May 20, 2012 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Be certain before laying blame on sisters-in-law

Washington Post
 
Contact Carolyn

Email Carolyn Hax at tellme@ washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 9 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

Dear Carolyn: I come from a large family, and three of my brothers now live within 15 minutes of my 76-year-old mother. All are in their 40s and 50s and have children.

Mom, who is now divorced, recently confided to me that two of her daughters-in-law regularly neglect to include her in her grandchildren’s birthday parties and other family events, and she’s hurt by this. She otherwise has warm relationships with all of them.

Obviously she could take the matter up with my brothers, but she hasn’t. Should I delicately broach this subject with them and/or their wives – as in, “Mom tells me she loves seeing your family, and I know she would like to be included more often in family events” – or just butt out? –Worried About Mom

Way to blame the (female dogs)!

So are they responsible for inviting your mother because they’re women, and men are chromosomally incapable of issuing invitations? Or because an in-law is easier to vilify than a son/brother?

I realize your mom is the one making these charges, but it doesn’t sound as if you called her on them, and you passed them along here without apparent skepticism.

Before you utter a word, run your mother’s concerns through a fairness filter and recognize that if your mother is being excluded, then her sons are responsible.

Then, run your plans through the meddling filter: To what extent is this your business?

With immediate family, you do have slightly more say than with friends. Still, you have an option that keeps the chain of responsibility intact: Urge your mom just to say to her boys, “When I heard you held a birthday/family event without me, I felt hurt.”

If she won’t do that, and if you are on good terms with your brothers, then you can intercede ever so slightly by saying to them, “I don’t know if there’s any truth to this, and it’s not my business, but I thought you’d want to know that mom thinks you’re having family events without her.” After all, she might be wrong – and if you were in your brothers’ place, you’d presumably want the chance to clear this up.

If you’re still inclined to blame your sisters-in-law, consider: Is there any way these women could alienate you more effectively than by using secondhand information about you to draw unflattering conclusions, and then to use those conclusions as justification for stepping in and telling you (in heavily padded language) what to do?


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