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Objective view sought - dreading mother in law for christmas - any practical tips / pointers?

(31 Posts)
redblue Mon 12-Dec-11 08:34:08

Yesterday in the car with husband (sleeping) children I had confirmed to me what I have suspected all year which is that (i) my MIL dislikes me, my initial reaction was that she hates me (ii) it is her intention and has been the precedent for more or less every single christmas since i met my husband 10 years ago, to be with us on christmas day.

I am now dreading this christmas as it is the first where it is totally clear she intensely dislikes me before she even arrives. Any strategies for how i should cope with her being here (and for every christmas between now and eternity)

A bit of background:
- Have been married to husband for 15 years, two children 2 yrs and 9 months
- MIL and FIL divorced due to MIL going off with someone else when my husband was about 10, followed by (as i understand it, I have not asked the details and its just the gist i have got) several unstable years for my husband with various new partners for MIL resulting finally in MIL settling down with a very nice man 10 years her senior (he is now about 85, MIL is about 60)
- MIL lives on her own having refused numerous marriage proposals from about mentioned new partner, they see each other every week but live apart (some small distance about an hour in the car I guess)
- not sure what kind of role my husband played when MIL left FIL all i know is that he hated it and it left a lasting impression on him although he since has said things like all women are evil (he has stopped saying that kind of thing since I picked him up on it) and is alternately very close (almost inappropriately so) and then does not want any contact with his mum
- when we first married MIL asked a lot of questions about how close I am to my family and was glad to hear that I am not particularly close to my family - i thought nothing of it at the time but now it all fits in
- we live about 6 hours away from MIL so visits are infrequent although obviously husband speaks to MIL on phone - this year she has seen our children once so she has a very justified complaint that she has not seen our children enough although son is now resistant to this
- in summary I think MIL tolerated me when we first married but now she hates me and has made it clear

The phone conversation was yesterday on the loudspeaker in the car - they raised the issue of Christmas quite agressively saying they had booked a hotel and after my husband said we (husband our children and me) wanted christmas day on our own as a family and could they come boxing day onwards, they both (MIL and her partner) got very pushy and agressive with MIL grabbing the phone and shouting - "is all of this [MY NAME i.e daughter in law]'s doing?"
It is not my doing infact apart from the conversation about us spending christmas as a family i have had no other conversation about christmas with my husband at all

My husband replied "[my name] is sat next to me in the phone you know" - short pause, then MIL says "fine" and slams down phone

There is other background to all this but husband (on his own initiative) admits MIL has been rude and that she must not come - husband seemed angry - after that he phoned MIL leaving a message saying the invitiation generally to come to christmas was cancelled

However knowing how things go with his family MIL and her partner WILL still come for christmas and 3 days afterwards

MIL regularly bitches about my housework (i can say with hand on heart my housework is good, not perfect but our house is clean and regularly kept that way by both me and husband - MIL makes comments that husband has to do far too much due to my laziness because i work 4 days per week)

How will i cope - i can only imagine she will arrive but not speak to me for 3 days and this will be the case for every christmas going forward
Do I just keep my head down in the kitchen. this is my current plan

- on the housework front for example earlier in the "car" conversation my husband said we were going to the supermarket to allow the little ones a run around (it was pouring with rain just something to do on a sunday afternoon) and she was very sarcastic assuming I think i leave all the supermarket shop to my husband on a sunday afternoon (she didnt think i was in the car at that stage)
- she can be a bit flirty with my husband in her tone of voice which sometimes he plays up to or am i imagining it (i wish i was)
- we never (and i mean never) go to my parents which is my choice but just making the point because it is not like it is unbalanced

i realise i am likely to come under some criticising posting on here but my intention is just to ask how you would like your daughter in law to act in this situation? At the moment i am thinking if only i could afford a nanny i would employ the nanny to be here at home with the children whilst they visit and i make myself scarce

redblue Mon 12-Dec-11 08:44:07

sorry at the beginning of the above post i meant "met my husband 20 years ago" rather than "10 years ago"
I guess i am looking for coping tactics and practical suggestions (eg "stay in the kitchen") or similar
Also should i just grow up and realise that family christmases with just husband and children are not what people do and it is the mature thing to entertain at home or take your children to relatives every year? maybe i am naieve and immature on this front, i am genuinely not sure

syberia Mon 12-Dec-11 09:04:36

Gosh redblue I have just read your post and am sending you a (((((((((hug)))))))
Things sound very complex. I get the feeling that your MiL probably dotes on her son as it was just the two of them when his father left. I am assuming he has no siblings? I feel it might be the case that it is jealousy on her part that he has another woman in his life.
You are not the problem here.
If they do come to you for Christmas, I suggest you treat her "normally" and try not to rise to any comments as your children will be around.
It might be difficult, but it is only three days out of a year. You can recover after!
I also think that you and your husband devise a strategy for dealing with her generally.
I hope this helps a little, sending you good luck thanks

glammanana Mon 12-Dec-11 09:07:12

I think you need to stop and take a breath and have a break from turning this over in your mind you are going to make yourself ill if you continue to go on in this manner.
Your children and your DH are the most important part of your family and of course you are going to be overwhelmed if MIL and her partner visit you have two young babies for goodness sake and you need to be relaxed for them.
Get DH to talk to his mother and tell her she can visit for x amount of hours and keep to that and offer to for DH to take the pair of them out for lunch the next day so MIL is not in your home.
Start how you mean to go on you should not have to hide in your kitchen in your own home,you could arrange transport for them if staying in a hotel and have it ready booked so you can control the length of their visit.You are not immature at all just finding it hard to confront this very strong woman who probably has guilty feeling about the upbringing her son had,and may be a wee bit jealous of the close relationship you have with your DH and children. Best of luck

Carol Mon 12-Dec-11 09:09:17

Hi redblue, you haven't said whether you want to clear the air with your MIL and find a way forward where you could both agree to get along for the sake of your respective families. Do you feel about her the same as you believe she feels about you? Would you be prepared to ask her for a chat before Christmas and try to sort this out? If you are dreading her coming, it could be that she, also, is not looking forward to a visit.

If you were my DIL, I would want to have that difficult conversation and find a way we can rub along together, which might include agreeing not to raise certain subjects such as housework and shopping during the visit.

You mentioned you might be up for some criticism posting on here, and it's not my intention to do that, but could I suggest that a more constructive way of letting children expend some energy can be found at home, playing games like Twister, hide and seek, dancing to nursery songs and suchlike, rather than round the aisles in Asda.

It seems there is room for more flexibility on both sides. Both you and your MIL have found yourselves in positions that are bound to result in defensiveness, and perhaps this incident in the car has brought it out in the open. It's given you an opportunity to resolve a long-running problem. Best wishes x

shysal Mon 12-Dec-11 09:11:45

You have every right to expect to spend some time alone as a family at Christmas, it is far more relaxing for you and the children. Do I understand that they have booked a hotel near you to stay for the holiday period, or is it just for Christmas lunch? If they are able to afford it, staying elsewhere may be better all round, just visiting you for part of each of the 3 days. At least you may find you are able to 'grin and bear it' for short periods. Your MIL sounds like an unhappy person, so you may find that being with your children will soften her a bit. Not many grandparents can stay miserable for long around their GCs.(Or maybe she will be the exception!)
I had the opposite effect on my MIL, she thought I was wonderful, which was quite hard to live up to. She was rather possessive though, and was upset when she knew she was to be a grandmother, knowing there would be less time devoted to her.
Good luck redblue it will soon be over! thanks grin (grin and bear it emoticon)

Gally Mon 12-Dec-11 09:14:06

Yes - agree with the others. You must rise above it and take lots of deep breaths. My daughter in Australia has a similar problem with her MIL and has just learnt 'to live' with it and keep her own counsel - I think it's a mother/son problem - not wanting to let go (Oedipus comes to mind - from the Mother's point of view only I hasten to add!) Your MIL is obviously up for a fight so don't give her any opportunity to do that. Grit your teeth and smile and concentrate on things domestic, the babes and your DH. Good luck grin

redblue Mon 12-Dec-11 09:16:02

thanks for your posts which i really appreciate and will read (especially any practical tips)
husband and i have had a challenging year in terms of our marriage with two young children and a lot of sleeplessness, some money and career issues and very little time to ourselves
my husband has not been 100% happy and nor have i. I am not 100% sure whether MIL has "led" my husband in conversations about whether he is unhappy with her own agenda (i.e she dislikes me) but i am fairly certain husband now (at least with me) acknowledges that he needs to think first in terms of our family
i have asked myself whether my behaviour is manipulative or excluding of MIL and i can honestly say it is not - my husband sees his mother without me whenever he likes (i encourage it) although she lives a long way away so that is infrequent. he regularly talks to her on the phone when i am not there. so there is some insecurity in our marriage but if i were a betting person i would say that left to ourselves we will sort it out.

on the booked a hotel front this is a first year suggestion for this every year prior to this they have stayed at our house. there is some anger (maybe not anger but not sure what the right word is here) that they have booked a hotel. i dont have much annual leave left but i would need to book a day off work to get the spare bedroom sorted if they were going to stay, i have emailed my boss about getting a day off work before christmas to make up the guest room as i think they will come for sure

redblue Mon 12-Dec-11 09:18:49

fair enough about supermarkets - no they are not playgrounds
it is just somewhere to go when they have been cooped up inside all day on a rain all day- day - we dont have any relatives to visit nearby - yes we do play "active" games with them at home as well as read books, do puzzles etc but sometimes it is good just to get out. FAOD i make sure to keep them well under control in the supermarket if they are allowed out to look at the toy isle etc

JessM Mon 12-Dec-11 09:22:01

After putting her foot in it spectacularly she is either going to feel embarrassed and chastened or she is going to further rationalise her dislike for you. However now is probably the time for you to stand up for yourself with your husband. Has he been colluding in such conversations for years?
He is inevitably going to feel torn but you have a right to demand that you get some respect and consideration in this matter. If he wants to invite her to the house then you have the right to expect polite, non critical behaviour.
Many people go through a stage of "growing up" in their relationship with their parents in their 30s or 40s and now may be his opportunity...

redblue Mon 12-Dec-11 09:40:12

thank you so much for all your replies which I will read properly if my two babies have a sleep
mondays is my day off work and i do all of the sheets, first thing on my to do list, one wash down two to go!!, will read your posts properly asap and thank you all posters for taking the time for posting on this thread

redblue Mon 12-Dec-11 09:42:50

jessm, yes there probably has been some colluding between my husband and my MIL in the criticism of me. i have taken the tac of never addressing it partly because i have no clear proof and partly because i dont want to create any more tension at home, i am hoping the early baby years is something husband and i can get through and husband will come down on my side rather than MIL even if the precedent in his family (ie his mother herself) is one where marriages break up
not sure whether this is the right action by me
husband has a stressful job and i try to make home peaceful to the extent it is in my power

bagitha Mon 12-Dec-11 10:30:13

redblue, sympathies! I think you need to talk to your husband about what you want at christmas and go from there. If having your MIL to stay in your house means you have to take a day off work to prepare a room for her, I think you are trying too hard and would suggest that you relax a bit. Putting in so much effort isn't working, according to your story, so why waste the energy? I would suggest that in a non-agressive way you simply pursue a 'take it or leave it' approach with her. You shouldn't need to upset your ordinary working and domestic patterns just because your MIL is visiting. Anyone visiting a household with young children needs to be fairly flexible and if they aren't they are being unreasonable, in which case staying in a hotel and only visiting during the day (and departing by tea-time, preferably!) sounds like a good idea to me.

There's no rule that says a MIL has to like her DIL, or vice-versa. You just need to be polite to each other. If you don't like each other (which is fine), that's another reason for her to stay elsewhere than in your house. You're not stopping her from seeing the grandchildren or her son, but you're drawing boundaries for your own needs. Good luck.

Annobel Mon 12-Dec-11 11:02:28

Why, if they booked a hotel, are you putting yourself out to get the spare room ready? The hotel sounds like the best solution all round.

Mamie Mon 12-Dec-11 11:06:30

For the future, have you thought about suggesting one year on, one year off? We have a very good relationship with our children and their partners, but we recognise that it is nice for them to spend Christmas on their own without the extended family and we also enjoy a quiet Christmas with just the two of us.

redblue Mon 12-Dec-11 11:12:00

letting my mind think too much about it makes me think maybe the extent to which MIL was unhappy about her son getting married in the first place let alone to someone she thought was unworthy of him - is something i greatly undersestimated at the time of our wedding.
I would not be surprised if she wants him living back near him

redblue Mon 12-Dec-11 11:21:26

Mamie it has never been actively discussed, since early days pre children when she just came and I didn tthink much of it and was quite easy going, but ever since we had our two children there is almost an assumption (by her? by my son? definitely by her) that she will come for christmas every year

Grannylin Mon 12-Dec-11 11:43:53

redblue. I think this is a tricky situation and it seems to me you are trying very hard to be reasonable to everyone except yourself.Sadly, reading between the lines, I think the problem is between you and your DH and you need to resolve this before you try and take on MIL -alone. Your little family is what's most important here, ((big hug.))

Ariadne Mon 12-Dec-11 14:21:59

I bit my lip, for nearly twenty years, and managed never to say what I was thinking to my difficult M-i-L. Partly, I think, because I had never been so disapproved of in my life. When she died, however, I was glad I hadn't had the rows I could have had with her. Sometimes just getting on with it is the answer. Mind you, they didn't live close to us...

JessM Mon 12-Dec-11 14:43:16

It is a tricky balance between tolerating these things and sticking up for yourself redblue
But imagine yourself 10 years into the future. Are you able to put up and shut up without resentment?
I know someone who does, but her DH is very very kind and tolerant to her mother and her extended family, so that enables to grit her teeth and be pleasant to an insensitive and sometimes unkind MIL, without building up a backlog of resentment. But there are times when he does not stick up for his wife when his mother is bullying her and then I could cheerfully kick him. At the end of the day husbands first allegance (cant spell it) is to wife and children and parents need to understand that.

(this is a close friend and not me by the way!)

redblue Mon 12-Dec-11 15:01:42

maybe there is hope for this issue as between my husband and myself (i hope so)
At least in words my husband has replied to an email from me to him today as follows so he appears to be saying the right things to me. But no I dont know for 100% certain what goes on in private phone calls between husband and his mother, I can hardly ask to control these can i?

Our marriage and family takes priority over any relationship with my Mum. She'll be OK.


But i dont want to be the cause of that
I want you to have a good relationship with your mum and i want her to see her children
I accept that not all MIL get on with their daughters in law but i would always like to be polite and kind to her and facilitate her seeing you and the children
I do not want her (or my family) to break up our marriage (or be a factor in it)
i will leave you in peace now

I have never spoken to my Mum about our marriage or will ever do so.

As regards Christmas I have told them they can;t come on Christmas day and, frankly, I'm not sure I'm going to let them come any other day either. You need to be at home on Christmas day

nanachrissy Mon 12-Dec-11 15:07:03

Oh Redblue he sounds very loving and caring. I think you need to start thinking about what you and he want in your life, and stick to it. There is always the opportunity to change your minds in the future.

Mishap Mon 12-Dec-11 15:07:35

Well - I am going to take a bit of a dogmatic view here. Christmases with little children are very precious, both to them and to you as their parents - there are so few of them when the little ones believe in Santa and are awed by the magic of the twinkling lights etc. That is your priority at the moment - to make Christmas as special as possible for the children. Childhood is too short and cannot be wasted. It is not going to be special with MIL breathing down your neck, given the history.

I spent just one Xmas with my in-laws and vowed we would never do it again, especially if we had children - and we never did - it was just too grim and I wanted my children to have happy magical memories. We did not fall out with them, we were just clear about our priorities.

So....I think you need to say to this lady (face-to-face, by email, by letter - however you think you can manage) that Xmas is a very special time for the children and you want to have that as your absolute priority - to make it magic for them. Tell her she is very welcome if she can share that priority, that you know she has some problem with you (having heard the phone conversation), but that you want that to take a back seat for the sake of the children. If she blows a fuse, you will know it will not work and you will have to say no to her wish to be there.

Now - the other alternative is for you to grit your teeth and be as sweet as you can - but you will setting a precedent for all the Christmases of your children's magic years, and they will never have a Christmas without you being on edge.

I would be inclined to try and stand up to this lady - appeasement is not always the best answer if children are involved and will lose out. There is no need to start a row, but you cannot undo the experience of the phone call and she cannot expect you to pretend that it did not happen.

JessM Mon 12-Dec-11 15:56:40

DH comments sound good!

Stansgran Mon 12-Dec-11 16:05:03

There is so much good sense said by everyone that "redblue" you are spoilt for choice. My MIL was not easy and when there were really bad times I pretended to myself that she was a complete stranger and was as polite and pleasant to her as I would any stranger in my home. It saved my sanity. I have two lovely daughters-one I stay with but I take the sheets pillowcases and sometimes new pillows and make up the bed when I arrive-working women need all the practical help they can get-hand your MIL the sheets as she arrives and say how much you would appreciate her help as you are running to catch yourself up if she is not in an hotel. My younger daughter has just moved but invited us for xmas-I have booked a luxury hotel as our Xmas present to ourselves and are walking distance from her house. Best of both worlds. ask your MIL to take the children to a Family service at your local church it will give you time to yourself and her time with the children(sorry for the hypocrisy even if you normally don't attend) After Xmas dinner say- I need a rest There's the dish cloth it's all yours and leave the room no discussion-you've cooked wrapped and laid Xmas- it's your time.