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Mother-in-law Advice
Old 03-06-2019, 10:35 PM   #1
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Mother-in-law Advice

So I'm a father of three children, ages 3, 5, and 8. My mother-in-law bought a second home in our town where we live about 5 years ago. She retired last year and now lives in our town full time. She moved here to be closer to us and my wife (who is her only child). I won't say my mother-in-law is my favorite person in the world, but she has a good heart and I get along with her reasonably well. There is something that has always really bugged me though so I'm asking for advice on how to approach it.

I had a sick son today and my wife had to work all day and into the evening so I came home early from work to take care of him. My MIL picked up the other kids from school, which was nice and brought them over to our house (probably a 10 min drive). I invited her to have dinner with us and she obliged. So we sat down with my two healthy kids we all played a card game while I made dinner. I poured her a glass of wine set the table and made dinner while she sat at the counter and we all played the game. She ate the dinner having seconds and thirds.

When we finished our meal I then made a show of instructing my three year old to take his plate and silverware and glass from the counter, scrape any remaining food on his plate in the trash and put it in the dishwasher. My 5 year old daughter did the same thing (she knew the drill). We all talked a little while longer, but then it was bed time and so MIL thanked me for the meal and left. All her dirty dishes just sat on the counter.

If this was a one time deal I would say eh whatever. But it happens EVERY SINGLE TIME. She has dinner or meals at our house fairly regularly and she never lifts a finger, either setting the table, helping make the meals or cleaning up afterwards. This is the way it has been for five years since she has bought the house in our town. I can see if it was a more formal gathering where the guest usually isn't doing the dishes or setting things up, but at this point she comes so regularly that is is pretty informal and it would be nice to just lift a finger already! If she was in my family I would just tell her straight to her face how I feel, but she is really sensitive, and she would get melodramatic about it.

So is this reasonable for me to be this bugged by it? Should I just ignore it, and be thankful that she takes care of the kids every once in a while?

Really would like to get others perspectives on it and any advice.
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Old 03-06-2019, 10:44 PM   #2
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So is this reasonable for me to be this bugged by it? Should I just ignore it, and be thankful that she takes care of the kids every once in a while?

Really would like to get others perspectives on it and any advice.
Yes and yes.

There is nothing to be gained. If you could get in a joke then maybe you stand a chance, but it’s a risky maneuver. Something like after the second child clears off their dish, you say, okay mom, your turn. But be really quick with the move toward her plate and a just kidding comment. High risk, low reward. I wouldn’t risk it, but if it bothers you that much, let us know how it goes.
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Old 03-06-2019, 10:45 PM   #3
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Don't die on this hill

I did something really dumb in front of my MIL a long time ago. I embarassed her in front of our family. She did not come over to our home for a full year. I gave her flowers & apologized the next day. No matter

20 years on I am her favorite SIL. And I will do anything for her. My point is it can take a long time to get out of the doghouse

Laugh it off as a grandma "thing" Worry about the important stuff. I know, it sucks. Just go with the flow
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Old 03-06-2019, 11:26 PM   #4
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I agree with other posters - let it go. Not worth it.
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Old 03-07-2019, 12:56 AM   #5
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Maybe your 5-year-old daughter can say to grandma, “Daddy says whenever he is invited over for dinner, he puts away his dirty plates.” Or is that too subtle/
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Old 03-07-2019, 01:14 AM   #6
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You say that your MIL has a good heart, and you get along with her reasonably well. Also, in your post, you mention her picking up the kids and bringing them home. At times when you are tempted to concentrate on the things she is not doing (picking up after herself), I'd refocus on the things she is doing (being there for the family, helping out with rides etc).


I absolutely agree with those who have advised to let it go. I know - it can be hard, but think of the downsides if you "took a stand" and there was tension or, worse still, a rift, as a result. Remember - she's granny, and grannies are allowed to be a little goofy, or "different" (as are any other family members!)
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Old 03-07-2019, 01:14 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Good_Life View Post

So is this reasonable for me to be this bugged by it? Should I just ignore it, and be thankful that she takes care of the kids every once in a while?

Really would like to get others perspectives on it and any advice.

No, yes, yes, respectively.




And my suggestion is:


You and your MIL will continue to have more interaction for years to come. Your wife may remember the "interactions" (good and/or bad) for years to come. Women (MIL and DW) have longer memories than men in my experience.
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Old 03-07-2019, 01:52 AM   #8
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I'd be thankful that this is your biggest MIL problem
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Old 03-07-2019, 02:02 AM   #9
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Don't sweat the small stuff.

Have your kids clear the counter.
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Old 03-07-2019, 04:53 AM   #10
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I'd be thankful that this is your biggest MIL problem
That's well spoken. My MIL lived with us - in the Master Bedroom - for ten years. I had to journal to handle the stress. When she died I turned it into a book of short essays.

She was a great lady, but you still butt heads.

I agree. Let it go.
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Old 03-07-2019, 05:05 AM   #11
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I'd be more concerned about her eating habits - thirds, every time? Perhaps she has trouble getting up from the table - let alone fussing with plates, which her adorably capable grandkids can take care of for her.
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Old 03-07-2019, 05:16 AM   #12
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Hey, at least she did not steal the silverware! A lot of folks would consider her a great MIL.
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Old 03-07-2019, 05:25 AM   #13
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It's also possible that your MIL "doesn't want to impose" and it manifests itself in just not doing anything. She may be nervous or intimidated by your competence (could be a reason for eating more). She may have grown up in a family where women were territorial around their homes, etc. There's actually a lot of potential reasons beyond entitlement, and if her heart is generally in the right place, I'm betting one of those is more likely. Does your wife have any insight?

Is there something concrete she could help with during dinner that would be "enough" to the critical part of your brain? Can you say, "Mabel, could you set the table for me?" in a friendly, casual way? I've found that being upbeat and cheerful when asking for help can yield great results.

Softening language like, "Can I ask you a favor? I'm a little overwhelmed with dinner, could I impose on you to set the table?" can take the edge off the request. She may grumble a little, but it's not likely to go full-nuclear, so you can back off without long term relationship damage if needed.

And of course, if she's helping, you run the risk of her doing it "wrong", so caveat emptor!
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Old 03-07-2019, 06:18 AM   #14
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It only takes a few seconds to pick up the plate, scrape it off, and put it into the dishwasher. So easy that a 5 year old can do it. A small price for you to pay for having a healthy MIL that is willing to help you out with no complaints. Looks like you are the winner here.


Cheers!
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Old 03-07-2019, 06:18 AM   #15
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I think the best solution is to ask one of the kids to "help Grandma" by putting away her dishes. Teaches the kid some respect and responsibility toward elders, and gets Grandma off the hook. Bonus would be if she says "No, dear, I'll do it myself." But don't hold your breath.
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Old 03-07-2019, 06:20 AM   #16
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I'd be thankful that this is your biggest MIL problem
+2

I have heard so many dreadful mother-in-law stories that I am thankful I have just had to deal with a few little quirks over the last 38 years. And, since she is the last parent of ours alive, I am thankful every time we get together.

And on the flip side, I have witnessed far more "grandparent abuse", that is the expectation that Granny and Grandpa can/should drop everything to watch the grand kids when mom and dad need a break, or even worse, the expectation that granny and pops should provide free day care 5 days/week.

Since DS is not married, and has no kids, this is only an observation of others.

So, be thankful MIL volunteers to do the the little things that help, and overlook the little things that bug you.
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Old 03-07-2019, 06:23 AM   #17
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Definitely not worth fretting over. Ask your wife if your MIL used to do all the work at home when guests came over. She may believe that guests are not to lift a hand.
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Old 03-07-2019, 06:53 AM   #18
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It took you way longer to type up this whathaveyou than it did to put the plate in the dishwasher. I'd re-think your "problem."
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Old 03-07-2019, 07:14 AM   #19
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I'd be thankful that this is your biggest MIL problem
+3

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I'd be more concerned about her eating habits - thirds, every time? Perhaps she has trouble getting up from the table - let alone fussing with plates, which her adorably capable grandkids can take care of for her.
I'd been more concerned about the third helpings as well. Including her in meals would be like cooking for 2 to 3 extra people. A simple solution is to quit inviting her for meals so often.
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Old 03-07-2019, 07:23 AM   #20
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I'm in the "say nothing" camp. (though I do like the idea of saying to a kid "hey help grandma out with her plate")

Couple of reasons:
She helps you out with picking up the kids. If that disappeared you'd be impacted with more than just a few dishes
You invited her, knowing who she is (and it was polite, and in return for her errand)
It's been going on for 5 years, it's too late to complain now

Saying something on the 3rd visit would have been ok if handled gently by your wife - not you.
Saying something after 5 years will only wound. She'll know this has always bothered you and be hurt.
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