Selfish MIL refuses to look after grandkids, despite making promise

Navigating parenthood is hard for anyone. Sometimes, the extra responsibility of one or more small humans can really take a toll, no matter how much you love them.

So, when this woman’s mother-in-law offered to help care for her child so she could save money on childcare, both she and her husband leapt at the chance.

But after making the commitment, this woman’s MIL decided to renege on her offer, leaving the woman and her husband in a bit of a pickle, so she wrote to us for some advice. Keep reading to learn more!

Disclaimer: The below text is not intended to be taken as professional advice. Any advice given is attributed to the expert in question, and accepts no liability.

The woman, Sarah, wrote to us for some advice on her situation, explaining: “My husband and I have been together and married for about 7 years. We met while we were both in the military, and soon after starting our relationship, we left our jobs there. Not long after that we found out we were expecting and had our son who is now almost two. We sat down and tried to decide where we wanted to move to.”

Sarah continued by writing that there was a specific state both she and her husband had discussed moving to, and that this had been their plan for a while; especially since she had a great job opportunity there for her with fantastic benefits.

Credit: Getty.

Once Sarah and her husband told her in-laws about their plan they became upset as they didn’t want to be so far away from their grandchild.

“At the time my MIL was a stay-at-home mom/wife as her children were all high school age or older, so she said if we moved there she would watch our child so neither of us would have to cover the cost of childcare (in these areas childcare ranges from 2-3k a month so we agreed under the impression that this would be the plan, and I took a significant pay cut to take them up on this offer),” Sarah wrote.

However, things apparently took a turn for the worse – as soon as Sarah and her husband moved closer to her in-laws, her MIL decided she “didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom anymore” and wished to work full-time during the hours Sarah and her husband would be working.

Sarah added: “We asked if it was a financial issue and she just said: ‘No, but I just miss working.’ We asked her what we were supposed to do about childcare and she said: ‘Well I guess you guys have to put him in daycare.'”

Naturally, Sarah expressed that she was very upset by this as she had already secured employment.

“Now, my husband is staying home and not able to work because of the cost of childcare. This has caused a strain in my relationship with not just my husband but also my MIL. I find myself irrationally angry and on edge at all times. At this point, I don’t know what to do to keep myself from snapping at everyone and everything,” Sarah concluded.

Credit: Shutterstock.

After receiving Sarah’s email, we got in touch with Pennsylvania-based psychologist, Dr. Ray Christner, Psy.D., NCSP, who offered up his professional advice.

He began by writing: “Sorry to hear about your situation, which sounds both challenging and frustrating. Shifting from what seemed to be a well-laid plan to an unexpected turn of events would leave anyone feeling stressed and upset. This is even more so when it affects your family’s financial and emotional well-being significantly.”

Dr Ray then added it was understandable that Sarah was experiencing strain, saying: “Remember, your feelings are valid and not irrational. While there might not be a perfect answer, let’s explore some steps you can take to move forward from this stressful period.”

“First and foremost,” he continues, “keeping open communication is key. It would be best if you had an open and honest conversation with your husband about how this situation is affecting you both emotionally and financially. Acknowledge the tension it’s putting on your relationship and each other separately. You’re a team; work together to think through possible solutions. Remember, it’s you and him against the problem.”

Then, Dr. Ray advises, communicating with her MIL is the necessary next step for Sarah. “I understand it’s disappointing that your MIL changed her mind, but you have to acknowledge it’s also her right to pursue her happiness and career. It’s worth having a conversation with her and letting her know that your frustration is not with her but the situation.”

He offers suggestions on ways Sarah can openly share her feelings and the strain her MIL’s decision has put on Sarah’s family, though, “not as an accusation but as a statement of fact.”

Credit: Getty.

“You might even say something like, ‘I’m excited for you and your desire to want to return to work. But it caught me off guard, and I’m feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. I’m not angry at you; I’m angry at the situation we’re in.’ You can also ask for her help and see if there’s a compromise to be found,” Dr. Ray suggests.

When it comes to the childcare issues, he writes: “Look into different childcare options that might be more affordable or convenient. Sometimes, there are community or military family programs that offer discounted rates for childcare. Also, don’t discount the importance of networking with other parents in the area, as this often opens up possibilities. I’ve worked with families who found options, such as shared nannies or babysitting co-ops.”

Looking beyond the problem-solving of the situation, Dr. Ray says it is important for Sarah to recognize her own emotional well-being in the midst of these practical dilemmas. A suggestion he gives is finding healthy outlets for stress and frustration. 

“This could be as simple as taking a walk, exercising, engaging in hobbies, spending quality time with your son and husband, or seeking support from friends,” Dr. Ray writes. “Also, there are great benefits from practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help manage your feelings of anger and help prevent snapping at your loved ones. There are many great smartphone apps that you can use to help with this, such as Calm, Breathe2Relax, and Now, to name a few.”

Credit: Planet One Images / UCG / Universal Images Group / Getty.

Finally, Dr. Ray advises Sarah to remember that it’s okay to seek help, whether that is leaning on friends or other family for support. He writes that Sarah could even get help from a mental health professional such as a psychologist, therapist, or counselor, as they would be able to help Sarah work through the emotions she is experiencing and “offer an objective person to guide problem-solving options”. 

“You don’t have to navigate this situation alone,” Dr. Ray says.

He acknowledges that this is clearly a difficult situation for Sarah, “but with open communication, teaming with your husband, some creative problem-solving around the childcare dilemma, and a focus on taking care of your emotional well-being, you will move through this challenging time. Remember to take things one step at a time and to lean on each other for support.”

We want to thank Dr. Ray Christner for taking the time to help our readers with their problems. You can reach out to Dr. Ray Christner through his website for his expertise in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), psychotherapy integration, psychological and neuropsychological assessment, clinical diagnosis, and case conceptualization for various neurodevelopmental and mental health disorders.

Do you have a problem you’d like to ask Dr. Ray about? Send your query in an email to: [email protected]. And, if you like this, don’t forget to share it on Facebook!


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