A young married woman came in to see me. She was very upset and angry. She felt she was not being treated properly by her in-laws. Her mother-in-law had undergone a major surgery and was recuperating. She was advised to take it easy, was given an exercise routine that needed to be done a specific number of times. She had a few restrictions and her diet needed to be monitored. The daughter -in-law took over the role of administering to the elderly lady.
For a month the elderly lady was an obedient patient. But after that she has taken to moving around more, doing her exercises vigorously, and doing chores that she should not do for sometime. The daughter-in-law is frustrated, she is worried about the old lady’s health.
I asked her what about the situation was bothering her so much? That the elderly lady will have a relapse or was there any other reason? She told me she was never considered much in the house, her services were needed for a month, but now things are back to how they were earlier.
She also felt she will be blamed if any relapse occurred. I asked her if she could control her mother-in-law’s behavior in any manner? She is elderly, used to having her way. She does not want to hand over the control of her house to the younger woman. She couldn’t do much for a month, but now she is unable to sit back and watch the daughter-in-law run the house.
She complains of the food, says it is not appetizing, and eats very little. She has lost a lot of weight and there are arguments in the house everyday. I asked the daughter-in-law if it was possible for her to provide for the elderly lady and then withdraw from there? Because the elderly lady has the choice of following the doctor’s instructions or not. She is aware of the consequences, she is an educated lady.
The younger woman told me that is exactly what her husband has told her. Then, when he has to objection to her not waiting on them, why was it bothering her so much? Did she feel this was one way of being acknowledged as an important member of the family? It was there for a month, now it is withdrawn?
Would she feel terrible if she catered to their needs, but did not take on the stress of her in-laws being accommodating or not? Could she insulate herself and be more objective? She was investing a lot of energy in her frustrations and it was adding stress to already existing ones. Was it worth it? Yes, they are her moral responsibility, but she needs to disassociate herself from the messages their behavior was sending. The old lady cannot hand over control, she needs to weild it as long as she is alive. So by accepting this need of the elderly lady, could the younger one just do her duty and withdraw?
The younger lady needed to do something with her time. She was a working professional, she had given up her job to care for the elderly lady. She was feeling cheated and felt her sacrifices were not appreciated. There are a lot of undercurrents here, they need to be probed.
She has agreed it would be better if she were to take up useful activity again. Could she manage the home and her profession? She said she could, anyway it was for a few months only. Soon the mother-in-law would take over completely. So she would need to move away. Did she recognize the eventuality? She said yes.
When someone is obviously making a mistake due to ignorance or being in denial, it is one’s duty to pass on information. Once the information is passed on, whether it is being followed or not, is that person’s responsibility and choice in life. Our responsibility would be to pass on the information. What the other person does with our information, is not in our control. Then why fret when the information is not considered important and the other person refuses to act on it? You can take a horse ot the water, but you cannot make it drink. The want to drink must be there for the horse.
She was finding it difficult to accept that she does not have much influence with her in-laws. She said she was constantly been found wanting. In spite of this, she had offered to care for the elderly lady. And now, once again, she was not wanted. Why do some elderly behave in such a fashion?
We got to discussing her future options, and she became very animated. She discussed various options she had and agreed to work to a plan and keep me posted. She also agreed she needed to learn to disassociate herself from what was happening at home. It was only upsetting her, she needed to accept they would not change. So trying to get them to do so is only draining her. She can use this energy in her profession.
It is a pity. The elderly can be more accommodating and enjoy the care this young lady is willing to lavish. So actually they are the losers in the bargain, they are effectively driving her away from them. A time will come, she will not be bothered what happens to them. She could turn to be totally dispassionate with them, though she seemed to be a mature person. When feelings are not respected, it will lead to withdrawal and cold vibes. Then the relationship totally breaks down.