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Author Topic: It's time for a change with FMIL  (Read 10790 times)

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It's time for a change with FMIL
« on: October 16, 2012, 09:20:40 PM »
I've recently been diagnosed with a pretty serious health condition. At first, I was completely overwhelmed, and my amazing family, as well as DF's amazing family, jumped right in to support me and were there for me and really helped me out by just being available to talk or keep me company as needed. However, now that my treatments have settled a bit, I'm not feeling as great. I know it's because everything is working well, but the side effects are just starting to catch up with me and I'm always very tired and have a generally under-the-weather feel all the time, I have a very compromised immune system, I'm not in a position to work any less than I currently am (although my bosses have been wonderfully accommodating, it's still just stressful), I am probably going to have to put down my first childhood horse very soon, I am spending many hours in the hospital 3-4 days a week, and I'm relying on other people for a lot which is unusual and stressful to me. There's just a lot going on in my life right now, and when things get like this, I function best when I can pull everything in and feel more in control, which often involves pulling away from people a little bit.

DF's mom is a wonderfully sweet lady and we get along very very well. She has stayed with us when she had medical issues, we have stayed with her in some times of need, we can go out shopping or for lunch and have a fabulous time, I really adore her. She also has a medical background and loves to give medical advice and treatments. Sometimes this is very helpful. Other times, I'd rather handle things myself. Currently, I'd like to handle things on my own. I am working with my doctors and following all of their instructions. A lot of my side effects are kind of well, gross...bowel/stomach and lady part related. You know, not something you really want to discuss with a whole lot of people. FMIL keeps asking me about it, very often in front of other people. I've tried to put her off by saying everything is going just fine, my doctors are pleased with my progress, I'm right where I should be, I don't really want to discuss that. But she keeps asking. And she insists that because she has medical training, it's ok to talk about it with her. But I don't want to. I so appreciate how she jumped in and helped me to talk to some of the first doctors who diagnosed me before my own mom was able to get here, however, now that things are more settled and I know what's going on and feel more in control of things, I really want to be sharing less medical information with people. I don't seem to be able to make this clear.

I've also had a problem with her showing up unannounced at my house on my treatment days. I know that she's only doing it because she thinks that it will be helpful to come over and offer to clean or make dinner, but to be honest, it's just stressful to me. I feel like I need to make sure I'm wearing makeup and not lounging around in my jammies and the house needs to be neater and I need to sit and chat and entertain her for hours, and after treatments, all I really want to do is lay on my couch and watch about 5 hours of something utterly mindless on TV and eat a very specific and easy to make comfort meal and go to bed early. I've told DF that this bothers me and he's tried to talk to her and tell her she needs to call first, but she insists that it's ok and she's helping so it's not a problem. I don't want to offend her but I really just need a bit more space. Even my own mom has talked to her about this! They are very friendly and my mom just mentioned in passing that she knows how I am when I'm sick and how I really value my space and privacy and just like to hole up alone and come back when I feel better. FMIL's response was to say that that isn't a healthy method for dealing with problems and she doesn't think it's fair that she should have to call before coming to her own son's house and if he doesn't care, then I shouldn't either. However, nearly all of the time that she comes over, I am home alone or possibly hanging out with my good friend who often drives me to the hospital. I wouldn't mind nearly as much if DF were around because he is excellent at distracting her from asking inappropriate questions. But she never shows up when he's there.

Sorry, this turned into a bit of a rant there at the end!  :P


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2012, 09:28:58 PM »
I am so sorry you are having to deal your health issues and a serious boundary trampler at the same time. First, DF is the one that needs to handle her. If she really believes that she shouldn't need to call, he is going to need to be very firm in disabusing her of that notion. And for you, it is okay to not be dressed, not be made up, not be social, and not answer the door. You d not owe this to her. She owes it to you to respect your need for privacy.

On the lighter side, your description had me picturing Helen Mirren in Red, smiling and saying it was alright, she was sure she was allowed to be there.
Now our mom says she's changed her mind about the devil's brood, they may be evil so she thinks, but at least they're never rude...
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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2012, 09:30:49 PM »
...    she doesn't think it's fair that she should have to call before coming to her own son's houseand if he doesn't care, then I shouldn't either. ...

I'm afraid your DF is going to have to step up and let his Mom know that yes, he'd prefer she call before she comes over whether he's there or not, and gently remind her that not all people feel or react the same when they're not feeling up to par.  He needs to tell her that sometimes you really truly DO do better when you're just left alone and don't have to feel like you have to clean up, get dressed nice, put on make up and then entertain someone else.  Sometimes you would just rather stay in bed and rest.  You won't always be this way, but just for now it would be best if she waited to be invited or at the very least called to be sure it was an okay time to come and for how long she might reasonably be expected to stay.

When he and you do this, be sure you tell her in the same way you told us that you DO definitely love her and appreciate immensely all she's done with and for you.


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2012, 09:33:59 PM »
Recently I had to address 2 boundary tramplers. What I did was to write a letter, including both praise for their positives and the firm message I had to deliver. After I wrote it, I had 2 very close friends proofread it. Then I read it to each person & immediately e-mailed I to them. Afterwards each apologized. The pressure on me has decreased dramatically although occasionally it flares up.


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2012, 09:44:42 PM »
Possible wimpy solution. When she shows up, kinda look at her and apologize that you aren't feeling well and you are going to go lay down now. Then go do that. If she tries to fuss just say you are fine but treatments are very draining and you need to rest. Then ignore her. If she talks to you, pause and look puzzled and repeat that you were resting.

Hopefully she will get the hint. If not be more direct.


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2012, 09:47:31 PM »
I think her motivations for helping you are more selfish than you realize. If she truly wanted to help she would listen to you when you discuss your needs. she ignored your request for peace because her son-who isn't even there when she visits-hasn't objected...that tells me that she does not respect you as a full resident of the household or as the person with the illness. I think her helpfulness is more about her trying to look saintly in her son's eyes than it is about actually taking care of you.

Of course your DF needs to have a very firm talk with her, so that she doesn't just brush off whatever he's said as she has with you and your mother. I also suggest not answering the door when she comes over at an inconvenient time and perhaps put up a "do not disturb" sign when you don't want visitors.

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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2012, 09:49:37 PM »
TealDragon, she doesn't have a key does she?


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2012, 10:03:39 PM »
First, hugs to you for having so many things to deal with, and best wishes for your health to improve.

As for your MIL, I may have misunderstood some detail, but I gather that you have asked your husband to speak with her on some points like calling ahead before dropping in to check on you/help, and your mother has spoken with her about giving you space - but you have not spoken directly with MIL?

My suggestion would be that *you* speak with MIL, start by acknowledging the ways that she has been helpful which you very much appreciated (it sounds like ther are at least a few) - then explain to her that while you appreciate the knowledge and care she has and offers, at this point in time you are comfortable with the medical care and advice you are receiving, and just acknowledge that you have periods of time, on treatment days or otherwise, when you just prefer to conserve your energy, be by yourself other than needed medical treatment, and while you appreciate her desire to help and be involved, you find it better for you at this point in time that you have your alone time as *alone* time, and can enjoy her company when it is a planned get together.

If she just really, really wants to check in on you periodically without pre-planning, maybe you can suggest to her that you will use one of those door signs new parents often use hung on the front door that say "baby sleeping" so folks know not to ring the doorbell, tell her you'll use something to signal "drop in visits welcome" or "not".

Off topic, but related, my family including myself are kinda loud, loving Southerners (US), my long term boyfriend's  family are stoic, loving New Englander's.  We have really different communication, and general comfort zones for some situations - boyfriend's mother would always want to be dressed and prepared a certain way before either visiting us, or having us at her home for a meal.  I would generally feel the same for going "out" but at home am more relaxed for an informal family meal.  As we live in different states, this was never an issue, or even a distinction I recognized until boyfriend and I rented a condo for a month at the start of the year to be near his mother and enjoy the beach (we work from home enabling short term relocations). 

I thought we'd spend many nights having his mother over for dinner, or cooking with/for her at her home.  It wasn't until after the second week in the condo when I asked boyfriend if twice a week was enough, that he explained she felt a need to "dress" if we were coming to dinner, or having her to dinner, and twice a week was as often as that felt good for her.  This surprised me, in part because of my own practices, but also because we'd spent 10 days at his mother's before going to the condo, dinner together every night and no special need to dress other than casually unless we were going out.  Months later, another family member mentioned that his mother had wondered why we rented a condo rather than stay at her house - which we do often, and had just done.  I mentioned that I had not wanted to be a guest in her home for six weeks and prevent her having the privacy she is used to for that period of time, but loved being near her and seeing her often.

 My takeaway from all this was that communication is so important, because what "feels" best/right can vary, but if different views and preferences are stated and known, everyone can feel the love and limit the consternation.
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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2012, 11:41:59 PM »
When you have this conversation with your MIL, start off by saying how much you appreciate her help, of course.

Then say, "As things are changing, I need you ask you for some more help, but I'm afraid this time it's really going to be hard. I might be asking too much--but I genuinely need this help, and you're really the only person I can turn to."

Then tell her that you're feeling both stronger and overwhelmed. That as you are getting more accustomed to the situation, you find that there are many places where you have an emotional need to have the control back. To maintain some privacy about your health and your body. To have some privacy for your fatigue and

Ask her to help you protect your privacy and your cocooning time. Don't make it be about "holing up" or "retreating" or "withdrawing"--think of the most positive description for your instinctive reaction.

Call it "cocooning" and "nesting"; emphasize "privacy" and "dignity"; call it "healing solitude" and "self-sufficiency."

Explain how it helps you heal, helps you get strong. How the quiet and the lack of stress from having someone around are very powerful.

And then ask her to help you protect that. Ask her to check whether you're cocooning or ready to emerge, before she comes over.

Make it be about how she is helping you, and not about how she is doing something wrong.

Make it be about what you DO want (solitude; peace; cocooning) and not about what you DON'T want (no people, no her, no interruptions).

As for her asking for details, etc., especially in front of other people, develop two phrases. One for when you're alone that emphasizes your desire for privacy regarding your medical details ("MIL, I'm going to start keeping these health details private again--if only because talking about it just stresses me out."

And in front of others, don't have any hesitation about saying that this is a gross topic for you to discuss in front of acquaintances: "MIL, this is neither the time nor the place for this discussion. I don't wish to discuss this in front of other peope. Please don't ask anymore."


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL, lilacrosey
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2012, 12:04:32 AM »
I'm so sorry that sounds horrible! I think she should be nicer  :-X


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2012, 12:35:59 AM »
A radical thought - have you considered disconnecting the doorbell?  If you're not actually expecting anyone, and you'd rather be recuperating when you're at home, just turn it off or disconnect it (depending on how yours works) and just ignore if she comes to "visit."  This can be accompanied by being blunt, since subtle hasn't stuck: "MIL, I appreciate that you want to help, but right now I just need to recover at my own pace.  I realize you think this is unhealthy but that's between me and my doctor.  When you come over to help, even though you're cleaning or making dinner, it's more stress for me because I've got someone other than myself in the house.  DH is taking good care of me, I promise!"

I'd nip the medical talk in the bud, too, the next time she tries to get you to talk about your medical issues: "MIL, I appreciate the help you've given on this already, but my doctor and I have it under control now.  I'm not comfortable talking about that aspect of my illness anymore.  I promise I'll let you know if there's something you can do to help!"


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2012, 08:32:00 AM »
You want to sit in your jammies and watch TV for hours after a treatment? I say do it. I say try, at least for one day to see how it feels, to have a post-treatment day go the way YOU want. Sit on the couch. Nap with the TV on, whatever you want. Leave that makeup off. Don't make conversation when you don't feel like it. And when FMIL comes over in the the middle of this, just keep on doing it. Don't let her cajole you into conversation or housework or anything. Tell her straight out, "I'm going to watch this show now." Or, "I'm tired and going to nap now." If FMIL isn't willing to change her behavior for you, why should you change for her, especially when YOU'RE the one who's recovering? I'm not advocating that you be rude to her; it's still nice to thank her for caring, but let go of the feeling that you have to host her when she is actually intruding on your private time knowingly against your wishes.

Also, but you'll need your DF's cooperation on this, just don't tell her what days your treatments are.

Another idea, to get DF to realize that he's part of the problem, is to have you spend recovery at another place, like the house of a close friend or family member. Say "I really want a stress-free day with privacy." Then, when you're ready, go home and crow about how much better it felt to recooperate without guests dropping in. He'll get the hint fast.


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2012, 08:47:34 AM »
First, stop accomodating her needs when she drops by unannounced (better yet, don't let her in -- but I know I couldn't do that, so I can't blame you). Go about your recovery in the way that's best for YOU, and let go of the need to be "presentable" or a hostess.

And reiterate that she's not welcome to drop in any old time -- not because you don't love her, but because you're just not interested in that from anyone. Get iron-clad backup from the fiance, too.


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2012, 08:53:20 AM »
Honestly, I think everything you said in your original post is a great way to talk to her about it. You acknowledge she's trying to help and that you've appreciated everything she's done but now your preference is to be given space, to not be asked anything other than generalities of "how are you feeling" and that she should call before coming over and understand if you do not want the company even though it's intended as help.

Just make sure that you make it clear "I really must insist on these things. It's just how I deal with stress and I need you to respect that even if you don't understand it."


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Re: It's time for a change with FMIL
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2012, 09:01:14 AM »
I would send her an email or a note via DF (so she can't turn it into a discussion and try to argue) and say something like -

"MIL I really appreciate how loving and helpful you've been through all of this. I find that lately, after my treatments, I really just want to go home, change into jammies, and nap on the couch for the rest of the day. I'm telling you this so that you won't take it personally if you pop over and I don't answer the door. I don't want you to think I don't want to see YOU when actually I'm not up for seeing anybody. Thank you for understanding."

Then, if she comes over, don't answer the door. Personally I never answer my door when I'm not expecting anyone and I don't feel bad about it at all. Next she may try calling and telling you she's going to come over in which case you can say "Thank you but I'm fine. I think I'll go lie down for a bit." and again, don't answer if she shows up.