How do you run interference or rein in well meaning relatives?

NashvilleBuild42February 11, 2014

Well we finally know what caused my sister in law, iheartgiantschnauzer, to collapse. Her leukemia has returned.

This has sent my mother in law ( her husbands mom) into a tizzy. She's well intentioned but has never had that great of a relationship with that son. I think they are too much alike. Anyway I've noticed that some of her good intentioned actions (cleaning their house, which resulted in her reorganizing things as moms knows best) have put my BIL even more on edge. He came home yesterday and kept his cool but about lost it when he discovered the "reorganization" and "sprucing".

Things are so fluid right now. With my SIL in hospital and no cleAr cut treatment options at this time. We're here until she's released acting as child care and overseeing the bathroom remodel. Needless to say no one saw this coming as we celebrated her remission last month.

I'm wondering if there's a tactful way to discourage my MIL from smothering or stocking their freezer with 100 frozen meals. I realize this may be her way of coping but if it's disturbing her son, well it seems his needs trumps hers at this time?

Finally. I just wanted to take a second and ask people to check out it's a wonderful site that educates and encourages people to become involved in the bone marrow registry. I never gave much thought to it before our family's own fight against a blood cancer.

Thanks for any suggestions!

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So so sorry to hear that the cancer has returned. How lucky that she has you there for help. No advice on your MIL, but that it seems if anything is said to her, it should come from her son. Please let I heartgiantschnauzer she is in my thoughts.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 10:53AM
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I am praying for Iheartgiantschnauzer.

As for MIL or others. Why are they in her house? Perhaps her husband could say he would rather no one be in the house unless he is there? I agree he needs to be the one to say it. All you can do, if you here of an impending project, like MIL says, "I'm going over to reorganize the pantry", you can intercept by saying, " you know Iheart.... has a specific system in her pantry and doesn't like anyone messing with it" or something like that.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:07AM
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I remember her response to my plea for our GS Will. Am so sad for her, will include her in my prayers for Will.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:25AM
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Praying for iheartgiantschnauzer, I'm so sad for her and her family.

I like debrak's advice about iheart having a specific system. My heart breaks for iheart's husband and all that he is dealing with between his wife and now his mom adding to the stress. I'm so happy he has you to help.

Going to check out that bone marrow site now.

Please keep us updated when you can.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:28AM
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I tend to agree that if anything is to be said to the Mom, it is best to come from the son, especially as I would assume you are not particularly close to her?

I am terribly sorry to hear that Iheartgiantschnauzer is unwell. My thoughts are with her and her family.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:30AM
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Thanks everyone I appreciate the kind words. Dorothy you are so kind, Likewise I'll keep your GS in my thoughts.

Someone asked why there is anyone in her home, well MIL actually lives a few states away in Nashville like me. We are staying in their guest house, but during the day we've been in and out of house( overseeing bath project that had already started/ babysitting) and hospital shifts.

Her husband won't say anything. But I like the pantry system excuse suggested by Debra k. I'll continue to bite my tongue for now. Is it odd if I suggest she take my nephew to the children's museum, library, or to a gymnastic center one day?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:45AM
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Keeping her (and family) in my thoughts and prayers.

I have been on the registry for many years. I hope she finds a match, soon.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:54AM
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I'm so sorry about this upsetting turn of events.

But, it makes me a little uncomfortable that you are discussing another member and her personal life without her knowledge. Even if she is related to you.

Perhaps she has given you permission and if she has, I apologize.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 12:14PM
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My best to your SIL and her family. My thoughts are with you all.

I agree that it needs her son to say something to her. However, he may be too overwhelmed right now to be able to think about what is needed, and that wouldn't be surprising, As you are there, instead of telling her to butt out, are there certain chores that you can keep aside and just ask her to do when she arrives? Perhaps something simple that will make her feel useful without being overbearing. I suspect she doesn't know what to do but desperately wants to help out in some way so that she feels she is making a contribution to this very tough time.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 12:29PM
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So sorry to hear this news and I'm wishing her the best.

Bottom line is that MIL buying too many frozen dinners isn't really a big deal and Iheart's DH is probably taking out his anger and fears on things that don't really matter, instead of taking it out on the people in his life. Maybe just remind MIL that you are there to help "steer the ship" and not to make any physical changes.

Why would it be odd to take a child to an activity? Aren't you there to try to help keep the child's routine as normal as possible? Gymnastics center would be great to run around and release any stress he might be feeling.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 12:51PM
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Oh I think that asking MIL to take your nephew somewhere is an excellent idea! She needs something to do. She wants to be needed.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 1:02PM
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No advise, just sending positive thoughts for I heart. Please keep us posted.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 1:23PM
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I trust NashvilleBuilder's instincts to know whether her SIL would be comfortable posting this information.

I'm sending good thoughts her way. It seems to me that one other way you could help is to keep MIL occupied, and child care will certainly do that.

I would not hesitate - as one woman to another - to remind MIL that each woman wants her house a certain way and "we both need to respect that."

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 1:40PM
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This post was edited by red_lover on Tue, Feb 11, 14 at 14:33

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 2:22PM
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NashvilleBuild42 thank you so much for letting us know iheartgiantschnauzer's cancer has returned so we can add her to our prayer list.
I'm not sure what to do about her MIL other than I think the best person to deal with her is one of her own children. Though I doubt iheartgiantschnauzer's hubby is up to it, if there are other siblings, or maybe even the FIL might be a better one to talk to and ask them to intervene.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 3:22PM
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I agree the son is taking out his frustrations/fears on the one person he can comfortably do so with...dear, old mom. Is what she is doing so horrible? She's seeing there are meals in the freezer and I'll bet she's also vacumming, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, and doing laundry. So what if she reorganizes the pantry or straightens up the junk drawer? As long as she doesn't throw anything out without asking or move bills to a different spot, etc... what is the harm in the grand scheme of things?

I suggest you talk to your BIL and encourage him to focus on his wife and let his mother do what she feels she needs to do and be grateful that she is there to help out caring for the kids and keep the house running. Better than the alternative of having no one and no help.

Perfectly OK to suggest she take the kids for an outing..she might like the break herself.

Sending positive thoughts to iheart and the family...hope she is feeling better and home soon (to undo what MIL has!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 3:25PM
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When my husband was being treated for leukemia, if I had come home after spending 8+ hours with him at the hospital and found things rearranged or food I didn't want and wouldn't eat, if would have driven me over the edge. It took a lot of mental energy to be supportive, run interference when need be, keep the house functioning, and keep up with my own mental and physical health.

I'm sure she means well but he doesn't need one. more. thing. that rocks the boat.

If I remember correctly, IHGS & family eat organic and vegan. Any food prepared outside of their normal ingredients or methods is a waste of time, effort, and ingredients.

At my house, I would be annoyed about finding food I didn't want and then feel guilty I wasn't appreciative. I had enough emotions to handle, I didn't need unnecessary annoyance and guilt.

I think assigning MIL duties like special child care is a great idea. I think Graywings is right that you may need to remind MIL to respect their family home and systems, which means no changes, no reorganization, no judgements or comments on how they do things. If they keep utensils in the living room and bath towels in the basement, so be it. Just stick to the established patterns.

I wish IHGS the best possible outcome.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 4:45PM
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My thoughts and prayers are with IHGS and her family. Hang in there.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 6:18PM
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Thank you again. Since my SIL has shared info about her health with the healthy check in peeps, i feel comfortable enough relaying her setback. But I appreciate that others may feel concerned.

My SIL and BIL have a great and logical system to me. MIL doesn't find the logic on their kitchen arrangement and rearranged cabinets etc. She took it upon herself and began making all her grand sons favorite meals to freeze like veggie lasagne, (they only feed their son once in a blue moon) her carrot soup ( something IHGS would never eat b/c it has cream and milk but her husband and son may occasionally as they infrequently eat some ova-lacto foods). Yesterday she came back from the grocery store complaining the organics were priced too high so she bought conventional ingredients. I found it disrespectful and unhelpful even though my MIL means well.

This is stressful on everyone. I can see why some would think let her be is it really that bad. I feel she is making the situation more stressful for the one she is trying to help.

HHreno thank you. You confirmed my fears and observations. I think I will keep MIL busy with specific tasks or child care duties as many have suggested. I will also have my husband call her tomorrow. Your right any discussion is probably better from one of her sons. So I'll put my husband in that batter box :)

Thank you all again for the kind words and level headed replies. The replies have helped me to bite my tongue and approach this situation with a clearer head. I feel better knowing I'm not alone in thinking my MIL needs reminders on respecting my inlaws home and lifestyle choices. Now I know to delegate the talk to her other son aka my husband :)

This post was edited by NashvilleBuild42 on Tue, Feb 11, 14 at 18:33

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 6:29PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I can understand that MIL's efforts are not right in line with what the family normally does, but I'm sure she is trying to help and sometimes that means a lot, knowing that someone is trying to watch your back. Anyone that wants to help someone they care about who is having a hard time, finds it difficult to know exactly what will help. Some people will hesitate to do the wrong thing and do very little. Others will charge in and do as much as they can think of doing. I would want more of those who charge in, if I were facing such a crisis.

I think the way to get a better fit though, is to give this MIL who wants to help, specific ideas of what to do. Give a list and ask if she wouldn't mind going to the store for these and give her the money to make the purchases. Great if the MIL could keep the kids busy with outings, or visits to her house, or picking them up and taking them to an activity. If she has a favorite recipe that you enjoy ask her to make that for you.

Unless you are in a position that despite the fact there is a health crisis, that you don't need or want help, then I would get a good list going of what exactly would help and don't be afraid to ask any of the family and friends who are offering. If you really don't need anything right now and would rather have quiet and privacy, I think people would understand that too if you explain that to them with a promise that you will ask when you need something.

If there are underlying tensions because of overstepping ways, it might be less stressful on everyone to find a 'work around' rather than initiate a confrontation now, that might blossom into something larger.

I'm very sorry your sister in law's remission was not long lasting. That must have been a shock for all of you. I hope they can find another solution for her, quickly.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 6:57PM
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Thoughts and prayers for IHGS and family.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 7:09PM
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I am so very sorry.

All someone (either you or husband) need to say is:

Mom, a woman's kitchen is HER home base. Think of how upsetting is to everyone to see the kitchen and know it is not the way the woman of the house keeps it.
It is like you are somehow implying that it's not hers anymore. Is that how you want everyone to feel? Back Off.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 7:19PM
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I am so sorry to hear about the return of IHGS's cancer. I am praying for her and for all of you who love her.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 8:01PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I'm so sorry to hear about IHGS....I'm sending healing thought and comfort her way.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 8:32PM
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I'm so sad to hear about IHGS leukemia returning. I will keep her and you and the rest of her family in my prayers.

Good idea to have your husband talk to his mom. I'm sure she means well and just wants to do something to help, but isn't thinking straight either. Having specific tasks to make her feel useful sounds like a great idea.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 10:02PM
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My husband was badly injured several years ago, was in the hospital a long time and had a long rehab. I'm sitting right beside hhireno.

Spending long days at the hospital, juggling all the medical and financial issues, I wouldn't want to come home at night and find my stuff rearranged. It already feels like the whole world is turned upside down and to walk in and find my pantry is upside down, too? I think I'd probably have cried. I can't even imagine someone coming in and cleaning out a junk drawer or any other drawer. If ever home needs to feel like home, it's during a traumatic time like your BIL and SIL are going through now.

Asking MIL to do specific activities with the kids sounds like a great idea.

NashvilleBuild42, don't be surprised if your husband has to speak plainly to his mom. My MIL and FIL are terrific, wonderful people and I appreciated their help so much. They really are lovely, helpful people. Normally I would have bit my tongue off before I'd hurt my MIL's feelings, but I had to be plain spoken and very clear that some types of help were harmful. Because of the dynamic between my MIL and me, for the first time in our relationship I had to throw tact to the wayside and tell her the bald truth with no cushion on it. I don't want to explain too specifically, but in our case some of the help could have led to life-threatening results for my husband and I had no choice. Sometimes well-meaning people help in ways that are harmful, and while you appreciate their helpfulness sometimes you have to speak up.

Like hhireno said, you just don't need one more thing that rocks the boat, and you have enough emotions to handle without adding anger and guilt in the mix.

I'll keep iheartgiantschauzer and her family, including you, in my prayers. And also your MIL. I'm sure this is heart-breaking for her as well and she is trying to help as best she knows how. I am so sorry this is happening in your family.

This post was edited by daisyinga on Wed, Feb 12, 14 at 0:37

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 12:31AM
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I just checked into this thread, and I'm sorry to hear it is about IHGS' health. I will keep all positive thoughts for her and her family.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 12:52PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

I am so sorry to hear this news. Also sending positive thoughts and energy for IHGS.

I could be totally wrong, but I wonder if MIL's heart is just breaking and she is releasing all that energy by keeping busy and trying to help. She may not be thinking clearly either with all the worry. Sometimes, we just do things on autopilot, not thinking about whether or not we are actually helping. I think suggesting outings would be a great way to show her she is needed, appreciated, and helpful to the family. Everyone is bound to have frayed nerves and it is just so important to be extra careful of each other at times such as these. You all need that extra measure of love and kindness.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:03PM
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Being the ever polite Canadian .. Is it not possible to let her cook her heart out, thank her very nicely & then quietly donate the meals to the woman's shelter or a food bank??

Reorganizing the pantry/kitchen is annoying to say the least, smile sweetly & when she leaves reorganize the pantry back ?? Yea a pain in the a** but she probably has a heart of gold & means well.This also may be her way of dealing with the news as well.

(( hugs ))

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 10:45PM
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Ogoopoo -

I am not sure if it is the same everywhere, but here in Connecticut you cannot donate cooked food anywhere, only commercially packaged food.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 10:59PM
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You all are so kind with your well wishes. Today was better. My husband did talk very clearly and plainly with his mother. I then kept her busy with special tasks. It worked much better.

My SIL is doing better. her electrolyte levels have improved. she's received a few infusions of platelets and red blood cells. They haven't decided on any treatment yet for the leukemia. But atleast the immediate danger from the flu and her imbalance appears to be abating. We hope she will be home sometime this weekend! The contractor has had his crew work longer hours so the bath will be finished by Friday. Everyone feels better in their own construction free home, imo.

I'll let this thread drop now. Thank you so much for the kind advice and comforting words.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 3:00AM
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I am so glad iheart is feeling better.

I keep intending to post an article I read that relates to this situation but I keep running out of time. The gist is that when a crisis happens the best way to handle it is to use the author's 'ring theory', The person that is most affected by the crisis is the middle ring. Everyone else around the person has a ring too. The closer you are to the person, the closer your ring.

Your deeds, actions and words are based on your ring. Always provide comfort to an interior ring, never complain or kvetch. You can only complain or whine to an outer ring.

In this instance, iheart's husband is completely justified in complaining to his mother about what she is doing. She can fuss about it to a friend but can not take it out on him. Comfort in, complaining out.

I think it's a thought provoking article for anyone who is affected by a crisis.

Here is a link that might be useful: How not to say the wrong thing

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 7:24AM
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Thanks for that article. What a fabulous concept. Comfort in, complaining out.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 11:17AM
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Dee- thank you! Such a simple concept stated so succinctly. I've forwarded to several family members.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 12:45PM
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I know NB42 wants this to thread to end but, I'm sorry, I have to comment. I understand people mean well and are trying to help. I don't doubt the noble intentions but I also can't help seeing the end result of noble but misguided intentions.

If you let Heart-of-Gold cook to her heart's content, who then has to transport all this unwanted food, assuming you can find some place that will accept it? Is this an additional duty for the caregiving spouse? Busy work for some other well meaning helper? Is H-o-G informed his/her efforts are now being donated? Or possibly thrown out? Do we have to hide it from them, to protect their feelings?

I'm not saying don't other aid and support to a family in crisis, whatever the cause. You just need to know it's the aid and support THEY need, not what you feel like offering.

These are possibly helpful:
Can I make you a meal of (full in the blank of an appropriate food)? Can I walk your dog? Can I shovel your driveway? Can I cut your lawn? Can I run to the grocery store, pick up your dry cleaning, water your plants?

This post was edited by hhireno on Thu, Feb 13, 14 at 14:58

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 2:50PM
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HH- it's very apparent you've been there done that. Great suggestions and the perfect questions to help others understand why some of us would look for ways to dissuade the H-O-G helper.

Thanks for your wisdom. Maybe this thread will help others too.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 3:04PM
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