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Treading carefully

(62 Posts)
busyb Fri 30-Dec-16 11:57:19

My son & his partner split 3 years ago when their little girl was 5. At first things were very frosty with my gd's mother, but over the last couple of years I have worked very hard on establishing a good relationship with her and also have my GD a lot.(which is brilliant)

My dilemma is for the first time in 3 years I recently had occasion to go into her flat to help with something. It not only smells (which to be honest I have often smelt from the hallway) but one room is just piled high with junk. I didn't see the bedrooms but the rest of the flat is in a state.

What do I do? I don't think it would help if my DS spoke to her as they are always trying to 'score points' Should I offer to help her sort it out. Also we have noticed for some time a fusty smell from GD's clothes when she comes. Both my DS and GD live part the week with us.

But I don't want to ruin my fragile relationship with the mother.

pensionpat Fri 30-Dec-16 12:00:41

I think that your current relationship with her is more important than untidiness. Don't risk saying anything.

tanith Fri 30-Dec-16 12:01:24

Its hard to keep quiet I do realise but if your GD is healthy and happy I would keep quiet and not put something that is precious at risk. Just enjoy the time you are having with her and unless your GD becomes aware or affected by it leave well alone.

Greyduster Fri 30-Dec-16 12:12:14

I think the advice given above is spot on. Unless the child seems to be uncomfortable with her living conditions and brings it to either your or your DS's notice I would say nothing.

Christinefrance Fri 30-Dec-16 15:07:06

It's a difficult situation busyb as we all have different standards of acceptable housekeeping. If the children seem healthy and happy as tanith said then leave well alone. Don't jeopardise family relationships over this unless it becomes necessary. The little girl is old enough to say if there are problems.

Welshwife Fri 30-Dec-16 15:41:23

Would it be possible to have a different set of clothes at your house for when she comes to stay? - to save any packing! grin
One of our relatives had her husband's DD from a previous relationship stay very frequently and the child came with very shabby and not very clean clothes. Her solution was to change her when she got to the house - and if time wash the clothes she was wearing - and dress her in ones she kept for the duration of the visit. She then dressed her in the ones she arrived in to go home. Invariably the ones my relation used were far better clothes and if the child went home in them she never saw them again. It seemed to work very well for all concerned and the child was never without anything she needed.

Anya Fri 30-Dec-16 16:03:56

And if the child told her mother - as she is likely to mention different clothes, and then that would make the situation worse.

Leave things be though if it ever comes up in conversation mention your love for cleaning (?) your own house (well I'm told some people do love it!) and see if she asks for help.

Otherwise just keep working at this relationship you've managed to build up...and well done on that

Welshwife Fri 30-Dec-16 16:26:17

Not at all Anya - the mother of the child I was referring to was fine about it as she never had to pack a bag - The attitude taken by all was that it saved forgetting anything. The child concerned loved having different clothes to wear.

vampirequeen Fri 30-Dec-16 16:42:49

We are a shared family and the children have clothes at both houses. Not only does it make life easier but also means that they wear clothes that are suitable for whatever we have planned. Also.....and I'm whispering this....mum and stepdad/DH and me (stepmum) have different ideas about what as suitable clothes for an 11 year old girl. This way we avoid any bad feeling as no one feels directly criticised for their choices.

Shared families walk a very fine line no matter how friendly things are between the adults. Feelings can be hurt very quickly and unintentionally.

I wouldn't worry about the state of the house as long as your GD is happy and healthy.

PRINTMISS Fri 30-Dec-16 16:58:48

I agree with those who say let it rest. To be quite honest my daughter's house is sometimes a tip, when she was really busy, it was always that way, and the kitchen was a nightmare. Her children, though were always spotless and their clothes clean, and both achieved 100% attendances at school hardly ever being ill.

etheltbags1 Fri 30-Dec-16 19:23:00

I agree, if the child is loved then that's the most important thing.

GrandmaMoira Fri 30-Dec-16 19:49:17

I have my DGDs at my house most weekends with their Dad. They have their own room with clothes and toys here. It's just practical rather than packing a bag each week. I also wash their school clothes if they come here straight from school on Friday. Can you do the same?

Caroline123 Sat 31-Dec-16 02:49:28

Some people when they are depressed start hoarding stuff.could this be the case with your ex dil? And often they don't have the ability to clear up,it's all too much for them.clothes can smell musty if they have been washed but not dried in a timely fashion,I've left in the washer for a few days.
I wouldn't say anything unless asked but would get spare clothes for your gd to wear at your place and if time give the others a good wash and dry to send her home in.
It's not worth spoiling a delicate relationship.
Maybe once you're all on better terms you could ask her if she feels she is coping ok and await a reply and then act on that reply.
If the daughter is ok,goes to school regularly and seems happy that's the main thing at the moment

f77ms Sat 31-Dec-16 09:30:00

A difficult situation - I would be concerned that the little girl smells , her peers at school will have no problem in calling her names or not wanting to sit next to her . Do you think your DIL has a problem with hoarding as you say one room is filled with junk ? Could you ask DIL how she is coping in general , maybe she is a bit depressed or has she always been like this ? The problem is that if you live in a dirty home you stop noticing the smell but it seems unfair to the little girl to suffer the consequences of this . Not sure what the answer is but maybe she would be glad of the help .

radicalnan Sat 31-Dec-16 09:33:04

Housekeeping standards vary, so unless the child seems to be suffering I would leave well alone. Sometimes storage can be the problem so maybe if the moment arrived you could offer some storage solutions, big plastic boxes or wardrobe?

I wouldn't push anything at all as what you have at the moment sounds ideal.......

Jaycee5 Sat 31-Dec-16 09:36:42

I think you have to let it rest at this stage but keep a watch because if she is a hoarder and it become extreme that is inherently abusive to children. There are a number of websites for adult survivors of hoarding abuse and they talk about being the smelly child at school and the fact that no one stepped in to help. It might be worth posting a question there as people who grew up with this would have a different viewpoint. It is an anxiety disorder so any attempt to help is likely to be met with a panicky and negative response. It might be worth buying her a new outfit as a test of her mother to see what her reaction would be and try to just mention it in a friendly breezy way.

wondergran Sat 31-Dec-16 09:50:41

Say nothing. We all have different standards of living and this may be your ex dils. Just continue to work on being a good ex mil and do the best for your gd. Having some changes of clothes around is OK but if you insist that she changes as soon as she gets to yours this could cause all sorts of problems especially if you then wash those clothes and they go back home smelling differently. Leave well alone or you could be totally cut out of her life and that would be awful.

Teddy123 Sat 31-Dec-16 09:56:03

It's all very well to say leave well alone but hard to do. If you can smell 'it' from the front door I would be worried.

Did you manage to see the kitchen which is the most important room. No-one expects a home with kids to be immaculate but there's a huge difference between a bit scruffy and a level of hygiene that's unhealthy. Perhaps there's a damp problem causing the smell.

Obviously you'd have to tread carefully but is there any way you could offer to help clear the room you saw full of stuff. They would have extra space if this were cleared.

Sounds like hoarding to me and hoarders are notoriously difficult to deal with for obvious reasons. So I would gently offer to help but back off until she's ready for the intrusion into her space.

I'm guessing your ex DIL is depressed and needs help with that problem too.

Just try to be casual if you broach the subject. As everyone else says, you don't want to alienate her and risk losing your relationship with your GD.

Good Luck

Fran0251 Sat 31-Dec-16 10:00:36

Be very very wary of doing anything. I visited my brother and new SiL mid 70s when they were living in very cramped circumstances and tidied up a kitchen food storage cupboard that was in a dreadful state. I have never been liked since, it compromised our relationship for ever. I still visit but keep my views very firmly to myself and only give out compliments. I apply this rule to everything in life now and stay friends with everyone! Re the clothes, again always ask permission, make it very clear you respect the mum's views. I do with my own daughters. You could always say, "there's this nice shop near me, would you mind if I bought xxx a top/dress? I suffered from a MiL who bought what she fancied for my daughters with never a word to me about my preferences, so I've seen it from both angles.

icanhandthemback Sat 31-Dec-16 10:38:06

If things are really bad with the smell, the school should pick it up and act accordingly to ensure the children aren't bullied.
We used to have the same problem with my step-children so we used to have home clothes and our clothes. It was done as diplomatically as we could and there was no fall out.

trisher Sat 31-Dec-16 10:54:52

Some people just don't have the same standards as others and some don't seem able to keep on top of 'things'. I speak as someone who has always struggled with housework. You really can't say anything. Just think what is most important, the state of her flat or a good relationship with her and your GD- no contest! As far as the smell on GD's clothes goes it might be something to do with how they are being dried after washing. If she hasn't anywhere and it is taking a long time to dry them they will start to smell. You could offer to take a load of washing for her sometimes, maybe using an excuse like missing having more family to look after. In fact that might be a good start to encouraging her to ask for help. "I really don't have enough to do these days" might come across much better that "You need your kitchen cleaning".

EmilyHarburn Sat 31-Dec-16 11:29:56

Do nothing at the moment but observe and be supportive. I would seem you GD's mother may be depressed. You do not mention her age of if she goes out to work etc. You do not say if she is in a flat with steps up or a lift and having to carry everything up and down stairs etc.

Read around hoarding and decluttering to see if anything you read strikes you. Very important is the form of communication with the person.

This is a good start for do's and dont's

Nelliemaggs Sat 31-Dec-16 11:33:43

A fusty smell speaks to me more of a mum not keeping on top of the washing/drying and perhaps condensation/mould in the house. It points to your DIL perhaps being depressed and not knowing where to start with the tidying up. She needs a friend and it seems to me not worth risking your delicate relationship with her busyb.
You should see my spare room when I have 'tidied up' for visitors. My embarrassment when an emergency plumber needed to access every radiator on such an occasion still makes me uncomfortable when I remember it. I'm just saying that it might not be as bad as it looks, or smells. Sending your GC home smelling clean and fresh is probably a good gentle way of reminding your DIL how lovely is a sweet smelling child. I wouldn't say or do anything more unless your GC arrives smelling of wet knickers which to me would be a warning sign of something more like neglect.

I had the opposite situation. I looked after my GC for nearly four years. I picked him up in the morning pristine and I soon learned to change him into play clothes from the charity shop/ebay as soon as he arrived. He could then enjoy messy play all day and be changed back to his expensive unmarked clothes to go home. Mum winced a bit at the idea but appreciated her DC arriving home without muddy trousers or paint on his jumper.

Tessa101 Sat 31-Dec-16 11:46:49

Say nothing yet.... I wouldn't upset your fragile relationship as she obviously has gained trust in you to let you in. So I would leave it for a good few months to see if she invites you in again then once you've been a few times maybe suggest offering her a hand to help but I certainly wouldn't say a word after just one visit... recipe for disaster.

Kim19 Sat 31-Dec-16 12:08:44

Don't think I've ever encountered such an overwhelming consensus of compassion and good sense as I read in this thread today. Undoubtedly 'relationship' is king and everything else, however tricky, pales into insignificance. Many kind and thoughtful ideas to try here. Bravo!