My Mother In Law Or Voluntary Work? My Husband Says Charity Begins At Home

Posted at 21:03pm on 3rd April 2009

Dear Mel,

You once wrote something about trying to please everyone – I forget what – but you know what I mean – people like me who still have kids at home who don’t seem to want to leave, and who have to hold down a job, ok its only part time - and now this. My mother in law’s been widowed and says she can’t cope and there’s only me to help – my brother in law’s no good. He never comes near her, though he only lives about thirty miles away. And when he does come to see her, he’s the best thing since sliced bread and all I get from his mother is complaint.

I used to think I had something to offer. I help out with a local charity. It may not be much, but I always thought in God's hands it was something good. But I'm very fragile emotionally because I'm exhausted with all that's going on in my family. My husband’s not a Christian and he keeps telling me charity begins at home and that I should put his mother before my voluntary work. I feel so guilty. I enjoy what I’m doing but I’m beginning to feel very resentful.

Sorry I'm a bit of a weeping disaster area at present. At least no one can do me the indignity of putting it all down to hormones! I’m past all that. . .

Sarah B

Mel's Comment:

Dear Sarah,

It’s obvious from what you write about yourself, that you’re a very caring person. Anyone who can hold down a part-time job, provide a home for adult offspring and still find time and energy for charitable work deserves the utmost admiration. But – there had to be a but, didn’t there?

I think the post you might be referring to is one I wrote a few months ago titled People Pleasers: Managing Conflicting Priorities and I think you might find it helpful if you read it again. Because it sounds to me as if you’re close to cracking up – and it’s not surprising. You have more than one problem and, from the sound of it, little in the way of support.

You say you’re post-menopausal so I guess you must be 50+. Germaine Greer once said that women over a certain age become invisible. She may well have meant that men, generally, no longer find them either physically alluring or as holding opinions of any value. But I believe it’s true in other ways, too. It’s so easy for those around you to fail to see you as a person in your own right.

Your sons or daughters probably see you simply as Mum – someone to cook and clean for them. You don’t say what age they are, nor whether they have jobs. But frankly, I think we do young adults a disservice, these days, by allowing them to stay at home. It’s our job, as parents, to raise our kids to become independent. Depending on the answers to the questions I’ve raised, it may be time to tell them firmly, but kindly, that it’s time to leave. Let them know that you want some quality time with their father and that the two of you will look forward to Sunday lunch with them occasionally.

It never fails to amaze me how much non-Christians “know” about how Christians should behave. Whatever is thrown at you by your husband or anyone else, throwing your adult children out is a Biblical principle. If we want our offspring to live happy, fulfilled lives with families of their own, then we owe it to them to launch them into the world to stand on their own two feet.

It says in Genesis that we should leave our parents in order to be independent enough to cleave to a spouse. I’m sure that many of the broken marriages we see around us are due, in part, to the mollycoddling of some contemporary parents, and the inability of young adults to take on commitment and responsibility for themselves – let alone others.

The second issue is your mother-in-law. Again, I have little detail to go on, but you make no mention of her being infirm in any way. Of course you should show compassion if she’s been recently widowed. And of course, as her daughter-in-law, you have an ongoing duty of care to discharge. As I’m sure you would agree, you’d hope for your husband to show nothing less to your mother.

However, neither your own parents nor those of your husband are your responsibility. For the same reason given above, you and your husband have left your parents in order to cleave to each other. That’s how it’s meant to be. You have nothing to feel guilty about if you’re doing what you can to help – within the limitations imposed by your own commitments. And they include your commitment to yourself; to your husband; to your job; and to the charity work you love. If you choose to relinquish any of those activities then that has to be your choice. Not because you’ve been made to feel guilty!

I suggest that you talk to your husband and point out to him that it’s high time that the two of you had a chance to enjoy each other’s company whilst you’re both still fit and able. Put it to him that his mother might like to sell her home and live in sheltered accommodation where she would receive the support she needs. Many schemes offer independent living with warden assistance and communal living areas where she could take her meals, if she chose to do so, and where there would always be company.

You should then draw up a rota for alternate visits to be made by you and your husband, and his brother. Send a copy to your brother-in-law and your mother-in-law so that there’s no misunderstanding. And stick to it! If your husband’s brother fails to meet his obligations, you will not be responsible.

And finally, remember that God loves you for who you are, not for what you do – or do not do. But you have your part to play. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NIV If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 NIV. Allow him to liberate you from the bondage of guilt and resentment.

Very best wishes,

Your Comments:

Post a comment:

No HTML allowed. Web URLs will be auto-linked. Please stand by your comments; anonymous posting is permitted but not encouraged. Your email address will not be published, nor will it be distributed. Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the editor has approved them. They may also be removed without notice or explanation.

Related Posts

Posts on related themes:
» Dear Mel

My Latest Book

Picked for a Purpose

Available in paperback from my books page
Buy Your Copy

Find the Real You...

Start Now
Take a FREE
Personality Test

BBC Radio Devon Interview

Listen to me chatting to Dave Fitzgerald about my latest release, Chosen, on BBC local radio.

Recently On Twitter

@MelMenzies Will You Play Author Squid Games?
tweeted by ThePRExpert
on 17th November at 15:51
@tomi_token Don't miss this amazing project in the world of cryptocurrency. #TOMI means WEALTH. Just jump in. You w…
tweeted by Jhonsensales
on 29th October at 12:16
@tomi_token Don't miss this amazing project in the world of cryptocurrency. #TOMI means WEALTH. Just jump in. You w…
tweeted by Jhonsensales
on 29th October at 05:12
Follow Me on Twitter

Who's online?