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MIL/DIL - Help me understand my MIL

(123 Posts)
DIL17 Thu 20-Sep-18 16:49:46

Our relationship is rock bottom. We're two completely different people but we need to move forward somehow and I just need other MIL point of views I think to understand why she does what she does.

My MIL is a very soft person, but I feel sometimes it's a front to get her own way.

Our DD was born 5 years ago and since then she has routinely tried to undermine me and her son as parents. We're quite strict parents, we tell her off immediately when she is trouble, we expect her to sit at meals properly (no tablets phones), bed time is bed time end of.

We both like to teach her to be loving and caring of course and to ask for help when she needs, but also to be independent and confident in herself and I feel like MIL has a major issue with this.

She has always openly and in front of us done the opposite. At the start, we'd pull her up on it and say we do it this way if you don't mind and normally, she would do it for a bit, but go back to her way the next visit.

My husband works away a lot and I've have tried my hardest to make sure that doesn't affect her seeing DD. I take her on bank holidays, family birthdays, I was the one that insist we do alternate christmas but whenever I go, I get ignored and spoken to like a child.

At the moment we haven't really spoken since May. I'll point out now that she still sees our DD with hy DH and has still had her to stay for a whole week over the summer as there is no need for her not to be around DD.

So, the day that kicked this off:

We went round for what we were told was small lunch with SIL as she was visiting. Fair enough, that's what we usually do. Turn up and it's actually a birthday party for DH with his whole half of the family who all seemed to know about it.

I felt hurt and said to DH that I had no idea about this otherwise we'd have brought some of his smaller presents from us along. Our DD was upset to asking "why didn't we bring daddy a party present"

After I said that as his wife, we'd love to have helped and brought some things over including some small gifts. The rely I got was that she thought instead of lunch, she'd ring his family and let the know it's a birthday things instead.

I felt a bit broken by this. It felt like myself and DD aren't considered his family.

We've since said we're expecting our second child and I'm determined for things to be better, but I don;t want to just go back to normal, I want it to improve.

In all of it, she has said that she doesn't do any of these things and I'm making it up, but SIL, BIL and other family members have said they see it.

I guess i want to know:

- Why she ignores what we say as parents
- How do I get her to see that it is a problem that needs to be sorted.

JudyJudy12 Thu 20-Sep-18 17:34:21

She sounds a very silly woman and will lose her family if she carries on like this. She may ignore what you say as a power play, I would not be surprised if she complains about you to her son.
Why are people putting up with her behaviour? and does your husband back you.

DIL17 Thu 20-Sep-18 18:05:42

He backs me completely and he’s very open with me that she’s moaned and he says that he points out why I’m upset.

Doodle Thu 20-Sep-18 20:44:55

You say in your OP that she's a soft person. Are some of the things she's undermined you with related to your being firm with your DD and your MIL finding that difficult to cope with? I would say I am a soft person. I love all my DGC to bits and (like with my own children) find it hard if they are told off or in trouble or sad.

Maybe her intention was a surprise party for her son and not meant to hurt you in any way. You sound as though you are doing your best to keep things on a reasonable footing.

It is hard for mothers of sons to hand over their sons to another woman completely. It is a situation that does not seem to occur in the same way with mothers of daughters.
My two sons are grown up with families of their own and I get on well with both my DILs but they are still my boys in my heart and nothing will change that.

Please give your MIL another try. It is so easy to become estranged and for your children to miss out on a loving granny as well as causing problems between your DH and his mum. I fully accept this is not your fault but could you try and be the one who patches things up.

Many on here will tell you that it's your husband and your child and to ignore her or cut her off. It seems to be the trend these days. There is a hardness in relationships that wasn't always there (perhaps because grandparents used to be more needed). One day, you may well be a grandparent too. It's not always as easy as it seems. Good luck.

Baggs Thu 20-Sep-18 20:55:14

Like doodle, I wouldn't assume that organising a surprise party for your DH was in any way meant as insulting to you. Can't you just be pleased that his family organised a party for him?

It wasn't about you and your not having brought along presents for him is a non-issue in my view.

MissAdventure Thu 20-Sep-18 21:32:38

Maybe she thought it would be a nice surprise for your little family?
It doesn't really matter about your husbands presents, does it?
I would see it as bonus celebration that you didn't have to organise.

Melanieeastanglia Thu 20-Sep-18 21:43:59

Your mother-in-law is in the wrong if she undermines you as parents. You are the parents.

Party - I think your mother-in-law should have told you if she was arranging a surprise party and had you on board. However, she may not have meant to hurt you.

I wish you well and hope your relationship with her improves.

M0nica Thu 20-Sep-18 22:27:37

The thing to remember is that MiLs (like DiLs) are just two women, independent of their relationship with each other, brought together because you married her DS. She would probably have been a difficult person to deal with, whether you met her through work or socially. Just as likely to undermine you while appearing pleasant and easy to get on with.

I am not as 'soft' as some other posters. I do think the reorganisation of the lunch was deliberate and done to put you at a disadvantage. I also think her comments about 'ringing round the family' but not ringing you was also deliberate. All part of her behaviour to undermine you as a parent.

Is your son an only child, or an only son? They often are in this situation and essentially can not cope with no longer being the most important woman in his life.

The way to deal with it, is to accept who and what she is, then you and your DH run your home and family, bringing up your daughter as you choose, develop an indifference to her snide remarks and attempts to undermine you. There is nothing more frustrating for women acting like her than for no one to take any notice of her poor behaviour. Her behaviour feeds on your reactions. So do not show any.

Eglantine21 Thu 20-Sep-18 22:27:53

She is a difficult lady, but you seem to have it under control for the most part.

Tell her how wonderful the party was. If she meant it kindly as a surprise for all of you she will be pleased. If she meant it to exclude and hurt and she will have failed.
You can’t lose.

If it’s any comfort my MIL treated me like a rather silly child who needed guidance and advice until the day of her death. She was 87. I was 64.

Jalima1108 Thu 20-Sep-18 22:44:44

She probably thought the party would be a lovely surprise and didn't want you to have to think about contributing food etc, especially as you are pregnant.
Why would you want to give your DH more presents? Presumably you gave him his presents from the two of you at home earlier in the day? This was the chance for others to give their presents.

As for being 'soft' - perhaps her ideas about discipline are different from yours, perhaps she thinks you are both rather strict but is reluctant to say.

You asked for help - I would advise trying to put yourself in her shoes - perhaps she is thinking you are both rather harsh and is feeling for your little DD when you both discipline her (not a bad thing btw, but a bit of softness doesn't come amiss too), she's not sure of your reactions so not sure what to say to you?

Try to meet her halfway and see how it goes.

Jalima1108 Thu 20-Sep-18 22:49:10

why didn't we bring Daddy a party present?

'Because we gave Daddy his very special presents from us this morning when the others weren't there'.

You're over-thinking that.
Always be one step ahead with DC's awkward questions!

Beau Thu 20-Sep-18 23:19:02

Regarding the surprise party, I agree with Baggs and MissAdventure - you seem to take offence very easily. At least it seems so from your OP - apart from organising a lovely surprise party, it's not clear to me at all what the poor woman has done. 😳

oldbatty Fri 21-Sep-18 00:33:03

She has problems with boundaries and is needy. She should concentrate on her own life and treat time with you are your little girl as a lovely bonus.

She should stop undermining you and your husband needs to make that crystal clear.

Apricity Fri 21-Sep-18 01:35:30

I would agree with other posters that perhaps you are overthinking things a bit and being a little over sensitive. eg.a different response re the presents for your husband as per Jalimas suggestion. Try to take a different view of some of your mil's actions. Eg. It would be possible to reframe the birthday party as a celebration that you didn't need to do any work for rather than a personal affront. As Monica has said there may well have been other undertones but in the interests of family harmony sometimes it is better to just let things go.

It may be what you are describing as 'soft' behaviour in your mil is really passive aggressive behaviour and the best way to deal with that is to not respond or get too hurt by it. She is probably not going to change and you are competition for her son. In your own home if your mil criticizes or undermines you it is perfectly reasonable to quietly and politely say that this is the way things happen in your house and with your child. This sets boundaries.

You say you want things to improve but the reality is that you may never particularly like each other or have a close relationship but you are stuck with each other as mother and wife of your husband.

Some suggestions of how to deal with the situation are:

Expect less of the relationship. Ignore people who apparently have wonderful mil's who absolutely adore them.
See as little of each other as you reasonably can, that reduces the opportunities for friction.
Support her contact with the grandchildren but accept that you don't always need to be present. That's a win win as grandchildren spend time with grandparents, you get a break from the children, you look like a lovely dil.
Don't make your husband the meat in the sandwich, that is a lose lose scenario.
Good luck.☘️

Diktat Fri 21-Sep-18 04:15:31

Your mil is cunning. She knows exactly what she is doing and since you are on to her - you’d better stop her dead in her tracks before things really get out of hand.

Stop rewarding her bad behaviour with alone time with your children. Your daughter doesn’t need to stay there a week and you should be present when dd visits so you can watch what she says - because if she’s disrespecting your rules to your face...just think about what she’ll be doing when your back is turned.

My mil also for the past 7 years has planned my dh bday without asking me. I’ve decided that she is not to be included in any of my child’s bday celebrations; each event will be planned with the help of my mother and mil is to be completely excluded; and pictures in his memory book are of his favourite grandma and him with none of her. She wants to exclude you? Return the favour.

tiredoldwoman Fri 21-Sep-18 05:38:39

Gosh , I think you're lucky having such a person around you . I wish that I was an energetic as her ! She arranged a surprise get together on the birthday . I've never had a mother-in-law so that's maybe why I can't see the problem .
How does your own Mum see it all ?

mumofmadboys Fri 21-Sep-18 07:01:39

Gosh diktat you are asking for trouble! How sad to exclude your MIL from all the GC birthday celebrations and only putting photos of your mum in a memory book. Please think carefully before you execute this plan.

BlueBelle Fri 21-Sep-18 07:32:40

Diktak I m afraid every time you post I find my teeth going on edge
You really do come across as a nasty person you confuse everyone else’s problems with your own and are incredible harsh in your thoughts and posts
I think your mother in law has really drawn the short straw with you she has my full sympathy some of the things you say are vile
Thank goodness I have a decent and pleasant daughter in,law

OldMeg Fri 21-Sep-18 07:56:08

Pay no attention to Diktak but perhaps ask yourself if you want to turn into that person?

While I respect the majority of my DD and DDiL’s child rearing rules, I’ve managed to reach an agreement that parents have a different role to grandparents. It’s now accepted that I’m allowed to spoil them a little and that ‘you never let me get away with that when I was little’ is OK because I’m NOT the parents, I’m Nana.

So be more flexible. Children learn more by being able to adapt to different people, different situations and different roles.

And don’t always assume your MiL is out to cause trouble.

oldbatty Fri 21-Sep-18 08:17:55

OP, you are responsible for you and your young daughter and your pregnancy.

Your husband is responsible for himself.

MIL is responsible for herself and is she chooses to indulge in passive aggressive behaviour, thats her responsibility.

Sometimes we can't make things right. We certainly can't change how other people behave.
You and your partner need to be united. Do not enter into conversations with other family members about MIL, no matter how tempting this may be.
Take Care of You.

notnecessarilywiser Fri 21-Sep-18 08:22:09

I've read and re-read your OP, DIL17 and can't see that your MIL is the villain that you're making her out to be.

The "undermining" of your parenting appears to be that she lets your daughter get away with things that you and your husband don't. It's entirely natural for Granny (or Grandad) to be a soft touch - for example to allow a later bedtime than usual or to let her get away without eating all her vegetables. In my experience, kids understand that the "rules" can be different with grandparents or at school can be different. Of course, I'm not referring to matters of safety or consideration for others - but you don't give examples of these.

You say you've hardly had contact with her since May; could this be why you didn't know there was going to be a birthday party for your husband?

Sadly, you sound as though you're spoiling for a fight using phrases like "as his wife" and "pulling her up on it". Try being a little more relaxed and accepting that not everyone in an extended family is going to conform to your blueprint. Think about the things you have in common with her and concentrate on them instead of focusing on the differences.

I don't mean any of the above unkindly; just speaking as MIL to two DILs with whom I have almost perfect relationships. (Almost being the key word - we all accept that none of us is perfect)

Flossieturner Fri 21-Sep-18 10:36:00

It is always hard to portray exactly what is going on in a post. Those that say you are overthinking or being sensitive, are using just the example you have given, to make a judgement.

I have a lot of sympathy with you, because the relentless but very subtle undermining is wearying. It takes every pleasure out of visiting. I had something similar with my mother and I would pick up on everything. Sometimes others in my family thought I was being picky and maybe, sometimes, I was.guilty of this.

Your MiL, just like my mother, is refusing to acknowledge that you and your husband are adults. Instead she is trying to keep you as children, with her “Mummy knows best attitude”.

I had a very similar experience when my mother arranged a birthday party at her house for my son without telling me. She invited her friends and their grandchildren, who were not known to us. My son was very sensitive and shy and he hated parties. Mother told us we’re being cruel not having parties for him. She also put food out for the children that she knew my son was unable to eat, due to his allergies.
Sadly we cut down the visits as it was the only way to cope.

Jalima1108 Fri 21-Sep-18 10:42:11

Good choice of username Diktat

I hope no-one takes your advice seriously

Doodle Fri 21-Sep-18 10:47:07

Diktat your above post shocks me. That is a spiteful and vindictive thing to do. Are you really that mean?

Jalima1108 Fri 21-Sep-18 10:50:36

It would appear so from other posts Doodle