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Grandparent Advice Greatly Appreciated!

(91 Posts)
Pudsy2019 Tue 05-Nov-19 14:32:15

Hello Grandparents,
I am new here and at my wits end so am looking for some friendly honest advice. I am not a grandparent but a mum and to be honest the reason I am asking for advice from you knowledgeable people is because I am trying to see things from a grandparents perspective because I feel very stuck at the moment.
I apologise in advance for the long post and will greatly appreciate any thoughts or advice as I am genuinely at a loss because I am trying to avoid conflict and hurt!
I am married with 2 children (a stepson and a daughter). My MIL is quite vocal at times and I feel also pushy with her opinion at times but I have always shaken it off to keep the peace.
I have been in my stepsons life from a very young age and my now husband had to go through the court process to gain access. 6 years down the track we are in a really good place with shared custody and a good relationship with my stepsons mum.
My MIL is Gran and she was initially very vocal about how my husband should fight for access etc as she felt hurt as she wanted to also be able to see her Grandson.
I then fell pregnant with our child and we welcomed a daughter, there was instances where she made some real nasty comments that I personally felt were out of line but I did not retaliate.
My husband has not had a strong relationship with his mother from underlying issues from growing up but still takes the view of 'it is still my mum'
I am very close to my family and we see them regularly, they pop in for a cuppa, say hi to the kids and have an excellent relationship with them.

Now this is my dilemma that I am struggling with. I feel like my in-laws think my family is 'too involved or intrusive' which both myself and husband do not have an issue with....we love the fact that they make an effort to see the children, treat my stepson the same and pop in for a chat. I have a very close relationship with my mum and I feel my MIL resents this but it's my mum and we are close! Without sounding rude I am never going to have that same relationship with her.
From the outset MIL always tried to make it sound like she needed to be 'invited' to which I replied in a nice manner....don't wait for invites because that won't has an open invite, you are basically welcome to call in whenever, you can call to see if we are home or just call invite needed. We live about a 10 minute drive away.
A few years down the track and we have seen no real effort unless we initiate it. This frustrates my husband.
Despite finding my MIL hardwork and she does have sly digs in the things she has said, I would NOT block her from seeing her grandchildren.
The issue that I do have is that she plays my husband and I and now I don't know what to say without being hurtful.
On the rare occassions we do see them (probably see them maybe 8 times a year), she always makes comments about wanting to take them out for the day which really irritates me...the reason being is she tells me what days she is free and how she wants to spend time with them so it all needs to fit in with her....but because she does not make any effort to see them on a regular basis and does not appear to have any interest in calling in to see them at home it really makes me feel like she just wants to see them on her terms, to suit herself and parade them for the day with a big doting Gran sticker on then hand them back until she wants to repeat it all again when she sees fit. This really irritates me and I don't actually feel comfortable sending them off for the day....she took my stepson once and her comments made it clear it had been about her and not.
NOW I do not want to start a grandparent war or insult any Grandparents and I would NOT have an issue with her taking the children out for the day....but I feel like she should spend more time with them first to actually get to know them in, see them etc, then maybe take them to the local park, then if we see some consistent effort we have no issue with a day trip to the fun park etc.
Am I being unreasonable to think this? Do you think it is fair for me to say you need to actually bond and build a relationship with them first before you can just take off for a full day?
I am now in a position where she has asked me to ask my stepsons mum if she can take him for the day (I know what the answer will be as she does not think highly of her).
I feel like I am going to look like I am just trying to be difficult or too protective but I am genuinely not, I just want her to see the children in their home environment so they have a better relationship before full day trips are planned.
I have more I can add but will leave it as this for now.
Thank you for reading this far and I genuinely appreciate anyone's thoughts on how I am viewing the situation and how I should handle it. I do not want to cause upset or hurt but at the same time I need to think of my children and what I and them may or may not be comfortable with.

Septimia Tue 05-Nov-19 14:53:00

Firstly, as MiL to a DiL, I expect her to be closer to her mother than to me. It's natural. I'm close to my DS because he needed support when his first marriage ended and, from that time, I had more to do with my DGD who they now have living with them some of the time.

Despite spending quite a lot of time with DGD in her home, I didn't have her to stay until she was 7 and big enough to cope. So I agree that your MiL needs to get to know the children well enough for them to feel comfortable with her, and for her to understand their personalities, before she takes them out. It might then be a good idea to make only short trips at first.

Gonegirl Tue 05-Nov-19 15:01:19

Do the children want to go out for the day with her? If they do, then I would say let them. I think you would have to make sure it is alright with both the parents first though.

As for the visiting thing, if she doesn't want to call in uninvited, then just invite her.

Gonegirl Tue 05-Nov-19 15:04:12

I can't see anything in your situation that you would be "at your wits end" about.

crazyH Tue 05-Nov-19 15:12:35

I am a MIL I have 2 lovely but I would never dream of just popping in.... you are extremely accommodating to accept casual visits. All our family live just about 10 mins drive from one another. I have a daughter living nearby as well....even with her, I always ring to check if its ok as young families have so many things planned and neither do I want to make a trip unnecessarily.
My d'i'ls are very close to their mothers. I would go so far as to say much closer than my daughter and I. But I do not resent it...that's how it should be.
You seem to be an excellent mother, stepmother, and d.i.l.
Good luck and all the best.

Granniesunite Tue 05-Nov-19 15:19:05

My dd and my Dil bring the children to our house. I'm the main babysitting service for both families and they think it works this way.
I think the world of my Dil and she is close to all my family,but she has a lovely mum and I'm so delighted she is close to her as is normal. Try popping into see your in-laws a few times it might encourage them to come see you unanounced.

Or I suppose you could make an exception and invite them to yours.
As mothers and grandmothers there's a lot we can do to calm waters and keep our children and grandchildren surrounded with love..
Hope it all works out.

Dottygran59 Tue 05-Nov-19 15:25:44

Hi Pudsy

You sound like a wonderful mum and DIL - and as a MIL to a DIL I too, accept and expect her to be closer to her mum, it's absolutely normal.

I really wouldn't feel comfortable just popping in, I always call first to check that they are there and that it's convenenient, and that way the DGCs know I am coming and get excited - it's wonderful.

I don't think you're being overprotective at all, HOWEVER, there are 3 sets of grandparents, and we are the only ones that are very hands on, babysitting, seeing the children regularly, and yet they happily go off with the other grandparents for days out, even though they don't know them as well

Perhaps let the children guide you - sound them out - and make a concerted effort to invite MIL over to spend quality time with the kids at home.

DIL and MIL relationships can be fraught, and misunderstandings often occur, so keep trying and bite your tongue when necessary

Good Luck

Pudsy2019 Tue 05-Nov-19 15:30:55

Thank you so far for the quick replies.
I am sorry that I am not quoting or replying to individual posters but new to all of this.
Maybe 'at my wits end' wasn't the right expression but in my head I feel like I am going to explode which I don't want to do.
She always corners me and is quite manipulative in her wording to try and put me on the spot.
Maybe I am 'dancing around' instead of being blunt with her but I am genuinely trying to not upset her or cause a family rift. I guess it is also because although supportive my husband is not exactly vocal and I feel like it comes down to me.
All I want to say is 'you don't seem to show any interest in the kids apart from wanting to take off with them for the day, you hardly see them so make an effort to see them then we can go from there'. But I don't know how to say it without causing a dummy spit or hurt feelings.
She also treats them different and kind of makes it feel like it is not my place to tell her what she can/can't do with her Grandson as I am the stepmum....she is the blood relative if that makes sense.
Lastly she knows how close I am with my own mum and knows my own mum has had a huge part in my daughters life to daughter has had sleepovers etc with my mum, day trips, babysat, the full works....but my mum has put in the effort and formed a solid bond with both children....she knows them inside out.
Thank you again....all your comments are appreciated.

Daisymae Tue 05-Nov-19 15:31:21

Well she's making an effort. I guess that there is more that had been unsaid. I would as her over from time to time, cup of tea and cake so that it becomes no big deal. Why don't you go out with the children together? Hopefully you could then relax a bit should she have them. Do you ever pop in to her I wonder?

Pudsy2019 Tue 05-Nov-19 15:42:24

You ladies are amazing.
I understand what you are saying about the popping in part. I understand that she may feel uncomfortable just calling in so I actually said to her (in a nice way), feel free to call in when you want, you can ring and find out if we are home, send a text or just land the surprise visit, if we are off out or it's hectic I would let you know. She has to drive past our place on a regular basis! That was giving her the big green tick for her to call or text just to check it was ok for her peace of mind....but still nothing....I thought most grandparents would appreciate that.

agnurse Tue 05-Nov-19 15:48:26

You might consider using the DESC framework to address the issue. This is something I learned when I was teaching a course and I find it very helpful:

Describe the issue
Express your concern
Specify the behaviour you want to see
Indicate the Consequences of the behaviour you want to see

For example, "MIL, I notice that every time we get together you ask about taking the children out, but you haven't seen them very frequently. I'm concerned that the children may not enjoy the day out as they don't spend enough time with you. I'd like to see you more frequently, and I'd like you to let us know when you'd like to come over. That way, you can spend more time with the children, and I'll feel more comfortable letting them spend the day with you."

MovingOn2018 Wed 06-Nov-19 00:17:04

You're the gatekeeper of your family. And she doesn't get to have an opinion or influence about a family that she'll always be a guest in. As a patent you only do what you think is best for your children and not ehat would make grandma happy. Tell her you'd like her to spend time with the children before she gets to take them out. If she refuses then oh well I guess she wont be taking them out anywhere. I'm always skeptical over grandparents that don't have a great relationship with their own adult children, yet expect this special bond with their grandchildren. It's always a red flag, and she doesn't get to dic her mistakes through your children either. What underlying unfixed issues does she have with your husband? Evaluate those issues to see of shes even fit to be left alone with your children unsupervised.

janeainsworth Wed 06-Nov-19 00:50:30

I agree with Gonegirl that it depends on whether the children actually want to go with her.
I don’t live geographically close to my DGC - 3 of them live in the USA. So we see them twice a year at the most.
But my DiL has never suggested that we haven’t ‘bonded’ enough to take them out for the day! We have always taken them out by ourselves from an early age, doing age-appropriate things. We’ve been left in charge for up to 3 nights while DiL and DS have a break.
It sounds to me as though you simply don’t trust your MiL and perhaps even dislike her.
You should face up to that, rather than pretending to yourself and to her that if only she would come to your house more often, everything would be ok.

Pudsy2019 Wed 06-Nov-19 05:36:19

Thank you so much for everyone's thoughts and input so far, it is really helping me trying to see things from multiple perspectives.
I am new to this type of forum but trying my best to answer everyones comments and questions as I do appreciate it.
My MIL and husband don't have a close relationship, they are all about the younger sibling who I guess is the 'golden child'.
We have popped in to see them but it was in most instances us having to initiate it.
I do not agree with many of my MIL's opinions which I would go as far to say that I find them rude at times, BUT although she is very opinionated I genuinely just let them wash over my head.
I at times have been in situations with her when whatever I have said has basically just been disregarded to suit her.....and I have not made a fuss to avoid conflict. As an example, when my daughter was still quite young I asked her if she would mind watching her for a few hours at our home, I asked nicely and mentioned that if she could just stay home, spend time with her and look after her that would be a massive help (I had several appointments I needed to attend). When she arrived I gave her a quick run down just with basics such as last bottle, next bottle, nappy change etc and she commented with 'I am sure i am capable of looking after a child'. I had also specifically mentioned that I would rather they stayed home as weather was wet and windy and was met with a 'I can't just sit in and do nothing so we are going to go out' Out was on foot in a pram in the rain to basically parade my daughter to people she knew locally.
This is just one example but there have been lots more. So yes, there is certainly some dislike but hand on heart I am genuine when I say that I wouldn't stop her or make it extremely difficult for her to see her grandchildren. I am still polite to her, still will put the kettle on for her and be mindful of my words despite her being quite rude at times.
The children don't really ask about her and don't show much interest at all.
She treats them different which is noticeable and to the point my stepson actually sticks up for his younger Sister....he is quick to point out she is also very special!
We have been out together in the past but again there is little interest.
She only seems to show an interest if it involves her taking them by herself for a day trip (and she has inadvertently mentioned meeting with her it feels purely for show).
This may sound odd but of she just actually showed interest, popped in, played with them in their home environment and actually got to know them, I then would genuinely consider letting her have a day trip.
She does not ring, text, or even know what they like/dislike.
All I am wanting is her to spend time building a relationship with them before day trips out are discussed. I do have concerns about how she dismisses my thoughts at times and am certainly not ecstatic about having to discuss this with her but I can only try I guess.

CocoPops Wed 06-Nov-19 07:02:48

MIL only lives 10 mins away but has only seen the kiddies about 8 times in 12 months, does not know their likes and dislikes and treats them differently. ...
Of course you'd love MIL to have a great relationship with the children but it sounds to me that she's not very interested in them.
Be careful with what you say, if indeed you do decide to say something. She might take offence and then the rift could be wider..

Davidhs Wed 06-Nov-19 08:08:39

Conflicts involving MILs is very common, and a poor relationship causes so many strains in a marriage. When my daughters got married my wife told them very firmly to make MIL their friend, they all did that and are probably closer to them than mum.

Mothers and MILs should be sensitive to each other as well as the married couple, try to be available when asked to help and don’t be offended if you are not. It’s about being helpful not satisfying your own needs, some may welcome MIL every week, some every couple of months, be sensitive and go with the flow.

Dolcelatte Wed 06-Nov-19 09:01:27

It sounds to me as though there is a bit of a communication problem.

First, with regard to dropping around unannounced, I wouldn't do it to my own daughters, never mind DIL.I would also hate anyone to call at my house without notice. Not because we don't love each other or aren't delighted to spend time together, but they might be in the middle of something, eating, watching a programme, have friends round, be about to go out, a deadline to meet, or - and this is high on the list - be stressed at the mess in the home.

Having read a lot of threads on Mumsnet, I think most DILs would be horrified at the idea of MILs turning up unannounced - the standard advice is to get the locks changed grin Your MIL would probably feel uncomfortable just dropping round. However, that problem is easily solved. You simply invite her round at a time to suit you.

Please can you clarify how old the children are - sorry if I've missed this - but I think this is vitally important to whether or not you would trust her to take them out for the day. How sensible are the children? Do they want to go? Would MIL have anyone else, such as FIL, with her or could you not all just go together? Assuming the chidden are school age, is there any reason not to trust her - is she a bad driver or an alcoholic or something?

I don't see anything wrong in her being a proud grandmother and wanting to 'show off' her DGC. I think it's quite sweet. Isn't that what GPs are for - to love them, spoil them, and hand them back?

It's quite natural for you to be much closer to your own family, but try to be kind, although I get that you find her annoying, and don't make her feel too left out.

Maggiemaybe Wed 06-Nov-19 09:53:10

I agree with Dolcelatte, I would never just call on anyone unannounced, even my own children, and would feel very uncomfortable doing so, even if I had your “open invitation”. We see all of our family at least once a week, and have a great realationship, but none of us pops by without at least a text a couple of hours in advance. I’d agree that if you want your MIL to see your children more often and build up a better relationship, you perhaps need to arrange convenient times with her. Good luck.

optimist Wed 06-Nov-19 10:06:58

Firstly, I am much closer to my (ex) daughter-in-law than her own mother is, so dont always make assumptions.
Secondly....and more have a different way of operating. She likes to be invited.You like a more casual approach to visits. We are all different and you seem to be fixed on wanting things your way, as does she. Compromise is called for. And communication. Good luck.

Hetty58 Wed 06-Nov-19 10:11:32

This situation rings a loud bell with me. She sounds very like my own (dear departed) mother. She wants things on her own terms and probably will never fit in with your (reasonable) expectations.

Maybe you could sometimes take the children to visit her and stay just for a short time? You could let her know when you'll be in the park, at sports day, having a picnic, feeding the ducks etc. and suggest that she meets you there for a catch up with the kids.

You could say that they get overtired from days out so you think an afternoon is enough. Try 'diluting' her influence by arranging get-togethers with wider family. Always consult your stepson's mother first about any arrangements.

Oh yes, I too had 'underlying issues from growing up' and had to protect my children from unsupervised contact with my mum - sad really.

Newquay Wed 06-Nov-19 10:13:16

Depends how old the children are and do they want to go out with her? Why not invite her specifically to come round from time to time so she can spend time with the children-play a board game/cards on a wet afternoon? Are you satisfied the children will be safe with her?

chris8888 Wed 06-Nov-19 10:15:24

It is very hard to get it right, my dil preferred people to be invited. I think its up to you and your hubby to set the rules.

trisher Wed 06-Nov-19 10:17:04

I am another MIL who wouldn't drream of calling round without an invite and I already have a key to my DS and DIL's house because I do school collection but I still wouldn't visit unless asked. I suggest you actually start giving her a proper invite regularly and see how things go after that. It sounds to me as if she and you have had very different family lifestyles and it takes some movement for you to make connections. It's an awfully big step to move from not visiting unless invited to just dropping in and she's older so she needs some help to change.

Buffy Wed 06-Nov-19 10:26:48

Pudsy, As problems go this doesn't sound like a huge one!
Some families are casual some formal. We never 'drop in' on our daughters nor them on us. We have warm relationships with both but wait or ASK for an invitation even if just for a cup of tea. They are busy, sociable people. I hate to be caught in my dressing gown or in a muddle just as my Mother did before me. Maybe MIL is waiting to be asked and you are waiting for spontaneous visits.
If you invite MIL and she keeps refusing or doesn't turn up that's another matter. I'd judge more on whether she's good with them when she does see them.

Coconut Wed 06-Nov-19 10:27:14

You and DH need a united front on this to begin with. Let the children go and see what happens, if they don’t like it they will soon let you know about it for next time. The issue with so many times of letting things go and biting your tongue etc is that it enables that person to continue. It’s a form of controlling and manipulative behaviour. I’m not saying have a row with her all the time, but you do need to learn to be assertive so that she shows you some respect. Some people will argue over the time of day, but you don’t have to go down to their level, just state your opinions firmly. I have to say to my own mother “ I’m not having that conversation with you” or “that’s my decision not yours” etc and she now finally thinks twice before she rams her opinions down my throat.