Annie’s Mailbox: Daughter-in-law is a mess |

Annie’s Mailbox: Daughter-in-law is a mess

Dear Readers: Happy New Year! We hope you are recovering nicely. Here’s a little New Year’s wish from us, author unknown: “A health to you, a wealth to you, and the best that life can give to you.”

Dear Annie: Our daughter-in-law, “Mary,” takes little pride in her appearance and is a terrible housekeeper. She works part time, so she could surely take care of the household chores.

We have seen the clothes thrown everywhere, crumbs on the floor, unwashed dishes, dust and dirt. There are several cats that jump on tables and counter tops, and the litter box is rarely emptied, so the place stinks. Worse, Mary is a hoarder.

Mary’s mother may not be aware of the living conditions because she stays with other relatives when she visits and never goes into Mary’s house. I think she would be appalled. Now that there is a baby, we are concerned for his well-being.

Our relationship with Mary is unfortunately strained. She would not appreciate our concern and interprets any show of support as meddling. We have talked to our son, who acknowledges Mary’s shortcomings but overlooks them. He works full time and contributes as much as time will allow to the household chores.

The last thing we want to do is cause trouble, but we are so worried about our grandson. Should we continue to keep quiet and look the other way?

— Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Dear Between: Tossed clothes, unwashed dishes and stinky litter boxes are unpleasant, but are not a reason to call the Board of Health. Ask your son if he can afford to hire someone to clean the house on a regular basis. Maybe you could offer to contribute to the cost. Mary would probably appreciate having additional help, but it’s best if she believes it comes from her husband and not her mother-in-law.

Dear Annie: People tend to endure emotional and physical abuse from siblings, parents, grandparents and other family members because they have a sense of familial loyalty. I have coined a term for this: genetic obligation.

I used to suffer from this. I let their criticisms and abusive behaviors dictate my life. It wasn’t until my children were directly affected that I realized: If I would not allow a friend to treat me so terribly, why would I allow someone who should have my best interests at heart to do so?

I explained to the abusers that I would no longer bail them out of dangerous situations, lend them money or have contact until they had been sober for at least six months. It was not a smooth transition, but 12 years later, I do not regret it. They chose to alienate themselves by not respecting my boundaries. I have learned that I alone am responsible for my happiness, and I choose to surround myself with positive, loving people.

— No Longer Obligated

Dear No Longer: Each person must decide how to deal with difficult family members in the way that works out best for them. We encourage reconciliation where possible, but no one should allow themselves to be repeatedly abused simply because they are related.

Dear Annie: Please continue to tell your readers about the value of finishing high school. I’m 54 years old. I was told I did not need it, would not be smarter because of it, would fail and would not get a better job. I studied anyway. I went to libraries. I asked questions. I went to night school. I worked hard.

I passed the G.E.D! I am planning to attend a local college. I want to teach other adults that they can, too. I feel smarter than ever, plan on getting a better job and know I can do anything.

— Deb

Dear Deb: Congratulations! We believe in you.

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