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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 24-Nov-16 16:55:58

In-laws - love them or loathe them?

Family relationships can be incredibly difficult to navigate, but introduce in-laws to the mix and they often get that little bit trickier... Author Ann Richardson shares her thoughts on this age-old way of gaining family members.

Ann Richardson

In-laws - love them or loathe them?

Posted on: Thu 24-Nov-16 16:55:58

(83 comments )

Lead photo

Do you have in-laws...or outlaws?

Something very strange happens when you get married. And then again when your kids get married. You acquire in-laws. It can even happen if you or they are simply involved in a close partnership.

You suddenly have a lot of new people in your 'family' who you didn't choose, but who you're supposed to be friendly with. There are their parents, sisters and brothers, and their spouses and on and on.

And we all know it can cause a lot of problems.

Of course there are some who just love their in-laws. I know a woman who insisted that her daughter-in-law should be known as her 'daughter-in-love' from the very beginning. How lovely for everyone.

I also know people who go on holiday with the whole extended family – children, their spouses, and loads of grandchildren. Some do it every year. They are very lucky to get on so well.

More frequently, we just cope. It is hard enough with the parents-in-law, not to mention other members of the family. But somehow, we usually learn how to manage. We work out what foods they eat when they come for dinner, what subjects you should avoid in conversations and, best of all, what interests you have in common.

They may not have your ideas about how to feed them, play with them or what to buy as presents. They may have loads of rules, when you believe in freedom, or vice versa.


Sometimes, they live nearby and you end up seeing each other frequently. Sometimes, everyone does their best to see each other as little as possible.

But when the grandchildren come along, it is a whole different story. If you want to see the grandchildren, the son or daughter-in-law comes too. It is part of the package.

If it is your son's baby, especially, it is hard to avoid his or her mother.

Of course, a baby can be just the thing to cement relationships. You share the love of this new being and that papers over a whole lot of cracks. Indeed, you may well be very impressed with how your son or daughter-in-law handles their new baby, improving your relationship with each other and making your time together even more agreeable.

Yet this is also where the greatest problems can arise. You go to visit the new baby or, later, the growing children, and however much you love the grandkids, you may not agree with their parents' ideas about how to bring them up. Often it is the daughter- or son-in-law whose ideas are the most divergent from your own.

They may not have your ideas about how to feed them, play with them or what to buy as presents. They may have loads of rules, when you believe in freedom, or vice versa.

And you might be tempted to give advice, but do not want to be irritating. 'Every new granny should be issued with a zip', one friend said, and it is true.

Who says being a granny is always easy?

Ann's most recent book is Celebrating Grandmothers: grandmothers talk about their lives, which is published by New Generation and available from Amazon, and you can find out more about Ann on her website.

By Ann Richardson

Twitter: @CelebratingGran

Yorkshiregel Thu 01-Dec-16 16:43:24

I agree Smileless2012. What is more, people who talk about In Laws as though they are the joke of the week just make it more difficult for those who are already hurting from a situation that they find themselves in through no fault of their own.

Mumsy Sat 03-Dec-16 09:03:11

I love my daughter in law, shes more of a daughter to me than my estranged daughters!
My son in law, well the less said the better!!!!

Smileless2012 Sun 04-Dec-16 14:19:05

Yorkshiregelsmile

glammanana Fri 09-Dec-16 08:38:13

I do think problems with DILs stem from our DSs not wanting to interfer with their partners decisions and just want a quiet life I know my eldest DS visits us when it is convienient for DIL she controls their social calendar when they are not at work and we and we are always bottom of the list for some unknown reason, we have never fell out over anything we just don't seem to "fit".confused

Yorkshiregel Fri 09-Dec-16 09:45:10

ginny we live 3 hours away from one son. Whenever we go up to see them, and we have to make an appointment first in case they are doing something else, his mil always seems to 'pop round' to do things such as trim the edge of the grass, bring 'those things you wanted' or 'just bought some fresh bread so I thought I would get one for you too' excuses. It drives me mad. It is as though we are not trusted alone with the GC or that dil needs their support when we are there. Very annoying for us anyway. MIL only lives five minutes away so I think it is not unreasonable for us to have our visit to ourselves. Is this selfish?

harrigran Fri 09-Dec-16 10:43:11

When DIL's parents visit I stay away and allow them the time to enjoy GC, I get to see them every week and they only manage a couple of times a year.

newnanny Thu 22-Dec-16 11:03:38

I love my MiL and FiL because they accepted my children from my first marriage when i married their son who had no children of his own, and they treated them exactly like their other grandchildren. They never favour their biological grandchildren and for that alone I can overlook any other things they do that i find annoying.

Smileless2012 Wed 28-Dec-16 10:29:30

Overlooking things that others do that we find annoying is part and parcel of any relationship, it's what we do and hope that it will be reciprocated; sadly this reciprocation isn't always achieved and relationships fall apart.

Anya Wed 28-Dec-16 11:12:11

Overlooking things that others do that we find annoying is part and parcel of any relationship

Spot on Smileless

TriciaF Wed 28-Dec-16 17:47:35

We have 4 children and have fairly regular contact with all of their inlaws. They all seem to love their own offspring, and grandchildren, which is the main thing. We're a bit strange, and so are some of them, so as Smileless says, we overlook the differences.
They're all fairly ordinary people, except for DS1's inlaws, who are very well-off. And sadly that sometimes worries him, as we can't compete. Not that they rub it in.

nananina Fri 30-Dec-16 15:11:19

Yorkshiregel - I could have written your post. DIL No 3 is the problem for me - fine with the other 2. Like you I try to please her or at least not upset her and my other DILs and friends tell me to stop pussy footing around her and I know they're right, but the dynamic is sort of set in concrete. Sometimes she talks to me like I'm under 5 and I say nothing and I'm NOT the sort of person to say nothing! I'm known for being direct. I wish I'd started off differently with her - my son does more or less everything in the house and with the kids and she just takes it all for granted.

My one DIL tells me that I don't need to be confrontational but just to say something back like "did you mean to sound so rude" just so that it registers with her, but it's like I'm struck dumb, when she insults me. My DH can see it but we keep the peace for our son who is very loyal and won't run her down. The granchildren (girls 7 and 9) are lovely and we have a good relationship with them.

Ho hum - I suppose 2 out of 3 isn't bad!

janeayressister Sun 01-Jan-17 11:53:08

I have DILs and SILs. I love the SILs and get on well with the DILS. I am so grateful to have daughters as I don't think having the first GC with a DIL would have been the same. We have had such fun. I do actively encourage the DDS to include their in laws as much as possible.
The difference is that I will always be my DDs Mother but the DILs have their own Mothers.

That is the way it is and I don't have any friends who think differently.

On Mumsnet, MILs get a frightful bashing. Everyone piles in, even though they have no experience of being a MIL, and have absolutely no idea what the experience is going to be like. If you try and be a bit more moderate regarding the relationship you get flamed and attacked. The arrogance of youth ! Actually being a MIL gives you a unique perspective? Doesn't it ?
Mostly Mumsnetters post replies from experience, but not when it comes to being MILs ( or not being MILs, actually) (grin)

Mair Mon 09-Jan-17 23:01:24

ginny we live 3 hours away from one son. Whenever we go up to see them, and we have to make an appointment first in case they are doing something else, his mil always seems to 'pop round' to do things...Is this selfish?

Yes I think she does sound very selfish, and maybe insecure, rather as though she feels threatened by you and wants to stake out her place as Granny number one. Tbf though your DIL is not actively to blame for her behaviour, is she?

I dont think its anything to do with you guys not being trusted with the grandchildren, but all about dominance and territory.

Mair Mon 09-Jan-17 23:06:10

On Mumsnet, MILs get a frightful bashing

Why do you think it is that despite the old MIL jokes being told by men about their MILs, men seem on the whole to be far more laid back about their PILs than women are?

And its mainly MILs/Dils seem to feel the strains, rather than Fils/Sils?
Its largely a female problem.

Aslemma Tue 10-Jan-17 00:40:39

I had three daughters-in-law and one son-in-law and only had a problem with one of the wives. I always made a point of praising all her achievements, going to all of her parties and even phoning her daily from abroad when her father was in hospital, but she did her best to take my son away from our family so they could concentrate on her parents, We all lived close to each other but they seldom called round together, and if my son came she would ring it she felt he had been here too long. Christmas was always spent with her family, despite my son suggesting that they should come here alternate years,

I know I shouldn't say it but I was quite relieved when they got divorced after almost 21 years (an old boy friend of hers came back from the USA and the rest, as they say, is history). He now has a lovely lady in his life, who made it quite clear that she wanted them both to be part of one another's families.

Mair Tue 10-Jan-17 01:25:33

Asle.
Why do you think men are so much more likely than women to be willing to abandon their family of origin and drawn almost totally into their wives family though?
It truly is, in many cases the old adage of: A sons your son till he gets a wife a daughters your daughter for the rest of your life.
It sometimes happen the other way but far more rarely, though I suspect even more painfully for the parents in this case.

Bbnan Tue 10-Jan-17 06:42:54

Not an easy one......My daughter in law makes the rules we all follow....Her parents are divorced so that is 2 households to compete with....She was home from Canada for 5 weeks.....Stayed with Dad.....Other granny and I had limited visits after friends mates party's...My son did not visit alone...No problem seeing child if we visited her dad's house.....Loved seeing her but we bite our youngest...Easiest way

Bbnan Tue 10-Jan-17 06:45:27

Sorry lounge....damn autocorrect

Bebe47 Sat 28-Jan-17 11:24:20

It's all about how different people can rub along together. I have given birth to andbrought up four very capable and caring sons but they have their own ideas about parenting. Modern parenting is a buzz word - whatever that is - parenting is parenting in my book. Some of the old (1960/70's) ways worked - not so strict - more caring - but there was still discipline and boundaries.

Strugglinabit Sun 05-Feb-17 13:09:51

glammamama - You've described my situation - it is identical! Difficult to cope with when her parents get such special treatment though, visiting to stay sometimes more than once a month, 5 days at a time...
I am useful for immediate help out for emergency baby-sitting but I know DS just wants to keep the peace. Is it control, manipulation of the situation by DiL or just thoughtlessness? I sometimes feel so tired of this situation and coping with my disappointment. When it suits them to bring my dear GD over and leave her, it is imperative she is picked up for her afternoon nap; when they take her out, amazingly this nap-time schedule isn't set in stone.

Mair Sun 05-Feb-17 13:23:08

Strugglin
While your instinct is to go through your son of course, have you considered speakign directly to the DIL? I know its tricky but in a way that doesnt attack her. As in acknowledging that of course you understand that she feels closer to her own parents than you, but that the fact that her parents consequently get to see vastly more of the GCs than you do does make you very sad (not jealous or angry of course hmm). Reassure her that you know this isnt intentional on her part ( hmm) but that you love the GCs just as much as her parents do , and that you would like more involvement in their lives. Does this sound reasonable? You need to have ready some reasonable requests lined up should she act surprised and actually asks you what you would like.

Mair Sun 05-Feb-17 13:26:48

Also strugglin, do her parents live much further away?
They might be making demands on your DIL to spend time with them imagining you being local get to see much more of them!

Strugglinabit Sun 05-Feb-17 14:39:43

Mair thank you for your supportive reply and friendly advice. I did try speaking to her, offering any help anytime needed but eventually my DS told me to come over with a diary so we could definitely schedule time together as I think he realised - though did not say - that things were "unfair" and I was still left out of contact time ; DiL smiled sweetly and did it for a few minutes pencilling in things, then flounced out saying I thought we had finished - and returned a bit sullen when my DS said let's finish the month. I was made to feel really bad so don't feel I want to do this again. Things were good like that for a few months, then during her second pregnancy, it went back to the original situation.
I try to believe it is her hormones now.

Mair Sun 05-Feb-17 16:23:39

"I think he realised - though did not say - that things were "unfair" and I was still left out of contact time "

Are you saying you haven't even spoken to your son openly about feeling left out? If you did then he could perhaps make more effort to include you when its daddycare time. Looking at this from a DILs viewpoint I know my own DD doesnt relish time spent with her in laws, not because she dislikes them at all, but simply because she doesn't have any real 'rapport' with her MIL so just doesn't especially enjoy doing something such as having Sunday lunch with them. She does it occasionally, but its a duty not a pleasure. However she has no issue with her DH taking the GC there for a visit while she enjoys some time off for example!
Maybe your DIL could feel similarly.

I am not sure that your son trying to pin his wife into a schedule was the most tactful approach actually, especially with you there. I can imagine it made her feel very pressurised. If he wants to fight your corner for you then he should speak to his wife when they are alone and remind her you love the GC too, just as much as her parents, and that you are being unfairly treated. If he doesnt care enough for you to do that , or if he feels that she has so much the upper hand over him that he is afraid of her, then including you more on daddycare time is the only other way he can help you, again if he cares enough and realises how sad this is making you. Also you dont say how often you actually spend time with the GC? Are you expecting too much? You should not expect that because she lives nearby she would call by frequently, as perhaps she would if her own mother were local! Thank goodness she's not hey?

Strugglinabit Sun 05-Feb-17 18:33:53

I did tell my son that I was feeling a bit left out as I was only seeing my GD for perhaps an hour or two once a fortnight or less, whilst PiL up for 5 day stay every month and go on Face Time every day. I remember that her mother had said I expect to see my grandchild once a month before her birth - they live a 4 hour drive away.
DS had said the Face Time was a bit intrusive even when Gd was eating her meals, they watch her. DS said that DiL likes things arranged and that is why he told me to come over with my diary as otherwise DiL will get things booked up. I felt I was fitted in as an after thought. That I found hurtful, not that she wants to organise her life in that way, but because she did not think of me as 'family.' I had always thought she regarded me as that.
After this 'meeting' I was scheduled in for some contact at least once or on occasion x 2 a week, such as going over to play with GD for 2 hours whilst she got on with work. If she did bring GD over here, sometimes she'd stay as well, using her lap top or phone, or have lunch, or leave GD for a session when she had any appointments. GD loves being here, just says Bye and runs in to play. I try to make DiL welcome, make her a drink etc., ask about her part-time work, but how do you build a relationship unless you spend time together? As I said, it was alright until the birth of GD, so that is why I was baffled.