If you can't make it better you can laugh at it. ~Erma Bombeck


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Damama's Use It or Lose It Advice on: Things Inquiring Minds Want To Know - Part II: Helping Enablers

In a follow-up to her previous question, Brandi said...

Alright, now I have another question. This one comes from Jon as well as me. What do you do if that person who doesn't manage her money well is your mother-in-law and other people (outside the family) are bailing her out? She of course still comes to each of her children (5) and their spouses for help. We help do her laundry, but we no longer give her any money.

ANSWER: You have no control whatsoever over the choices other people make. The best you can do is to try to talk to them and enlist their help in helping your MIL. I'd set up a meeting with those you know are enabling her poor life choices to make sure you are all on the same page. I'm betting that the story they are getting from her involves something along the lines of "my kids have abandoned me after all I did to raise them and clothe them and put a roof over their heads..." waaaa waaa waaaaaaaa.

Be aware that you will most likely run into at least a few who have codependency issues. For them, helping your MIL is a form of self-medication that will not be easily relinquished. Depending on how well you know them and what your relationship is, you might suggest that they look into their own reasons for not wanting your MIL to get better. A great resource for them might be a book called Codependent No More which I've read and have given to several others. It is amazing what can happen in one's life when one starts recognizing the self-destructiveness of being an enabler. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'give until it hurts'.

Now I have just one question for you: Why are you still doing her laundry? Does she not know how? Is she allergic to detergent? Fabric softener? Ironing boards? Ask yourself this: If she was my 20-something daughter would I still be doing her laundry for her? If the answer shocks you, you know what your next step needs to be: either you read the book and stop doing your MIL's laundry or you just stop doing your MIL's laundry. Natural consequences will eventually kick in and she WILL figure out how to get clean. Or not. Either way it has to be HER decision to either grow up or wither up. I'm betting that she'll choose growing up. (If it's a question of access to a place to do the laundry it would be alright for you to offer to let her come use your machines at your convenience. Just don't do it for her.)

Please note that ALL of this assumes that your MIL does not have serious physical handicap, mental health or intelligence issues that need to be addressed by an appropriate healthcare professional. If so, getting her help now will make your future life easier because her behavior will only continue to worsen without treatment.

All that being said, there is one thing that I know will not change in her life. You love that woman. You may not always like her behavior, but you love her or you wouldn't care. You'd just walk away and let somebody else figure it all out. Some day, when she's healthier, she will be grateful that you loved her enough to do what was best for her when she couldn't do it for herself.

Kudos, my friend. And best of luck on this very difficult journey.

Peace, Blessings, and Peace knowing that love alone is not always enough.


  1. Hi Damama, Glad to see you'll be with us in Feb. You're is one of my favorites.
    I appreciate your wisdom.

  2. This is my first visit to your site & i was amazed. The first post I read could have been written just for me except that I am bailing out my children now 30 & 31 not a MIL. I remember Co-Dependant No More. I remember starting to read it but somewhere through the years I forgot about it. Thank you for the reminder.

  3. You are very wise indeed! Great advice, really good. I needed to hear this, right now. Thank you.


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