Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Is it Ever Acceptable to Hold Back Help?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I am writing because my husband and I have been helping out our son and his wife since before they married nearly 10 years ago.  My son is a very hard worker, but he is overwhelmed at home.  His wife worked full time when they were dating, but almost right away after marriage she dropped to part time work.  She could not keep up with housework.  She does not cook.  My son does the grocery shopping and cooking.  She then stopped working completely, but still could not keep up with the house and it is very, very dirty.  My son did not want any more children but she has just given birth to a fourth child.  When she was only 3 months into her pregnancy, she stopped loading the dishwasher because she said she was in too much pain.  She doesn't even unload it when the dishes are clean.  There are always tons of dirty dishes, overflowing trash, food all over the kitchen and dining room floors, piles of clean and dirty laundry all over, but the worst is the dozens of dirty diapers on the floors of the children’s rooms.  They purchased a new van and a beautiful home two years ago with gorgeous landscaping and a beautiful patio.  The home had beautiful wall-to-wall carpeting.  It was just immaculate, but within three months it was a pit.  It’s so heartbreaking to see what has become of both the home and their vehicle.  All she ever does is complain about how much pain she is in.  She does her hair and her nails, but just constantly wants my son to help her with the house and kids.  She ruined their credit by not paying the bills on time.  We have babysat so she wouldn't have to take her children to all kinds of appointments.  I do her dishes, wash her floors, clean her nasty stovetop, etc.  We pick up our grandson on Friday nights so my son can get some sleep because he works midnight shift on the weekends.  (We have to drive to pick up our grandson because she can't handle the drive.)  My daughters babysit and buy them all kinds of diapers and clothes for her and the kids.  She only takes, never gives.  We had a Bible study when they first got married, and after the study she had a meeting at her house to bad mouth me because I shared how the Lord had healed me.  (She assumed I was criticizing her for using medicine.  I wasn't.  I use medicine, too.)  Our family used to be very close but we have not had any family fellowship since.  There are some things that I appreciate about her, however.  I love how she is funny and creative, and she seems to love my grandchildren.  

My question is my son asked my husband, who is 60 years old and works midnights also, if he could pick up our grandson on Friday.  We have done this tons of times.  The thing is, my son is off work for a month on family leave for the baby.  He could easily bring the boy to us, but that would mean his wife would have to be alone with a 3-year-old, an 18-month-old, and a week-old baby.  All healthy.  I had 4 children, and took my babies everywhere!  My mom had 8 children, no car, and my dad left when I was two.  Her mom had 10, and her mom 12 children.  I don't think it is fair for our son to ask his elderly father, who is in very poor health, to give up his weekend time so his wife doesn't have to take care of her own responsibilities.  There is so much we have done for them already.  We even catered their wedding reception because her family didn't have the money, even though we don't have much either.  We drove 90 minutes each way to set up, and we shopped, cooked, cleaned, and packed up.  We were happy to do it.  We love the Lord and our family, but we are wondering if we can keep this up.  We think it is time for our daughter-in-law to handle her own responsibilities.  My son is so worn out and depressed.  He told his Dad he feels like she baited and switched him.  I feel he is at fault too, for not making her do more of her job as a housewife.  He gives her everything she wants.  (As a side note, we are not allowed to kiss our grandkids or post pictures of them.  I made the mistake of announcing to my friends on Facebook that I was going to be a grandmother, and they publicly chastised me.)  I say all this to ask what we should do.  What would the Lord want us to do?

We’ve Gone an Extra Thousand Miles

Dear Extra Thousand Miles,

My heart goes out to you and your husband for the years that you have been taking responsibility for your son's family.  It's evident that your daughter-in-law's laziness will continue as long as the family continues to take up the slack by doing things that are her responsibility.  You and your husband are of the age when your children should be taking care of you, not the other way around (Matthew 15:1-9; 2 Corinthians 12:14).  Furthermore, parents are not responsible for taking care of their adult children (Mark 10:6-8).  Your son and his wife are a separate family unit.  They are the ones who are responsible for taking care of their home and their children—not you.  You may think that you are helping them, but you are actually hurting them.  You should immediately stop doing their housework.  This means NO washing their dishes, mopping their floors, doing their laundry, taking out their trash, etc.  When you stop "helping," your son and his wife will have to work out their household duties together, as they should have been doing for themselves from the beginning.

Occasional babysitting is okay.  It's called visiting with your grandchildren.  However, it is not your responsibility to take care of your grandchildren.  Parents are responsible for taking care of their own minor children.  As you pointed out, generations of parents have been taking care of their children, no matter how many children they have.  If you want to have the grandchildren in your home or babysit when their parents have appointments, then fine.  However, you have the right to set limits on how often or how long their visits are.  Don't be afraid to say no.  Furthermore, it’s their responsibility to bring the children to you and pick them up after their visit.  As you pointed out, they really have no reasonable excuse for not bringing your grandson to you.  After all, when your son is at work your daughter-in-law is alone with the children and she finds a way to manage it.

Your daughter-in-law (and possibly your son, too) will vehemently fight against any changes that you make and will likely say some very hurtful things to you and about you.  Stay strong and don't back down.  If you give in and resume doing things for them, your daughter-in-law will have won and she will never change her behavior.

God bless,
Aunt Dara