*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Having a positive relationship with your in-laws while making sure your marriage is happy and you look after your kids can get challenging when boundaries are not respected.
And when you suddenly find out your in-laws are considering moving in with you even if you didn't invite them, arguments can easily start.
How would you react if you had to answer such questions, and would you be ok with your spouse not taking sides and feeling doubtful about who needs to live where? Would you think that's an indication your relationship is not strong enough or just a reason to stay firm and not allow your in-laws to interfere?
My friend Diane, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband, Liam, for five years. They have two sons together, and Diane has been home for the last six months.
"Liam and I agreed it was better if I looked after the kids and our home instead of being in the office and constantly worrying about them. It is more difficult to cover every bill, but I think it's worth saving if it means we're doing something to support our relationship and our sons," Diane said.
While the couple is ok with moving forward like this and feels their relationship will also benefit because they won't be working all day and not get to see each other, the rest of the family had mixed reactions.
Siena, Liam's mom, was very surprised when she learned Diane didn't intend to go back to work after she gave birth to her second son. To her, having another income was very important, and she couldn't understand why her son and his wife wanted that.
"It's great that the kids get more attention and tasty meals, but there are other ways to achieve that. There was no need for her to drop her career like it meant nothing. They're going to be sorry in a few years since everything is getting more expensive," Siena said.
Frank, Liam's dad, didn't want to argue about it, but he shared his wife's opinion. Diane's parents were more flexible. Her mom was a housewife, too, and they managed to pay all their bills on time even if they couldn't go on vacations much while she was growing up.
As long as the couple understands they need to be careful about expenses, they think Diane should stay home if that's what makes her happy.
"What matters is that they agree on this. I don't think we should try and tell them what to do. They know what works for their family. We'll still be here to help whenever they need us, so stressing about staying home or having an income is just not worth it. They can even change their mind after a while. It's all good," Sarah, Diane's mom, said.
There have been family arguments about the couple's decision in the last few months, and the couple told their parents several times why they wouldn't change their minds. Unfortunately, Siena wasn't convinced, and she decided to take things further.
More than advising Diane and Liam what to do, she came up with a different solution for their relationship with their kids. The mother-in-law offered to move in with them and help raise her grandkids so Diane could go back to working full-time.
She feels that by doing this, she would get rid of any stress Diane is feeling about leaving her sons at home and could focus on earning well again. As it turns out, Diane doesn't think it's a good idea and isn't willing to live in the same house as Siena.
"She wants to move in to look after the kids; she told me to go to work. Liam and I make our own decisions, and saying she'll move in when we hardly ever invite her to come by is too much. She dismissed my objections and kept talking to Liam about it like I wasn't even there. It was so offensive. It wasn't like a grandmother wanting to have a close relationship with her grandsons. She's trying to take over my family," Diane said.
Siena told her daughter-in-law she's ok with doing everything for her grandkids and doesn't expect to be paid for it, but that's not what Diane wants. Liam isn't sure if what his mom suggested is such a bad idea.
"After all, Diane rarely gets the chance to go to a salon, and we don't date anymore because she's always cleaning or cooking; it would be a nice change to have mom around and look after most things while we focus on our relationship again. I love our sons, but this could be a temporary thing. Of course, I don't want mom to live with us all the time. A few months would be good, though. We could rest and relax," Liam said.
Diane told her husband she wouldn't agree to what Siena wanted, but he asked her to think more about it and maybe find some sort of compromise. Diane is feeling upset because Liam isn't more decisive and is beginning to doubt how much he would let his mom interfere in their marriage.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Siena to ask to move in suddenly without paying attention to Diane's objections? Should she apologize and work on having a better relationship with Diane before suggesting they should all live together?