Dear Nadine Khan,
I am a 35-year-old widowed woman. I have two school-going children. My husband died three years ago, and since he owned the house in which we live, I didn’t have problems initially. I applied to and got a teaching post in the private school my children go to, and earn quite well. I come and go with my children but the problem is my mother-in-law. She still lives with us although she has a married daughter and two sons. Until a couple of months back, I didn’t really mind this arrangement. My husband was a great man, and I did not mind looking after his mother. My mother-in-law was able to manage on her own in my absence, as my maid comes in the evening. I just had to leave her breakfast in a tray, and would take care of lunch after returning from school. But since a couple of months, my mother-in-law has developed some medical problems, and needs someone to be with her. My sister-in-law lives near my house and initially she used to come and look after her mother for a couple of hours in the morning, but she told me that her house routine is being disturbed and she cannot come daily. Then the lockdown started and the problem went away. But now the school management has asked the teachers to come to school as they have made arrangements for online lesson for students from school only. I think we can do it from home, but the school authorities want teachers to attend school physically. My son and daughter are 13 and 10 years of age, and need supervision at home. I just cannot leave them with my mother-in-law because she is not willing to take responsibility for my children. She said that since she goes to sleep whenever she feels like, she would not be responsible if anything went wrong. I totally see her point; she is on medications and often falls asleep at odd times. I would have asked my mother to come and stay at my house, but she looks after my brother’s children, as my sister-in-law died a year ago. My mother told me to leave my children with her, since her house is on my way to school, and it’s a big house so she is not worried about my children fighting with my brother’s children. In fact, she has asked me repeatedly to live with her as I also have a share in that house, and my brother is the best brother a sister can have. I didn’t do it because my mother-in-law lives with me. I can rent out my husband’s house and use the extra income, too, but what to do with my mother-in-law? If I move with my mother, my relatives and in-laws would say that I ditched my husband’s mother! I am in a fix. I want to move to my mother’s house, but what should I do about my mother-in-law? I have explained this problem to my husband’s siblings and they just offered sympathy and said they really feel for me! What should I do?
Dear Upset Widow,
It’s hard to believe that a daughter can simply walk away from her responsibility, and expect the widow of her brother to continue to look after her own mother. As for your husband’s brothers, there are no words to express their apathy. Anyway, you honoured the memory of your husband, and looked after his mother, but now the situation has changed. You have your children to think about, so what your relatives or in-laws say should not worry you at all. After your husband’s death, his mother continued to live with you probably because she knew she would not be welcomed by her other daughters-in-law, which is extremely sad. Now that your husband’s brothers and sister know you are having problems, they should assume responsibility for their mother. My dear, you have two options: ask your mother-in-law to move with you, or tell your in-laws that you can no longer shoulder ‘their’ responsibility. The first option will probably not suit you or even your mother-in-law. You will simply have to be firm, and ask your brothers-in-law to make arrangements for their mother. Tell them that it’s not their sympathy you need; you need them to look after their mother. There is bound to be some bad blood, because your in-laws want things to remain the same. I hope things work out without turning ugly. Good luck!