Gransnet forums


DIL seeks advice re MIL!

(18 Posts)
notagrannyyet Wed 24-Aug-11 22:51:11

I am a first time mum to a wonderful 7 month old son. I'm struggling to deal with the (unexpected) changes that producing their grandson have made to my relationship with my in laws. In a nutshell: I'm finding it really hard to deal with how maternal my MIL is towards my son. Since the day he was born I've felt like she (for want of a better way of putting this) couldn't wait to get her hands on him and that I get in the way of her being able to [grand??]mother him. It's hard to give examples of the subtle behaviours that make me feel like this: from 'He can't be hungry again' comments when i tried to extract him from her arms to (breast)feed him, to her wanting to immediately do anything I do with him with him for the first time herself, to declaring frequently all the things she will do with him, and that she will turn him into [her career] - comments not tempered by any overt acknowledgement that we parents may wish to influence his interests and development (yes, we do have our own varied interests that we are keen to share).

It feels somewhat shameful to admit this. I had what I thought was a very good relationship with my in laws before baby came along. My MIL is usually very positive, loving, empathic and reasonable - indeed unusually so, at least in comparison to my own family. And I am truly grateful that my son has many people such as her that love and support him. However I don't think I'm just being an overprotective new mum; the most intense of the new mum hormones have definitely subsided (tho of course only in the sense that I feel sane with them now), and I am quite relaxed with the way other women are with my son. No matter how much I try to rationalise and understand things from my MIL's point of view, my emotional response as she tries to take him from my arms (again) is still BACK OFF.

My partner doesn't see an issue - and thinks it is just a matter of differing family styles, his family being far more demonstrative and hands-on than my own. However I'm not convinced that's the whole story, I don't think this is just about me. My MIL is a first time gran and sometimes I wonder if it could be difficult for her to be a grandma and not a mum??

I guess I'm looking for shared experiences from 'the other side', or from people who've felt similarly, or suggestions as to what if anything to do about this. I don't want to get in the way of my son having a good relationship with his grandparents. I don't think jealousy of the other grandparents can be a factor - i'm not particularly close to my mum and she hasn't been any more involved with the baby, and they all live similar distances from us and spend similar time / do similar activities with us and baby. Sorry for the long post...

harrigran Wed 24-Aug-11 23:20:38

In the olden days, families lived very close together and there were more babies in the extended family. It was common practice, for an older woman who had her hands free, to take over the care of the baby who needed attention. Couples are having smaller families so become quite possesive about the one or two children they have. When most of us Grans were young we would be happy for MIL to take over for a while. I think you need to cut MIL some slack.

Granny23 Thu 25-Aug-11 02:48:48

NGY - I think you are right to be concerned. The problem may resolve itself in time - perhaps your MIL is particularly drawn to small babies and will ease off as your son grows, perhaps another baby will arrive in the family and take up some of her attention. However, I think you should start to gently but firmly take control of your son's upbringing e.g. insisting that he goes down for a nap after a feed when she tries to take him, or that he stays in your arms as he is just about to nod off.

I see Harrigran's comment and am afraid I disagree. My MIL did everything she could to 'take over' my DD1. When she arrived at the hospital after the birth, she did not look at me, far less ask how I was, but instead picked up MY newborn and said to her 'I've waited 26 years for you'. She told everyone that she had got her little girl at last (having only had 1DS herself). My DH was always aware that he had been a big disappointment to his Mum and thankfully he backed me up when I had to be very firm with MIL.

jangly Thu 25-Aug-11 08:58:52

Notagrannyyet. This is an age-old problem.

You will have to be firm.

But PLEASE do it nicely.

That's all we ask.

Zephrine Thu 25-Aug-11 09:19:03

NGY I don't know what your weakness is but can you imagine seeing a huge bar of your favourite chocolate, or that big gooey cake, or the best cocktail in the world, sitting in front of you calling your name? You just want to reach out and grab it and fill yourself up with the bliss! Well that's a bit how I felt when all my grandchildren were babies. There were times when I physically had to sit on my hands and clamp my lips together. It was no reflection on my DD or DIL who are both brilliant mums. But this is your child so be firm but please be kind as well.

absentgrana Thu 25-Aug-11 09:45:42

NGY I had a similar problem with my mother-in-law who turned up with a huge suitcase full of baby clothes before my daughter was born. While I greatly appreciated hand knitted and crocheted things, I was less enthusiastic about piles of other shop-bought stuff. As a first-time mum, I wanted some of the pleasure of doing this myself, but I had more or less enough garments to clothe triplets. This misplaced kindness – and I'm sure that's what it was – continued for many years. She was a controlling woman and clearly reckoned that there was her way and the wrong way so my methods of caring for a baby, such as breastfeeding for quite a long time, never using a bottle, etc., were much criticised. Just as irritating but more worrying was her tendency to take over – much as you describe. I never really managed to deal with it but did recognise that her attempts to become the central figure in my daughter's life would never become reality so I pretty much stopped worrying. My daughter loved her very much but knew that there was a difference between nan's role in her life and mum's. I'm sure this is absolutely no help whatsoever, but just want to say that I sympathise.

jangly Thu 25-Aug-11 11:18:43

Know where you're coming from Zephrine. grin

nanachrissy Thu 25-Aug-11 12:49:39

I must admit that as my Gd's were growing I did try to make them do things my way until I realised that they are NOT MINE. I'm a lot better at backing off now thank goodness. It is hard though when their parents have a totally different way of bringing them up. blush

maxgran Thu 25-Aug-11 15:10:58

I totally identify with absentgrana's story.
My MiL was controlling - actually she never thought I was good enough for her son and we did no get on that well at all,.. however, when I had my first child ( her first grandchild) she wanted to 'be in charge' - I was totally threatened by this and I guess I often saw interference even when there was none.

I would say be firm with her but do indulge her sometimes. I am afraid I tended to avoid her visiting or us visiting her and my FiL - and the result was both she and my daughter missed out on what could have been a lovely relationship for them both - all because of my fear and feeling threatened.
There is no way she would have been closer to my daughter than I was - and I only realised that too late.
Sadly , she died when my daughter was 11 so I regret now not doing things differently.

lucid Thu 25-Aug-11 15:30:03

Like Granny23 my MiL had only 1DS and she was delighted when I had my DD...the downside was that she couldn't keep her hands off her and whenever she babysat for us would dress her up in the clothes that she thought my DD should be wearing. It led to quite a lot of tension between us which unfortunately never got better!
I wish I'd had the courage to be firmer with her ..... so in my opinion I think you should follow Jangly's advice Be Firm but Be Nice....GC are wonderful but they are NOT our children.
Maybe you could buy her a copy of :
The Good Granny Guide: Or How to Be a Modern Grandmother by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall

it is full of good advice for

jackyann Thu 25-Aug-11 17:16:06

I broadly agree with most of what has been written. You need a few ready phrases, and I think one should be something like:

I'm so lucky to have someone so helpful.......I really need to do things, otherwise I'm never going to learn how to do them myself....

Good luck!

GrannyTunnocks Thu 25-Aug-11 22:00:51

I agree with some of the others. It is your baby but accept the help she gives you. Listen to her advice but do what you want to do. It is not worth falling out with her.

riclorian Thu 25-Aug-11 22:05:14

I think you should encourage her to read gransnet ---- maybe she would see things from another point of view .

absentgrana Fri 26-Aug-11 12:11:35

Good one riclorian and so obvious – now that you've said it.

notagrannyyet Fri 26-Aug-11 13:35:19

I've never posted in a forum before and was very nervous about this: i anticipated receiving a massive slating for being selfish/mean/weird etc. , but didn't know where else to turn for some objective help. I nearly wept when i read all these helpful comments (and i'm not the tearful type). Thankyou all for constructive suggestions and shared experience. I think being armed with some polite, gentle phrases to you in the face of actions or words I'm not comfortable with is particularly practical. Thanks agin.

Baggy Fri 26-Aug-11 14:16:11

Good luck, nota! smile

absentgrana Fri 26-Aug-11 14:27:26

ngyWe do try to be helpful though in this particular instance I don't think I was much use. However, I hope you manage to find a satisfactory compromise with your mother-in-law. If you bear in mind that she has been, as it were, demoted from Queen Bee twice now – once when her son married you and then again with the birth of your son, it will help you sort out in your head what things she does that you can just let ride because they don't really matter in the long run and what things you need deal with – gently but firmly.

HildaW Fri 26-Aug-11 18:48:57

My Granny (darling thing.....long gone) had a horrendous birth with her one and only. However, she was a big fan of the very civilized post baby habits of those days. Basically a new Mum sat in bed for at least a fortnight being waited on hand and foot. Did nothing for getting yer bits back where they should be....but certainly kept unwanted visitors away!

Notagranny...just take a deep breath my dear, marrying men who have rather clingy Mums is always a tricky one and I do feel for you. But as the other, much wiser ladies have said....stand firm but be polite and smile a lot. Perhaps there is somthing particular that you could get her to help with to make her feel important. No idea what your circumstances are so cant make any specific suggestions