My mom was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes when I was in middle school. As a compulsive eater, it didn’t come as much of a surprise to any of us. Neither did her complete disregard for doing anything about it. She just couldn’t spend an evening in front of the TV without her M&Ms and Doritos, and wasn’t about to start exercising. Being only a preteen, I didn’t have the voice to tell her that she needed to take care of herself. It’s only been the last few years, now that her health problems have caught up to her, that she’s made some efforts to get healthier. But she spent ten years ignoring her condition, and now it’s too little and too late.
Her chronic high blood sugar means that she now suffers from stabbing pain in her hands and feet called neuropathy unless she takes medication three times a day. She can’t feel anything below her mid-calf, and her hands are slowly becoming numb, too. Worst of all, though, is the Charcot Foot. The bones in her right foot have slowly become mush and now her foot is deformed. That, combined with sores in her sole that are slow to heal due to the reduced circulation, mean that she’s not supposed to be on her feet a lot. This, of course, makes it hard to find work.
Two years ago, the expenses of living on her own became too much, especially with all the medications she has to buy. My husband and I offered to let her stay with us while her feet healed so she could then be in a position to get a part-time job. It meant she had to move three states away, but she would also get to see my daughter, then only six-months old, every day. It was really nice for a while to be nearby. But then… it just wasn’t anymore.
I was only 24 when she moved in, only out of her house for six years, only married for four. I had just had a baby. I needed encouragement, companionship and respect. Instead, I got condescending advice. I don’t think she remembered that she moved in with us, not the other way around. She did not remember that I was now the “woman of the house” and she was the guest. The dynamics were twisted, and none of us were prepared for the repercussions.
It is nice for her to help me take care of my now-toddler and new baby. But that does not mean that she gets to make parenting decisions. We like having her around, but that does not mean that she should get offended when my husband and I want some time to be alone together. I’m not so great about keeping things tidy around the house, but I don’t deserve the patronizing comments that I receive daily, ones that steadily chop away at my confidence. I am well aware of my shortcomings. I’m still trying to figure out how to take care of two kids, keep the house clean, clothes laundered, and get a hot meal on the table most days without losing my sanity. Having to take care of another picky person who is critical of most things I do doesn’t help me much. But the worst part is that my husband and I are not so sure now that she has any intention of moving out at all.
Her foot is pretty much healed, but she’s convinced that she can’t work, even though we’ve pointed out many office jobs in the area that she’d be more than able to handle. We’ve been able to find some apartments in town that are income-based, but she seems to think that they’re below her standards. She’s been able to save some money after finding a place to get her medications for cheaper, but she just spends it on going out to eat or getting her nails done instead of setting it aside for a deposit on an apartment. My husband thinks that she’s just too content to be retired and watch TV all day, but we didn’t anticipate her retiring indefinitely at our house. Any discussion about helping her find her own place results in either a heated argument or my mom’s hurt feelings. At this point, my husband and I are at a loss.
It’s been two years – almost half the time we’ve been married – since we’ve been able to do things that other couples seem to take for granted. We think it’s a bit amazing that our second daughter even exists, if you catch my drift. It would be nice to curl up on the couch in our underwear with my husband for a movie or even hop in the shower with him. It might be nice to be able to greet him at the door in something a bit skimpy. But it’s not just the sexy things that I miss. I want to spend time as a family, just our little group of four. I want to feel like the matriarch of the family, not a little kid who is just trying to play house. And I think that’s what it all comes down to – as long as she’s here, I still feel like an unsure teenager trying to fake it through life. It’s hard to build confidence when you’re constantly being told you’re doing it wrong.
The last few days, my mom has been away visiting family for a few days. My husband and I have had a taste of what other couples experience daily. We had a Netflix date on the couch after the kids were in bed, and it was nice. But she comes back tomorrow, and things go back to our twisted version of normal. My husband and I have talked a bit on how to breach the subject again and encourage her to start the process of moving out. Ideas include starting to charge rent, making a schedule and deadlines of steps to be taken, and making things less comfortable here by cutting off cable TV. None of them seem like they’re going to work.
I don’t want to hurt her or hurt our relationship in the process. The problem is that the longer she lives here, the more damage is done anyway. I don’t enjoy resenting her presence. But how do you tell a person nicely, and firmly, that you don’t want them around anymore? Especially when that person moved three states away just to be with you? I feel like my success as a wife and mother, not to mention my sanity, hang in the balance.