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Christmas and MIL in general

(41 Posts)
PixieKitty Wed 01-Nov-17 09:31:21

Hi lovely experienced grandparents, today I need your sage advice as I cannot seem to understand my current predicament.

The background is: my husband’s mother (MIL) is someone I usually get on very well with, to the point where she has called me her best friend in the past. She is not interfering and we involve her in our lives as much as possible, we have two children and although a few hours drive away she visits for a weekend every 3-6 weeks and we FaceTime/Skype every few days and text almost daily. We even holiday together once a year and it is really lovely. My husband has a brother (with wife and two kids), who treats her really well then really badly, and so she is often on an emotional rollercoaster regarding them, and she is heavily influenced by what they either say to her or tell her to do. My husband’s brother and him have not spoken now for 10 years because of him/his wife causing rifts and divides (some other family members on his side also avoid them). They say jump and MIL says how high (these are the people who she found out on social media that she had a new grandchild, yet for us we sent her a parcel next day delivery just to tell her the sex of our child in a little box of treats with the answer at the bottom).

The background might be important, it might not. So here is my question, what would you do? Two years ago at Christmas, my father in law needed life saving surgery. We were there, taking mother in law to and from a hospital to visit him over an hours drive away every day at visiting time. His brother was nowhere to be seen. MIL and FIL inevitably stayed at ours for Christmas which was lovely. Last year we invited them for Christmas, they declined and later told us that it was because they wanted it to be fair for both sets of grandchildren. I asked if they’d been invited to their other son’s, they said actually they’d been told by them that they were busy for the whole of December, so my husband said to come to us as we wanted them with us so they did end up coming, and again having a lovely time. Her other son found out and was angry, I’m not sure why as he didn’t want them there.

This Christmas we have invited them as our children love to have them around and we love that, after all Christmas to me is about the children. They have said no. This time on the grounds that they dislike Christmas and want to be at home on their own this year for the big day (but do want to do a Christmas of sorts with us on another weekend). They are spending the weekend before Christmas with their other son because again they do not invite them for actual Christmas. My MIL has started to also treat us unkindly, for example, at a recent event we hosted, I asked if she could help by cutting the cake whilst I was super busy with another task and she said no with a smirk (my parents are no longer around I might add). She has also started questioning all our decisions, switches off and uses her mobile phone when around our children, and is now emotionally affecting them by saying whenever we part ‘oh you’re leaving your nanna’ over and over in a really sad voice. My husband is so cross as she is being quite unkind to us all of late, and we genuinely dont know why. We feel we can’t raise it with her directly as she is very sensitive and I dont want to hurt her.

On social media she professes to adore our children and wants to spend every waking hour with them. I’m feeling very hurt, and very confused over Christmas. Being a very caring daughter in law, I am now after being treated like this after often putting my own happiness second, am feeling like I want to withdraw from them as feeling rejected and unappreciated is starting to really affect me. Do we spend so much time with them that they don’t see Christmas as special? Is it my husband’s brother influencing her decision and she isnt telling us? Is she just getting older? What would you advise I do to maintain a relationship without getting hurt over and over? My husband is tired of investing so much time and effort into the relationship with his parents compared to his brother and getting treated equally and so he wants to now after many many years, back away, I’m not sure that is the answer. Many thanks. PK

Nonnie Wed 01-Nov-17 09:46:16

Do you love your children equally, even when they behave badly? Your MiL is hardwired to love her children no matter what they do and will love both sons. Love is not something you can buy by being kind, thoughtful, loving etc. Parents love their children regardless.

Recently a GN posted that her DS had committed a crime but she still loved him.

Please do not be competitive with the other family.

We see a lot of MiL bashing on here, I hope this is not going to turn into yet another one.

All you can do is to show kindness and love towards them and let them make their own decisions. Maybe it hurts to spend Christmas with you knowing that they cannot do the same with the other family? I expect they don't like discussing the situation with the DS which you have nothing to do with.

Happy Christmas

Squiffy Wed 01-Nov-17 10:14:46

Is she perhaps opting out of coming to you for Christmas because she is hoping for a last-minute invitation from your BiL and Sil? She may be clinging to the fact that, if they know that your MiL and FiL will be on their own, then they'll invite them to theirs??

Divawithattitude Wed 01-Nov-17 10:24:34

My father is the same, he has to treat both my brother and I the same even though we run around him, do everything for him, take him on holiday. He sees my brother once a year if hes lucky. He says its what my mum would have wanted as my brother was her baby, hes 57 now!

In essence, it sounds to me like she is keen to retain a relationship with her other son and I wonder if you might be being just a little over sensitive over some of the perceived slights that you have mentioned?

PixieKitty Wed 01-Nov-17 11:05:42

Thanks for your quick replies already. I do not write this with the intention of MIL bashing, Nonnie, as I’m very fond of mine and love her deeply, which I had hoped had come across in the initial part of the message. It’s hard to explain in just one message what has happened over the past ten years with the other family and we definitely do not compete, however we feel sad she is drawn to them despite their poor treatment of her.

Nonnie, on a bit of a tangent, how badly would someone have to treat you for you to want to spend less time with them? Just because you are blood it does not give you the right to emotionally abuse someone for many years (just putting that out there).

I am wearing my heart on my sleeve so try not to be unkind. I want to have that happy relationship we had not too long ago. Best wishes.

PixieKitty Wed 01-Nov-17 11:10:42

Squiffy perhaps you are right, she often clings onto the fact they might invite her and will often travel for 150 miles even if they tell her she can only stay for one night to babysit.

Diva with attitude, perhaps you are right, and I am being over sensitive, she is acting out of character lately and perhaps she has something else going on that we don’t know about.

I forgot to add that this Christmas is my youngest’s first one and she declared over and over that she would not miss it for the world earlier in the year. So I think the sudden no has come as a real shock.

PixieKitty Wed 01-Nov-17 11:14:03

Yes Nonnie I suspect it does hurt that they can’t spend time with the other DS, it’s a shame we are automatically therefore punished by default 🙁

lemongrove Wed 01-Nov-17 11:34:54

Hard to find reasons for the change, and you may never really know, but it’s about how you deal with the new situation.
In your place I would still issue the invitations, but accept it if they say ‘no thanks’.You don’t say how old they are (PIL)
But they want a quiet Christmas, then let them.Explain to the DGC that older people often need a bit of quiet (!)
I wouldn’t question them about the situation, but stay friendly and maybe back off a bit about them visiting.
We can never truly know what another person thinks or why, and tbh sometimes better not to know.

PixieKitty Wed 01-Nov-17 12:47:29

Thank you lemon grove. They are both late 60s. I want to know why so much, but you are so right really, that I don’t need to know (and sometimes knowing doesn’t always help) but be accepting of it. Because me, my husband and my PIL know each other so incredibly well despite the distance and know everything about what we have going on, and we are always the shoulder for my MIL when things inevitably go wrong with her other son or indeed any issues in her life, I think that’s why I’ve come here for advice, the change in her concerns me and I wonder if we are at fault somehow...

On reflection, perhaps because my parents are not around, being turned down by PIL at Christmas has affected me by feeling like a rejection which I have taken personally and I need to take stock of that.

I just hope my husband hasn’t had enough, he recently likened how much we do for them as paying £300 for a product and his brother paying £100 for the same thing so why do quite so much. A bit like your situation Diva. Perhaps backing off a little won’t leave us quite so disappointed? It’s hard to get things right for everyone.

Bridgeit Wed 01-Nov-17 18:54:25

Sorry to read about your predicament PixieKitty, it must be very hurtful not knowing what ' crime' it seems you must have committed, but unless you do confront her you will never know, perhaps you are (understandably ) being too sensitive, so I would say go & see her & ask her why she has seemingly changed otherwise you will be mentally torturing yourself for everymore . Second guessing will just wear you down , good luck

janeayressister Wed 01-Nov-17 20:07:54

Gosh what a dilemma...and what to do? It appears that she knows that she has your love and affection but is possibly uncertain about her other son and his wife. She may be on eggshells with them, not wanting to annoy them and end up NC. She may long for them to be on the same footing as you.
But I think you should think about what you want and stop thinking about BIL and his behaviour and even your MIL.
Wouldn't it be nice to be alone with your family for Christmas, less work etc? Most parents posting on Mumsnet want to be alone.
Stop asking them and wait for your PIL to make the next move. Play a little hard to get.
If your MIL susquently turns up, having ultimately been rejected by your BIL, you can then be calculating and mean..as in, Oh, now we are good enough are we!! Or you can be kind and just welcome her back and be your nice self.
I do think that you are maybe relying on others for your happiness. Maybe you should be a bit more ruthless and selfish?
It's likely that you haven't done anything to your MIL ...you have just been reliable and consistent. She maybe is taking you for granted.

Crafting Wed 01-Nov-17 20:39:38

pixie please, please be patient with your MIL. It sounds to me like your DH is the "good" son and is brother the more difficult to deal with BUT I expect your MIL loves them both equally and is trying to walk the tightrope between maintaining a relationship with them both. The question of Christmas has always been a problem in some families and maybe your BIL doesn't necessarily want his mother with him but also does not want her with you either. I know this sounds wierd but that's families for you. The suggestion of having a Christmas celebration together at another time is just the sort of thing I would suggest. Please don't take it as a personal slight it's just us MILs trying to keep our families united. Good luck.

paddyann Wed 01-Nov-17 23:06:04

my parents who had spent every Christmas day with us for more than 2 decades suddenly decided they didn't want to go anywhere ,just be at home on their own.They lived only a few minutes from us so I delivered their christmas dinner to them along with their presents and we did that until Dad died a few years later .They just found a house full of other people too much ,that may be whats happened with your PIL .

Zorro21 Thu 02-Nov-17 10:06:18

I feel I just need to say how lovely it was of you to send a box of treats to your MIL with the sex of your new baby as a surprise at the bottom of them.

Zorro21 Thu 02-Nov-17 10:17:45

Speaking as a step mother (to four grown up children who have children and live locally) I remember being quite upset that after many years of going for Christmas Day to one stepdaughter's house for Christmas dinner, that she suddenly said she had no room for us. This hurt at the time. There was no further explanation. I did wonder what we had done wrong. I then discovered there was a large dog in a crate taking up all the room which belonged to her son and his girlfriend. If only someone had bothered to explain I would have completely understood. I also feel hurt when the the other real Grandmas are invited to events by this daughter's children, like teas or hen parties but I am not. I have just grown to accept the situation. I suggest you put on a brave face and accept the situation, but still be pleasant.

ajanela Thu 02-Nov-17 10:22:20

I had a similar situation with my husband's sister. We with my husbands brother's family use to arrange big 2 day Christmas event including lots of extended family. His sister use to contribute nothing and only let us know when she would be appearing via MIL. When she arrived MIL was very excited as if she was the star guest. Grrrrrr! But in later years I did see an insight to what had happened in the past.

I know it is common behavior in a rejected least favoured child to put the most effort into trying to get the love of a parent so maybe this works the other way with the parent. Your MIL trying to get the love of her son. I agree with others when they say parents like to treat their children equally. Another thought, does your SIL try to stop her husband seeing his parents, that happens a lot.

Finally you have done the best you can, let it be. Enjoy your Christmas and maybe invite some friends over.

Coconut Thu 02-Nov-17 10:41:23

I didn’t read into this that you were MIL bashing at all, you came across as so caring. It’s a very sad situation and hard to apply logic when others are being illogical. If you feel that you cannot explain this face to face, I would send a letter just as you have put here. Reiterate your past closeness, do recognise the difficulties with the brother and say that you will respect any decision she makes even tho it does make you sad. Once it’s all out in the open, it’s really out of your control, so take a step back and just focus on your husband and children having an amazing time. Don’t let it take over your life as we cannot change others behaviour. Re the smirk situation, challenge things like that there and then. I don’t mean aggressively, just a “ have I offended you ?” Type question. If the children refer to absent grandparents, once again gentle honesty saying they are busy etc and just keep up the contact via phone, Skype etc Many Mums would give their right arm for a DIL as kind hearted as you 💐

Sackettstreet Thu 02-Nov-17 10:54:12

PixieKitty.
I have to say you sound like a very thoughtful and considerate DIL, families and Christmas can be tricky in all sorts of ways. I don't think you can do more than you have, and yes, send your usual Christmas invitation and hope for the best. I am at an age where I have 2 young grandchildren and two elderly parents. In the past, for many years, we, with my brother and family would always be together for Christmas dinner at least, but as families grow and parents age things change. My parents now prefer to spend Christmas day alone, and enjoy it without the frictions (and kids) running around. I now catch up and spend Boxing Day either at their place or mine. At the other end of the scale I live in an annex in my younger daughers (long) back garden I have been full time carer for both my grandchildren until they started school. Obviously this situation creates a very strong bond with grandchildren BUT even so, as a MIL I do not expect to be invited up to their house for Christmas Day, I know I am a great help to them but also can see there are times they wish I wasn't so attached! and will make my own plans and fit around theirs with no hard feelings. Your BIL just isn't as sensitive as you, and who knows what conversations go on between him and your MIL. Of course to sit an discuss it calmly while you are together may make it clearer for you, it maybe worth a try. But whatever happens or doesn't happen I don't think you should spend another moment trying to solve this problem as it is impossible for you to do it alone. You have tried very hard for a long time by the sound of things. I wish you and your family a VERY happy Christmas, be it with or without your MIL. Enjoy your children, they will be with Mum and Dad and have presents so they will be happy. Time to draw a line, it matters that YOU have a good time too remember that xxx

dragonfly46 Thu 02-Nov-17 10:58:07

I agree with what the others have said. I am a granny in a similar situation with my two children. I am happily accepted by one and have to walk on eggshells with the other so by default I try much harder not to upset the difficult one and try to do what they want. It is wrong I know but it is human nature. On another note maybe your MiL has a medical problem which is changing her attitude - the beginnings of dementia?

Milly Thu 02-Nov-17 11:04:44

I am sorry for the hurt you are feeling, but just wonder as she seems to have a slight change of personality whether it is the start of a dementia type illness, in which case it is nothing personal to you. Living as I do in Retirement Flats I see a lot of this unfortunately.

IngeJones Thu 02-Nov-17 11:14:09

I was thinking similarly to Milly. Don't do any kneejerk reactions - obviously protect your children from anything that might disturb them or make them feel guilty (like "oh you're leaving your nanny") or at least tell them even if you're not sure it's true that "Nanny might be getting something wrong with her in her head, it's not her fault or ours" and otherwise just carry on as you were.

radicalnan Thu 02-Nov-17 11:14:43

When we over invest in other people we often feel let down or rejected. Sounds to me, like MIL is stuggling a bit to keep pace with it all. Take pressure of her and yourself by making things more low key and spontaneous.

As people age the big family Christmas thing can remove them from the preference to have a little peace and quiet and being in someone else's house can be a strain.

You are feeling that she has changed, maybe she has, maybe she is ill, maybe you just are seeing things differently because they are changing. Change is part of life and we don't always like it but it happens.

Chris107 Thu 02-Nov-17 11:19:05

I wonder is your MIL showing any other signs of a.personnality change? Sometimes when a medical problem is first appearing the family closest are the first to see a change sometimes not for the best. Maybe talk to your FIL in confidence and see if he has any worries. These slight changes could be anything maybe earlier dementia for example? Not for one minute suggesting it is but it's worth asking him if she is ok.

rizlett Thu 02-Nov-17 11:25:55

I am now after being treated like this after often putting my own happiness second.

This sentence stood out for me from your pp op - and you might want to put on a suit of amour here.

You're allowed to put your happiness first. This is an essential life skill that we all need to learn. Putting yourself first is the way to find happiness because once you do that then you don't begrudge what anyone else does. You are responsible for your own happiness. No one else can be.

It's not really your business what your MIL does or doesn't do with anyone else. Love her enough to give her the freedom to make her choices without you judging. Learn this with her so that you can apply this to your children as they grow up.

It's time to stop sacrificing what you want to do to make other people like you more. It's time to stop allowing other people to influence your feelings. You are lovely enough without doing all this people pleasing.

DaisyL Thu 02-Nov-17 13:15:05

It is difficult to know what makes someone change 'suddenly' - I put that in inverted commas because it may be something that has been festering. I had lunch with an old friend (A) the other day and said that I wanted to invite her and her husband to supper with another couple (B + husband) (very old friends of hers) and she immediately said she wouldn't come. I was very surprised and when I asked her why she had some nonsense about the last time they saw each other (six months ago) B had failed to ask A about her holiday. As people get older and possibly have less to do they imagine slights where none exist and brood on silly things. Is it possible that something like that has happened here. You sound like such a lovely family and a great DIL. It might be worth writing to her just to ask if you have done anything to offend her as it could well be just a misunderstanding.