Dear Annie: My mother-in-law and her husband moved in with us 10 years ago. They even built an addition onto our house, from which we will gain financially if we ever sell it. During this time, I’ve enjoyed Mom’s help with our two kids and the freedom it gives my husband and me. We enjoy childfree vacations every year and go out to dinner without the kids four times a week. My mother-in-law takes care of all the childcare in our home. My husband and I rarely do any parenting except to enjoy our time with the kids and bask in all the extra achievements they have gained as a result of having four loving parents.
The problem is that my husband has two siblings, and my mother-in-law has never done anything for them. She has never even babysat her other grandchildren. She hardly knows the youngest in the family, and I am now ashamed that I have monopolized her time and love. I feel terrible when I’m with my sisters-in-law. I have gained so much while they have had to pay for childcare all these years and struggle through the typical childhood problems without assistance. Their children barely know their Grandma.
What can I do about it now? I want to express my feelings to my sisters-in-law, but I am not sure what to say. I feel terrible around them. Please help.
Dear Monica: Chances are, your sisters-in-law have a relationship with Mom that is more complicated than yours. They may not get along as well. Or they may wish she were closer to their children, but might not be interested in having Mom and her husband live with them.
It’s OK to tell them that you wish Mom spent more time with their kids and ask what you can do about it. But also encourage Mom to see her other grandchildren more often. Invite the families to your home (but do not expect Mom to babysit all those children). You are in a position to facilitate a better relationship. We hope everyone will cooperate.
Dear Annie: I heard that my cousin’s daughter is giving a surprise baby shower for her sister. This is the girl’s second child. She had a baby shower for the first one two years ago.
Since when is it appropriate to have a baby shower for the second child? Am I out of touch? This simply sounds like a way to get more gifts. I also heard that the shower will be in a restaurant and guests have to pay their own bill.
I haven’t seen these cousins in more than a year. What should I do?
Dear Kentucky: Baby showers are to help a new parent have clothing, diapers and other necessities for the child. It is assumed that a second child can use the gifts the first child received, so a second baby shower becomes a burden on the guests. (And we won’t get into the impropriety of giving a shower for one’s sister.)
A second shower is considered OK, however, if the parents have moved to another city with different friends or if the births are so far apart that the parents have given away the baby things belonging to the older sibling. Nonetheless, if your cousin’s daughter is going ahead with this, your choice is simply whether or not to attend.
Dear Annie: “Proud Military Spouse” is cringing at the thought of her husband’s parents giving him childish gifts at a formal ceremony to mark his change of command. His parents’ gifts are a sign of their love and are not intended to humiliate or embarrass him. A better option might be for her to have a family celebration such as lunch or dinner before the ceremony. He can then receive those gifts in private, rather than in front of his military unit.
— N from Canada
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