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controlling DIL--desperate for support/advice

(91 Posts)
AngelD Tue 31-Dec-19 21:38:29

My husband and I are stuck and don't know what to do. Just over a year ago, our GS was born very premature. I know his parents went through hell. Although there may be a few possible health concerns, he's pretty much caught up with his birth age and is absolutely adorable. even though I was a punching bag for the duration of his hospital stay and, consequently walked on eggshells, things settled down well and we spent a lot of time together. Him and I created quite a bond.
But, since she's pregnant again, things have seriously gone down the drain. They live 2 1/2 hrs away from us in a small town. Due to her prior premature birth, they've decided for her to continue to see their local OBYGN and she and her baby come to town regularly, staying with her mom. Although her parents live only about 25 min from us, we rarely see them. Apparently the main reason is that I seem to constantly do or say something that she doesn't like, (or wrong, in their eyes). She's on progesterone and, apparently, it's been making her very emotional and sensitive. Plus, I'm sure the fear of another premature birth scares the hell out of her. A couple of months ago, she found the courage to tell a list of all the things I seem to do wrong from her perspective. Although it was very painful and confusing for me, I encouraged her to tell when she feels I'm doing or saying something wrong. I'm a very conscientious person, always reflecting on my behaviour in an attempt to improve myself. Everyone who has observed my interacting with our GS, including my daughter & SIL, husband, etc. can't seem to find any fault in what I'm doing. I'm doing my absolute best to follow her lead, ask questions, apologize if I think I've done something wrong, etc. But that doesn't seem to be good enough or improve the situation.
Now she's convinced my son of the same. He, in turn, got mad at me and required for me to give them space. When we do have family gatherings, he (more than her) is either rude to me or ignores me. This past Christmas, while they were here for nearly three weeks, we saw the little guy for a total of 5 hours at our house and a few hours more at family gatherings. We saw our son once.
The very sad part is, that we bent backwards to help them move, support them financially, etc. Not only that, my son and DIL lived with us for over two years, yet she's refusing to stay with us, even though I bought everything necessary for a baby to sleep here. Plus, my son always talked very negatively and disapprovingly about his PILs, despising them. Apparently they were the reason they moved away in the first place, and now, they only stay there and we rarely see them. When they moved away, he made a solemn promise to keep it equal between the two families. The only good thing is that my GS and I developed enough of a relationship that he automatically gravitates toward me whenever he sees me, even if it's been weeks.
For the first time ever, my husband is confused and doesn't understand or know what to do. We've always been a very close-knit family.
We have not invited them, phoned them. We are giving them their space as requested.
My biggest fear is that my very calm and objective husband, who is feeling rejected, hurt and angry, is going to do something rash that could possibly sever the already fragile relationship because my son us virtually unable to recognize when he's done wrong and rectify the situation.
I'm open to suggestions.

Jomarie Tue 31-Dec-19 22:18:38

I too look forward to suggestions as I am suffering similarly - and am now (after treading on eggshells/bending over backwards/biting my tongue etc etc for a few years (10 plus)) ostracised from my ES and his wife and two small children (3 & 1 yrs old) ES effectively relegating his entire biological family to the scrap heap as she/he have done nothing wrong! None so blind as those who cannot see - who said that?
OH now suffering from piles as sitting on the fence is at last making him uncomfortable - not sufficiently uncomfortable to do something about it - that's apparently "womens work" !!

Jomarie Tue 31-Dec-19 22:22:00

Sorry - didn't mean to hijack your post AngelD just meaning to let you know it's not just you who are in this position - sleepless nights etc. etc.

Luckygirl Tue 31-Dec-19 22:49:13

When they moved away, he made a solemn promise to keep it equal between the two families. That seems a very odd thing for him to have done; or, more specifically, have felt the need to do. What is that about?

endlessstrife Tue 31-Dec-19 22:52:12

I’m really sad to hear this AngelD. Apologies if this sounds patronising, but have you tried talking to your son on his own? They had the chance to tell you the things you’re doing “ wrong”. You should be given the same courtesy. It may be what you saw as help, they saw as overpowering/ interference etc. Are these some of the things she cited in her list? She most likely is nervous about the next birth, and the progesterone won’t help. I wouldn’t ask her to tell you when you’re doing something wrong, that just degrades you and isn’t necessary. Just say you’re there for them if they need you, but back off in the meantime, and give them the space they need to prepare. Hopefully, you and your husband will be able to relax more as well. Hope it all goes well for you, and Happy New Year🤗

endlessstrife Tue 31-Dec-19 23:06:32

Awww, bless you Jomarie. It’s hard to know what to say after so long. All I can say is from personal experience as a DIL with a very difficult MIL. Not suggesting you are at all I must add! She just didn’t listen.....ever, and was in constant denial. We tried so many times to talk things through, to no avail. My husband’s siblings had the same problems, but were happy to accept it was the way she was. I felt, because others put up with her, it was never resolved. She never had the chance to be better, because the majority put up with her, but talked about her behind her back. I’m not in any way, suggesting this has happened in your case, but sometimes things aren’t always what they seem. If they said they’ve done nothing wrong, who has then, and what is it? They’re the only ones who know this by the sound of it. Perhaps a serious chat the rest of the family may bring something to light. People never go no contact for no reason. I pray for a really Happy New Year for you all this year.

inkycog Tue 31-Dec-19 23:09:29

Gosh , maybe try to develop some sort of life away from this....your own interests and friends. Go out the 2 of you sometimes.

Hithere Tue 31-Dec-19 23:33:22

The key is the reasons your son and dil gave you. Are you able to share?

AngelD Wed 01-Jan-20 00:09:58

I have tried talking to my son. He just says that I do stupid things all the time and that he needs to support his wife. I know I pulled a couple of stupid stunts--for instance, they didn't want pictures of their grandson on fb, which I didn't know or think to ask until I posted some (after they posted some), at which time they flipped. So I apologized for it and it didn't happen again.
At my GS bday, I put a post up on fb about how happy I am that he is a year old and doing well! I didn't name him, but they flipped again and said "nothing about (Name) can go on fb ever! She says that she grew up with little affection and only kisses her husband and son. No one else and feels uncomfortably if I give the little guy a kiss on his head or cheek. My kids grew up with us tickling them, horsing around together, etc. My son does it, but, apparently, she doesn't want us to play with him on our hands and knees.
Ever since he first came home 8 months ago, he always cries and fuzzes when his diapers get changed or he gets dressed. I barely remember it, but, apparently I made a remark something like "you'll be ok, mommy is not hurting you", and she took offence to it cause it somehow implied that she is hurting him. One time they left him behind with us but without food. He was hungry and I gave him a little bit of the exact same table food she had given him the night before. Wrong thing to do. She said I should've called her first--but they were at the movie theater at the time.
My parents and PILs were very invasive. Constantly telling me what I should or shouldn't do. Always criticizing, never praising. I've never criticized her and always tell her what a great mother she is. I try my very best to follow their example, but am finding out that is wrong, too. He's allowed to play with their phones but they get mad if he crabs my phone. These are just some typical examples. No matter how much I adjust, change, try to do it their way (because our parents certainly didn't), I just don't seem to succeed.
There are so many inconsistencies and I'm continuously second guessing myself.

As far as the promise to keep it equal is concerned, our son made that promise to reassure us that, when they come to town to visit, they'd alternate between staying with us and his parents to try to avoid onesidedness. And, especially because we were so incredibly close, them moving away broke our hearts. Now they're only staying with her family.

Hithere Wed 01-Jan-20 00:42:12

How about the list your dil gave you?
Your son said you do stupid things all the time - what else was stupid in your son's eyes?

When in doubt, never assume and always ask the parents. Did their mobile phones have service in the movie theatre? One quick call or message gives you the answer.

You seem to need a cool off period so the scab stops being touched and irritated.

Why would your son promise to keep it equal? That is such a weird statement. Where and how did it come from?
What initiated that promise?

How was your relationship with your dil before having the baby?
With your son?

Yennifer Wed 01-Jan-20 00:58:09

I don't understand why a husband who is calm and reasonable might suddenly do something rash? Has he previously? Just take care to follow their parenting rules and if unsure ask! Hopefully things will calm in time. Mum has been through a trauma, that will have an impact and will take time to heal. Lots of calm and sensitivity to her needs, taking hormones on top.pf pregnancy hormones and a terrifying experience she fears isn't over.... Its not fair to expect her to be anything less than controlling when so much has been and still may be out of her control x

HappyBumbleBee Wed 01-Jan-20 01:12:35

I'm sorry OP I don't want to cause offence to you or anyone else going through this BUT when do you STOP walking on egg shells and start reminding your supposedly grown up son that regardless of age, you are still his mother and deserve some respect?! I'm fuming on your behalf tbh!
Regarding your DH if he is now feeling hurt and rejected and decides to speak to his son, let him and don't get involved. Your son and Dil need to hear it from someone else and all the time their behaviour towards you is not mentioned by anyone else they'll keep doing it and blame you.
I honestly feel that you have done enough walking on egg shells. They need to realise that you have feelings too. I'm glad you have a great bond with your grandson and he naturally gravitates towards you, that can't be broken and will strengthen with time and as he grows.
I can't say do this or do that because I'm not in your shoes living your life, but please start realising that YOU are NOT the problem. So apologising for doing the normalist of things and stop accepting their disrespect of you as normal or something you deserve because you don't.
Xxx

sodapop Wed 01-Jan-20 09:14:35

It's very hurtful when our family seems not to want us to help. You do seem to be very bound up with the minutiae of their life AngelD maybe that accounts for some of the eggshell walking. Perhaps taking a step back for a while will help get things more in perspective.
Its a worrying time for them at present and this may make them more touchy.

wildswan16 Wed 01-Jan-20 10:16:48

Your son and his wife are a separate family to yours. This is sometimes difficult to appreciate. Yes, it's lovely to have big family gatherings etc, but there are many families that just don't work that way.

Your DIL and son appear to be like that. It is natural that she gravitates more to her own parents than to you.

Accept what they give, don't make demands - either outright or implied. Try not to obsess over every conversation, implied criticism or action. Just go with the flow.

Fill your life with companionship from your husband and friends rather than relying too much on this young couple.

endlessstrife Wed 01-Jan-20 10:28:45

sorry if you’ve said and I just can’t see it, but was everything alright before your DIL became pregnant? Or has this been on going? I think it sounds like she’s very anxious, and is lashing out at everything. I really think you’ve just got to ease right off, otherwise you could find yourselves stuck between this rock and hard place forever! They don’t seem to treat you with any respect, but they would probably say you’re too full on. You seem to be almost attracting bad behaviour, and that’s not fair. Wait at least until after the baby is born, and then carefully pick your timing.

Madgran77 Wed 01-Jan-20 11:55:57

As he was very premature the parents are almost inevitably going to be ultra protective and nervous and that is totally understandable. Your DIL is now also pregnant again and will be even more nervous, terrified of an early birth and the hell they went through happening all over again just as you have acknowledged.

You have told us what your son has said ...but not any reasons given by your DIL....those are the most significant for you surely as she has managed to open up to you.

That said …..

for instance, they didn't want pictures of their son on fb, which I didn't know or think to ask until I posted some (after they posted some), at which time they flipped. So I apologized for it and it didn't happen again

They should have told you the FB rule re pictures. Yes you could have asked, but the problem is that because so many GPs/Parents happily post on FB, it might not have even dawned on you. A mistake, but human!

At my GS bday, I put a post up on fb about how happy I am that he is a year old and doing well! I didn't name him, but they flipped again and said "nothing about (Name) can go on fb ever!

Again they should have made clear that it wasn't just no pictures on FB, it was no mention atall.

She says that she grew up with little affection and only kisses her husband and son. No one else and feels uncomfortably if I give the little guy a kiss on his head or cheek. My kids grew up with us tickling them, horsing around together, etc. My son does it, but, apparently, she doesn't want us to play with him on our hands and knees.

Hmmm...her comment about her childhood should explain aspects of her wider approach re her son, to you! This is hard for you if you babysit sometimes, but is her right. However, she may want to think about what she expects of babysitters!

Ever since he first came home 8 months ago, he always cries and fuzzes when his diapers get changed or he gets dressed. I barely remember it, but, apparently I made a remark something like "you'll be ok, mommy is not hurting you", and she took offence to it cause it somehow implied that she is hurting him.

Again, her comment about her childhood should tell you something about why she took this the way she did

One time they left him behind with us but without food. He was hungry and I gave him a little bit of the exact same table food she had given him the night before. Wrong thing to do. She said I should've called her first--but they were at the movie theater at the time

Their mistake, should have left food. If they want to use you as a babysitter they have to allow you to take a little initiative in the best interests of their child whilst in your care. Every last event cannot be controlled, but what food to give him can be and that is up to them so they need to get organised. . But her response, in the light of her previous comments about her childhood, should tell you something about why she reacted like this. If they leave him with you again, you could ring every time there is a decision to be made about him to ask what they would like you to do! The downside of that is it might give a reason to say they won't leave him again as you are incapable of making a decision ...so maybe you can't win! If they ask why you ring, remind of conversation re food, say you just want to do the right thing for them and for your grandson

He's allowed to play with their phones but they get mad if he grabs my phone

Ask them why that is a problem?

Re the staying, at the moment I would just leave that, they really can choose where they stay and DIL clearly and understandably wants to stay with her family at the moment. Despite her description of her childhood, her family is still clearly her preference.

I know this must be stressful and worrying for you and I certainly understand the eggshell treading! flowers

EMMF1948 Wed 01-Jan-20 12:03:04

If you read Mumsnet you'll see that a very large number of women expect their partner to almost break of relationships with 'his' family, only her family counts for anything. He is also expected to 'support' her, ie to agree with everything she says evenif he doesn't.
It's not easy, I have only daughters but I do see that she tries hard to keep his side of the family informed etc but she seems to be one of a minority.

EMMF1948 Wed 01-Jan-20 12:07:11

It is natural that she gravitates more to her own parents than to you

If he were to gravitate more towards his family then I can guarantee that she would go ballistic, such is the attitude of many women.

Hithere Wed 01-Jan-20 12:25:59

I don't see any mentioned actions as controlling. They are just reassessing their parenting rules, which is their right. Their kid, their rules.

The gs 1 year old post in fb was after or before being told of no fb at all for their child?
If it was after- you messed up big time. There is no need to mention a rule to an offender for the second time without adding resentment and friction to the relationship.

Kissing their child: it is not unusual for parents to limit who kisses the baby due to health reasons - herpes, if you smoke, for example
Again, not controlling.

The food incident - maybe something the baby ate did not sit well? Not enough details. Never assume and ask the parents.

The phones - not controlling
Your son and dil may have an app for the child to play, not just the the phone.
By only playing with their phones, they also limit the amount of time baby is exposed to screens.

"Mommy is not hurting you"
What a strange statement. As humans, we mention things that cross our minds. Why would you ever think she would hurt her child?
Yes, i would take offense for that too.
Would you have said "daddy is not hurting you?" if it was your son changing his child?

How about saying - "don't worry baby, it will be over soon" or "don't worry baby, you will be warm soon"

Your son says you do stupid things all the time. In his reality, he may have to police you to make sure no harm comes to his child. It is exhausting and unnecessary.
Does the meaning of "stupid" mean the same for you and for dil and son?
Do you acknowledge and recognize all the actions that are seen stupid on their side as stupid on yours? You only mention messing up twice.

You also mention your bond with their child and how close you are and how he gravitated around you.
This is worrisome. The main bond of a baby is with the parents and siblings (nuclear family), not an external family member.

In your title, you blame your dil for being controlling, when your son also doesn't approve of your actions. Typical " my son is being brainwashed by my dil"

Your dil is pregnant and the last thing she needs is worry about this continuous friction. I don't blame her.

You are way too involved in their lives and pushing back.

Follow their lead and you will have a better relationship. Always ask, never assume.

Yennifer Wed 01-Jan-20 12:43:13

Sometimes people tend to focus on how their behaviour is being snubbed rather than changing the behaviour. Different people have different needs. I have children who are all very different and have different needs so I have to change my behaviour to suit not bulldose through life expecting them to put up with me. Focusing on how people's reactions to my behaviour hurt me is counterproductive... I'm responsible for it, not them for how it impacts them.

agnurse Wed 01-Jan-20 15:47:03

I get the impression that you think you have certain "rights" because of all you have given them. Were those actually gifts? If they had strings attached, as you suggest, they weren't "gifts".

Given that GS was premature, I can totally see her not wanting you to kiss him on the cheek. It also sounds as if you made his first birthday all about you.

As far as "keeping it fair", it really isn't any of your business how much time they spend with her family. How many times did your children tell you growing up, "But so-and-so gets to have/go to/do X! Why can't I?" What was your response then? Do you realize that's how you sound?

OF COURSE your son is going to support his wife. That's what husbands are supposed to do. That's his primary family now. His wife is pregnant, they've already had one preterm birth, and she is likely understandably worried. PLEASE leave them alone for the foreseeable future. Keep in mind that if your husband does something totally out of line, it could have serious ramifications, including a permanent NC.

endlessstrife Wed 01-Jan-20 16:43:42

Play the long game * AngelD*. DIL is clearly struggling, and I think you’ve tried too hard, to the point that your help and support could be seen as controlling, as agnurse has said. I think you’ve naturally wanted to help, and probably saw it as building up a good relationship, and are now just shocked at the outcome, but there is clearly another way of looking at it, and maybe your DIL sees this “ other “ way. Like I said before, she may just be overwhelmed and needs space.

Madgran77 Wed 01-Jan-20 16:47:42

I get the impression that you think you have certain "rights" because of all you have given them. Were those actually gifts? If they had strings attached, as you suggest, they weren't "gifts".

I do agree agnurse that gifts should not come with strings and if they do then they are not gifts! However I also think that if someone is willing to take help and support from another then there is an onus on them to consider the other persons feelings and needs in a relationship; relationships are a two way process not all take and no give. Ofcourse we have only one view so there may be more give than we know about.

In his reality, he may have to police you to make sure no harm comes to his child

Hitgere IF that is the case I cant imagine why they would even consider leaving the child with his grandparents; how unwise of them!

Yes ofcourse grandparents should ask ...but just as they have to try to remember/work out what to ask about, there is an onus on parents to facilitate their wishes for their child; the total onus is NOT on the grandparents to think of everything. So ..if the parents have FB rules, tell people so there are no risks of people involved with their child, inadvertently breaking them! They want their child to be given specific food/not be fed whilst they leave them with someone ... bring the "right" food or tell the minder no food to be given! Presumably if their child is crying with hunger then the parents will also accept the responsibility for that too!

My point is I really believe that there is a need for careful listening and consideration of behaviours for all involved in this scenario. Worried upset hurting grandparents have made mistakes but so have stressed worried parents!! I really hope that this family can sort it all out

Hithere Wed 01-Jan-20 16:51:54

Madgran77,

I agree, unwise to leave the child with grandparents who may be unsafe.

It happens often: family pressure, giving grandparents a chance to babysit, fog (fear obligation guilt) etc.

Madgran77 Wed 01-Jan-20 17:13:38

Hithere yes that may be the case; if it is then either the parents have to communicate more clearly or the grandparents have to listen better! Who knows.