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Guilt trip from Gran about moving abroad

(27 Posts)
Herbie15 Fri 05-Feb-21 17:24:10

I am a new mother and would really like to hear the perspective of some grandmothers on my situation with my son's gran (my MIL).

Some background; after meeting in my home city on one side of the world, we moved to my boyfriend's country on the other about 10 years ago (his visa had expired, I was in my early twenties and was keen to see the world, and of course, madly in love!). My (now) MIL made it clear from the outset that she wasn't keen that he'd met a girl who would potentially 'take her son away' to live on the other side of the world at some point in the future (her exact words). I was quite taken aback by this and thought she was a bit full-on (I am close to my parents but they are very much of the 'we will support you in whatever makes you happy' variety), but I was young and didn't really give it much thought. Roll on 10 years and we still live in DH's country for various reasons, but the plan was always to return once babies came along (better education system, quality of life, and I have a big family with lots of cousins for DS at home - apart from also just wanting to spend some time with my own family after all these years!).

MIL and I have developed a pleasant relationship, if a little forced. I am always polite, welcoming, and often take DS to see her when DH is at work. She sees us at least once a week. Family holidays like Christmas are jealously guarded by her (we have spent one Xmas in 10 years with my family and with much guilt tripping involved on her part at the time) because she has no other family to spend it with other than BIL. Since then, I have not bothered to get DH to travel out to see my family at xmas as the months of 'poor me' from MIL were just not worth it. For a period of time, we moved a couple of hours away because I had been offered an amazing job contract in another city. She made me feel awful about moving; she said she felt my decision was just making life hard for DH and I, although I really do feel it was predominantly about us being further away. After a lot of passive aggressive behaviour following our move, I told her as calmly and politely as I could that I had found her disapproval and lack of support really upsetting and had sensed some animosity towards me ever since. She was tearful and apologetic, and said she she had just been concerned for us. DH works abroad a lot without the same level of disapproval. I very much feel that she can be supportive of DH's absences when it furthers his career (just not mine, so it would seem).

There have been numerous times where she has had me alone where she will get tearful saying she couldn't bear it if we moved and took her grandchild away. We were meant to move back to my country this year but this has been derailed by covid, and probably won't happen for another 2 years realistically. I am heartbroken this move hasn't happened, that my family and friends from home have never met my son because of travel restrictions, and that I gave birth half a world away from my main support network. It has been really tough, but I have managed. Despite being prioritised for 10 years and me being very inclusive of her as far as DS is concerned, my MIL continues to get openly upset about our future move and makes us feel that we don't spend enough time with her. I feel absolutely exhausted by the constant guilt tripping and her need to be front and centre in our lives for now and always. I understand her sadness about us moving, I really do, after all, I have lived away from my own family for 10 years. I feel like she is completely unable or unwilling to see it from my perspective, or to understand that I also have parents who feel exactly the same way as she does about their daughter living abroad (they just don't behave the way she does). She has plenty of friends and hobbies, but no partner, and no family besides her sons. Her ex husband, FIL, left her for another woman many years ago and she has never really recovered. She is a woman that gave everything to her husband and boys and was then very poorly done by. I feel very sorry for what happened to her, as do her sons, but I definitely feel that she has embraced this victimhood because it allows her to guilt others into doing what she wants. Her other son is single and feels very responsible for her, and is, unhelpfully, totally indulgent of her guilt trips, often reminding me how devastated she'd be if we moved. He's also said he feels his choices to live elsewhere would be limited by us moving because he feels he can't leave her by herself. I understand his feelings, but surely the main problem here is his mother's expectations, rather than us?

She would never emigrate with us and would probably visit infrequently when we move. The trip is very long, but she is in excellent health and we would cover the cost of her flights and additionally make the trip ourselves once a year. She could stay for as long as she wanted when she visits. But she doesn't want that. She wants us all to herself, completely on her terms.

The rational part of me knows that I need to do what is best for me and my family. This year has taught me that I need the support of my friends and family in my home country while I raise my little ones, but I find this guilt tripping absolutely gut wrenching. I am a people-pleaser and I hate the thought of anybody being this upset because of me. DH feels sorry for his mother, but seems able ignore her guilt trips most of the time and will deflect difficult conversations. This has meant a lot of the tough conversations have had to come from me and often at her instigation when she feels she has got nowhere with DH. I know it's a DH problem too, and we've come a long way on this. But it is also my problem; how can I learn to stop feeling guilty about his mother's problems and make the best decisions for me and my family? This honestly is taking up way too much head space.

What do you grandmothers think? Are her expectations as unreasonable as they seem to me? How can I convince my MIL that she will always be welcome and included in our lives, but that I want to start prioritising my child, and dare I say it, myself?

Smileless2012 Fri 05-Feb-21 17:45:52

At face value I'd say yes, her expectations are unreasonable but, because she's been enabled to have them because your DH ignores them and your b.i.l. gives into them, then for her they're not. They're perfectly reasonable because up till now, they've always been met.

Only with time, when you've made this move and are ensuring that she's being included and always a welcomed member in your lives, will you be able to convince her that this is the case. That said, it looks as if even this wont change her perspective.

My advice is for you to stop having these "tough conversations" with your m.i.l. and refer her to her son. Let him deal with it. He may not find it so easy to ignore if you take yourself out of the equation.

How can you stop feeling guilty? By knowing that this is about a lot more people than your m.i.l., that you're not doing this to hurt her, but what you believe to be the best for you, your DH and your child.

With only your b.i.l. 'left' when you do go, of course she's dreading it but the reality is this out of her control and is going to happen regardless of how she may feel.

I hope that you'll be able to free yourself of the guilt you're feeling so that you can enjoy making plans for your future. Keep in mind Herbie that we have no control over how others behave, only how we respond or not to that behaviour.

Yours needs to be to stop feeling guilty because you have nothing to feel guilty aboutflowers.

grannysyb Fri 05-Feb-21 17:52:29

I doubt that you will ever convince her that she will always be welcome, to be honest, she sounds a selfish nightmare and your brother in law is colluding with her. It's you and your families life and she's going to have to get used to it. I would be upset if either of my children moved countries, but I would support them, like your family supported you. Good luck with your future.

Madgran77 Fri 05-Feb-21 17:59:03

I agree with everything that Smileless says! You can't actually solve this for your MIL. Only she can. You must do what is best for you and your family

timetogo2016 Fri 05-Feb-21 18:03:40

Agree Madgran77.

cornishpatsy Fri 05-Feb-21 18:14:11

You feel guilty because one person is going to be upset with your move but what about all the other people involved, you and your children, your family and friends.

More people will benefit from your move so there is no need to feel guilt your move is for the greater good.

Casdon Fri 05-Feb-21 18:17:25

I agree too, she is obviously thinking of herself rather than what is best for your own little family. You must do what is right for you, she will come round when she realises you mean it and are making the move. Good luck!

PamelaJ1 Fri 05-Feb-21 18:22:55

As someone whose parents took me to the other side of the world and as a mum whose daughter now lives on the other side of the world I would say that she is being unreasonable.
BUT I can understand that she could be concerned about your move.
Although I wouldn’t make any of my children feel guilty about where they chose to live I would prefer them to be quite close. Simply because it’s easier to visit for a day, meet up for lunch, just be part of your life.
Perhaps she is scared?
Perhaps if/when she visits she will love where you have moved to and move into a granny annex?

I’ve lived my life and moved wherever I wanted or had to. You must do what you want or need to. Unfortunately for both you and MIL it sounds as though this will be very difficult. If you and your DH are both wanting the move then you must go for it.

Jaxjacky Fri 05-Feb-21 18:27:24

For a start your husband needs to grow a pair, secondly, as Smiless2012 has said she is used to being pandered to and her family, have been enabling that. You need to get your husband with you to present a united front with stock answers to her repetitive behaviour, basically, reset her expectations. I know that’s harsh, but at the moment it’s just a situation dragging on. Decide, the pair of you a rough timeframe, reiterate your planned visits back and help for her to visit, then repeat to any protestations, do not deviate. It won’t be easy, but your little family’s future should be the priority for you both.

grannyactivist Fri 05-Feb-21 18:31:28

When my daughter moved to the other side of the world I pinned a smile on my face and supported her. She knew what a wrench it would be for me and has always been very thankfully that I didn’t take it personally or make it harder than it needed to be. I do get why your MIL is upset, but honestly you seem to have done everything in your power to cushion the blow by assisting her to travel to you.

You can’t ‘fix’ what is essentially your MIL’s problem, so try to accept that. However, your own mum may be able to help by contacting your MIL and explaining how she has coped with your ten year absence. At the very least your MIL will then have a benchmark with which to examine her own actions in regard to you living away from her.

TrendyNannie6 Fri 05-Feb-21 18:32:51

She’s very selfish, about time you did what you would like to do herbie, she’s being ridiculous, you have your own life to live with your little family, she wants you all to herself as you say, we would be sad if any of our AC moved countries, but at the end of the day we do not own our children they have their own lives to live, there’s no way on earth we would try and guilt trip them into staying, never ever try and clip their wings! Best of luck with all the things you would like to do herbie

Nicegranny Fri 05-Feb-21 19:24:13

Yes us grannies would love our children to live close by She could step out of her comfort zone and start getting used to flying to see her son and gs.
Blimey the offer of having expenses paid and to stay for as long as she likes would be wonderful!
It could help her get over her broken marriage and give her confidence.
I have to travel to where ever my daughter and her family are living in the world and l love it.
You know what you want for your own son and it’s natural for you to need your own mother and family. You have made a choice to go home to your own country in the same way as my own daughter has decided. So I will be overjoyed like your mother.
We have both had enough of tearful goodbyes and she has three children that she wants in English schools
Don’t feel guilty or bad about it do what you want to do it’s your life.

NellG Fri 05-Feb-21 19:49:59

What Smileless said.

You sound like a very kind and thoughtful woman, deal with this in that kind and thoughtful way - with a bit of firmness thrown in- and you have no reason to feel guilty.

Stand firm, be kind and compassionate to her feelings (neither of which require you to change your plans) and you will have done everything you can to maintain a good relationship. Good luck and my best wishes.

Herbie15 Fri 05-Feb-21 19:53:53

Wow! Thank you all for your considered responses and for indulging my very long post. What a fabulous forum. Smileless, you are so right; DH should be having these 'tough' conversations with her, but so often I fall into the trap of engaging with her on these topics because she approaches me for more information (and I then babble on incessantly trying to justify our decision making in the hope of avoiding the disapproving side eye!). I need to just shut these topics down. I know she has been enabled by those around her, myself included. It has just always been easier for me to compromise than to feel discomfort at her being upset. She has many great qualities and is a loving gran to my baby, and while she might seem selfish based on this particular issue, she is very generous and helpful in other ways. I really can understand why this loss would feel more poignant to her; she has been let down by those closest to her in the past. I so wish she could have seen me as more than simply 'the girl who could take her son away' and instead try to establish a relationship with me that wasn't primarily based on getting her own way. I would have been happy to count my MIL as a friend. It makes me very sad. Thanks to all you grans for giving me your blessing to do what I think is best for my little family (in the absence of a blessing from our own hmm)

Madgran77 Fri 05-Feb-21 20:07:36

I would have been happy to count my MIL as a friend

I think there will be MILs and DILs on GN who will empathise with that comment Herbie. DILs who would have been happy to have a MIL as a friend and MILs who would have been happy to have their DIL as a friend. Sadly for some, it just isn't going to happen

Good luck flowers

NellG Fri 05-Feb-21 20:11:47

Madgran77 Literally sitting here thinking "wish my son had met a girl like that" and how different thing could have been. That MIL doesn't know she's born! I do hope they resolve it.

Smileless2012 Fri 05-Feb-21 20:15:45

Oh me too Nell but as Madgran says"sadly for some, it just isn't going to happen".

Your m.i.l. is very lucky to have you for a d.i.l. Herbie and I hope that one day, in the not too distant future she'll realise that.

welbeck Fri 05-Feb-21 20:22:08

your offer to pay for her flights to see you all, and to stay with you as long as she wishes, is more than generous.
i too think you need to get on with making your plans, and restrict discussions with her on this matter.
have a few stock phrases which both you and your husband use, and don't be drawn into justifying your decisions.
eg when she says, but you can't take my GS away, my heart will be broken...
you say, the climate is lovely in spring over there, we will pay for your flights and you can stay as long as you like.

Matriark Tue 09-Feb-21 13:35:25

I think you simply have to stop worrying about what she thinks. It’s her problem, not yours, and you must do what’s best for your family. Good luck! ?

Nannarose Tue 09-Feb-21 13:58:06

There are a few times in life when you have to be 'selfish' ie: do what is absolutely right for you and those closest to you. If not, you go through life only pleasing others.
You say that your DH seems better at 'shutting her out' - maybe because he's had plenty of practice!
You could even say to her that you are sorry it has come to a choice, but that is how it is when you fall in love with someone from 'off'.
So many of us on here have stories of friends and family who travelled far away for love. We go back to the days when most people didn't even have phones, and international calls were prohibitively expensive anyway. I still correspond with one of my mother's greatest friends - when she left, as a GI Bride, she wrote a sort of 'diary' on an airmail letter (remember those thin blue letters?) that she posted every week, and which was passed round the family then friends for us to keep in touch. There are many nans on here who are keeping in touch with their grandchildren as best they can, and not fussing, even though it is breaking their hearts.
You don't say how old your child is, but I think by the time you go, he will be old enough to show his nan things on videolink, and talk to her about what he is doing.

Having said that, I would keep quiet for the moment, because you don't know what changes Covid will bring, and talking about it will prolong the agony. I would say if she brings it up that you don't know the timing yet, but that you will all 'enjoy' each other's company for the time being.

Imakemistakeseveryday Tue 09-Feb-21 21:58:54

What an incredibly kind and thoughtful person you are. Your mother in law is being very unfair but you can't control her behaviour- only how you respond to it. She is being hugely unfair and manipulative and your husband needs to support you more to stop this. Try not to feel guilty- you are not the person behaving badly , you may be a mother in law one day and I am sure you would not seek to control your family in this way. Hard as it is when family move away, you have no reason to sacrifice your own happiness for another.

Alexa Tue 09-Feb-21 23:45:50

Tell her you feel no guilt about not living close to this lady.

I do sympathise with her, but her misfortunes are not your fault. She does have needs as you know. The best thing you can do for her is listen and reassure her that she is loved wherever you live. You can repeat this formula again and again.

MamaBear20 Tue 09-Feb-21 23:46:15

I would stop having discussions with her about it. Go ahead and make your plans and then you can let her know after the fact. By including her in the process, you are inviting her to be part of the decision (at least that’s how it may seem to her), and of course she doesn’t want you to go. I would not steer her toward your husband to have these discussions, and risk him changing his mind about the move because he caved to her guilt and pressure. If she brings it up, tell her the decision is made and you are very happy, and change the subject. I would also be careful with the invite to “stay as long as you like”. What if she took you up on that and stayed for months, or a year? Would that be too long of a stay for you? If so, put a time frame on that invite. “We would love for you to come for two weeks every year!” Or however long you are truly comfortable visiting.

nanna8 Wed 10-Feb-21 00:01:18

You do what is right for your family, Herbie. Your mother in law will get over it once you make it clear. At the moment she probably thinks she can persuade you to change your mind and perhaps she needs more reassurance that you will still keep in touch and you will still make an effort to see her. I can understand her being nervous about the distance involved because, sadly, as we get older it becomes harder to fly all that way but you can visit her. My mum and dad used to fly over and visit us well into their 70 s but it does take a toll and maybe she is worried about this ?

lunasmummy Mon 01-Mar-21 22:22:36

I think you are a people pleaser, I have been one all my life, I am now 52, and still trying to please my mother, my husband is the same with his parents. Although it is hard on your mother in law I think you have to make these changes now. I have spent a lifetime pleasing my parents to no avail.Do what is best for you, she will adapt, she will change her plans for her environment.we are so lucky that we live in a world with interaction if people move abroad, it is not your job to make her happy.......