I’ll start by saying that I am the DIL in this situation. We have had a growing poor relations with my husband’s parents. They themselves estranged one set of their own parents due to bad behaviour. It feels as though the cycle is repeating. We are not estranged, but it is heading that way / quite low contact. I had two loving grandparents from both sides of my family as a child and I am heartbroken over how things will potentially be for my kids. I thought I would post on this forum for advice.
I’ve been with my husband 10 years and we’ve shared some lovely weekend breaks and visits with his parents. Everything changed when I fell pregnant 3 years ago.
They live 4hr drive away, so when we see them it is usually for a full day or a weekend of hosting. Whilst I was heavily pregnant with my first, my FIL started passing some mean comments, referring to me as ‘fatty’. I think the worst was when I was talking to my husband about a pregnancy craving and my FIL said that he could go and grab some food for me, but only for the unborn baby, because “they don’t actually care about me, I’m just an incubator for grandchild”. I was in tears when they left, those words really effected me and triggered a lot of anxiety in the times that we saw them thereafter.
Once my first was born they were excited (as you would be) about being grandparents and we welcomed visits from everybody. They were quite pushy for my MIL to come and stay with me for a week, my husband never got back to them about organising it... and it was a relief at that point as I felt uncomfortable with the idea without my husband being around too - it was also the time when my postnatal anxiety and depression had started and it wasn’t the support I needed at the time. I didn’t feel like I could approach them.. other than that situation, we’ve never ever stopped them from seeing the kids, always kept them informed of health visitor updates etc and we have always hosted visits when they’ve asked to come. They currently get picture updates of our kids regularly which I upload, my family are also a part of the same updates. The only boundary I have ever laid down was for my husband to not leave me alone with them because of a long string of rude comments and cold vibes. They are unaware of this boundary.
When my first was 7/8 months old, we went to stay with them for the first time and FIL rude nature was peaking through even more - receiving the cold shoulder, he seemed to get increasingly annoyed as the visit went on, I vividly remember him huffing and puffing because I asked if we could sit down somewhere to breastfeed the baby. It was time for us to return home that Evening and he got very huffy about dinner plans also, as it was around the time we were also leaving (easier for us to make big journeys in the night when baby sleeping) - that was when the cold and unfriendly vibes started to properly reveal itself..... we then had our first family Christmas as a family with them. It seemed they all had some kind of indifference towards me at that point. I remember my FIL flipping me off behind my back and the silent amused look my MIL exchanged with my FIL over it... I absolutely love Christmas and it was the worst Christmas I’ve ever had. I felt so uncomfortable in my own home. I was incredibly hurt about how our first family Christmas went. I am not sure how I could ever repeat another Christmas with them. Being around them adds on to trauma and anxiety now.
After that Christmas I took a step back, I needed it for me, emotionally. Leaving my husband to do the bulk of messages or calls. A number of other situations and the cold vibe continued and got worse for all of last year (2020) whilst I was pregnant with my second. I remember my MIL calling me directly for the first time in my pregnancy, around 2 weeks before I gave birth. One thing stands out from what she said - ‘let us know/Keep them informed’... those words had a lot of meaning. I felt she was trying to absolve themselves from not reaching out during my pregnancy to find out how things were going and at the same time trying to place the blame on my shoulders for not ‘’keeping them informed’. In my mind I thought it was also ironic that they only contacted me for info right before I gave birth, be of course - that’s all I’m good for - incubating grandchildren.... I knew at that point that I needed to drop my expectations of them caring in a genuine way, I had also had a rough year - rough pregnancy, pulmonary embolism scare, high blood pressure, perinatal anxiety and depression. We now have two very young children, I’m up to my head with juggling just day to day Mumming - and being the best Mum that I can be for my children. Any interaction with my in laws has caused an immense amount of anxiety and the tension in the air is affecting us all. In particularly now, I think my eldest can sense it. I don’t know what is best for them.
I know that it’s my husband who needs to resolve the tension, but he has never talked to them. He won’t admit that he feels vulnerable doing so.... even when he himself has been upset by things directed towards him. I can recall him getting an aggressive message in the middle of the night - that he wasn’t making enough effort with them... I had been sharing photo updates regularly (of which I still do), he also calls his Mum every week (and he still does)...I think it took my MIL about 4/5 months to even acknowledge the pictures by sending a message, I took that as what we were doing just wasn’t enough for them. I think it is very clear that no matter what I do or say, nothing would please and it’s not good enough for them...
We know they have issues, the way they have been shows that it’s directed towards me. There is so much murky rude water under the bridge and cold vibes - I don’t know how I can move forward with them... because they no longer view me or treat me as ‘family’ nothing I would ever say would resolve it abs my husband is basically too scared to talk to them. They aren’t going to change their newfound outlook of me and that will forever effect us as a family.
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