In this period immediately preceding the move-in of my mother-in-law, I’ve occasionally recorded, here in my blog, the thoughts I’m having and the implications of this new living arrangement as they’ve come up for me. I share my feelings with my husband, whose most common response recently is, “I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as you think it will,” and “Don’t get worked up about something you don’t even know yet.”
Jump to yesterday when my husband took a call about a problem at work and then seriously fretted about having to explain the issue to his client. He repeated how bad this was going to be, how he dreaded making this phone call to get an “ass chewing.” Finally, he bit the bullet. Minutes later, he said, “Well, that wasn’t bad at all!” I reminded him of his advice to not blow things up in one’s mind before one even knows what will actually occur. He answered, “Well, I knew how he reacted in the past when I told him a tile was on back order. He was so pissed off and yelling. This time he took it in stride.”
If I was so inclined, I would explain to my husband that this is the exact same circumstance at play here with his mother. Having been married to him for 30 years, I have plenty of experience watching how his mom operates and treats people. I’m not purely imagining how this living arrangement may be; I have watched everyone in her circle of influence be disappointed, hurt, and angry because she only sees how things affect her and her circumstances. She has no empathy. I’m not a pessimist, but a realist.
For the past 29 years, we’ve lived 1,000 miles from her. When I mention I have a German mother-in-law, people invariably ask how we get along. I tell people we get along much better now than we did while living in the same town. Now, it’s not just the same town; she’s going to be in my house. When she came for a week-long visit, I could roll my eyes and let things slide. What will I do when she pisses me off now? How will I set the understanding that this is my house?
The intensity and frequency of my ramblings have increased over the summer. I really appreciate having the opportunity to express fears and doubts here in order to process them and, hopefully, get them out of my head, which has become more difficult the closer we get. Here are the side effects I’ve experienced as a result of predictions and foreknowledge jumbling inside my head: nausea, headaches, anxiety attacks in my chest, tightening of my jaw, and more. I’m physically manifesting the great mental and emotion impact of her coming to live with us.
Yes, I’d love to shake it off and enjoy my last six days in peace, but I know who she is and how she treats people. I know she’ll disapprove of the state of our home (because my husband has spent the last six months preparing for her move and remodeling the basement as her living space.) and how we do things. These will be things I’ve done without thought for the last 10-20 years. Perhaps there will be adaptations we’ve made to my chronic illness and chronic pain that she won’t understand. Additionally, she told my husband, “Of course I plan to pay! I don’t expect to live off you guys,” as though insulted when he brought up the subject. Nothing has been said since. “Let her get in and settled. Then we’ll see what’s up,” he says. My experience is she willingly has others support her without a second thought. If I have something she likes, she comments and then takes delivery from me/my Amazon account, without any mention of paying for it. One of her great excuses has been, “Oh, I don’t shop online!”
With her arrival imminent, my mom said I’m fit to be tied. I told her I’m already tied. We’re doing this because family is important to us and, besides her young adult grandchildren, my husband is her only living relative in the US. She’s the youngest of four siblings with three still living in Germany. From the start of planning, my friend of 41 years has expressed concern regarding my mental health, and she’s not wrong.
I stayed home with our kids because we committed to keeping our sons out of childcare. I know it works for some, but I’d been a trainer/educator of childcare providers so I was clear-eyed about what was out there and chose not to go that route. It did impact my mental health, but I’m glad I did it. Now, I’m certain the constant presence of this woman, whose voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me, will cost some of the fragile, hard earned, limited, “okay” space I’ve gained since November of 2019 when the bottom dropped out for me.
My husband says he’ll have difficult talks with her when necessary, but I know that goes against his nature. He says he chooses me over her, but she’ll come between us without him even realizing it. He says maybe she’ll move into a place of her own, but she thinks her $690 mortgage payment is too high for her to handle. but, but, but….
At this point, I’m becoming numb to the whole thing because I’m overwhelmed. Once she’s here, I won’t be rambling anymore; I’ll be debriefing. Debriefing sounds difficult to innocuously insert in titles of my posts, so I think the new phrase will be “and more.” I’ll head the posts about living with my MIL (mother-in-law) with a topical title, adding “and more” to communicate that it’s a MIL post. She doesn’t read and she doesn’t know my blog exists. I hope to keep my blog completely out of her awareness, but should she happen upon it she won’t see any posts obviously about her. If she does accidentally stumble across a post written by me, she’ll pay it no mind because she doesn’t care, as long as she doesn’t think it’s referring to her.
I may need to ramble a time or two more before her arrival. I have no idea. I’m a jumble of negative memories. I’d interject a happy, positive memory but I don’t think I have any of her showing care for another beyond her needs or comfort zone, I know she is the most narcisstic person with whom I’ve had an ongoing personal relationship. She expects things to be done her way, takes others for granted, and only sees the world through and back into her lens. I’m completely disgusted by the way she interacted with her daughter as she lie dying from ALS. I was surprised and disappointed by her complaints about her husband’s pain when the tough old bird actually voiced discomfort. Yes, there are times we’ve laughed. No, I don’t think she’s difficult 100% of the time. It’s that the emotional through-line of her existence is negative.
My husband leaves for California tonight. They’ll be driving the moving truck and her car up here Monday and Tuesday next week. I will have “and more” to tell you after that, for sure.