Help! My mother-in-law may be moving in. (longish)

My mother-in-law will be retiring at the end of the year. She divorced my wife’s father 23 years ago and has remained single since. She’s somewhat set in her ways and impatient about when things are just so. (aka: she can be a pain in the ass sometimes). She currently lives roughly 500 miles away.

I get credit for being the sperm donor & provider for her grandchildren but after that I’m pretty useless. My wife & her have a strained, albeit slowly improving, relationship after my wife was used for years as the ping-pong ball in the post-divorce “Let’s get even with my Ex” games. The scars from that run deeply.

Her health is rapidly deteriorating, she’s on multple daily drugs for joint, heart, & other circulatory issues. She’s becoming prone to falls & is almost unable to climb stairs anymore. My wife is convinced, given family history, that she won’t live more than five more years.

The whole “moving in” thing started with her idea that she wanted to move to Denver upon retirement - to be close to her only grandkids (my wife is an only child). Frankly, if it weren’t for the grandchildren, I’m not sure she’d move here. She’s also becoming unable to navigate her three-floor townhouse she currently owns.

An assisted living center nearby would be good but, frankly, we can’t afford it nor can she.

Her initial thought was to spend about $100K for a single-floor, walk-in-level condo in the area. Unfortunatly, $100K won’t buy that in Denver - at least not to the quality & location iwith which she’d be satisfied.

My worry is that her rapid detoriation will start to sap more and more of my wife’s time, with her at her mother’s place to do more and more tasks. The solution we came up with was to have her move in with us. That way we’d have her close to make the increasing care easier and less time consuming & my kids would have some normalcy rather than constantly being shuttled to and from Grandma’s all the time. (I grew up with an invalid grandmother - my father spent weekly time away from his family to spend time with his mother. His brother was live-in-care for the roughly twenty years she was bedridden until her death.)

Our house is too small for her to live-in permantly so the idea is to sell our place, taking the roughly $30K equity with her $100K and buy (perhaps build) a new house with another 1000 square feet or so. With luck, she’d have either an oversized bedroom & bath of her own or perhaps a bedroom, bath & nearby “sitting room” of her own. I would continue to work & pay the remainder of the mortgage (hopefully close to today’s payment) & bills like I do today. Finding and outright “mother-in-law apartment” would be ideal but because of city zoning restrictions, they’re really rare.

So the questions are, especially for those who live with your parents or in-laws:

What should the ground rules be?

If she kicks in for the down-payment, should she pay additional monthly for food and/or additional utilities? (She should receive a pretty healthy pension check.)

How can I keep from killing her?

What else?

Very familiar with this situation.

Best advice is for you all to sit down and set strict guideline as what will be acceptable behaviour and which areas are whose (personal vs shared). Will meals be obligatorily shared, for example. Will you all be expected to watch tv together… This kind of thing. Or will it just be that you are near by if she needs your help.

Don’t isolate yourself though. It will be all to easy to just disappear into your room(s) and avoid her like the plague. But you should be able to continue with your life. Don’t let your life’s quality suffer.

Wishing you much luck and long lasting sanity.

Maybe renting a place would be a good soloution?

That leads me back to the problem where she’s without help most of the time or when my wife & kids are always over at her place.


That is a pickle.

Well, my community has oh, 3 or 4 local groups (not counting those with churches) that help out elderly people in their homes for free. If she gets in on those, it will decrease the ammount of time that your wife needs spend with her, while helping to preserve her independance.

We built an in-laws apartment onto our old place. A full 900 square foot one bedroom, bath, kitchen, dining area, living area, walk in closets and completely separated from our home by an adjoining door. We footed the bill and all of the labor for most of it, but my in-laws kicked in about $20 K.

We adopted a child. They were okay with that. We adopted another child. They were okay with that. When they discovered we wanted to adopt another child - they said they wanted out and btw - they needed their $20K back they had put into our home. We had never intruded into their space nor ever asked them to babysit.

To make a long and unpleasant story short, it came down to our either having the $ for the adoption fee OR buying them out. We had to pass on the child to give them their money which they decided they wanted regardless of whether we adopted again because we “considered” adoption of another child to begin with and they felt we had enough (that child would have put us at 5 children - we now have six and are considering a sibling group of 4 more)

Your situation is probably much different, so I share our story only to ask you to consider the unknown factor. We never dreamed they would feel so strongly about our having a large family.

Another question to consider - your mother in law will have much more $ invested in the new place than you or your wife. Will she use that to impose her will on things that are important to you and your wife? Simple things like decorating to her tastes rather than you and your wifes? Or as a leverage for larger expenditures in the future like your vehicles or vacations?

On a last note … our inlaws did purchase their own groceries since they had their own kitchen but we footed the bill for water, phone, electricity and higher homeowners premiums and taxes.

I hope your experience is an easier one than ours was. They still harbor ill feelings toward us because they felt the apartment they contributed $20K to raised our property value by about $45K and we didn’t share the $25K net profit with them when we sold.

Have you discussed the nursing home option or assisted care homes with your wife ?

If it ever comes to it, we’re prepared to have both my mother or my father-in-law move in with us, but never my mother-in-law or my father. The personality thing just wouldn’t work.

As far as advice on how to make it work, try this message board. While it’s devoted to those who have problem in-laws, there’s a number of people who have experience in this situation and may be able to help with ground rules. The one that I would be clear on is hashing out who pays for what, and who owns what.

feel sorry for my father.
my grandmother moved in the day after their wedding.

she’s physically well, but very eccentric.

she tends to walk around the house at 4am with a flashlight, wearing a pair of tights, a long wooly jumper and a bobble hat.

I don’t mean to be grim, but I’ve seen cases where having an in-law move in was the death of a marriage. In this case as well, the mother-in-law wasn’t expected to live very long, but ended up hanging on, bedridden, for the next fifteen years. You need to seriously think about whether your family can deal with what all this may entail.

In situations like this, you need to consider the worst-case scenariobefore making a decision which could drasticly change the lives of your entire family. Can you tolerate it if she decides to interfere in every aspect of your family? What if she’s openly hostile to you, and tries to make trouble by playing family members against one another? (I only ask given what you said about her get-even-with-the-ex games.)

If her health seriously deteriorates, who would bear the responsibility for caring for her, changing her diaper, giving her sponge baths, and feeding her? (Nursing an ailing geriatric can be a full-time job in of itself.)

What would be the “consequences” if she decided to ignore your ground rules?

A close friend of mine wanted to add an in-law suite to her home to care for her parents. County zoning only allowed for one kitchen per house. However, they could have a wet bar in the second living room. So they put in a small sink and refrigerator, and a microwave.

Sadly, her mother died before the suite was finished, but her dad lived his last years there. He joined them for big meals, but he did use his mini-pseudo-kitchen also.

Anyway, might that be a possibility? Your MIL would have a certain amount of independence but be close enough if she needed help. You’d have to agree to treat each other’s space as individual homes, with a minimum amount of shared space as necessary (like laundry)

I can see me having to do something similar with one or both of my inlaws. They’re very sweet people, but also set in their ways, and they try so hard not to offend, it’s difficult to relax around them. I can’t imagine what it would be like if we didn’t get along. Best of luck to you and yours as you work this out!

If it is possible (and I am not ure if you can geta bank loan if oyu do it this way) , I’d strongly suggest that you all borrow the money from her to build the house, and make regular payments to her of that money: that way you own the house ands she owns (one of the) morgages. This way it is clear who owns the house. We are territorial animals, and this matters. Have the thing drawn up by a lawyer and write her a check every month. Have her turn around and write you a check back every month for rent, if you want. Just keep your records clear.

If you cannot all talk comfortably and openly about money, shitcan this whole idea right now. If you can’t communicate about money–the easiest of the personal things you will have to all learn to communicate about–then the rest of it is hopeless.

Remember at all times that everything you do is telling your children how you want to be treated when you are old.

Agree, in advance, under what circumstances your mother in law will go to a more formal care enviroment: if/when she permanently loses mobility? If/when she permently loses bowel control? If/when she can no longer live alone?

Agree, in advance, that you and your spouse will never say an unkind word about each other in front of the MIL, nor agree with anything unkind she might say.

Agree, in advance, that you will give this your best effort, that you have every hope tat it will work, but that if it doesn’t, your wife will never chose her mother over you. OYu odn’t want to feel traped her.

Agree, in advance, that all bedrooms (y’alls and the MIL’s) are sacrosanct, and there is NO casual going in and out of someone else’s room.

If you can afford it, strongly consider getting help cleaning this big new house: someone to do the heavy stuff twice a month will keep house cleaning and house cleaning standards and techniques from being an issue.

Take seperate vacations once a year. She nad you all will both need the space.

One last thing: remember that you married your wife because she was the sort of woman who couldn’t just turn her back on her aging mother, not in spite of that fact.