Gransnet forums


DIL asking for advice

(21 Posts)
SurfietofLampreys Mon 09-Jan-12 11:38:48

My DH and I have three lovely children under 6 who are the youngest on his side of the family.

I have always made a very real effort to forge a good relationship with my MIL and it is probably the best of all the inlaws. We live a long way away and for reasons of logistics see more of my family although I see more of them than my DH and children do, again for reasons of logistics not lack of affection.

I have always had my children call MIL every week to hear her voice on the telephone since they were born. My MIL was welcome to my home as soon as the children were born, had she been able to get to the hospital she would have been welcome there as well. I have always taken (although not always followed) my MILs advice on childrearing graciously. Whenever she visits I have looked after her, even when recovering from operations/childbirth. We visit her as much as we can. When at her home I clear away dishes, help with the housework and make sure that the beds are stripped and the bedrooms spotless before we leave. I cook when she does not feel like it but never take over or insist.

I arrange all presents, cards etc for the whole family and these become worth less to her when she finds this out. If we do not call on her birthday we are neglectful but she has never initiated a birthday call to any of us. She recently told me that she feels slighted that we see my family more than her, that she is forgotten and left out, that she does not get to see as much of the children as she would like. She is retired and has no commitments. She has an open invitation to our home but never visits and never calls, we initiate all contact. The children have stopped wanting to speak to her and it is getting more difficult to encourage them to do so because she is never fun.

I feel that she is turning me into a baddie here when all I do is try to facilitate contact with the children. My DH supports me absolutely and was very upset at what she said. To be fair she is in a difficult place, emotionally, at the moment and is fragile so we do not want to bring her up on her behaviour (it is worse than normal because of this but along the same continuum). The last time we spoke (when she said she felt neglected and second best) I said I thought it best to bring the conversation to a close before anyone said anything hurtful and that DH would call her when he could (he works very long hours). I have not been able to bring myself to speak to her since and DH thinks this is probably wise incase she starts again. He has spoken to her and of course the children have although not as often as normal because I have not instigated calls so they have to wait for my DH to be available before bedtime.

My DH feels very forgotten because she never calls him. She says it is because she never knows when he will be free but she never calls even to leave a message on the machine or to leave one with me. It is almost as though she worries about reaching me.

I have tried to treat her with the same respect I would treat my own mother. I am not quite sure what else I can do. I appreciate that this is a very one sided account, I am not a saint and have got snippy at her in the past but far less than my DH and other people in the family. I would truly appreciate any advice that those of you with DILs have on where I am going wrong and how I can improve.

I am sorry for the rant and the length, I just want to be able to ensure that it is all set out.

jingl Mon 09-Jan-12 11:58:37

Well, definitely stop arranging other people's presents for them! It's the thought that counts and you're taking that away.

It's hard for her, living further away from you all.

You can't account for other people's emotional feelings. They don't always make sense, even to them themselves, and nobody is going to be a saint.

It would be good if she could be a bit more fun on the phone for the kids so that they wanted to speak to her, but if it's not in her nature perhaps there is nothing she can do about that.

Remember that you're younger than she is and are probably in a much happier situation.

Just keep being nice to her and try to forget about how she makes you feel.

MrsJamJam Mon 09-Jan-12 11:59:37

Sounds to me as if she is suffering from depression. Don't take any criticism from her personally, keep up the contact even if it always comes from your end, and try and find her some professional help.

Families - never straightforward!

Annobel Mon 09-Jan-12 11:59:55

I wish she appreciated your tact and respect. She does seem to be a very unhappy woman. Does she have other children or is your DH an 'only'? If he is, this could explain a lot. If you were my DiL, I would cherish you!

Carol Mon 09-Jan-12 12:01:06

SurfietofLampreys you might need to develop a thick skin for a while, until this phase passes. She might be feeling very emotional about something else and you are the safest target because you have always been so congenial with her. How about acting as though things are ok and just sending her the odd text to let her know you are thinking about her, hope she is well, that sort of thing?

Now she has been so critical, she can't defend her position if she doesn't respond likewise.

My children have busy lives and I will often text to check whether they are up for a chat on the phone. For example, this morning, I have texted to ask if daughter and SIL need any help as they have new babies. No reply in the last 2 hours, and eventually they will respond, saying they are ok. If they'd needed help, the phone would have rung immediately. I don't take offence, as I know they're OK, but I guess if I was feeling ill or depressed, the lack of response could take on a different meaning. I see them fairly often and if I feel I don't see any of them enough I do something about it, but not all MIL's are confident enough to push things.

If your MIL is suffering from an illness or depression, I would guess that she might welcome an opening to say this. Also your DH working long hours doesn't prevent him from texting or calling his mum to ask her how she is. Does he call other people? Seems you might be taking the brunt of the issue and your DH could be more involved.

Mishap Mon 09-Jan-12 12:11:50

You sound as though you are a kind and thoughtful DIL, so do not apologise for the "rant."

It is not easy being a MIL (although I only have SILs as I only produced daughters).

In the main people with Ds tend to have more contact with their GC via their Ds than those with sons have with their GC. Ds ask their mothers for advice and recognise her approaches to child rearing as something that they can identify with.

Additionally, the grandparents who live nearest will inevitably have more contact with the GC and thus have more influence over their lives.

It sounds as though poor MIL is feeling sad anyway and has her own problems.

I think that you should gently put the ball into her court. Say that you recognise the importance of children having a relationship with their grandparents, and ask her how she would like to achieve this, given the geographical distance. Do not let her load it all onto you - she has to take some initiative herself, perhaps by sending regular emails to the children, or comics or something that says to them that they are precious to her and in her thoughts. Don't let yourself be ground down by it all - this time of your life with the little ones is so precious and you must not let her spoil that in any way, or to come between you and your OH.

You can only do your best and leave her to sort herself out. She has expressed her unhappiness that she does not see much of them - so encourage her do something about it herself. When we are feeling sad, we tend to lose initiative and hit out at others and apportion blame, when what we should really be doing is making some effort to deal with the situation. I assume that the other life causes of her unhappiness are not amenable to help from you and your OH.

It is a funny time of life this middle age when the children are making their own families and their own way in life - but she has to get a life together of her own, so that you and your OH do not feel responsible for her happiness. I am always telling my children about all the things I have done so that they should not feel that they have a responsibility to fill my days or make my happiness.

I do identify with the situation where you, as a Mum, seem to have responsibility for keeping the wider family happy - remembering birthdays, initiating phone calls etc. - I am still doing it!! So maybe OH should take the initiative when it comes to making sure that his Mum feels included as best you all can.

Good luck - but remember, however hard you try, you cannot please all of the people all of the time - your children, OH and family unit have to come first.

Annobel Mon 09-Jan-12 12:15:13

You say your DH works long hours - as does my DS. He has a long commute as well and uses his time to phone me from the car - hands free, of course. Could your DH do something similar with his mum?

grannyactivist Mon 09-Jan-12 12:49:52

It's a funny old business being an 'in-law' isn't it? I adore my husband's parents and we live within a thirty minutes drive of them whereas my own Mum is four hours away. I regularly speak to my in-laws and we share huge amounts of our lives, but I phone my own mum (with whom I have a very positive relationship) only once a month or so - sometimes less. She calls me about three times a year, usually to impart bad news, so that the first thing I ask when she rings is 'What's happened?' We are both very comfortable with this arrangement and my mother is particularly happy that I am so close to my in-laws. The thing that struck me when I read this thread is that my husband NEVER phones my mum, nor would she expect him to. They get on brilliantly well when they meet, but it would never cross their minds to phone one another for a chat etc. So how is it that daughters in law are so often held responsible for the contact between their spouse's parents and their own families?

bagitha Mon 09-Jan-12 12:57:38

mishap, I like your post a lot. Such good sense!

harrigran Mon 09-Jan-12 18:47:36

My DD and SIL do not have children so both of my GC are my DS and DILs offspring. They do not have a problem with me visiting them and nor do I treat my DIL any different from my own children. She is the mother of my GC and gets help and gifts to acknowledge her special place in the family.
When DIL's family come to visit we step back and allow them their time with GC.
I do not think you are doing anything wrong, MIL may just not be comfortable with pushing herself forward.

Charlotta Mon 09-Jan-12 19:02:03

You do sound a bit controlling, but I would like to copy your paragraph about stripping beds and send it to my DD2 who doesn't do anything when she stays.

You have to try to take a middling course with MIL. After all you got to marry dear SON and thats like winning the lottery to some mothers. She should send her own cards and presents even if no cards and presents get sent. You should not feel it is your responsiblity. Give her enough space that she can take a step in your direction.

You sound like an angel of a DIL and we have had quite different threads on GN!

Annobel Mon 09-Jan-12 19:06:03

I just had a call from DS in the car. He was practising his French, so I asked him why he was phoning and he told me that it was what a good daughter did. Oh dear.... grin

SurfietofLampreys Mon 09-Jan-12 19:51:17

Thank you all for the advice. A lot of it is really helpful, particularly Mishap and Carol. Annobel how funny. I know I won the lottery, in fact I think I got a triple euromillions roll over and the crown jewels with my wonderful DH.

She once said how sorry she was to be 'Granny 2' to two of her GSs (BILs kids) and I made it quite clear that there would be no such thing as Granny 2 when we had kids.

I don't buy the presents for other people to send to us, just the presents my DH and I send to her/his family because he does not have time to do this. We always talk about what to get her/his sibs though. We have always said she can get the kids what she wants when she wants. When they were babies and she bought clothes for them I would make sure that they appeared in a decent random selection of photographs and were worn in front of her at least once before they were grown out of. Once or twice she has sent birthday cakes down for the children and I have used these in place of the ones I have made myself (DH and I scoffed them in secret) so she knows that her efforts are both welcome and appreciated.

The last present we sent was a very personal gift she had expressed a desire for ages ago. She raved about it until DH said I had remembered she wanted it and arranged it, then she was much less enthusiastic. In the past expensive gifts I have chosen with care have been dumped without even a thank you when she found out that I arranged them.

I think she is depressed and does not want to take responsibility for herself (meant in the nicest possible way) but she only seems to want help from her children. The reality of our life is that where we are concerned she will end up with me far more often than DH. She has said on a number of occasions that In Laws are not real family but then at times she has said to DH that she has been touched that I have done something, 'almost as though I am really family'. My family are so close that I know my siblings in laws and even visit with my cousins' inlaws and my DH is accounted a full member of the family so it is a little strange to me.

He would love to text or email her but she refuses to use her mobile or get the internet 'too much new for me to learn at my age'. We have offered to buy her a tablet or an internet television and arrange for broadband but she has said no and I am not going to push it, I hate things being rammed down my throat. If he calls on his late 10 minute commute she feels she has to get off the 'phone once he is home. If he calls when he gets home she says it is too late to talk.

I really do not want my children to pull away from someone who is/was a wonderful mother to my wonderful DH and feel she has so much to give to them and they to her. She just has to accept she cannot see them every Sunday lunch.

I have done it again with another rant. I'll stop now and hold my tongue.

bagitha Mon 09-Jan-12 20:14:23

You're not ranting, surfie. Someone who is as you describe is very difficult to deal with and you need an outlet for your feelings when your efforts to be nice to her are rebuffed. Keep trying (I'm sure you will) but when she is rude, don't take it personally. She'd be the same with anyone probably as she sounds rather clannish. Good luck.

Carol Mon 09-Jan-12 20:16:23

Now you've clarified a few things, I'm even more convinced your MIL needs to get herself out of her rut and do something about her own life - you are bringing up your family and should not have to be pandering to her foibles. She sounds like she's very resistant to change if she won't even attempt to read a text message on her mobile. I know people in their 90's who will still try something new, and there are computer courses at the local library for the very elderly to have a crack at surfing the internet and send emails.

You do your bit Surfeit and let her try meeting you somewhere nearer the middle. She can only benefit from trying.

Annobel Mon 09-Jan-12 21:11:21

It isn't clear how old your MiL is, Surfie. Is it possible that she is menopausal and if so has she had or should she have had HRT?

bagitha Tue 10-Jan-12 06:21:26

That is an interesting point you have raised, annobel, and considerate of you, but it worries me. Correct me if I'm wrong, but surely "menopausality" (!) can not be used an excuse, or even a reason, for being unpleasant to other people. If you are including depression as part of "menopausality", then perhaps you have a point, but this lady sounds far too proactively negative to be depressed.

maxgran Tue 10-Jan-12 14:14:08

Your MiL sounds lonely and unhappy. However, its not your job to fix her life and you are not responsible for how she feels. You have been doing what you can !
I don't know why these things always fall to the women. Your MiL is your husbands mother and he is the one who needs to deal with her and address how she feels !

supernana Wed 11-Jan-12 12:33:50

maxgran well said!

fillygumbo Wed 11-Jan-12 15:57:44

I would simply let it go over your head, you sound like a wonderful DIL to me. You know jealousy is an awful thing and that is probably the root cause she is simply jealous of your own family.
I know that I have to watch myself when I sometimes think my own DDs MIL sees more of the family than I do, even though I love looking after DGS 2 days a week the other ILS see far more of them socially going on lovely holidays etc , being much better off than we are which means nice dinners out etc. I just have to laugh at myselfand say what a jealous bitch am I and get over it, safe in the knowledge that my DD loves me to bits, she sounds very insecure to me and probably knows she is being a pain but cant help herself

gracesmum Wed 11-Jan-12 17:40:45

At the risk of introducing another point of view - you say how busy your DH is so the burden of communicating with MIL seems to fall on you. Hmmm. It's HIS mother and if she is lonely and depressed, perhaps he needs to be aware and do something as well as, or instead of you. It is said what when a man marries he never needs to write a greetings card or choose a present again (except for his wife) for the rest of his life.
"Open invitations" can be a generational thing, perhaps she still feel she needs the impetus to come from you - after all with 3 children and a busy DH she may feel she is intruding.
I get the feeling of a prickly relationship and a MIL who is perhaps of a more formal generation. You sound very caring and I do hope this sorts itself out- spontaneous hugs are always a good icebreaker!