Gransnet forums


Why do they need so much help?

(57 Posts)
lane70 Tue 28-Jun-11 18:03:38

My son and daughter-in-law have two young boys, age 5 and 2, lovely children. Son works fulltime, daughter-in-law works 3 days a week. Older boy in school, younger one in nursery. Comfortable house, two cars, adequate income. Why do they need so much help?

I had a similar schedule when I was raising my two. My husband worked full time and I worked part time. I didn't have a car, didn't even have a washing machine until the eldest was 12, never had a drier. Never crossed my mind to expect my 70-year-old mother-in-law to come and lend a hand with household chores.

Never mind. She loves the children and is a great mum. That's the main thing. I'm glad I'm not married to her. smile

jangly Tue 28-Jun-11 18:50:24

Perhaps she thinks it gets you out of the house. grin Or she might just like your company. Don't do it, though, if you don't feel up to it.

JessM Tue 28-Jun-11 19:12:05

Hang on - household chores???
I do household chores when I visit my lot, but that is because I choose to. They are very grateful if I take over the washing for instance as they both work hard and life is not that easy for them when I'm not visiting.
DIL was always v appreciative if I did something. But it has always been my choice. That is not at all the same as expecting you to help them with their housework on a regular basis.
I think this is a teeny bit out of order and you dont sound happy about it.
What do other helpful Nans and Grans think?

nannym Tue 28-Jun-11 19:20:10

Lane70 - have you actually been asked to help with the chores or is it something you've taken on yourself? When I go around to my son's house I might wash some dishes or tidy some clothes away, but it's because I choose to, I would dig my heels in if it was being assumed that I was there to do housework.

lane70 Tue 28-Jun-11 19:27:19

No, it isn't my idea. She's a very organizing person, and when anybody is there (not just me, it's the same for her own mother) her immediate reaction seems to be, how to put them to work. But what baffles me, is why do they feel the need for so much help? Why do they seem to find it so hard to cope with what after all is not a very difficult life???

baggythecrust! Tue 28-Jun-11 19:56:02

Maybe she doesn't need the help but just isn't able to relax and so feels she has to be doing and setting others to doing all the time?

Hattie64 Tue 28-Jun-11 20:03:02

I have a rule when visiting my children, I do nothing. They all know why, because they were so lazy as young kids, I am now getting my own back. Plus do admit, when they visit me, I don't expect them to give me ahelping hand.
I went to stay with my youngest Son and wife a couple of weeks ago, the weekend before my DIL parents had spent 3 days decorating their living and bedroom. They organised various trips for me, Stratford upon Avon, Blenheim Palace etc. My Son said, 'Mum when you come to stay we visit places of interest, when the Inlaws visit, they do all the unpleasant tasks we don;t like doing' Poor devils.

lane70 Tue 28-Jun-11 20:09:55

Yes, I think that's part of it. And I think part of it might be sibling rivalry. Her older sister had children very young, and was very hard up, and got a lot of help from their mother, looking after the children. My daughter-in-law has complained about it to me more than once. It seems to have put her in the frame of mind where the job of parents, or parents-in-law, is to help her -- even though not only does she not really need help but also she has very exacting standards which I generally fail to rise to. :-)

People are just different, I guess. I find it hard to ask people for help even when I need it, whereas she seems to feel if people aren't helping they don't love her. Not the best combination for mother-in-law / daughter-in-law LOL

lane70 Tue 28-Jun-11 20:18:19

Hattie64, thanks for that. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't want to wash the dishes. smile Don't want to wash their dishes, don't want them to wash my dishes.

But I can't imagine them ever arranging outings, or for that matter inviting me to stay, except to look after the children. I guess I'm in the role of your daughter-in-law's parents, except that they sound a lot more co-operative than I am.

I really shouldn't complain. I'm really very thankful that my son married a woman who is such a good mother. I personally think she overdoes it -- the adults don't have any life of their own, it's so child-centred. But it's better that way than the opposite. I wish I could hope to live long enough to see how her daughters-in-law treat her! grin

harrigran Tue 28-Jun-11 23:50:29

I hate to say this but the younger generation seem to need more help than we ever got. I have heard words such as I can't do housework because I have to look after the children. I seeem to remember dusting with a baby on my hip and a tiny toddler hanging on my skirt. Husband's meal was always ready on time and I kept the children safe by putting a gate across the kitchen doorway while I was cooking.

Littlelegs Wed 29-Jun-11 08:39:10

I agree with you Harrigran.

We didn't have disposable nappies washing was a real chore (i had a baby Birco) that boiled them but it was all the rinsing.

As you said baby on the hip doing chores one handed. Maybe we were all made of sterner stuff than they are now. There was no help then my mother lived too far away (80 miles).

I don't think it is can't do, as won't do.

Barrow Wed 29-Jun-11 09:14:12

I don't have children, hence no grandchildren but I am amazed sometimes with the stories my sisters-in-law tell me. One always does a big grocery shop before visiting her married daughter as there is never anything in the fridge! She looks after the children almost every day, takes the whole family on holiday and drives her daughter around. She also visits her unmarried son on a regular basis and again takes groceries with her, then cleans the flat when she is there and does all his washing and ironing (he is in his late 30's). She often complains to me that she feels very tired all the time, she also has back problems but when I tell her she should take a step back she just says she can't as they couldn't cope without her input. I would add that she is in her early 70s.

Annobel Wed 29-Jun-11 09:30:07

The only time I have been asked to help was when my DiL was having her babies, both times with an extended stay in hospital. I live a considerable distance away but was pleased to be asked to go and stay. At any other time, I am rarely even allowed into the kitchen and she cleans the house from top to bottom before I arrive. She is also an indefatigable ironer and has a responsible job. I do sometimes help out in the garden, but nothing arduous. My other son's family, also at a distance, never expect any domestic help from me on my visits, apart from making cuppas - maybe they know me only too well... grin
Luckily both couples possess dishwashers! Aren't I a lucky granny?

greenmossgiel Wed 29-Jun-11 09:50:02

My eldest daughter is quite houseproud. She isn't good at cooking, but my son-in-law does all that. He also is quite houseproud. My granddaughter, although now 11, is a very demanding child. They seem to dance attendance on her every mood, which makes me think that she (and possibly, they) aren't all that happy all of the time. On the other hand my younger daughter is the 'earth mother' type, as is her own daughter. Both of their houses are very, very untidy! (Bordering on 'slovenly' as my mother would have described it, probably!) However, my daughter's girls were very well adjusted children and have proved themselves to be kind and understanding adults. In the past, I would offer to help my daughter 'tidy up' - much to her annoyance. So now, when I pop along to see her, I sit in amongst the mess, drink my tea and just chat with her. The place is like the 'Wreck of the Hesperus', but, it's her way of living, so who am I to interfere! That can result in having to learn a very hard lesson! smile

janthea Wed 29-Jun-11 10:49:08

When I visit my daughter in Luxembourg I try to help out when I can - loading dishwasher, folding washing, helping with food preparation. She never asks me to do this. I just do it. When she comes to stay with me, again she helps with the cooking and shopping and I do the washing and loading dishwasher. I tidy the toys away while she is getting the boys into bed. It's give and take. Neither of my daughters would expect me to help with housework or anything like that. I'm happy to help out when I can, but I work full time so it's difficult sometimes.

Magsie Wed 29-Jun-11 11:44:46

If I was staying with a relative or friend, I would offer to help out on the grounds that I was making extra work for them by being there. Our families live within walking distance so that doesn't arise.
I do quite a lot of childcare and I wash and iron any clothes the children leave at our house. I certainly don't help with their household chores because I have enough of my own. My step-daughter has a cleaner anyway!

lane70 Wed 29-Jun-11 12:47:58

Harrigran, I think you're right, some times the younger generation do seem to feel entitled to more help than we had. I expect it's part and parcel of the general sense of entitlement that seems to rule nowadays. Part of me thinks this is a good thing, because in our day women put up with too many things that were just not fair. It's good that young women aren't prepared to put up with getting a rough deal.

The down side of it is that sometimes they seem to feel they're getting a rough deal whenever everything isn't just exactly to their liking. At least, that applies to my daughter-in-law, I probably shouldn't generalize. She lacks resilience. I would have walked barefoot over coals rather than give anyone the idea that I couldn't cope. She doesn't feel that way. To her, the challenge seems to be, not to cope but to get others to help. It's a very different approach to life and maybe that's why she and I so often seem to be at odds.

lane70 Wed 29-Jun-11 12:58:17

Annobel, you really are lucky. What you describe is exactly how I thought it would be. smile

JessM Wed 29-Jun-11 13:07:15

We can get hooked into the maternal role in relation to our adult children cant we in all kinds of ways. I just read Daughters in Law by Joanna Trollope that explored this issue.
I think Lane70 that you may be getting swept into your DIL's sibling rivalry game. You are obviously not enjoying this as you sound quite fed up about it. Just because she is a good mother and you are pleased about this does not give her the right to do this.

I think you have a few choices - one is, obviously, to carry on letting her organise you and deal with your own feelings elsewhere.
You could do something different though, such as saying, very pleasantly, and with a cheerful smile, something like "I don't feel like washing up right now, I'd like to put my feet up actually. I'd love to read a story to the children though." Have a list of things you want to do instead up your sleeve.

lane70 Wed 29-Jun-11 13:07:58

greenmossgiel, that's an interesting comparison. My daughter-in-law is very houseproud, and so is my son. They're well suited, in that for instance they love going shopping for house furnishings etc, whereas it makes my heart sink.

My daughter, on the other hand, is quite untidy (as I am), and she would be very annoyed if I ever offered to do any cleaning. She would take it as me treating her as a child.

Since seeing my son in his married life, it has occurred to me that he probably would have liked it if I had been more of a house-proud type of mother. smile

lane70 Wed 29-Jun-11 13:15:40

JessM, you are right, but what you suggest is something that's just not in me to do, the reason being that it would cause upset in my son's relationship. I'd rather deal with my own feelings elsewhere as you say. (Such as on this forum)

I do absolutely think that part of it is down to me having a hard time letting go of the maternal role vis-a-vis my son. I'm making progress though! I'll look for the book you mention.

Annobel Wed 29-Jun-11 13:33:05

lane70, yes, I know I'm lucky but I would love to live nearer to them all to have a more consistent relationship with my grandchildren, as I've had with no.1 GD who does live near me. Have you ever gone away on holiday without the family? It might be a good idea to organise something for yourself just for a change. If they had to do without you for a while they might appreciate you more. What would they do for you if you needed them?

lane70 Wed 29-Jun-11 14:10:38

Annobel, I don't live near them. I live about 2 hours away by train. It's not that I'm single-handedly cleaning the house for them -- sorry if I gave that impression. They do manage without me most of the time, it's just that when I'm there, they don't seem to view it as an opportunity for their children to spend time with their (other) grandmother, they see it as an extra pair of hands to help out with the chores. (Or so it seems to me.)

I helped a lot when the first was born, and was only too happy to do so, as my daughter-in-law had a bad time and besides he was my first grandchild and I was over the moon. But as the months rolled on, and the baby got older, I still kept being called down to help, often at very short notice and for things which seemed to me quite minor, such as for instance if the parents both got a tummy bug or a cold. And when I was called down, I felt as if I was treated more or less as an au pair might be treated. I don't want to go into too much detail, because I know my daughter-in-law uses mumsnet and I don't want her to read this and recognize the situation. But sometimes it was really over the top, and I wouldn't have stood for it from anyone else.

I went down less and less, making excuses sometimes, and this was noticed, so that a certain froideur crept into our relationship. When the second baby came I didn't see much of him at all. But he is a lovely baby, they both are, and thriving and happy. That's the main thing.

crimson Wed 29-Jun-11 14:48:39

I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say about letting go of the maternal role. From the minute our children are born, all we want is for them to have a better life than we did. When my daughter was a baby I went out to buy some much needed clothes for myself..and came back with things for her. 30 plus years on, I'm still doing the same! It's as if we need someone to give us permission to put ourselves first. I am also in the situation where my husband of thirty years left, and I've felt ever since even more pressure to show that at least one of their parents puts them first and foremost. They probably don't expect this of me, but that's where my mindset is.

JessM Wed 29-Jun-11 15:48:48

The book is a novel Lane70 but deals with interesting issue of being MIL when one has sons.

Maybe you could just sometimes get in first with a few plans of your own when you visit. Before she gets a chance to give you a job say to your grandkids "after tea why don't we get the lego out..." or at breakfast time suggest taking one of them out somewhere for some one-to-one time.

But please feel free to come here and have a grumble!