Dear Miss Dix,
Three years ago I left a good home and position to marry an only son. My husband’s mother lives with us. She is 75 and crippled. She is sweet and easy to get along with, but she makes me very unhappy because she never lets us have a minute alone together. In the morning she comes down to breakfast just to be with him and then she goes back to bed. When friends drop in in the evenings mother holds the floor for half an hour at a time, telling the same old stories over and over again. My friends have made remarks about this and when I told my husband about it he said, “Oh, let her stay up. She enjoys it and she only has a few more years to live.” I am so unhappy that I think I will take my baby and leave.
SAD MOTHER AND WIFE
Well, if that is all you have to be sad about, you should be down on your knees thanking God for your happiness instead of cluttering up this column with your wails.
If your mother-in-law was mean and bossy and hateful to get along with, and if she was trying to separate you from your husband, you would have just reason for complaint. But she is none of these things. She is a sweet, gentle, crippled old lady who only wants a little of the society of the son she adores and a little of the companionship of you and your husband and your friends.
Aren’t you a big enough woman to look at the situation from her point of view and see how pitiful a thing it is for the old to have to warm themselves at another person’s fire, and borrow their happiness from others? Just consider how poor she is, crippled and old and feeble, the sands in her glass running low, her hands empty and idle, nothing to do, nothing to look forward to, nothing more to hope or plan for, no interest except in her son.
And you are so rich. You have the son, whose love for you is so much greater than his affection for his mother. You have your child. You have your home. You have youth and friends and a million interests that keep your mind and your heart and your hands busy, and a long and rosy future stretching before you. Can you not out of your wealth spare a little understanding, a little patience to this forlorn?
What if she does bore your friends by being garrulous and telling the same old stories? Her happiness is far more to be considered than their being entertained. Besides, they need a lesson in human sympathy and forbearance just as much as you do. And they might all remember that some day they also will be old and tedious and need to call upon the patience of the young.
I cannot believe that you are a poor enough sport seriously to consider leaving a good husband, breaking up your home and orphaning your child for no better reason than that his old mother had got upon your nerves. If you do this, you are a quitter and a coward and your husband will have a right to be glad to be rid of a wife who was made of such poor material that she couldn’t take it.
My advice to you is to brace up and snap out of the maudlin state of mind you have got into. Quit being sorry for yourself. Dry your eyes and smile and cherish your poor old mother-in-law as if she were your own mother. There is nothing that cheers us up like doing the right thing.
Dorothy Dix (1935)
Dear Miss Dix,