Question: Dear Luise: I have a son who has now been married for close to 6 years. They have two wonderful boys ages 3 and 5. There has always been trouble with my daughter in law caring for the children in the most basic ways. Not bathing, brushing teeth, keeping clean clothes and even on some occasions feeding them. She works a second shift job and my son now does most of the housekeeping, tending the boys cooking etc. The days she does have the boys at home they entertain themselves while she “naps” on the couch. Now a new twist has been added. She is going out on the two nights a week she doesn’t work to go “listen to music”. They live about an hours drive from the nearest clubs. She told my son that she wanted to leave him but they talked and got some things “worked out.” However, now everything has ended up my fault. In her words, I drive her crazy and I cause her to do the things she is doing, etc. I try to help as much as I can with the boys and up until about 2 weeks ago thought all was fine. My problem is that I am not sure how to handle this situation and do not want to se the grandsons hurt by all of this. If I try to defend myself with my son he walks out. If he calls when she is home, she talks at the top of her lungs in the background about what we are discussing, giving her opinion and putting me down. Please help, what should I do? G.
Answer: Dear G. It is often really difficult to deal with the dynamics of two families interacting. Your son has a wife and children. They are a separate unit…yet your relationship with him and your desire to be part of your grandsons’ lives overlap. On top of that, they are obviously having difficulties and you see the results of that everywhere.
You know you are not at fault…you are just a handy person to blame. Please keep reminding yourself of that.
Instead of telling your son your complaints, (which certainly sound valid to me), it might help to ask your him how you can best be a part of his adult life. He may have some ideas regarding how to integrate you into his child rearing. Certainly, the marriage and the raising of his children are his primary concern and he is going to great lengths to make up for his wife’s inadequacies on all fronts. If he doesn’t see your contribution and if he listens to his wife’s take on you, he may feel that it all just too much. What he has taken on sounds nearly impossible to me. Still it’s his life and his choice, always.
Don’t add to his stress. I know that it’s hard to accept the fact that he may not have the time or energy to try to factor you into what’s going on but that’s probably the case. He is trying to hold it all together at great cost to himself. It may be wise to back off while letting him know that he can continue to count on you to help him out. Blessings, Luise