Only 24/7

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ve written you already but this is a different side of the same coin.
My husband’s aging, senile, mother has landed with us. Ironically she
is not unwell, the occasional cold notwithstanding, though she is very
needy and dependent, and surprisingly chatty though from what I can
tell most of the running commentary has not much to do with what’s
really going on around her. It is taking a vast quantity of time to
adjust to having her in the household, in part because of her

My husband, recently retired, tries to run errands (without
her!) as much as possible, leaving me in charge. I am in a helping
profession and have a vast array of friends that I am used to seeing to
do everything from food preservation to fabric projects. I don’t want
my mother-in- law tagging along all the time, but many of my friends
are telling me—loudly and often—that they feel insulted that I am no
longer available to them. In fact, I’d rather be with them. What can I

Only 24/7

Dear 24/7:

You can change things on several fronts. First is your attitude: this is not forever,
though it may be for a good handful of years or longer. You and your husband
need to communicate regularly about whether having his mother living with you
remains the right decision and fit for you both and for your marriage. If the
answer is yes, then you need to make, on a weekly basis, a schedule. You
should make it together on Sunday and confirm it every morning over breakfast.
It should identify on and off duty times where each of you is the primary
caretaker. Like any joint custody arrangement, you should both agree about
trade-offs. No one gets to hide behind I thought it would be okay if….

If having your mother in law move to an assisted living facility where she would
have more regular companionship and care is simply not an option, look into
part-time help and regular trips to the local community center for group activities
with other seniors. You should also find or create a support group with other
people in a similar situation. It will give you the insights you need and perhaps
you can have collective gatherings that might lead to the senior equivalent of play
dates among your respective aging relatives. As for your nagging friends, invite
them over to help cook and schmooze with your mother-in- law and to stay for a
game or cards. An afternoon or evening of your life should quiet down the
kvetching pretty fast. When you have off duty time, decide then if you want to sit
quietly with a book or get together with friends. They will need to adjust to
spontenity and less contact, at least for the foreseeable future.