I’m a mother of sons I’ve raised mostly on my own, with help from my late parents. I help my sons whenever I can.
When one son, his wife, and children needed a place to stay until their home was ready for their move, I took them in at no expense.
When they left, I noticed that some of my things had gone missing. When I mentioned this to my daughter-in-law, she said she didn’t know anything about the specific items.
However, I soon realized there were also gold jewellery and other expensive items, which had been left to me by my mother, which I couldn’t find.
My son and his wife have a very successful business and earn more than I ever did.
I’m heartbroken to think that I’ve been taken advantage of by my family, and I’m pretty sure she’s guilty. She’s smart and aggressive and will continue to deny.
Meanwhile, I continue to help them whenever I can with babysitting and extras, but I cannot understand this violation.
What course of action should I take, if any?
This is a situation for which you could receive widely differing answers based on very different convictions – from a belief in administering justice, to showing forgiveness, to getting help for a troubled individual.
I’m sure that readers will weigh in with responses about some of the above.
From me, here are the options and consequences as I see them:
- You can accuse your daughter-in-law outright and say you’re sure she took the items.
If you’re wrong, the relationship’s ruined.
Even if you were right, she’d likely get defensive, as well as furious, and cut you off from her husband and child.
- You could tell her privately that you believe she took the items as she had the most access to them, and that you think she needs professional therapy to deal with her “problem.”
She’d then still likely get furious in response, and cut you off from her husband and child…. OR – it’s a long shot – she might break down and admit she needs help.
Note: Some people take things that aren’t theirs, to “fill a deep black hole” in their emotional life, as one psychiatrist told me.
Some others have kleptomania, a mental health disorder involving impulse control. It’s characterized by repeated, failed attempts to stop stealing.
3.You could tell your son your suspicions. He then has the problem of whether to believe you, whether to pay you back without alienating her for believing you, or whether to support her no matter and cut you off from their family to keep peace in his home.
- You could put any remaining expensive jewellery and precious items you still have in a bank safety deposit box (not a big annual rental expense) and take them out only when you plan to wear them.
This is the most likely way to avoid the different confrontations that could cut you off from family.
I’m not making light of this decision. If this were a pattern for her, it would be a positive step for the whole family for her to acknowledge the thefts, and get help to end the impulse.
But unless that seems possible to happen, I suggest that you think about what you want most out of life – the items, or finding the true culprit, or making sure she knows that you know it’s her, or having peace in your family life despite your doubts.
FEEDBACK Regarding the new baby and in-law over-kill (March 27):
Reader – “I faced this same situation 20-plus years ago. We were expected to attend marathon lunches every Sunday after we were married.
“We said no. We’d see them often, but not every weekend. Yet we were accused of “abandoning” my mother-in-law.
“The expectation of frequent get-togethers was constant. And she applied more pressure when the grandchildren arrived.
“It was never enough.
“My advice to this couple is to set your boundaries firmly, kindly and early. If the new mom’s an introvert, these gatherings can be exhausting. They should preserve the health of their immediate family and learn to say no as a couple.
“However, if she trusts the in-laws with her six-months baby, consider lunch with the family and then the couple take off at 3pm and come back at 10pm to pick up their baby?
“A mutually beneficial opportunity is possible.”
Tip of the day:
Suspecting a close relative of theft? Think through the consequences before you accuse.