Friday, September 5, 2008

Family Quandries

Here is my quandry. My pregnant SIL, Kathy, is on my nerves, and I need some advice.

I am the kind of person who tries very hard to remember everyone's birthdays, anniversaries, and other major events. If I don't send a gift or card, I call or at least email. If there's an event, we always go, especially if the event is for children (the exception to this is when I was recently in the hospital, I missed my neice's 18th bday shindig). I feel that it's important to be there for people, and show them that I care. If someone is ill, or hurt, I want to know how they are. If there's a new baby, I go see it, giftie in hand for mom and baby. I like doing this. I like being part of a family, after not really growing up in one.

My problem is this: Kathy is not interested in any of this. We get no acknowledgement of events, birthdays, anniversaries, nothing, not even for the kids. I don't expect a gift, but a call or email would be nice. I can count on one hand the number of times she's shown up at a kid's birthday, and my BIL has never once gone. We hear from them so little, and see them so little, that Patrick actually forgets that they are out there; he told me awhile ago when we were talking about how who was related to who in our family that he has one aunt and uncle. When I reminded him that no, he has two, he was mystified. It's not like we live far from these people, either, since they are actually much closer physically to us than my other SIL, Jen, whom I adore and talk to / see often even though she's 90min away, and my MIL who lives near Jen. We would like to visit Kathy and her family, but when we mention that we'd like to stop over, we get told that they'll be doing yard work, or mucking out the pond, or something like that, and we can come over and help if we want. Jen did that, and ended up with raging poison ivy. There's no sitting and visiting - if you want to see them, you have to go and Do Something. Invitations for them to visit us, or other people, are generally declined. They do have friends, and they do hang out with said friends, however, at least on occasion.

So, now there's this pregnancy. And an expected baby shower, which is expected to be given by my SIL, MIL, and I. Initially, it was supposed to be by the end of September, because my IL's will be away in Oct, and Kathy didn't want to be bothered with it in November, because she's due in January and felt that she wouldn't want to deal with anything in her third trimester. Thankfully, that was changed to Nov 2, since there's no way anything like that could be pulled off in the four to six weeks we were initially given. She only wants to register at Walmart because she doesn't want to have to drive to the larger town twenty minutes away to return things. Oh, and it's going to need to be at the firehouse, so the wives of all the guys in the fire dept, plus family and friends can come. When my MIL told her that she needed to call Jen with a guest list, she replied that Jen would have to call her. When Jen did call, she didn't get a return call until today, two weeks later. But we need to get on that, mmm-kay? Never mind that she didn't help out with the shower for her sister's wedding or her baby shower; I did those on my own, and while I loved it, isn't that something a sister should want to do? But we need to get on hers.

On top of all this, I have heard not one word from her the entire time my whole gb situation was going on. Not when I was admitted to the hospital for three days, not before or after the surgery, nothing. That really hurt my feelings. DH went to the ER for a kidney stone. Nada.

So, now the babies will be coming, and I'm feeling like my MIL thinks we're going to go and help out after they're home. Ordinarily, I would be All Over That, because I love babies, but... I'm tired of feeling like I should keep giving and giving and getting nothing back. I honestly don't think they care much about anyone but themselves. I've been in this family for over ten years now, and it's always been this way. DH told me today that he would have stopped being in contact with them long ago if I hadn't been pushing it.

So, what do I do? Do I help out with this shower, buy gifts for said shower and births, help out with babysitting, etc after they're born while the kids are at school once a week or so? As a family, it's the right thing to do. It's what I would do for my friends. Or, do I admit that I'm tired of being one hand clapping, and give it a rest? Stay home? Maybe send a card? I doubt she'd notice. I'm really feeling done.


AndreAnna said...

Yes, you help out, because you're a good person and above her level.

At least, that's how I see it.

Anonymous said...

In many respects, I am the same way. I remember birthdays and important days (or try my best to) but after years of getting nothing in return, I have finally begun to cut out those who don't respond in kind. As you said, I'm not looking for anything big other than a simple acknowledgement of a special day.

If I were you, I'd be too guilt ridden not to help out to a degree, but I would try my hardest not to feel obligated. If she needs your help, asks nicely for it herself, and if it fits well within your schedule/personal obligations, then go for it. But if it is inconvenient for you, I would simply tell you her you are sorry, but you're unavailable that day. Maybe it's petty, but I have a hard time repeatedly doing things for someone who seems to have no respect for me in return.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Oh boy. I find things like this so hard. I have a somewhat similar situation in my family and I'm afraid I've never felt good about it either way. If I help out and do things on their terms, I am annoyed and feel unappreciated. If I don't help out, I feel guilty, like all my good karma is being taken from me because I should be a better person.

I wish I had advice. Just sympathy, I guess.

Kristi said...

Maybe I'm a mean person, but I say forget about her.

I think help with the shower because your MIL and SIL Jen are counting on you. Send a card when the baby is born, and be done.

If she's not going to put forth the same effort (or any effort at all) as you then there is no reason for you to keep stressing yourself out.

Just my opinion!!

Stimey said...

It's so hard to be the only one giving. I know you don't give to get back, but it's nice to get acknowledgment.

You'll probably end up helping, but don't kill yourself to do it. Make sure to put you and your family first.

Kristin.... said...

Oy. What a mess. I think you help out too, but don't kill yourself or go overboard. I am the one to who goes overboard, and then resents everyone for not doing the same. It's frustrating for you and just isn't fair.

Not Your Aunt Bea said...

I agree with Shelly.

Do only what truly comes from your heart. Not from guilt, not from family obligations, not from fearing that you will be judged, not from thinking doing or not doing will make you a good or bad person.

When you do something because you truly want to, it won't matter her reaction (or lack thereof) as in the act itself is fulfilling enough for you. It is hard, but easier once you get used to it.

I was in the same boat. For 9 years before I finally figured it out.

d e v a n said...

'd probably take her a small gift or meal, but wouldn't kill myself trying to help out.

Which Box said...

Isn't there a middle ground? Help with the shower, but don't go above and beyond after that?

I think the problem comes when a person is extremely giving, and expects that in return. you're giving - she's not. I think you're right, I doubt she'd even notice if you pulled back a bit. So pull back and give to others - or yourself!