When we live with parents and in-laws, the space becomes different. Suddenly it’s not just you and your spouse, or you, your spouse, and your kids.
There is an entire other person there who very considerably influences the dynamic of the living situation.
Redditor notamaidthrow found himself in conflict with his mother-in-law wherein she very much did not appreciate something he did.
She literally asked him to do it.
After this, unsure if he was in the wrong, he went to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole” or “AITA” for perspective from objective outsiders.
“AITA For giving my MIL a chore list?”
Our original poster, or OP, set the stage that brought his mother-in-law (MIL) into his home.
“My MIL moved in with my wife and I last summer because she lost her job and could no longer afford the house she lived in.”
“What was supposed to be a temporary arrangement has turned into a semi-permanent one because MIL has not been able to find a new job in her field and has refused to get a part-time job or a lower paying job unrelated to her field. That’s a debate for a different time though.”
OP’s MIL said she wanted to contribute more.
“My wife has to travel for work, sometimes for 7-10 days at a time. This travel was pretty much cut out due to Covid, but has recently started up again and this week she is gone for a 5-day stretch.”
“Before my wife left, MIL was kind of venting to my wife about feeling like she isn’t contributing anything to the household.”
“She has no income so we aren’t asking for rent, but she does throw us some money here and there to help with groceries.”
And then OP obliged.
“We don’t have kids so it’s not like we need help with childcare. She will help with laundry a bit, but both my wife and I prefer to do our own laundry so we kind of told her not to worry about it.”
“She also isn’t much of a cook and both my wife and I would prefer if she didn’t cook for us. We’ve pretty much told her to concentrate on finding a job and saving money.”
“I wasn’t involved in the conversation, but my wife told me about it before she left.”
“The day my wife left I talked with MIL about it and offered her some reassurance that we aren’t concerned with her lack of monetary contribution.”
“She said she feels like she should be doing more around the house but doesn’t feel like it’s her place to take initiative on what to do. So I told her I would think of some things that she could do.”
But his MIL was extremely unhappy about it.
“That night I made a list of things that need to be done around the house. I will admit that a lot of them are fairly undesirable things that get pushed to the back of the to-do list.”
“Like cleaning windows, cleaning the oven, cleaning bathrooms, etc. MIL was still asleep when I left for work the next morning so I left the list on the counter.”
“A couple hours later I get a text from her with a picture of the list saying, ‘What the hell is this? Do you think I’m your maid?'”
“I didn’t respond right away and figured I would talk to her about it when I got home.”
MIL wasn’t done being upset yet.
“When I got home she confronted me about it right away. She said it was sexist of me to imply that all she could do around the house was clean.”
“I told her those were just a few things that I came up with, but if she has other ideas I am willing to hear them. She then asked if she looked like a maid to me.”
“I told her no, she doesn’t look like a maid. She looks like an able-bodied adult living rent-free in someone else’s home who had just asked what they could do to help out.”
Now OP is unsure if he did something wrong.
“She crumpled up the list and threw it at my chest and said she’s not doing any of that stuff. She hasn’t spoken to me since and mostly just stays in our guest room with the door closed.”
“I told my wife about it and she said I should have just waited until she got home but she said she understands why her mom is upset.”
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Everyone agreed OP was not to blame.
“She was virtue signaling by complaining that she didn’t do anything around the house, but you actually offering her things to do to rectify the anxiety she was expressing about it was too real and she felt called out.”
“She needs to let go of her pride and find a damn job and get out of your house if she has no actual desire to contribute in any way to the household.”~VixHarlow
“NTA my ex and I lived with friends for a few months while looking for a house to buy and I hated feeling like a freeloader.”
“I did anything I could to help out(they wouldn’t take money), dishes, vacuuming, dusting, washing the dogs, hell I even removed 3 layers of wallpaper throughout the whole house.”
“I can’t believe this woman scoffed at a few light chores…sorry OP.”~tjo1975
“When I was a teen living with my mom, I didn’t have set chores, but if she set out a list of things that needed to be done, I’d go down the list no problem.”
“(The problem came when she expected me to do something without telling me to do it. Dirty dishes in the sink? Dafuq I care?)”
“(I’m a grown adult and have dirty dishes in the sink. I’ll get to it when I get to it.)”
“She ‘said’ she wanted to help out, OP called what was apparently her bluff. NTA”~kirroth
“NTA – somebody has to do those things. In the absence of a maid service or magical elves, the duty would fall to a member of the household. Seeing as she lives with you, that description includes her.”
“She was complaining about not knowing how to contribute to the household.”
“Since she didn’t manage to figure it out on her own, you made a list of the stuff that needed doing which she hadn’t noticed.”
“Her blustering about ‘do I look like your maid?’ is disingenuous bullsh*t.”
“Again, somebody has to do those things, and if she’s not willing to do them but expects to benefit from them being done, then she’s the one who regards you as the maid service while she behaves like a paying guest at a hotel (only she doesn’t pay, either.)”~avast2006
Though there could have just been a total miscommunication, why would MIL ask for a list of things if she didn’t actually want it?
“NAH. This actually sounds like a difference in personality types more than the list. Some people are very… direct, ‘fix-it,’ no sugar-coating types. Others are more sit down, talk, hug types.”
“My favorite communications professor started class by saying ‘Don’t let people fool you. It really is about how you say it, not what you say.'”
“You can say the exact same thing 10 different ways, and depending on the recipient, get 10 different responses.”
“It sounds like she wants to do more. I think it just came across cold in the delivery and she put up her defensives in response.”
“I suggest you all work on your communication across personalities. When I found out I was an INTJ, as a woman, my more confusing interactions with people suddenly made a lot more sense.”
“I’m a no nonsense, direct type who hides my emotions and approaches conflict with rationality.”
“Leaving a list in the scenario you described seems fine to me, but I can totally see why it came across demanding.”~nickelby55
“I vote NAH. You were trying to help man no harm there.”
“MIL is in a sensitive spot because it sounds like she was a skilled worker at whatever her job was so feeling like you’re being relegated to maid work would be a hit to the ego.”
“Wife doesn’t want to take sides because that would be rough. I’d say just wait for wife to come deal with it and let it blow over.”
“If MIL picks a bigger fight when wife gets back kindly evict her 🤷🏻♂️”~DKGroove
“NTA. She didn’t specify ‘but no cleaning’ in her conversation with you. Most non-monetary contributions to the household are cleaning related.”
“I think you did pretty well in making it clear those were simply suggestions (that she asked for!)”
“But considering how offended she was for cleaning suggestions, maybe apologise for assuming she meant cleaning category chores, and ask what category of household chore she had in mind.”
“Did she mean yard work? Household repairs? Maybe she’s handy with basic car stuff and would like to take on maintaining the car (changing the oil, etc)?”
“If she didn’t mean chores at all, what exactly did she even mean? How do you contribute to a household if not financially or by household chores?”~ReasonableFig2111
“I’m at NTA here, I don’t think your MIL is wrong for being upset and possibly misreading what you were trying to say, but she definitely is going the wrong way about it.”
“It sounds like your MIL isn’t actually all that sorry for not being able to contribute much to your household and more of said that as an apology.”
“You definitely should have told her this list in person, as it would’ve cut down on the miscommunication and you absolutely should’ve consulted your wife about the list before you left it, but none of what you did strikes me as something that’s wrong or mean, just poorly communicated.”
“Her cursing you out in your own household for giving her what she was literally asking for was over the top.”~rorank
And if it was a miscommunication, why didn’t she ask any questions instead of assaulting him with the paper?
“NTA. Though I think the upsetting part was that she found a list left for her on the counter. That might have come across as ‘Here’s a list of sh*t I want done before I get home.'”
“I’m not saying that’s exactly what she thought, but that’s what I would have thought.”
“I wouldn’t have left a list laying around. Also you shouldn’t have made it just a list of undesirable things to do.”
“Because, again, that can come across as a maid thing. I’m still overall going with NTA though because she was asking what she could do to help.”
I know you didn’t ask for suggestions, but maybe ask her if she can do the grocery shopping once a week, and everyone can contribute to a list and envelope and money that sits on the fridge for her to grab on her way out?”
“You could ask her to just help clean in general without a list. ‘You know what would be a ton of help? Cleaning the oven. It’s been awhile and I’m not sure how.'”
“‘Would you want to vaccuum once a week or so? We always seem to forget that.’ Wording is just important and I think the list being left for her to find is what set the mood.”~SadGirlPancake
“NTA – since she wants to act like a jerk about this, I’d ask her what types of things SHE had been thinking of…I mean, it’s not like you are going to ask her to do any big ticket items for gosh sakes.”
“I don’t understand what tasks she thought she could do, if cooking and laundry (um, also perhaps ‘maid’ like tasks, but whatever) are off the table.”
“Maybe try to frame your task list from the aspect that you were thinking of things that she would be doing in her own home anyway.”
“Or did she hire a maid to wash her windows, etc and that’s why she’s broke. 🤷🏼♀️”~Hannymann
“NTA. This sounds like a difference in personalities. I had to have this explained to me because I’m autistic.”
“Some people don’t actually want to do things to help people, but act like they do, out of politeness. They ask if you want help, but expect you to say no out of politeness as well.”
“These people consider it rude when someone takes them up on their offer of help. It’s just one of those stupid unspoken social rules that some people live by.”~angry_asian_autistic
“NTA She didn’t really want to help or she only wanted to do jobs she felt aren’t beneath her station. Just like she feels she’s too good to take a lower paying/different job.”
“Your delivery was acceptable based on the circumstances and the situation as you described, despite what some other individuals here believe.”~Zakblank
Hopefully OP and MIL will have a conversation that allows them to move past this, but at least OP can take comfort in the fact nothing he did was malicious.
Anonymous strangers are the best at giving objective judgments, aren’t they?