I (F33) have a less-than-usual situation that I would appreciate others’ opinions on. It’s my MIL(F50’s). I’ve never especially liked her but always been civil and tried to be kind, regardless of how she behaves. My husband (M32, we’ve been married 3.5 years and known each other almost a decade) suffered a severe brain injury last year and it’s been pretty rough.
My MIL has caused lots of problems, but has barely done anything to help. She visited him lots when he was in a hospital 40 minutes away from her but only once once in five months when he went to a rehab hospital several hours away from her.
I traveled many hours both ways every week to see him in both places. She has started a GoFundMe, which has been essential in helping us pay some of his medical bills. But that’s been the extent of her help. She came up to visit a week ago and took him to visit his father (they are divorced) so I could get a break from the 24 hour a day caregiving I’ve been giving him (in addition to our toddler) since he was discharged two months ago. At the first hospital she fought me on being the prime contact/decision maker for the hospital as well as lying to me and helping her daughter sneak onto his transport to the next hospital without my knowledge. To be fair, my husband and had been having a lot of trouble over the year before his injury but had decided to patch things up and reconcile before the accident.
Now, she is full of “I know exactly what this is like”s and “this trip with him has given me PTSD” and how “financially drained” they are because of this (I’ve paid all of his medical bills and taken care of his changing insurance and addressing his significant debt) and telling me how I should be handling things, generally overlooking and dissing the care I have given him. To top it off, she has disrespected and cussed my mother, who has done SO much for the two of us, both during his hospital stays and since discharge.
All this to say that what I really want to do is cut off contact. She stresses me out and drives me crazy. My husband, however, has always been able to overlook her faults as a person and a mother and will certainly keep talking to her, especially now as he recovers from this brain injury.
Do I suck it up and let her drain my (very limited) energy with all her better-than-thou nonsense? Do I politely but firmly cut off contact on my end and let her bad-mouth me to everyone she can? She certainly would. Is there some middle ground I’m not seeing right now? I appreciate any advice right now. I’m worn out.
Tell her her the truth, you don’t really have the emotional or psychological energy to argue with her, as his wife you are the decision maker and that’s it.
First of all, you have my sympathies for what you’re going through. I was only 11 when my father suffered a severe brain injury, and I watched my own family deal (and continue to deal) with the familial politics that revolved around his care and well-being for the past 15 years.
The advice I’m writing to you comes from my own mother who had to buckle down and deal with this situation.
First of all, do your best to find a local support group. TBI support groups are numerous, albeit not publicized as much. Finding a local TBI group was vital for my family, as doing so allowed us to access resources that we did not know existed at first, not only for my father, but also for my mother, myself, and my siblings. Resources such as therapy, group activities, and outreach groups meant that we were better able to transition into a life in which we were acting as a caregiver far earlier than we would’ve expected.
Second, make sure you have all legal aspects covered. If you haven’t already, speak to a lawyer about becoming power of attorney over your husband’s affairs. That includes all banking, all utilities, and all medical issues as well. Carry this power of attorney with you wherever you go. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where many people may act suspect to a wife trying to coordinate her husband’s affairs, and especially if your husband’s brain injury has few visible symptoms, they may be uncooperative at first. Having a power of attorney is vital for these conversations. Furthermore, having the power of attorney will mean that your MIL will have absolutely no avenue to dictate his care.
Third, get ready to learn who your true family is. Surprising enough, my father’s family acted similar to the way your MIL is; they were very critical of my father’s care, and quick to point out mistakes that my mother, who was thrust into the role with two small children, had made in her lack of experience. In that situation, it boiled down to the fact that no parent should see their child go through something like this. Just like your situation, my own boiled down to my father’s family becoming suspect and at times, angry. As a result, my family became distant from theirs until the time came when they could better respect my mom’s decision for his care. On the brighter side, the situation opened up a whole new avenue for other family members to show how much they love and care for my family. My mother’s family moved five houses over, across a major street, so my family could walk there without crossing any traffic for my father’s sake.
This is a situation in which you cannot afford to let somebody try to take the reins from you, for the sake of your husband. Having the proper requirements in place (power of attorney, combined assets, etc.) will mean that having a firm conversation with your MIL will go better in your favour (but not necessarily in a positive way). In a situation like this, where she no longer has a say in what happens, she may naturally begin to back off, as pushing harder with calling would then constitute harassment, and any attempts from her to try and change his care with medical personnel would fall on deaf ears unless said personnel want to open themselves up to a throng of legal trouble.
I think you’re well within your rights to ignore anything she says or does that you don’t like and respond only when she is civil and helpful. If she’s going to badmouth you to anyone you can’t stop that anyway and it doesn’t have to mean anything to you or about you and your husband. Don’t forget to take care of yourself also, be kind to yourself and honor your limits where his family is concerned.
You can say to her, “I am in no place mentally to deal with your bullshit. If Arnold want to talk to you, that’s his prerogative, as of now, I’m divorcing you. Don’t call me, don’t hassle me.”
Burn the bridge, salt the earth and pillage the town of you must.
Also, get respite care and therapy. There is compassion fatigue and you can’t help if you burn out.
What you need to tell her is this” if my efforts to care for your son during his rehab aren’t up to your standards then step up and take on more responsibility. Instead of staying at home come oversee his sessions. Instead of continuing to run the go fund me help financially with more of your own money. I have done everything I can to help him as well as watch our child. You barely come visit but think you know everything so prove it by stepping up more”