Overwhelmed by the Inlaws!

bouncingpigFebruary 8, 2005

Well, as if our lives of balancing 3 kids, DH's "real" job, my selling on ebay and now our homebased businesses weren't enough, along with also homeschooling our oldest, my in-laws just added to the pile.

A week ago DH's step mom fell and broke her leg in 3 places. She is going in for surgery on the 18th, because it is such a bad break that it needs pins and a plate. She is in a wheelchair because she has osteoporosis and has broken her wrists so many times that she can't use crutches. The doctor says if she does, she will get stress fractures in her wrists. So I am doing all their cleaning, laundry and cooking. I could deal with this, but wait . . . there's more!

They have been very foolish with their finances over the years and now have major debts and hardly any equity in their home. So the same week as this happened they talked to DH's step brother and are moving down into a manufactured home he has on his property, which they can stay in rent free. So of course that means we need to help them move from this home (very full, over 2500 sq. feet). But wait . . . there's more!

They need all the equity they can get, so they asked DH and I to sell the home for them, rather than pay a realtor. We have sold two homes ourselves and have made the mistake of spouting off that it is so "simple". Arghh. So now, we are their realtors. But wait . . . there's more!

Since the home they are moving to is much smaller, they need to majorly downsize. A couple years ago I did an estate sale for an elderly woman in our church. My MIL never forgot that. This is an area I am good at, as I love antiques and have always been an estate sale junky. So she has asked me to do an estate sale with her stuff.

So, we have all there stuff to get moved 12 hours away and we need to sell all the other stuff and sell the house. We will be doing the move ourselves (DH will drive the big U-haul, as there is no money to hire professional movers. As it is, it looks like DH and I will be footing the bill for the U-haul.) This while playing nurse, maid and chef to them, maintaining our own home, homeschooling, selling on ebay and running businesses.

I wanted them to wait until she was healed before they move, but in Oregon there is a law that a home can't stay vacant for more than three monthes. Since DH's step brother and his family are moving out of the manufactured home into the one they just built in March, they must move by June at the latest.

And, to top it off, she is supposed to have "babysitters" 24 hours a day. She not so subtly hinted that I should do this, but I really can't do the homeschooling, ebay, etc. from there and I need to be home for the other two when they get home from school, as they are too young to stay alone. So I have played dumb and ignored this, but of course have major guilt. DH's dad is still working until they move and needs to be able to go to work. Once they move, he will be able to afford to retire. So no one is there for her. Besides the physical issue of doing it all, she has the personality that can drive me to drink. I am sure she is a long lost twin to Marie from "Everybody loves Raymond."! Manipulation by guilt is her specialty. So being with her for 40 + hours a week really can't work! I can't be all things to all people. I feel on the brink of snapping. Arghhhh!

Thanks for letting me vent! Not sure what anyone can say to fix this, but it felt good to whine! Anyone have any cheese to go with my whine?


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Oh Brenda! That will take the bounce out of any pig. I'm so sorry that you find yourself in this situation. Darn it!

Some people are just takers. They don't have a proper sense of boundaries and a distorted view of what others should be doing for them. I keep as far away from these sorts of people as I can, I've learned that I usually feel used in these sort of situations. Don't forget that you, your marriage, and your children come first. I know you know this, but I wanted to say it. It will be hard enough to maintain your children's needs around this crisis, let alone the rest of your obligations. The move and the house sale are more than enough. YOU are paying for your in-law's move with your precious and limited time, money and energy. They get a free move. Is that fair? It seems that you might be in for a train wreck if their house has any issues whatsoever that you have to address during the real estate transaction. What legal documents will you have to get in order for that to happen smoothly?

Doesn't this family have medical insurance? That should pay for some sort of in-home care if the doctor orders it.

Once they leave their current house, rent a dumpster and have a 27 thousand fling boogie! And maybe you should tell her that you will do this if you get the proceeds from the estate sale? That might be a testy condition, but at least you would have that money to look forward to in order to "thank you" for the trouble you are going to. Step family dynamics are so difficult, guilt-ridden from the get-go. . Don't allow even more guilt to form you and your husband's response to this situation. Preserve your sanity. If you make the decision to be saintly, just make sure you and your husband are in agreement about everything.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 6:02PM
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Can the brother-in-law in the manufactured home sort of "live there" until your in-laws can move (MIL is healed, that is). It seems if he would even sleep in that manufactured house every couple of nights, or work in there, or have a party there with the kids, something, that house isn't completely vacant. That way, you can move them later this spring.

Really, you MIL shouldn't move until she is completely well. It would be so terrible for your in-laws to have another medical crisis in a town that's new to them, new doctors, hospitals, etc. Insist that they get in-home nursing care as she recovers or you will snap. Meals on wheels, Visiting Nurses Association, etc should be able to help. Does the hospital where she's having surgery have a social worker type person? Call the social worker.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 6:12PM
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Brenda, I am sorry for your overloaded situation. I am stressed just thinking about it. Cup has some good suggestions. Please, when you have a spare minute, post and vent all you need. You know you have support here.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 7:18PM
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I am so sorry. Hang in there. Put your order in now for a massage that dh pays for when this is over. And know that you can vent to us anytime. I'm praying for you.

You have some good advice on this board. Take the time to take a step back and do some research and find what community resources there are in your area. (And in your inlaw's area). I can't say that I speak from experience but as the elected official who sits on several boards and community service type committees, there are many resources out there that are often times not used.

Most communities have laws on the books that will say "this and this is true but if.... some one is sick this and this may be waived". You might call the local Planning and Zoning Code enforcement officer and see what the deal is for your area. And ask, what constitutes occupied as well- occupied might just mean having somethings in it, as opposed to being vacant and empty.

When the p/z officer for your area finds something is wrong and that it is difficult to meet the letter of the law, will bend over backwards to help you work through a waiver system or to find the loop holes.

I'd start with the p/z officer for your area and then call the one for your parents area and see what they can say ang do to help you.

And again, do some research about respit care for your mother. Meals on Wheels can help. Our community also has a group for early child intervention that also picks up elderly care. They have a day care for elderly people like your mother. A bus comes and picks them up any time starting at 6am and then drives them to the place and takes them home any time until about 8pm. So there are some options. (At least in our community there are options and most of these are federally funded so I assume there are options in other states!)

While you are looking for help you might mention that any financial help would be appreciated.

The same adult day care place will pay electricity bills for three months and do taxes for free. Other places in our community will provide food baskets.

The social worker at the hospital should be able to help. But I'd also call your local governing body office who may be able to direct you to resources you are unaware of right now. Additionally, you might call the gas company and electric company and explain the tight money and now hurt mil situation and they often times will help too.

Good Luck. I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 8:05PM
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Hoo boy,good luck with this one.It is okay to be firm about owning your own time block for your own family.I have been in a similer situation with my inlaws,and have learned to do what I can do reasonably ,and I no longer let my husband and his sisters bully me into doing what they are not willing to do.My MIL is very ill,and despite her wish to remain at home I am convinced that her needs would be more suitably met by health care professionals.Along the road to helping DH's family and my own mother,I have found some first rate help.Section eight can provide affordable housing and help meet utility bills.They are a division of your local welfare program.Medicaid will pay for two or three in house visits per week.They will also provide an emergency help button free of charge for when MIL is alone.Local churches almost always provide in home sitting and/or hospice respite once a week.The programs are nondenominational(our local Lutherin church is happy to serve Catholics).Most major drug companies have a discount plan to help pay for prescriptions.Go to the maker of the drug online for programs.Some states will also kick in for prescriptions.There may even be a local church that would help with grunt work on moving day.
It is important to remember that no matter how much you help,there is no way to post a gain in the inlaw popularity poll.Do what you can without martyring yourself and your family.Best wishes.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 9:39PM
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I know you're overwhelmed, but one more thing: Are in-laws up to date on their property taxes? Is the deed clear? You don't want any unpleasant surprises at a real estate closing.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 9:42PM
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Do you know a financial planner who has an expertise in the situations of retired people? If they are going to be eligible for governement entitlement programs and the like, they are going to have to have all of their ducks in a row. With the sale of a house and retirement at their feet, these in-laws probably need a crash course on planning for these sunset years. I don't know if the Garden Web has any other forums where these matters are discussed (financial planning and money management for retired people) but in order to stem off destitution (given the past errors they have made) now might be a good time for them to sit down with an advisor and think ahead. Or even with your husband and appropriate computer software designed to manage finances and investments.

In fact, they might need a financial make-over. Do you know the status of their wills, insurance policies, pension, etc? Don't let this stop you for inquiring about public or private assistance, but at some point (unless they're beyond 62-65 ish) they might need to produce these documents. I really don't know anything about this, just that these issues might be more complicated than selling a house and moving. Maybe your DH can talk to his father in-depth, before the 18th. How's their relationship?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 9:52PM
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Oh Brenda! I'm so sorry. I wish we lived closer and I could help you out. Would there be any possible way you could hire a real estate company to handle the sale? I know it's expensive...but. And the same with the estate sale. Somethings gotta give and it can't be you. You were maxxed out before this happened. Your DH and boys are first priority. Take care of yourself too.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2005 at 8:18AM
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wow, that does sound overwhelming!

I don't think you actually asked for advice, but I'm gonna giv esome.

I think you need to get someone else to handle the estate sale. Offer your expertise in FINDING that someone, and SUPERVISING that someone--that's enough!

I had a friend who was SO good at manipulation by guilt. She'd explain her problem in this pleading voice, ending w/ that little "lilt" that come at the end of a question. And wait. And invariably people would try to solve that problem. And if you didn't, you felt guilty somehow.

I found I just had to be "steely" in my determination NOT to respond. "gee, that's too bad." Sometimes even, "gee, that's too bad, what will you do?" (not 'what can I do?')

Maybe you can't delegate helping them move. And maybe the $ value will be important in terms of helping them sell their home.

But I would delegate the estate sale, pronto! Even if it was just to other kids or sisters or nieces or nephews.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2005 at 10:54AM
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I'm so sorry for all your problems. Wouldn't it be great if one of those TV clean-up/selling your home shows could just step in and get it done for you? Obviously, that's not a solution unless you live in a certain area, I think. Perhaps your in-laws church could set aside a weekend to clean out the house and get it ready for sale. Or, you should have a family meeting and ask everyone which weekend works best for them to clean out the house so it is ready for sale. It should not have to be up to you alone.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2005 at 12:39PM
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in Oregon there is a law that a home can't stay vacant for more than three monthes.

This just floors me! Are you *sure*? Or is it that some tax status will change?

Oh, and Marie26 is right, there are OTHER people in your in-laws' lives, and I bet they'd help w/ so e of that stuff.

Maybe it's time to start coaching stepmom to ask favors of other people.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2005 at 2:52PM
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Brenda, You're doing too much. I know because I helped my parents get ready to move, held their estate sale, then helped them move. I'm thankful it was to an Assisted Living community, but every single time I would visit my parents, my mother had a list 5 miles long. I realized that my visits there were only about what I could do for her, since she was "taking care" of my Dad. I never got to visit with him much before he died because her needs always took precedence. Since that time, she has grown less caring about me, and isn't happy unless all my attention revolves around her and her needs while I'm there. I don't visit her as much as I'd like to, because it is exhausting, and she doesn't give anything back. Consequently, my visits any more are very short and have become fewer and farther between.

I can only speak for myself, but our relationship is not what it used to be.

Delegate and share the burden with some of those siblings or you will just end up resenting these people. They need help, but it doesn't all have to come from you!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2005 at 5:06PM
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Brenda, you've gotten a lot of good advice here. Please know that we're thinking of you & we're here anytime you need to vent. Also, please be careful. If I remember correctly, you had a pretty serious bout of pneumonia last year & were sick quite a while. You are under a HUGE amount of stress, which can really play havoc with your immune system. When my mom was sick, I was trying to juggle a full-time job, my own home responsibilities, helping DH start a new business, & helping take care of my parents' housework & my mother's personal care. I came down with strep throat, which I hadn't had since I was a child. My doctor said I was run down from the stress & that I probably wouldn't have gotten it under ordinary circumstances. One person can only do so much. If you overdo & get sick, everyone will really have a problem.

Check with your local Department of Aging. They should have a lot of resources to help you. Ours here will deliver lunch to home-bound seniors (for free if the person can't afford it, but they ask for a small donation of a dollar or so if possible). They can also tell you where you can get in-home assistance. I don't know what siutation your in-laws are in regarding Medicare & insurance, but certainly you need to take advantage of everything you can. If your in-laws attend church, what about church members? They are usually happy to help provide meals & even respite by staying with someone for a while. I don't know how your in-laws feel about having other people help out, but they're going to need that now. My parents didn't want anyone except my sister & me doing things for them. My own doctor had to step in because of my exhaustion & get them to bring in people from outside the immediate family to assist.

Take care!


    Bookmark   February 9, 2005 at 7:14PM
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Alexina Properties

Hi Brenda, I hope I can comment on this even though I've just recently started coming over to this forum.
First, you are truly overwhelmed and the next few months it won't be easy. I've been through this. First when my father was dying of cancer, and secondly when my mother alxheimers got to the point that we had to keep moving her from center to center over 5 years becuase of her health then her temper (she was a very mean 4'7' 86 lb lady and kept hitting other patients unfortunately)
So here is my little bit of advice on staying sane:
1) have you and dh discuss what you can actually handle, not what mother in law thinks you can handle.
2) After you and dh figure out what you CAN handle, talk to other relatives/family friends who can help and DELEGATE.
I have some strong opinions about the estate sale, having helped with several relatives estates. You say you have a good knowledge of prices, well I think maybe you should walk through and price the things that are over say $10.00 or $20.00 and let all the other stuff be priced by someone else. I personally think hiring a professional who does estate sales is a GOOD thing, but here where I live, if you dind't have quite a few people walking around, there would be alot of people stealing.
I would NOT throw away anything if you are having an estate sale, please talk to a few professionals and you might actually bring in more money for your mom by having soemone else do it and you not having the stress.
about moving them: perhaps you can talk to UHAUL (or similar) and they many times have just loader/unloaders who will come when everything is ready to go and they load you, then at new area UHAUL sends an unloader (you still drive vehicle) but that makes it much easier to have soemone else lifting all that heavy stuff.
I wish you the best, I feel really bad for you. Remember that you can only do what you can do, and you have to make sure you don't kill yourself.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2005 at 10:20AM
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We had moved across country once using a UHaul and we hired loaders on one end and people to unload on the other end.

There are also moving/storage companies that supply containers and move the containers for you to the destination. They will also store the containers for you if you don't want to move them immediately. These companies are not that expensive and I had considered using them when I thought I would have to pay for my own move. (Luckily for us, the company picked up the tab so we had packing, moving and unpacking) You can hire their movers to load and unload into the containers or do it yourself. You can check out one of these companies at doortodoor.com. There are other companies as well that do the same thing.

My son had used the containers when his new house wasn't quite ready and he had to get out of the old one. It gave him some breathing room without a lot of extra costs.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2005 at 12:47PM
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Thanks everyone for lots of very good advice and just the feeling of caring. It really helps.

DH and I are going to talk with the inlaws about lots of these things. We already committed to the estate sale and the selling of the house for them, but I agree, help is needed. I have dealt with antiques for years, so I really do know pricing well, so I don't think I will be underpricing their things. We will have several friends be there during the sale, to make sure things aren't lifted. When I did the last one, I had a minimum of six people in the house at all times. My head is still spinning as to what the best way to handle some tasks are. We have gotten others from church to help with bringing meals now and "babysit" her. I realized that if I was to be her babysitter too, I would absolutely come unglued and land in the funny farm before it is over. I love her, but she can drive me insane. And, since she is my MIL, and a step one at that, we are not as close as with a real mom, so I think my patience is a bit thinner.

But I am going to try to get tough and demand a few things be done a certain way. Such as, the estate sale must fall before the house closes, but after they move out. They need to give us a two week gap. Otherwise, we would have to do the sale while everything is still there and separating the keep and not keep would be impossible, not to mention a ton more work. I will make this clear that this is NOT negotiable. If they don't agree, I will tell them I won't do the sale. Also, if we are going to sell the house for them, they CAN NOT be there when we are showing. My MIL "overshares" and will end up saying things like "we will get that painted before it closes, etc." and add to our "to do" list. She cannot be there. If they don't agree to this, they will have to pay a realtor. Someone asked about finances and if things were in order for selling the house. While my inlaws have been dumb with the money, there is only the one mortgage on the house and no other liens on it. We sold two homes ourselves and so are pretty confident with the legalities and paperwork. We are having it appraised though, as the market changed very quickly here this last year. We have made it clear to the inlaws that they will not get top dollar, as the home needs some work and we do not have the time, money or energy to do this.

I would love to hire professional packers, etc., but since they have no money, we need to do it ourselves. As it is, it looks like we will be footing the bill for the moving van. I really do want to help, but we can't sink all of our funds into this, as we have our own family and responsibilities to look after.

Having relieved myself of the thought of being her babysitter has made things much easier. I can handle laundry and will still do much of the cooking, but I can't stand sufficating.

Well, I need to run. I am taking an 82 year old lady shopping. My MIL did this, so now, I have inherited her too! LOL!

Thanks for the support!


    Bookmark   February 10, 2005 at 4:57PM
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My sympathies -- you really do seem to be stretched awfully thin!! And not because all the news is good, either.

I realize I'm not a "regular" in this forum (it's too easy for me to read instead of clean, so I clean), but I can say you've been offered some excellent advice here.

First good for you for sticking up for yourself and your family in negotiating with your in-laws!

I would suggest that you really need to examine your priorities for the next couple of months. You, your husband, and your family certainly take first, second, and third place. The rest of it -- I think -- is up for grabs. You have only 24 hours in a day, and much of it is already spoken for. Ration the rest carefully.

The shopping trips for the 82-year-old lady can wait. I realize shopping may well be the highlight of her weeks, but you are in emergency mode right now. She should be able to understand that; I hope there is someone else who can take her either this week or next week, realizing they do not have to make a lifetime commitment of it.

Despite your commitment to do the estate sale, it's relatively easy to hand that off. While it will cost some off the top for their services, you have other things you need do to. Not to sound mean, but other people know how to price items. Maybe you could just spot-check a few just before the sale and challenge them if a price seems horribly out of line? That's far easier than tagging everything and running the sale yourself. There are things you need to do (like talk with social-services types) that you cannot hire anyone else to do. The rest you should be able to let go.

Can some of your Ebay business wait? Maybe you just sell and ship what's already up for auction and don't put anything new up for auction until things calm down some. Ditto for the home-based businesses -- maybe honor current commitments and backpedal some on new ones for right now?

Since you homeschool, is there any chance lessons could tie in with what's going on now? Maybe the math lesson can be calculating how much paint to buy or how much it will cost to move, given the cost of the truck, per-mile charges, and fuel. Maybe the kids can do some research on available help options for your in-laws?

And it may be time to lower your standards temporarily. Maybe more of the laundry gets shoved into the same load. PB&J for dinner won't kill anyone -- and it's even better if your kids can prepare it for you. I don't know what DH does for a living, but is it possible he could call and coordinate the Planning & Zoning folks or your church? He may not do the job as thoroughly as you feel you could, but it gets done and it gets off your plate. Doesn't hurt to involve him in the care of his parents, either.

Finally, remember that actions have consequences and that people choose their own actions and their own consequences. Your in-laws are the ones who made questionable financial decisions. It is admirable of you to want to help out as best you can, but you are not responsible for digging them completely out of the hole in which they placed themselves.

Hang in there! You'll get through this -- and be a stronger person for it!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2005 at 9:24AM
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Finally, remember that actions have consequences and that people choose their own actions and their own consequences.

This is an important lesson, and it's one I struggle with. But it's true.

And sometimes, just like w/ AA, you have to let the other person "hit bottom" or they'll never learn how to CHANGE what it is they're doing. If they always feel they can be bailed out, they may never be wise with their money, careful with their bodies, etc.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2005 at 10:20AM
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Steve, thanks for the advice and encouragement. I am handing some of the "Calling" over to DH. He is a paramedic, so he works weird hours, but there are some times he can do things. He also teaches first aid on the side (one of our side businesses.) so he is busy, but he has agreed to do some of the calls. He has talked with his step brother (the ones who have offered them the manufactured home) and we seem to all be on the same page now. To begin with it seemed that the step brother was thinking it was all "his" call on when and how things were done, but I think he is now realizing our role is greater at this point, since we are the ones in the area. DH is supposed to call his sister and get her to agree to help do some sorting too. She most likely will try to say no, but hopefully will agree to help a bit. She has a very strained relationship with my MIL, so it is hard for her to want to be too involved. People in the church have been helping with "babysitting" and meals, so that has been great. She has her surgery next week and then will be in rehab for a couple weeks. So this will give us all some time to "regroup" and get a game plan. I am hoping we will have the house up for sale by mid to late March. If I just look at things "one day at a time" I do much better. When I think "big picture" I panic, so I try to stay in the "moment" as much as possible.

Really things are going okay. I even took most of Friday off and was lazy and worked on a puzzle with my kids! I really needed this.

As I go through this process, I am realizing part of the problem is me! I am a control freak!! I have a hard time trusting details to others because too many people have failed me in the past. So I am really trying to learn to trust people and give control to some of the others.


P.S. My FIL is now learning how to do laundry for the first time in nearly 70 years of life!! Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks! LOL!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2005 at 5:47PM
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Your post made me smile. I'm so happy things are working out and you are learning to delegate. It's hard when people have let you down in the past. I have trouble with that also but since I'm working so many hours my family has taken over and things are much better around here.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2005 at 7:24AM
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Brenda, it's good to hear that things are resolving themselves, even if slowly. It's also good to hear that you are experiencing some (positive, I hope) personal growth out of this situation.

Hang in there. I'm sure this group will be here for you as things play out, and will be good to offer suggestions or ready shoulders (and towels) as need be.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2005 at 9:59AM
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You are a true champ; these are tough times for you and your family but I'm confident you'll come through with success and still keep your sanity and well being......

all the best of luck to you..

    Bookmark   February 20, 2005 at 8:12AM
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