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The fine line of helping and enabling adult family members?

A little back story- my IL's live with me, my DH and our 2 small children . They've been living with us for nearly 7 months. They moved in with us from 2 states away, under the guise of the area they lived in being too stressful, to improve their health and to be near their grandchildren.
As of right now, I'm feeling really resentful of them moving here. They moved here without a job or a place to live, with very little money that they are spending at an incredible rate, and they aren't doing anything to better their health. We don't require them to help with anything (around the house or financially). They did buy some land and are trying to prep it to move on it.
My DH thinks that I need to be communicating with them more and trying to make the situation easier by giving them more of a role in the household. I'm constantly dealing with cleaning up after their dog and MIL's temper tantrums.


Asked by Anonymous at 1:24 PM on Jan. 24, 2010 in Relationships

This question is closed.
Answers (9)
  • If they have money they should contribute especially since there stay is a long period of time. They can't just come in to the house and make life harder for you. You should lay the law down on them and give them a deadline. It's not up to them what they want. It's your house and they either live by your rules or ship out so that they can do what they want. They're full of excuses which is the classic sign of a person who doesn't want to be responsble.


    Answer by SylviaNCali at 10:50 PM on Jan. 24, 2010

  • OP- cont-
    We've tried to provide a place for them to better their life, but they seem to just want the life they had before, with the bonus of being near their grandchildren.
    There is obviously a lot of back story that I won't elaborate and I come from a screwed up family of my own, so I'm, having hard time with my judgment with this situation.
    At what point does helping out adult family members become enabling them or them taking advantage?

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:30 PM on Jan. 24, 2010

  • Sounds like you are enabling them, sometimes you have to step up and say Alright if you live here you will pay X amount on bills, x amount of food and do X amount of cleaning...We tried to help my brother out like that once and after he had been there for a while and I wanted him to get a job and help around the house he moved out really quick and went back home to daddy...Talk about getting them out, talk about what they plan on doing with there land and tell them ways they can do it faster,,,you know to kinda give a hint that you dont want them living with you forever...

    Answer by BlainesMommy09 at 1:35 PM on Jan. 24, 2010

  • I'm not sure what I'd call it really. I'd be saying "your dog is your responsibility" for sure.
    I'd help them look for whatever they needed to get out of my house. The longer you let them stay the harder it is going to be for everyone when they leave (well them and the kids).
    If it were me, I'd call a family meeting and give them a deadline on when they need to start looking for somewhere else to live if their place isn't ready yet.

    Answer by lisa_ann_p at 2:03 PM on Jan. 24, 2010

  • Some people don't want to come into another person's home and take over or do things you as the woman of the house would resent. So they are probably waiting for you to tell them what you want of them. Until that time they think they are guests. Just tell them that you could use help with (whatever you want them to do). I would discuss a time line as well to see when they will have their own place ready on their land. I'd say it with enthusiasm for them getting their own home not out of me wanting them out! You are a kind woman for allowing them to stay. Don't hesitate to be assertive and dole out some chores.

    Answer by admckenzie at 2:49 PM on Jan. 24, 2010

  • Thank you for the responses so far!
    I have helped them try to look for a place to live, but they kept saying that because they have a dog on the aggressive breed list, no one would rent to them. As of right now, they purchased a 5th wheel to put on their land, but need $5k to put in a septic tank (which they don't have).
    When they first moved in, I let them help out with stuff, but it felt like they were trying to take over everything, including parenting my kids.
    As of right now, I won't let my MIL touch the kids at all because she smokes. We gave her guild lines in order to have contact with the kids, but she doesn't abide them & is throwing temper tantrums because I make a huge fuss whenever she tries to pick the kids up. (for the record, I was letting her have contact with the kids, but the kids and I ended getting really sick, until we were away from her for a couple of weeks & we got better).

    Answer by Anonymous at 3:10 PM on Jan. 24, 2010

  • OP here-
    Short of handing over my house, kids and DH's paycheck, I feel that we've done everything we can to help them, and they continually make excuses or blame others for their "misfortune". I feel that they are in part, blaming me for not making it easier for them to live in my house ( note, all I want from them is to stay away from my kids if MIL has been smoking and keep their dog groomed and not expect me to be chit chatty with them).
    Side note: FIL only had 2 years left at his job were they lived to be able to collect a pension. MIL pushed for them to move up here right away, so that she could be near her grandchilden

    Answer by Anonymous at 3:16 PM on Jan. 24, 2010

  • I hear you with the smoking issue. My baby is very sensitive to smoke, and I have politely asked my mom to cut back or change shirts or something when she's here / we go there. I would have a guideline for what she should do when she does smoke (because people like that don't quit, even for their grandchildren's sake). Does she need to change shirts? Brush teeth? What would be an acceptable solution. "stay away from the kids" isn't clear enough, nor is it realistic, you know?

    I would suggest having a list of responsibilites, and saying hey, I know you want to help, and I know I haven't made it easy (even if you have). These are some things I'd love to have some help with, are there any you'd be able to handle?

    Answer by whiteroses82 at 4:17 PM on Jan. 24, 2010

  • OP here-
    Because she wants to have lots of contact with the kids, an acceptable solution would be to either shower and change into clean clothes or her washing her hands, face and any other exposed areas and change into clean clothes she hasn't smoked in and brushing her teeth.
    The thing is, we've given guild lines before and we're constantly having to remind her. She tries to do shortcuts and just spray herself with Febreze (air freshener) and thinks that's good enough. She thinks its the smell, when its not the smell, its all of the deadly chemicals, so she's just spraying chemicals on top of chemical.
    It's already been proven that my children get sick if hanging on her and she doesn't want to adhere to our rules, so the consequence to that is that she doesn't get time with her grandchildren.


    Answer by Anonymous at 6:01 PM on Jan. 24, 2010