Dear Carolyn: I have a great relationship with my mother-in-law. Before we had kids, we vacationed with my husband’s immediate family, and went for dinner and drinks very frequently together.
We live within minutes of my in-laws, but do not get or ask for a lot of help. When we do ask for baby-sitting help, we are made to feel like it is a major inconvenience. My sister-in-law gets the same response. We get a laundry list of things she has going on that MAY be impacted by a few hours with her grandchildren. If it is that much of an inconvenience, we would prefer she just say “no” and leave it at that. Any advice on how we can approach this with her?
Best approach: Stop asking.
It would be better if she just said “no,” I agree. I also get that you want Grandma and grandkids to be close. Her huffing and puffing, though, are the equivalent of “no.”
If you don’t have even a short list of sitters you can hire, then you need to develop one. If you do have a short list and occasionally everyone is busy, then either you postpone your anniversary dinner to a workable night, or, OK, you ask your mother-in-law — knowing you’ll get 18 excuses and possibly no sitter. Part of any “wonderful” relationship is making allowances for the occasional non-wonderful thing that’s part of the package with every person on earth.
So when you have an emergency, yes, recruit your in-laws. Otherwise? You, your husband, your sister- and brother-in-law, your kids, their grandparents, all your collective wits and anything else involved in this familial tug-of-war would all be better served if you just let go of the rope.