Hi, Carolyn: My husband and I are at our wits’ end.
I have a great relationship with my mother-in-law. Before we had kids, we vacationed with my husband’s immediate family, and went for dinner and drinks frequently together.
We live within minutes of my in-laws, but do not get or ask for a lot of help. When we do ask for baby-sitting help, we are made to feel like it is a major inconvenience. We get a laundry list of things she has going on that MAY be impacted by a few hours with her grandchildren.
I do not mean to imply that her obligations are any less important than mine. Although, we truly only ask when it is necessary and an occasional (one in four years) anniversary dinner without children. If it is that much of an inconvenience, we would prefer she just say “no” and leave it at that. Any advice on how we can approach this with her? – J.
Best approach: Stop asking.
It would be better if she just said “no,” I agree. I also get that you want Grandma and grandkids to be close. Her huffing and puffing, though, are the equivalent of “no,” with the added message that she feels bad enough about saying it that she’ll go out of her way not to.
I’m not excusing this (it is spineless), just explaining it – though I think it’s something you already know. I think you also know that, yes, you are implying your “truly necessary” whatever is more important than her manicure.
If you don’t have even a short list of sitters you can hire, then you need to develop one. If you do have a short list and occasionally everyone is busy, then either you postpone your anniversary dinner to a workable night, or, OK, you ask your mother-in-law – knowing you’ll get excuses and no sitter.
So when you have an emergency, yes, recruit your in-laws. Otherwise? You, your husband and anyone else involved in this familial tug-of-war would all be better served if you just let go of the rope.