DEAR ABBY: I will graduate soon with a degree in nursing. This is a dream that is finally coming true. The problem is my mother-in-law expects me to take care of her and my father-in-law. They both have health issues, but nothing that requires 24-hour nursing care, and their medical issues can be resolved by simply taking their medications and following their doctors' advice.
I offered to help pay for home health care, but she said she doesn't want "outside" help. She expects me to uproot my family, move in with them and provide round-the-clock care, free of charge. I have worked hard to take care of my husband and children. I can't make a living working for free. I don't know how to say no without causing a major rift in the family. My mother-in-law doesn't take rejection well. Please help me. -- FEELING TRAPPED IN ARIZONA
DEAR FEELING TRAPPED: One of the hardest words in the English language for some people to say is "no." But if you don't master the art of standing up for yourself in a "charming" way, you will spend the rest of your in-laws' lives in indentured servitude.
So tell your mother-in-law that you have worked hard to get your nursing degree, and now you will be starting a career in the field. Tell her that you will gladly "oversee" their care -- from a distance -- but that you are not uprooting the family and moving in with them because it would be too disruptive. This is not "rejection." It is sanity. And it goes without saying your husband should back you up.