Do I let my narrow-minded mother-in-law move in with my family?

My mother in law is set to move in with us in a month and I’m stressing already. 

She’s 86 and has always been really active and mobile but has deteriorated quite fast in the last year.

I never really expected to be living with my parents or my husband’s parents, but he agreed with his siblings that he and I have the most stable home and a decent extension in our house in which she could comfortably live. 

I feel quite guilty because when he proposed that she move into our home, I felt obliged to say yes – how could I say no to my mother-in-law?

But if I’m honest, I’m not entirely set on the situation. Through 8 years of being with my husband, she and I have been civil but never entirely seen eye to eye. She has a lot of outdated views and beliefs, mainly around how women belong at home. 

I have always worked to support our family and earn roughly the same amount as my husband, yet she has still slipped in comments about how I should spend more time at home, how my cleaning skills are subpar, how we shouldn’t have help with childcare or with cleaning and so on. Always indirectly, mind you, which has made bringing it up to my husband really difficult as he often doesn’t hear the tone or the comment whatsoever!

I’m not against her moving in and agree that it is the best option, but any advice on setting boundaries (or if this is a bad move and bad decision altogether?) – Tracey, CA

Dear Tracey,

It’s not easy, welcoming a new family member into your home when you already have an established life with children and careers of your own. Your willingness to step up and care for her speaks volumes about your character and ability to put others first, but the differing views no doubt throw a spanner into the works. If I’m totally honest, you inevitably have some challenging times ahead!

That being said, if you go into the transition period of her moving in with a commitment to boundaries and open communication, it will make the shift far more manageable.

Being honest with your husband will likely help ease any guilt or cold feet you’re having in the situation, so I would begin there. Express to him any apprehensions about your past interactions with your mother-in-law, and what will be a daily potential for conflicting beliefs, should these not be set straight from the start. 

Make it clear that while you understand the importance of family support and are behind his decision, you need assurance that your own personal space and autonomy won’t be compromised

Consider creating an informal written agreement or plan that outlines expectations and boundaries. This doesn’t have to be a formal let’s-draw-up-a-contract type of agreement, but it is far more difficult to ‘forget’ certain boundaries when we have written history to look back upon. The clearer you make these boundaries – who assists her with cleaning and cooking, and how much time she spends with you and your family, etc. – the easier the move will likely go.  

This change itself is no doubt daunting, and you’re fully validated in feeling a touch of apprehension about the move. Know that you’re doing a good thing, that there will likely be some weeks (or months) that are a little more challenging as you all adapt to living under the same roof, but that with adequate boundaries and expectations, you’re setting up a more comfortable living environment for everyone.

And lastly, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and (calmly) speak your mind. 

You don’t want to end up feeling like you’re living in the shadows, making way for a parent-in-law just to appease your husband and his siblings. A balance between compassion and self-preservation will be absolutely essential in navigating this new chapter.

Wishing you strength and a whole lot of patience!

Evie

Do you have a question for Evie? If you would like advice from Evie, fill out the form here or send your problem to askevie@ideapod.com.

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Ask Evie

Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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