Caring for Aging In-Laws

caregiving for in-lawsYou expect to have to care for your own parents in their old age, but often times we find ourselves caring for our in-laws too. For many this isn’t a problem, as they’re your spouse’s parents and part of your family. But sometimes, this situation presents issues when we have conflicts with our in-laws. It’s also not unheard of for someone to be caring for their former spouse’s parents, even when they’re no longer married to that person. Then things become a little more complicated.

Though gender roles are changing in contemporary life, it’s often women who find themselves in this situation. Sometimes their partner is helpful and supportive, but too often this isn’t the case.

Men aren’t used to taking on nurturing roles like this and tending to someone physically. They may manage their parents’ finances or help with more manly tasks like mowing the lawn if his parents still live in their own home. And of course he calls the shots for the big decisions. But the women in his life end up taking on the responsibility for tasks like preparing meals and bathing – and this role is not always welcome on the part of the woman.

If you find yourself in this situation, try appealing to your spouse’s desire to be a good caretaker. Once their parents have passed away, many children regret not doing more for them while they were still alive. Remind him that he’ll want to be proud of what he’s done for them. You’ll also want to remind him that doing so-called “feminine” tasks doesn’t make him less of a man – he’s getting hung up on stereotypes. If you work, you can also make it clear that you have just as much of a right to spend time on your career as he does. You have your other obligations too.

In the end, you need to decide how much care you’re willing to take on, and then leave it to your spouse to handle things from there. Set strong, clear boundaries: ultimately his parents are his responsibility. Of course, if you’re married, you’ll need to take the health of your relationship into account with any decision you make. However, if you’re divorced, you have no obligation, though some women feel they should care for their former in-laws because they are, after all, their children’s grandparents. But the key point to remember is that you are in charge of your contribution.