My mother-in-law needs to have her own place, rather than live with us -- but my husband disagrees.


Last updated: July 04, 2009

How can I convince my husband to let his mom get a trailer or apartment before we end up divorced? We've been married for almost two years and have a baby. I'm the wife and mom, so I want to be the one to take care of everyone. His mom meddles. She loses my stuff (just mine) or throws it away. She washes the baby's clothes and bottles even though I ask her not to. And she doesn't take the bottles all the way apart, though she insists she does.

My husband says she's staying. Is there a way I can convince him it would be best for us all if she had her own place?

It's always tough when caregiving issues touch new marriages. You've barely become a couple, and now you have a new daughter -- and a mother-in-law in your daily life.

I hope you'll be able to convince your husband to consider whether having his mom live there is really necessary. Most caregivers either start too early or too late. The danger of starting too early is burnout. It's real. And since you're the one who will probably interact with your mother-in-law the most, you'll also feel it the most.

It'll help if you understand your husband's motives for her living with you. Maybe she was a single mom and he feels the need to watch out for her now? Maybe they're close because of an event that happened in the past -- say, another sibling left home or died? Is he thinking it will be easier financially?

Then do a little research on caregiver burnout and show him how detrimental it can be to your health and marriage, that it's stress to the max. Reassure him that you want to help care for his mom ("help" is the key word here -- after all, it is his mom), but emphasize that it's not good for her to be cared for when she doesn't need it. Most people fare far better living on their own and having their own activities.

Assure him that you know he wants her near, and living nearby is a great compromise. It gives you your space so that your marriage can continue to grow roots -- and it allows the two of you to check in with her. Remind him that caregiving can go on for years -- so be careful about what you start.

If all else fails and your husband continues to insist that she stay with you, don't just give up on your marriage. Your child needs her dad around, and while this is stressful, it doesn't need to be a deal breaker. Sometimes the most unlikely people teach us how to find our inner strength. State clearly to your mother-in-law what bothers you. Create boundaries and become that strong woman I know you are. She's in your home -- which means you get to call at least some of the shots.

Try to be flexible on things that don't really matter. She's probably taking such a keen interest in your life because she's bored. Some daily irritants aren't worth having an all-out fight about, and maybe she does some things well. Is it helpful to have her babysit, for instance? Can she do some laundry or cook one meal a day? Perhaps she can contribute financially, too. It might not be ideal, but by shifting our perspective we can usually make a frustrating situation tolerable.

Elders have so much to teach, and they can be so good with our kids -- patient and playful at times when we're not. Try to notice and appreciate those moments. I do hope that you and your husband find a way to be on the same team. It is possible to face caregiving together, whether now or in the future -- and your marriage will be stronger for it.

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6 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

over 3 years ago

You Know, It took almost 5 years for my MIL to accept that My husband and I were going to be together. I was brought up to believe, that when you marry, you'd better get used to the idea, that you are marrying a family, not a man. Unless your husbands family is totally dysfunctional, He will want to have them in his life. One day when my husband and I had been married for probably well over 20 years, She told me, that she thought I was a pretty good wife and daughter-in-law. Don't just give up. God gives us tests sometimes, just to help us grow. If you pass, You Will Be Happier.


Anonymous said over 3 years ago

While I agree that elders often have "so much to teach," the lessons are entirely contingent on the elder at issue. Some elders can teach that their intrusiveness, theatrics, and narcissism can destroy a nuclear family. There are simply some elders that are so toxic that the "grin and bear it" suggestion comes off as unrealistic and ill-conceived.


Anonymous said about 5 years ago

The expert has given you some helpful advice and the family counseling is also a good idea! You need to do something sooner, rather than later. Why did your husband feel the need to take her in? Can she live independently or does she have some medical issues? Does he have other siblings? When you speak to him, keep even tempered and be a good listener. Don't use this time to complain about the things she does that upset you, because you will appear jealous and uncaring. Hopefully, after a good long talk with him, you can come to some solutions or a compromise. We had to take my mother-in-law in to our home for almost 4 years, but she is 88 and has health issues. We just transferred her out to a board and care home recently, because she started falling more and requires 24 hr. care now. It was a very tough 4 years and a lot of damage was done to our marriage... I hope you do not have to go through something similar. My husband lost his father and brother, so there were not many options for us. I had joined a caregiving support group and had talked to a professional counselor, which helped me get through it. Best of luck to you!


Anonymous said about 5 years ago

Sounds like family counceling time to me. How did she happen to live with you to begin with? You need time to grow your marriage, enjoy your child and have the pleasure of forming your own family routines. You didn't mention if she is ill. Who did her marry anyway?


over 5 years ago

Only 2 years married, this is your life, good luck!


Anonymous said over 5 years ago

May try to show some love/affection first if she reciprocates will win a help full friend. Lost something; may try to give her the idea that she means more then an object. If don't work do what you need to do; try to avoid the soaring up your husband's mind. She is her mom never forget that. Complaining may get him confused and may loose the affection he has for you and a happy family life may become illusive. Where as if with a little patience and not complaining he may figure out his mother is jealous and may begin to look for a solution himself. Will be better for all of you.


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