My mother-in-law does very little cooking and has plenty of time to go to shul and take naps on Shabbos and Yom Tov. They rarely offer to help with our son. We have no problem doing most of the work in caring for our son, but we feel that it’s a given that younger parents want some help with their kids when they visit the grandparents.
My in-laws, however, feel that it is our job to contribute more than we already do (I do help during meals and have on occasion brought baked goods, it is my pleasure to do all this). Yet if we ask for help with our son, we are supposed to do it all ourselves, and my in-laws don’t consider my having to take care of my son as a good reason not to be helping them at every possible opportunity. Again, I have no opposition to the need to pitch in and contribute. What bothers me is being told how much I must contribute. (I was once told that I wasn’t doing enough when I did their laundry for them, helped prepare food, and helped set and clear the table when I was more than six months pregnant) and the way it is demanded of me (as if it is coming to them).
What happened to judging people favorably? Maybe the daughters or daughters-in-law described in past letters have valid reasons for not helping. Perhaps their young ones don’t let them sleep much and they feel too out of it to be of any use in terms of helping. Maybe a daughter feels that her mother knows how hard she works in her home and will understand that she doesn’t feel up to helping or that she needs to take care of her own children. Maybe a daughter-in-law has been working especially hard and her husband asked her for her own sake, to take it easy when they go to his parents this Shabbos or Yom Tov and said that his mother will understand. There are many other valid reasons that the daughter or daughter-in-law may have for not helping that she may not be able to communicate.
My in-laws have never been in my shoes so they have no right to judge how much I should be contributing. If I wanted to work as hard as my in-laws think I should, it would be much easier to stay home and have guests. My son needs to be my priority, which means that I will not have the same resources as my husband’s younger siblings to contribute, especially if I don’t have help with my son. It would mean so much to me if they would respect my limits and trust me that I am doing the best that I can, and allow me to take it easy. My husband has tried to explain to them many times that I work very hard at home and that they should appreciate whatever amount I can contribute, but they demand that I push myself more than I already do. We have even suggested speaking to a neutral third party to try to work things out, but they aren’t very interested.
I hope that you will print my letter (but please omit my name) so that parents will reconsider what they expect from their children who come to visit, and that it is important to give us the benefit of the doubt (dan l’kaf zechus). We really do appreciate everything they do for us and we try to help as much as we can, but please be reasonable and be sensitive to our needs as well.