And now I will answer the question. I have many, many answers:
- Because it is relative. Normally she stays 2.5 weeks. At this point I would still have almost 2 weeks left to go, and black despair would be filling my heart--but instead I have only the weekend. I can make it to Monday.
- Because I am getting used to it. Just as I now know from experience that for a month or so after childbirth I will require frequent hot meals to remain sane, I now know from experience that a visit from my mother-in-law will require certain coping devices: bag of candy per day; a nursing station in another room; liquor and tranqs if not nursing; caffeine every single morning in large quantities; scheduled activities; pushing her into interactive activities with the children.
- Because Paul, too, is getting used to it. Just as he now knows to provide me with plenty of meals after a baby is born, he now knows to take a few days off of work while his mother is here--ignoring my protests about how much smaller his paycheck will be. He knows to take his mom and Rob and William to a museum a couple of hours away, so that they will be gone all day, giving me a day to enjoy my quiet, empty house. (Well, quiet and empty except for two toddlers and a baby.) He knows to invite his mom to play games in the evening, so I can go off to another room and breathe. He knows that when she says for the fiftieth time that we should "add a can of corn to stretch that hamburg," he should reply, "Oh, gross! No, mom, we're not going to do that"--rather than leaving me to flounder in politeness. He knows to TELL me that if we buy such-and-such she'll make comment X, or that if we do such-and-such an activity she'll make comment Y--so that I will not fall into traps. He knows she is HIS mother, and that he must not disappear to his computer, leaving me alone with her. He knows not to defend her if I complain later. And he knows how to make an excellent dismissive sound combined with a dismissive hand gesture, as if to say, "She is nothing to us."
- Because my expectations have changed. At first I hoped for good visits and a good relationship. Now I hope not to kill her, and not to have a horrible uncomfortable fight with her. I hope to GET THROUGH IT, that's all. If I also manage to make things easy on myself by avoiding a feud, all the better.
- Because I am selective in what I tell you. Do I tell you about the perfectly pleasant--if boring--chat we had over a breakfast of coffee and juice and fresh-baked muffins? No. Do I tell you how she several times praised the muffins? No. Do I tell you about how I got her talking about her job and thus passed several hours of nearly irritation-free evening? No. Do I tell you how she's been going back to her motel around 8:00 p.m., giving me a couple of hours each evening to restoreth the soul? No. I just tell you the bad stuff, so that you will pity me and leave comments that further restoreth my soul.
Speaking of which, let's have some more bad stuff. It's more interesting to talk about, and it helps to vent to you--I don't like to complain TOO much to Paul, since she IS his flesh-and-blood (*shudder*).
- Paul and I went to pick up our car at the shop the other evening, leaving her in charge of the sleeping kids. When we returned, there was the STRONG smell of pesticide in the house. We were totally mystified, searching all around for leaking cans or outdoor breezes. Then we looked at each other, as both of us realized the most likely explanation was that his mother had sprayed while we were gone. Using the pesticide we use ONLY outdoors, and ONLY for severe infestation problems. We'd seen her making faces at the few flies that always manage to get into the house this time of year, and she'd commented on the fruit flies "all over the place." To be fair, we don't know that this is what happened. Those mischievous fairies could have been to blame.
- I was running around this morning as the children cried and fought and needed things and the mother-in-law sat in her chair regarding the spin of the earth. Henry was fussing, so I gave him to my mother-in-law to hold. After awhile she said, "Could he possibly need to EAT again?" I figured he needed a nap, so I took him. And he was totally blown out, all the way up his back. She couldn't have failed to notice: it was completely visible and smellable. Note: There was no way she could have won with me on this one, though. If she'd said, "Swistle! This baby needs changed!" (there's evidently an Infinitive Conservation Initiative where she comes from), I would have been even more annoyed. If she'd changed him herself, I wouldn't have liked her questions or her rummagings or her comments about it. So I fully admit it was a lose-lose-lose situation for her; nevertheless, I was annoyed and the situation seemed indicative of deep character flaws. In her, I mean. We can talk about mine another time.
- The morning she and Paul went to the museum, she brought over a sack of dirty laundry for "if" I was doing laundry today. First: the dirty laundry was FOLDED, which irritated me immensely. What does it MEAN? Second: as I discovered after the first load and again after the second, she had tissues in most of her pockets. Surely I was not expected to check her pockets. (You might think I'd mind doing her laundry at all, but again, this is lose-lose for her: if she does it herself, I resent her "snooping" my laundry.)
- She keeps making these fake-laugh comments about how riDICKulous everything is at our house. The counters are SO HIGH! The changing table is SO HIGH! The cupboards--she can't REACH, because they're SO HIGH! She TRIED to set the table, but she just can't REACH that HIGH! It's riDICKulous! Shrill fake laugh! She is five feet tall. Pardon us for having standard counters and changing tables.
- She keeps doing things I can't interpret. I find a few clean cups from the drying rack in a little stack of unmatched types on the counter. Is she trying to...help? But also commenting on how riDICKulously high the cupboards are? I can't tell. What does it mean that all our shoes have been lined up by the door? And the FOLDED dirty laundry. Like crop circles, the meaning defies interpretation.
- This afternoon, she commented, "Whooo, we'd better get a start on dinner!" If you think this means that the two of us work side by side to get dinner ready, you would be SADLY MISTAKEN. This was her way of telling me that she thought I should be starting dinner.
- This morning she and I went out shopping with the three littles. She commented that I could do this now that I had another adult to help me out. I can't explain to you how VERY HELPFUL she was. Like when we were getting ready to go, and she got her own coat on and sat quietly while I got all three children changed and coated, the diaper bags gathered and readied, the house ready for us to leave it--and then she remarked with a laugh how FUNNY it is that it takes SO LONG to just get ready to go anywhere! Or like when we came out of the store and she got into the car and sat there with her purse in her lap, tactfully not complaining about how long it was taking me to unload the shopping cart of the three children and all the purchases. Oh, she is such an excellent and helpful companion! How DO I manage without her?