Dear Annie: I have always been a generous person. I have allowed my brother, niece, nephew and now mother-in-law to live with me on a temporary basis in order to get their lives together. This hasn’t been easy, and I have tried to deal with them in the calmest possible way, but somehow they always resent it when I ask what their future plans are.
My 72-year-old mother-in-law currently lives with us and, for the most part, keeps to herself in her room. My wife and I agreed to let her move in because her other daughters kept taking advantage of her and using her small apartment for themselves. We thought it would be a good temporary change. We never expected her to stay here for the rest of her life.
Mom does annoying things that drive the rest of us completely insane. I tell her, politely, but it continues. I want to tell her to move out, but I feel extremely guilty. My wife agrees that Mom’s presence is creating problems, but she, too, is reluctant to ask her to leave. Mom’s retirement income is sufficient to afford her own place. She also has two sisters she visits on the weekends who have offered to let her move in. How do we break the news without looking like the bad guys? – In-Law Crazy in California
Dear California: When Mom moved in, did you tell her it was temporary and give her a time limit, or did you just assume she would know? If you don’t make these things crystal clear at the outset, there are bound to be surprises and hurt feelings. There’s no pleasant way to tell someone they have overstayed their welcome. Your wife should talk to her mother. Mom might be happier and have a more active social life if she lived in a community of her peers. You both can offer to go with Mom to look at some senior communities or check out the services near her sisters.
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