I seem to be full of dilemmas these days. My in-laws stayed with us for 8 weeks to help out and just left 10 days ago. However they're supposed to come back in July for another 3 weeks and don't know if that's a good idea or not.
When my 13D with AN was diagnosed back in February, my husband ended up having a nervous breakdown after she came out of IP in March because she was refusing to eat. He has been battling very aggressive cancer since 2016 and he has had to be extremely strong and has endured some very tough things over the last few years. For a while it seemed like my D's diagnosis and her mental state was just too much for him to take on top of everything else. So I called his parents to come and help us because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to manage everything on my own if my husband needed help.
While I was very grateful for the help that my in-laws provided, I have however very mixed feelings about whether they actually help or hinder my daughter's AN recovery. After my D was diagnosed, we learned that my mother-in-law was actually hospitalized for AN and depression for a year herself when she was in her 30s. This was complete news to us, including my husband. My mother-in-law has always been very selective about sharing her life history with others, including her children. I had never before paid much attention to her relationship with food because it wasn't on my radar, but I realized during this visit that she still seems to have fairly significant issues with food. She will eat a small bowl of cereal in the morning, no lunch, and then a tiny dinner. I'm pretty sure that my D noticed that. Whenever we went out to eat I noticed that my mother-in-law would make an effort to eat lunch while in front of my D, but she often looked more scared of her lunch than my D did. My mother-in-law's long list of food dislikes also meant more stress for me, but because often food that my D needed to eat for dinner would be food that my mother-in-law would refuse to eat herself. She never outright said it, but she would quietly just make herself a slice of toast instead.
Then there is also the emotional part. My mother-in-law cannot cope with any type of disagreement or confrontation, even of the smallest type. She often insisted on making dinner, and she usually introduced a fruit salad towards the end of the meal which my D would always refuse to eat because it wasn't plated together with the rest of the meal. While I agree that there is no rhyme or reason as to why the entire meal has to be introduced all at once for my daughter to eat it, we were still in the process of re-feeding and didn't think that was the time to tackle that. So I asked my mother-in-law to please let me know when she made fruit salad so we could serve it all at once with the rest of dinner. She replied by telling me that I should have known that she was making fruit salad from watching her chop fruit earlier in the day and she ran to her room crying and refused to come out for the rest of the evening. Then my D blew up at me for making grandma cry. And by the way, most requests and discussions with my MIL have always resulted in this type of reaction. Whether they come from me or from my husband. So talking things out so that we're all on the same page doesn't seem to be an option. I've tried.
On top of that, she made several fat phobia comments that really set my D back and were so extremely unhelpful. She started saying right in front of my D that the reason her cousin was so fat was because she ate too many snacks. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, I started shaking my head and saying "No! Please stop". And she actually kept talking! So I left the room. But it was too late, the damage was done. My D actually said to me later "Why did you get so angry at grandma, she's right, people get fat from eating too many snacks". 😡😡😡 And for the following two weeks my D started pushing back really hard on portions and snacks, every meal time became a battle ground yet again.
And yet my mother-in-law holds a really special place in my D's heart. There have been many things that my D has done to tackle her ED only because grandma was asking her to do it (such as going out to a coffee shop for snack or forcing herself to eat a dessert only because grandma made it). My mother-in-law is 83 years old, she is starting to battle her own serious health challenges, and she lives half-way around the world, so I know that there won't be many (or maybe any) more visits beyond the upcoming one in July.
So I'm feeling really torn about it. On the one hand I now know that my in-laws are not built at all to cope or help with my daughter's ED and despite their best intentions their visits create a bigger burden for me. Yet my daughter absolutely adores her grandmother and really wants her to come back in July. My husband is concerned about his health and wants this opportunity to see his parents again. He said that he would however support me in whatever decision I make, and if I decide that we should ask them to cancel their trip then ok. Of course they wouldn't take this lightly and I'm pretty sure that it would cause a huge family rift, but as far as I'm concerned my responsibility is to my D.
Yet I'm genuinely not sure of what the best course of action is. I want to put my daughter's AN recovery first, while also recognizing that both my husband's cancer diagnosis and my mother-in-law's advanced age and her own health challenges bring about other considerations as well.