Question: Dear Luise: My son has had to go away for two years. My daughter-in-law and son called to ask me to live with my daughter-in-law and one year old grandson while my son is away. Since I have no ties or property I was able to and have moved into their home. For two months I was unable to bring in my suitcase and few belongings such as pictures and paintings. My daughter in law resented my bringing in my shampoo & rinse and placing it in the shower. I have been sleeping on a pull out couch in the living room while the second bedroom has remained a nursery. The baby however sleeps with his mother. I pay half of the rent, utilities and food. I recognize that having me replace my son’s space is difficult for my daughter in law in spite of my being asked to be here. Now she has let me know that she is unhappy that I use their computer and watch their TV. She also is not happy that I am at home so much even though she knows that i hate the heat and stay inside to beat the summer heat. We are living at the southern most tip of the US. I am almost 60 and am having a difficult time finding employment in the Florida economy. My daughter in law will also not leave my grandson with me. I do not drink or smoke and raised three children safely. How am I going to make this work? D.
Answer: Dear D.: Either this was totally you son’s idea or your DIL agreed with him that it would work and is finding it isn’t going to. As you know, living with others is an extremely intimate process. Sometimes two people can be thrown together like that and live happily ever after but often it’s a no-go.
There is a huge imbalance. You are paying half of everything but you don’t get to vote on anything. Hypothetically, isn’t the place half yours and aren’t the decisions that are to be made half yours as well? For more support from a group of wise women, please consider bringing your issue over to my web-Forum: http://www.motherinlawsunite.com
It doesn’t sound to me like you set up any ground rules before moving in. You are going to have to backtrack, now, and let your DIL know that you are not going to support a dictatorship. Not in those words, of course, but either you decide together how to live together so it will work for both of you, or you have to call it quits. Cohabitation requires mutual respect.
It would take an extremely passive person to last two years in the circumstances you describe. If you were cut out of that piece of cloth, you probably wouldn’t be writing to me about your circumstances. Look closely…you are to sleep on the couch, stay away from the computer and TV and keep your things out of the bathroom. You don’t get to baby-sit your grandson and you have been told you are there too much. There are domestic servants that are treated better than that. You are paying your own way. That’s called a partnership.
I would talk with her about this in a business-like way. Let her know that to continue to pay half of everything, you will need to have her incorporate the nursery into her room so you can have your own bedroom, pictures on the wall, TV and computer…(a home.) Ask to be given the opportunity to baby-sit and remind her that you raised your children so well that she chose your son for her husband. Let her know that you can only function, long-term, in a democratic environment. Your present circumstance would only work for a weekend visit. How would she like to pay half, sleep on the couch with the baby and see you take two bedrooms for yourself?
If none of that works, pack up your self-respect and move. You can’t appeal to your son. He can’t settle the situation. Either the two of you make it work or you part ways. At present, it looks to me like she only wants your money. She doesn’t want you to be part of the deal. If it was me, and I could swing it, I would leave and then continue to send a monthly check to cover half of everything. Not as a loan, they seldom get paid back and often cause more hard feelings, but to keep my word. I’d face the fact that I entered into something too lightly and should have known better. I wouldn’t let them down but I would learn a lot about assumptions in the two years I felt I had to pay for my mistake. Blessings, Luise