to be living there with her when you have a baby. If you think it is bad now and she doesn't respect your boundaries you will be in hell when the baby comes and you find the word boundary has no meaning because it doesn't exist.
I would take the first place I can rent (why is renting a waste of money, do you think every person who lives in a house or apartment owns it? Most people rent) and be happy with it.
She will have to learn to deal with being alone in her own home. She doesn't get to play dramatic and just get you guys back either, be strong. I guarantee you she will make this bigger and bigger and will practically "die" (not literally but if she already has panic attacks I can envision this type of stuff getting much more dramatic as a ploy to get you back) without you guys.
You need to live on your own, trust me, a new baby is not the time when you want someone around you with boundary issues.
I actually live with my MIL right now but we have our very separate defined spaces in the house and she is gone A LOT so it is basically like we are here alone. I actually like it and we live in a nice house that we otherwise could not afford on our, we'd be living in a dumpy little nightmare if we had to have our own place..
As for the house switching she wants to do, just another ploy to get you guys to stay. Tell her she can do what she wants but regardless you guys are getting your place. Simple as that. She might freak out but you are an adult and that means you gotta be strong mama!
I agree about the anxiety disorder. This sounds beyond just being a clingy person. You said she doesn't have a social life. Is she extremely nervous and shy about meeting new people? She could be suffering from social anxiety as well. Helping her get into therapy may help you and your hubs and new babe have a better relationship with her!
Learning to... and with myby my side!
It sounds as if you MIL has a good heart and that she loves you and her son dearly. However, she is mentally ill (severe anxiety issues) and inappropriately attached to you and your husband. Neither of you are responsible for her happiness and you are doing her no favors when you hem and haw and string her along. Be kind, be firm, and be upfront. You do no want to live with her, better to be honest than to string her along and have her get her hopes up. Also with the birth of your child things are going to get more, not less complicated. Now would be a good time to seek some marriage counseling. It sounds as if your husband has a hard time establishing healthy boundaries with his mother and you may begin to resent the burden that places on you and your child. Best of luck.
Mama~Blogger~Artist~Homemaker. Family = DH (married 6 years), baby Elinor, and our puppy Frances.
Thanks for the replies everyone, we've talked to her about seeing a psychologist before but she wasn't too keen. She doesn't trust doctors too much and I don't think she believes that psychologists know what they're doing. She seems to be fine when she is around other people, she's a very talkative person and when we're out together she has no problems striking up a conversation with strangers. Just for some reason she doesn't have any friends and according to my husband she never really did. I guess she might have been too wrapped up in her husband and son when she was younger to make any?
It's a bit of a mystery to me why she's so attached to my husband and not anyone else. Her 14 year old granddaughter absolutely adores her and the two get along so well when they're together. Her granddaughter lives about 10 minutes away with her mom who isn't really there for her. Her mom's out drinking a lot and can be pretty verbally abusive towards her. The granddaughter has expressed a desire to come live with my mother in law, but for some reason my mother in law doesn't want her to. She says it's because she hates her granddaughter's smoking habits, but I don't think that's it. It's likewise with her other relatives who live very close by, she gets along so well with them when she's with them and them to her, but then she doesn't really make a point to see them. On the other hand we're here living with her not really wanting to do so, don't really have that much interest in being with her, and god knows we're both messy people and probably pretty horrible housemates, but we're the ones that she clings on to. Doesn't make sense to me.
So i am in a similar but completely different situation...and i also have no clue what to do.. I agreed to let my mother inlaw move in with my boyfriend and I because were she was living was not good. So the first few months were fine. I let the little things go. Than i realized i would decorate and she would go behind me and redo it. along with rearranging my home and going behind me and cooking a second dinner for her and my boyfriend because she did not like what i cooked. I let all that go. it has been years now and she finally wore my last nerve. She started lying to my step children about me, lying to her family about me, telling me that my step children hate me and my boyfriend wont Marry me because his children hate me. and so on and that i make everyone uneasy. so i went to my bed room and cried and cried my boyfriend called from his work while i was crying and told me it was going to be okay that he would take care of it. well he and I have been together for 4 years and we have a son together and i am pregnant with our daughter. he agrees that she is ruining our relationship but will not make her move. WHAT DO I DO... i love him terribly but something has got to give. So i totally know what you are going through with the in your face mother in law that will not respect space.. I feel for you my dear..
OP, you're on the right track with looking for a rental of your own. It's unfortunate your MIL is so needy, but you've done everything possible to accommodate her needs. Your needs, and your baby's needs - are equally important. I think the healthy thing for all of you to do is for you to look for your own home nearby if you can afford it, and continue to spend time with your MIL as you can and encourage her to expand her own support network.
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Ok I have a couple of first-hand experiences with both things that you are going through. My parents were very clingy to me, funnily enough I didn't really SEE it until my DS1 was born.
They would call me every day, they would see us 4 times a week, and when my mother was holding my son and daddy wanted to hold him. It was the worst thing ever, they said we were denying them access. That was when I knew they had a problem with boundaries.
You need to get out and create a space for just the 3 of you, her clingyness will only get worse when your babe comes along. She WILL try to over-ride your rules. She will expect unlimited access. She does not respect your need for privacy or space now, she definitely won't when you have a little one.
It is sad but true, I say this from a place of BTDT. We ended up moving 4 1/2 hrs away from my folks, and having very limited contact. They were just too much.
Now onto the renting thing. We bought a home, because everyone said, waste of money renting. For our situation it was the worst thing we could've done. We had to sell because we needed to move for a job relocation, our home stood empty for 6 months, because we couldn't sell it or find a tenant. all the while having to pay a mortgage and rent. It crippled us. I have found renting has given us the freedom to move when we needed to at short notice, which we have needed to due to the job market. We have moved 4 times in 3 years. I'm hoping this is our last move for a while, but you never know what is around the corner. We will buy again when we find the place where we can settle in.
So I believe renting is a totally valid option under the right circumstances. While we are renting we are also saving money to put down on a deposit for a house, hopefully so one day we will be able to buy it out-right.
Where we live now is on the south coast of england, 3 miles from a gorgeous beach with a huge backgarden for the 2 boys to play in. Plenty of space. There is no way we would be able to afford this with a mortgage.
I sympathise with your situation totally OP. You DH needs to speak to your MIL to see her GP, she does have issues but none of those are solveable by him living with her indefinitely. I strongly agree with the other poster she is using her weakness to control your DH. Do not let her, it will continue and only get worse has she gets older and more frail. She doesn't have any friends for a reason. My mother doesn't either.
Wow, sorry for the huge reply.
Please let us know how you get on and I hope the rest of your pregnancy goes well.
Peace and blessings to you. xx