For Amy, things had been going fairly smooth and easy with her mother-in-law for some time. They had their disagreements while she was dating her husband and right after the wedding. But after that, everything seemed to have worked out alright between them.
Up until that moment, that is. When her mother-in-law came up with that idea, Amy didn’t know how to react. But soon, she realized that there was only one thing she could do.
The Russian writer Tolstoy used to say that happy families are all alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. We all can probably think of ways in which we disagree with our relatives; these differences may be more or less critical.
But sometimes, they can get too significant or big, to the point of being unacceptable. When this happens, some people cannot handle or manage their differences, and their reactions can get nasty.
Amy had been close to losing her cool a few times in her dealings with Samantha, his husband John’s mother. During the first stages of dating, while she was falling in love with John, Samantha had been mostly out of the picture.
Had Amy known how things would develop as their relationship progressed, maybe she would have jumped ship before Samantha had the chance to step in. But there’s no way she could have known that.
When Amy first met Samantha, she seemed like a lovely lady. She was a widow, but she came across as a resolute and confident individual who had learned to overcome her loss.
She seemed very welcoming towards his son’s new girlfriend. Amy had some bad experiences with her boyfriends’ moms in her past, and she felt glad when she thought that it wouldn’t be like that this time. But it wasn’t long before things took a turn.
At first, it was just little things. Samantha would try to have a saying in things that, as far as Amy was concerned, were only for her and her husband to discuss. First, she tried politely ignoring Samantha’s suggestions.
But she was baffled when John started systematically aligning with whatever his mom would say on every matter about the relationship. And with time, it got even worse.
In a matter of months, it was almost like Samantha was the boss of the household, even if she didn’t live with Amy and John. Still, she would come to their house whenever she wanted, and she would always have something to say about how things should or shouldn’t be done.
John always agreed with her. And after some time, Amy felt smothered by her mother-in-law. It got to a point where it was like Amy’s opinion didn’t count: it was Samantha who had the final word on everything.
When they first started dating, Amy would have never taken John to be a mama’s boy. But apparently, she was wrong. Still, she loved him with all her heart, and she hoped that things would become more manageable with time.
One day, Amy got pregnant. When it happened, Amy felt a strong sense of bliss and euphoria, but also of relief. She hoped that Samantha would respect their authority and autonomy as parents and, at least, leave them alone with that. Would things work out that way?
Well, at least Amy’s pregnancy process was quite smooth. Samantha was quite understanding and kind. Truth be told, she was of great help to Amy during the worst parts of those 9 months.
And when she finally gave birth, everyone seemed possessed by the same feeling of joy. For the first time, everyone seemed to be on the same page. Maybe they would all get along from then on?
Well, soon, a problem arose. It would be hard for John and Amy to take care of their newborn child, considering both of them worked full-time. John was an architect and worked from home most of the time, but he couldn’t do it all by himself. As for Amy, she was a teacher.
Samantha volunteered to assume caretaking duties for some time. At least, until the couple managed to find some way to balance their jobs and their new roles as parents. Amy was happy to hear that and accepted Samantha’s suggestion gladly. But there was a catch.
After some months, Samantha came up with a baffling suggestion. She demanded to be paid for taking care of her grandson! The way she defended her position was even more surprising: she argued that since she would demand less than minimum wage, the couple would be saving money anyway!
When Amy first heard this, she didn’t know how to react. Was that lady really asking for money for taking care of her grandson? Wasn’t that what family was about? She asked her husband about it to gauge his impressions. And John’s reply left her speechless.
Of course, John agreed with his mom. He even repeated the same argument Samantha had given, word by word: if they hired a babysitter, they would be paying even more. So overall, it was a good deal.
Amy felt powerless. She didn’t know what to think or what to do anymore. After reflecting on the problem for a while, she came to a decision. There was only one thing she could do.
She decided to write to someone and ask for advice. She used to read a website about family and relationship advice, which had a dedicated section for the readers’ queries on their personal situations.
She had been reading that section for years and could even relate to some of the queries. But finally, it was time to make herself a question. She wrote an email recounting her situation and sent it to the magazine. After a few days, they published a response.
They advised Amy to be compassionate and understanding with her mother-in-law’s concerns, even if she disagreed with her stance. After all, she didn’t know what was really on Samantha’s mind or what were her own reasons to ask for money.
Maybe Samantha had her own worries. Perhaps these worries made it seem reasonable for her to expect to be paid for her caretaking labor. This is how the magazine expressed it:
“Try to understand why your MIL might be asking for payment in exchange for caring for her grandchild. You said your MIL retired recently — according to experts, retirees worry about outliving their savings. This might be a reason for your mother-in-law’s suggestion. The only way to find out is to have an open discussion.”
They also gave her some advice on how to start and conduct that conversation so it could have a satisfactory outcome for all the parties involved:
“Schedule an open, honest meeting and, in a calm, grown-up way, tell her how you feel. The talk might derail and get off the right track, so we prepared a 3-step guide on how to avoid turning your discussion into a fight/argument.”
As far as we know, Amy didn’t reply to this piece of advice. And if she did, her response wasn’t published. What do you think about the advice and about Amy’s situation? Did she have reasons to be upset, or were Samantha’s demands reasonable?