Movin’ in the mother-in-law?

Published 1:16 pm Monday, July 31, 2023

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Dear Aunty Pam,

My husband, Harry, and I have been married for nearly 25 years, and two days ago he springs it on me that he expects his mother to move in with us when she can no longer live alone—which isn’t that far away. He then said he always intended for that to be the case, whether I like it or not.

Aunty Pam, we have never, ever discussed this and his mother is not an easy woman to live with, which, I suspect, is why her husband (Harry’s father) left her for another woman several years ago. She is very particular about things and tends to be quite negative in general. In fact, every time she visits she drives my Harry crazy and they bicker constantly.

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I asked Harry how he’d feel if I suddenly said I expected my parents to move in with us and he said that because I have four other siblings, that would never be an issue as everyone could take turns looking after them, but as he’s an only son, he has to do this. I thought that was crazy and said I had no intention of spending my retirement looking after his mother. This escalated into a big argument. ‘Harry’ says our house is large enough that even when our kids are home from college, there will still be plenty of room for his mother and I’m being a rotten, selfish daughter-in-law.



Barb in the Palmetto State


Dear Barb,

While Harry indeed is being a dutiful son in wanting to look after his mother, Aunty Pam agrees wholeheartedly that this sort of proclamation out of the blue is quite unfair. And the fact that Harry and his mother bicker back and forth frequently during visits does not bode well for living arrangements later on—no matter how large your house.

I’m curious: Has Harry even discussed the future with his mother? Is he just assuming and perhaps stepping into the role his father left vacant when he got the heck out of Dodge with his new woman? It’s very possible that the last thing Harry’s mother wants is to move in— she might far prefer moving to The Villages and driving a Barbie-pink golf cart and toasting everyone she passes with a dirty martini.

And besides, when a person can no longer ‘live alone’ it often means that person has more needs than a well-meaning son and resentful daughter-in-law can give. I’m not talking about warehousing mom in a nursing home, but there really are outstanding ‘assisted living’ residences that offer daily social interactions and activities with a staff that is trained to assist them in every way. Harry will probably find some that are within easy driving distance so that he could remain dutiful with frequent visits, overseeing her care.

But if Harry is still set on moving Mom in, I think there has to be a compromise on his end. And that might mean something as large as finding a new house with a separate annex so that you both have your own space and peace, or as small as earbuds and your own ’she-shed’ on your property to disappear to for most of the day. Best of luck.


Cheers, dears!!

Aunty Pam