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Manners Matter: Mother-in-Law Worries

Dear Mary Pat,

My daughter just had surgery, and it’s been a very stressful time for her. She and her husband have three young children, and my daughter cannot lift the kids up for several more weeks. Her husband seems checked out, and he waits for me and my husband to come around and help. I know he has a job, but when he gets home at 5 pm, he can help feed the kids and get them ready for bed. I’m so frustrated and angry with him that I’m afraid I’m going to blow up. That won’t help the situation. Am I unreasonable to expect him to do his share? Should I say something to him?

Signed,
Ticked-Off Mother-in-Law
Town withheld

Dear Ticked-Off Mother-in-Law,

I don’t blame you for being upset. On top of worrying about your daughter’s health, you also have your hands full with three little grandkids. Your daughter’s recovery will probably go better for her if she doesn’t have any additional worries. If she senses your irritation or anger toward her husband, she might try to contribute to the chores ahead of schedule to help keep the peace. That should obviously be avoided.

If he is checked out, perhaps he is a little shy on coping skills, or it might be something as simple as not knowing the routine. Instead of waiting for him to take the initiative, give him options: “Joe, I’ll make dinner if you’d like to fold the laundry, or would you prefer to cook?” Either way, just focus on what is going to be most helpful for your daughter. Hopefully she will be completely healed in the next few weeks, and you can let them divvy up the household chores in whatever way works for them.

Good luck,

Mary Pat