Having been a nurse for twenty years, I really appreciated your column on the topic. It totally rocked!
That said, I have an issue I could use some advice on. My mother-in-law hates me. She has since my husband and I were first married, and though I tried to make inroads with her, it never worked. She finds fault with everything I do, the way I keep the house, the cooking, even the way I dress. After a while, I just stopped trying. The problem is, she’s reached a point in her health where she’s no longer able to live on her own. The obvious solution is to move her in with us. We have the room, and it would be a lot more practical than a nursing home or an assisted living community. It is the decision I want to make, but I don’t want to spend the immediate future feeling criticized, judged, and found wanting, in my own home. So how can I make this work?
This is really a tough one. You seem to have made a selfless decision here, and I applaud you for that and hope all my sons-in-law are reading along. (Evil grin.) I think, since you’ve made up your mind to take her in, the only thing to do is make peace, and you seem to think so, too. The question is, how.
A couple of things spring to mind. First, I’d suggest a heart to heart with her, where you tell her how her criticism hurts your feelings, and maybe toss in that it wouldn’t, except that she’s the matriarch of the family, and your husband’s mom, and that her approval means a lot to you that you. If you approach the conversation this way, it’ll help her swallow it without feeling criticized herself. It would me. Then ease into the idea that if she’s going to be staying with you, maybe the two of you can finally begin to work on your relationship and improve it. Maybe suggest that when she starts criticizing, you’re going to remind her of this talk, by saying, “you’re doing that thing you do,” making things a little lighter and even joking about it if she’s got a good sense of humor.
Another angle might be to have your husband talk to her, and point it out when she gets critical. But my gut instinct is, it will work better if it’s between the two of you, and he just backs you up.
In addition, you might be able to find some things you two have in common. A love of gardening, or a show you both adore on TV. Something you can share that helps you to form a bond.
I really wish you the best on all of this. I think you have a very lucky mother-in-law.