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Have no idea what more we can do

(87 Posts)
NellyBu Wed 03-Jun-15 15:42:03

I am new and didn't know where to turn.

I have three sons, the oldest son is married and he lives quiet far away. We usually see him a few times a year, sometimes his wife will come and see us as well. This particular daughter in law is shy but overall I believe we get on ok.

My second son lives about an hour away. We have always been quite close and he is always calling and coming to visit. We don't often have to arrange to see him as he often makes the plans himself. He is not married but he has been with his current girlfriend over a year now. She is lovely and I get on very well with her. She will also often contact us herself and seems to genuinely enjoy spending time with us. She has very good family values.

My youngest son lives the closest to us, he is married and his wife recently had a baby. My first and only grandchild. I have always been pretty close to my youngest child. I don't hear from him as often as I do my second and we often have to make the initiative to invite him over but overall it's rare we would go more than a month without some kind of contact with him.

The problem is my youngest sons wife. On the surface I would say we get on well. She is a very nice and polite girl. She is shy (not as shy as my other daughter in law) and often keeps herself to herself. I have tried to get to know her, to find some common ground but it is hard. My oldest sons wife is very into fashion and beauty so we can bond over that. My second sons girlfriend is very easy to talk to, and she is quiet happy to sit there with us over a bottle of wine and some food for hours. My youngest sons wife however I struggle.

She is very resistant to talk about herself. I have had mixed results talking about her family or her work. She is polite and will listen if I talk about myself. We don't really share any common interests. In fact whenever I do try to talk to her it always feels like she is waiting for a polite moment to leave the conversation.

She is not as bad with other members of our family but overall you can tell that she doesn't enjoy getting together with us and after an hour or so she is ready to leave. My son says that she finds social situations difficult and doesn't enjoy them. I find this odd, how can you not like spending time with people? My son says her family rarely have huge get togethers. He says she finds the number of get togethers we have overwhelming.

I know however her problems with me run deeper than just being shy and socially awkward. I first noticed a change in her when they were planning their wedding. I tried to help them out as much as I could, from my perspective it looked like they were struggling. Her parents didn't seem to be helping at all, so I took it upon myself to help them out. Eventually it got harder to get an answer from her, when I questioned my son he said she felt that I was taking over. He said that she feels like this is my wedding and that she isn't even sure if she wants to show up. I was shocked and upset. I was only trying to help and if she didn't like something then why didn't she just say?

On the day of the wedding my son was very nervous that she wouldn't turn up. She was still angry at my involvement and by this point, apparently, so was her family. In the end she did turn up and it was a wonderful day. She seemed to enjoy herself, and although she seemed to be actively avoiding me I assumed that she would now appreciate my help. I was wrong because after the wedding I started seeing less of her. I asked my son about this and apparently she was still angry about the wedding and she blames me for ruining her day. She feels like she got the wedding I always dreamed of. They got married in 2010 and as far as I am aware she is still pissed off about the wedding.

A few years ago my son and daughter in law were having a few financial problems and they had to move out of their home. They had nowhere else to go so they decided to move in with us. I saw this as my chance to finally get to know her. I wanted her to feel comfortable and welcomed into our home. I told them that all we expected was rent. We would take care of all the household shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. As long as they tidied up after themselves and paid their rent on time they didn't have to worry about anything else. This didn't go down well with her, apparently, she insisted that she at least did their laundry.

It seemed silly to me, if I was already regularly doing my own laundry that she would then do her own but to keep the peace I agreed. The laundry soon became a bit of a battle, as I predicted we often wanted the washing machine at the same time. She would often throw my clothes on the side and then put her own washing in. I also like to hang my clothes outside. We don't have much room to hang washing inside, plus I feel they dry better outside. My daughter in law seemed to take offence to this and insisted on only drying her washing inside no matter what the weather.

A few times I would move her washing outside and she would then angrily move it back inside. After a while she stopped taking her washing upstairs if it was dry, she would leave it laying around for a couple of days. If I attempted to take it upstairs for them this was met with the same anger as when I moved their washing outside. In the end I gave up and just let her do what she wanted. I was fed up trying to fight her.

She also slowly became withdrawn from us. When they first moved in my daughter in law made an effort to spend time with us but very quickly she became withdrawn. Towards the end I never knew if she was in. It was almost like she would sneak in and out of the house. If she was in then she would go straight to the bedroom and close the door. I have no idea what she did in there because you would never hear a sound unless my son was home.

She also rarely ate anything. Before she lived with us, she didn't have a huge appetite but she would at least finish a meal. Slowly over time she would eat less and less around us. If I made a comment then she would claim that she wasn't hungry. I started giving her less and less food but still she refused to finish a meal. She started to loose weight which worried me because she was very thin to begin with. I started buying food which I know she likes but she didn't touch it. I raised my concerns to my son, he told me that it made her uncomfortable when we spoke about her appetite and eating habits, he said we should just leave her alone.

They lived with us for just over a year and then suddenly my son announced that they were moving out and they were going to live with my daughter in laws parents. This wasn't a huge shock to me, by this point we were barely speaking. I was however extremely upset, I felt like I failed. All I wanted was for her to like us and for her to feel like she was part of the family. After they moved out I asked my son why they left. I knew the answer before he told me but I wanted confirmation. He said that my daughter in law thought we were interfering and that her every move was being watched. She felt that she never had any privacy and that we were constantly judging her. They are still living with get parents and they seem to be getting on well, they do their own shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. They also seem to have exclusive use of two rooms. We still don't see her often and if she does come over they never stay for long.

She must have fell pregnant roughly four months after they moved in with her parents. When they told us she was pregnant I was over the moon, I never thought I would ever have grandchildren. Out of my three sons my youngest was always the most likely to have children but my daughter in law always stated that she didn't want them. I am not sure what changed, they haven't really stated whether the baby was planned or not, but I was ecstatic.

My daughter in law struggled during the first trimester and also at the very end but overall she had a very straightforward pregnancy. She ended up giving birth 8 days before her due date to my beautiful grandson. I thought that her pregnancy and having a baby may finally give us something in common. I hoped that finally she would feel comfortable being with us and we could put the past behind us.

I saw even less of my daughter in law whilst she was pregnant. I went to a lot of trouble of buying food and drink which suited her current food tolerances and cravings but a lot of it got chucked away. I tried to talk to her about how she is feeling, what things she had/ what she still needed, her maternity leave plans, childcare plans, and how people around her are treating her. She was polite, answered all my questions but basically nothing changed. She still doesn't want to spend longer than is polite speaking to me. I asked my son and daughter in law if there was anything we could do or buy to help them out, and the answers was no. They had everything under control, they didn't need help from anyone. I was extra careful after the wedding not to interfere or give any advice but she still didn't seem happy!

My grandson is here now and my son had 4 weeks off work when he was first born. During this time my son sent us lots of pictures and we saw my grandson 5 times, the last time my son bought the baby on his own. He stated that his wife needed some time to herself. My son is back at work now and I have no idea really when we will next see the baby. We have a few family things planned in the summer which my son says they are coming to but in the mean time it's gone very quiet. My son hasn't sent any pictures and I doubt my daughter in law will bring the baby round herself.

Before the baby my son visited us at least every couple of months, either with or without his wife. I did hope that now the baby is here that we would see them more often but I don't think that will be the case. I don't think my daughter in law is purposely stopping me from seeing my son or grandson but I don't think she is planning on making any effort to see me herself. This is upsetting for not only myself but also my husband. We just don't know what more we can do.

Mishap Wed 03-Jun-15 15:57:23


Faux pas No.1 - getting a bit overbearing about the wedding and not taking the hint to back off!

Faux pas No.2 - expecting this lass to conform to your family's ideas of when and how much socialising is appropriate.

Faux pas No.3 - having them live with you and letting something so minor as the laundry become a fight!

Living with in-laws (and having children and their spouses living with you) is a minefield as you have now discovered; and you started off already on the wrong foot to begin with. It was never going to work!

My advice to you now is to back off - if she felt that you were interfering before she became a new mother, she is certainly going to worry about that now. I know that you will feel that you were helping rather than interfering, but you have to put yourself in her shoes. She has made it clear that she is wary of you (whether justifiably or not) and that has to be your starting point. It is unfortunate, but you have to work and act on that principle.

elena Wed 03-Jun-15 16:41:05

This is clearly upsetting to you, and no one can say you haven't tried! You sound warm and sociable, and willing to open your heart and life to your DIL but you might have to tone it down a bit now smile

I do share some of Mishap's observations - vis a vis the wedding, the parents of the groom should be well in the background unless actively invited to become involved.

It doesn't sound as if you are tolerant of other people's ideas about socialising - I am sure you kept your puzzlement to yourself, but if you ever remarked on it, even slightly, it would sound like criticism.

Laundry - I would hate someone else to do my laundry!

Yes, back off now, but make it clear you are always willing to support and help on their terms. You have seen your little grandson quite a lot, considering - just wait and see what happens and whatever you do, stop trying to work out 'what more you can do' smile

Mishap Wed 03-Jun-15 16:43:23

I think this is a case where "less is more" is a good principle!

jeanie99 Wed 03-Jun-15 16:55:23

I agree with Mishap, thinking back myself to when I first married the thoughts of my MIL taking over my wedding, I would have gone ballistic not sat quietly nodding.

I think you have to step back, they are a couple with a small baby and need to control their own lives which means doing their own laundry, cleaning cooking etc. whatever they need to make their own mistakes and sort them out themselves.
Even if you get on with people it doesn't always work out living with them.
Some years ago a friend moved into my flat she had been thrown out of hers.
We had always got on and had a great relationship but she was the most untidy person leaving dirty clothes and underwear all over. I had to ask her to leave in the end she drove me mad.

Ask your son if they can't get round to yours for you to see the little one to Skype you.
We have this arrangement with our son and dil and daughter and sil because they live miles away.
It just will means you get to see the little one and dil doesn't have to make polite conversation, it might work give it a try.

Best of luck anyhow because the last thing you don't want to happen is that you don't see the precious little bundle.

Margsus Wed 03-Jun-15 17:05:22

Elena - "the parents of the groom should be well in the background" ?? I'd love to know whether you have sons or daughters

Grannyknot Wed 03-Jun-15 17:22:31

nellybu how lovely that you have a grandson flowers

if I were you I would get on with my life and wait for contact or next steps. I'd also want to see my grandson if I were you, but under the circumstances, you have to let things happen rather than make them happen.

Elegran Wed 03-Jun-15 17:31:09

You paint a very clear picture of a girl dropped into a situation where she can't begin to do anything without her mother-in-law stepping in and taking the initiative.

When she and your son decided to marry, they wanted to plan their lives as a couple. beginning with their wedding day. What did they get? Your plans, you taking things from their hands, your help - given with the best of intentions, but robbing them of the responsibility of working together to make it their special day.

They lived with you and she didn't even feel that she was responsible for all the things that a wife does - " We would take care of all the household shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry." She was a little girl still, in a strange house where you had your set routine and she had to fit in.

Put yourself in her place for a moment and imagine how you would have felt in her position. Would you have been happy? What was your experience of your mother-in-law?

You say you don't know what more you can do. It may be possible to salvage the relationship, but I suspect that your personality is too strong to allow her to feel at ease. You sound like a highly capable woman who takes charge of things. Your DiL is the one to be in charge of her (and your son's) life. She needs to feel that she is the queen bee in her own hive, and not have a bigger queen fussing around her.

You'll have to start again from the beginning, as though she is a stranger, with the added bonus (or complication) that you know the sore points between you. Imagine (use your imagination again) that she is a new girl-friend who is known to be shy and easily overwhelmed by over-enthusiastic attention. Even imagine her as a wild animal that will be spooked by sudden movement or forceful handling. Reign in your wish to manage the relationship, let it develop naturally. If you push too hard, you meet resistance.

You say she is inhibited from eating because you comment on her appetite or lack of it, so why not invite them when food is not going to be an issue - and make it a short visit whether they visit you or you visit them or you meet up in a cafe for a quick cuppa and a slice of cake.

HildaW Wed 03-Jun-15 17:46:50

you say...'you do not know what more you can do?' There lies the problem, you just 'do' far too much.
I know its kindly meant but you overthink everything. You put words into people's mouths and thoughts into their heads. That way madness lies...we will never fully know what others are thinking so please stop imagining whats going on.

Take a step or two back, you are lucky that you still have plenty of contact, many of us just get the odd monthly visit of are blessed.

Give them time and peace to 'gel' as a family....they need space.
Love is such a powerful thing and we can do so much damage by overdoing it.

loopylou Wed 03-Jun-15 18:06:09

The fact that you took it upon yourself and took over their wedding to such a degree that even when your son told you this and the poor girl was even considering not turning up, speaks volumes for me. Did you discuss this with her parents before jumping in?

You're obviously a very capable lady and for a shy, nervous young lass it must have been almost intimidating and so desperately disappointing that, even when your DS told, you it didn't stop.

To then continue, even openly or overtly criticising her appetite etc just compounded what had already been done.

I can only echo the previous posters and hope that time will heal but I have serious doubts that you'll ever mend the rift, personally.

Elegran Wed 03-Jun-15 18:07:53

Yes, that is the nub of it. You want to do, to be behind the steering wheel, to take the relationship where you want it to be, to be the one who shapes things. She is the round peg resisting being forced into the square hole.

If you can stop yourself thinking that she ought to fit that hole, that she should have been grateful to you for taking the burden of her wedding onto your shoulders, that it was sensible for you to take her household responsibilities (which are also rights) to yourself, then it is possible that you will be able to meet as friends in the future.

You will have to exercise all your considerable controlling abilities on yourself, though.

J52 Wed 03-Jun-15 18:12:03

Welcome Nellybu

I agree with many contributors opinions about backing off. We were not actively involved in our son's wedding and not having a daughter made it hard for me. I was upset, but I kept my opinions to myself and only voiced them to DH.

After living in Oz the happy couple came back and lived at our house, until theirs was ready. It would have been all to easy to go down the one big family route. Which is as some would want it to be, but we knew that DIL ( a delightful, polite girl) would have not wanted that. We co existed as two couples in the same house. It worked out well, we kept our opinions to ourselves.

For a happy future, the best opinion is to have no opinion. Bide your time quietly and I'm sure things will get better

Much wise advice is to be found from others on Gransnet. x

Ana Wed 03-Jun-15 18:16:39

That poor girl! It seems she did her utmost to fit in and be friendly, but was eventually ground down by the continual unwanted interference and attempts to control her.

Have you read your post back to yourself, NellyBu? I find it hard to comprehend how an obviously intelligent and capable woman such as yourself can't see that your own actions have caused this stalemate.

AshTree Wed 03-Jun-15 18:47:27

Good grief! I really feel for your poor DiL. I'm sorry, but it has to be said. You've had a lifetime of experience running a home and organising everyone's lives, and this shy young girl didn't really stand a chance against the onslaught of your life management skills.
She feels like she got the wedding I always dreamed of. They got married in 2010 and as far as I am aware she is still pissed off about the wedding. I am really not surprised! But I am surprised that you are confused
She also slowly became withdrawn from us. When they first moved in my daughter in law made an effort to spend time with us but very quickly she became withdrawn. Did you seriously not hear the alarm bells ringing? After the debacle of taking over her big day, you proceed to take over her life and wonder why she becomes withdrawn, escaping to her bedroom? I have no idea what she did in there.. Well, I would say that was the general idea on her part. It was the only way she could be in your house without you monitoring her every move.
Then when she became pregnant, you tried to talk to her about how she is feeling, what things she had/ what she still needed, her maternity leave plans, childcare plans, and how people around her are treating her. You may have meant this as helpful, but believe me your DiL saw this as you once again wanting to know every detail of her life, as though she's incapable of organising all of these things herself without your help.
Cast your mind back to when you were at her stage in life. Did you have an older woman - either your mother or your mother-in-law - who was always there, micro-managing your life for you? If not, try to imagine how that would have felt.
You are so lucky to have a grandson, and you see him fairly often, certainly more than many on GN. Be grateful for that. Stand back and leave your DiL to run her own life. You may yet, with care, rescue this situation.

grannyactivist Wed 03-Jun-15 18:50:55

Hello and welcome to Gransnet NellyBu.
You obviously want to do the right thing and I have no doubt that your heart is in the right place, but the whole time I was reading your account of things I was wincing and wanting to say, 'back off'.
There is a fine line between 'helping' and 'taking over' and I'm afraid that you've most definitely crossed that line. If your daughter in law is shy and rather gauche in social situations I well understand her reluctance to tackle you head on, but I actually think that she's been quite restrained. I have lived with my mother in law and also my son and daughter in law have lived with me so I have experienced it from both sides and I can tell you that it worked in both cases because there was no interference.
I think that Elegran's posts are spot on and you would do well to heed her advice.

Coolgran65 Wed 03-Jun-15 19:02:17

NellyBu Ditto - what everyone has said.

As I read your post I could just feel where it was going ... downhill.

The replies might feel hurtful to you and a bit hard to take. Please know that I feel for you - but my mantra is always, mouth shut, zip shut, wait till asked. I think your dil has been overwhelmed and drawing back is the only way she knows how to handle it.

Honestly, I think you are lucky that you and she are still on talking terms.
My advice - take it easy, slowly, only give advice when asked.

I have 4 boys, 3 are married and one in a long term relationship. DH and I had nothing to do with the arrangements of any of the 3 weddings, we offered and paid for certain expenses i.e. cars, flowers, cake. How much is it, here's the cheque.

We also have one dil who is more reserved. Sometimes wonder have we offended.
We have one dil who is extrovert and yet quite private - don't ask too much, let her make the running, so to speak.
We have 2 dils who are in the middle somewhere.

When ds and dil from far away have visited for perhaps 2 or 3 weeks (about every 3 or 4 years) they still do their own laundry, sometimes join us at mealtimes, or sometimes are out and come home and fend for themselves. I say this is your home, you know where everything is, do what you want and just ask if you need anything. I'd never ever change how dil wanted her washing done or dried, wouldn't dare.... And wouldn't dare comment (even to ds) about eating habits etc.

However, if any of our sons asked for advice, it is given. Often I've said... do you just want to chat and offload, or do you really really want my opinion/advice.

I do hope that you and ds and dil can overcome this situation and enjoy your dgc.

petra Wed 03-Jun-15 19:08:20

The part that screamed out at me in the OP was the girls eating habits. It seemed to be the only thing she had control of.
You ask "what more can we do" You phone or send a letter and tell her that you are so so sorry, you got it all wrong, and can you start again.

janeainsworth Wed 03-Jun-15 19:13:11

Nelly Welcome to Gransnet - I hope you don't feel as though you've had too much of a Baptism of Fire.

You ask: "how can you not like spending time with people?"

Quite easily.
I like spending time with people some of the time, if they are people I have chosen to be with, but if I don't have peace and quiet, and time to myself to do my own thing and think my own thoughts, I feel suffocated.

Perhaps your DiL feels the same way.

soontobe Wed 03-Jun-15 19:15:10

I actually think that she is probably a nice woman. She is who she is. You have to work around her. Not the other way round, which is what she has been doing.

I think you have damaged your relationship with her. Which is a big shame.
For what it is worth, I think you can get it back again.

But it involves work on your part.

I hope that you can see things differently from this thread?

I think that you have been bending over backwards. But you were not bending in the right way.

soontobe Wed 03-Jun-15 19:18:09

smile smile
I want to send you some smiles actually, as this could be a hard thread to read for you.

Mishap Wed 03-Jun-15 19:24:48

NellyBu - reading this lot must have been hard for you - but there are no dissenting voices - everyone has the same view essentially. So please do try and hear what is being said for your own sake. You have a lot of ground to make up and the frustrating thing for you is that you can only do this by doing nothing. Stand back, take a deep breath and give these young people some space.

Some of your actions defy belief from my point of view - how could you possibly move her washing outside when she had expressly said she likes to dry it indoors?! And then be surprised that she was angry!

There are a lot of fences to mend here, and your approach has been a bit awry so far - but it may be a retrievable if you stand back and get on with your life and leave them to get on with theirs.

"She ended up giving birth 8 days before her due date to my beautiful grandson." - the last 3 words if this sentence speak volumes. He is indeed your GS, but first and foremost he is THEIR child.

harrigran Wed 03-Jun-15 19:31:20

I have to echo everyone else, just listen to yourself NellyBu and try reading back all that you have written. I am surprised that she turned up for her wedding, she must have wondered whether her DH was going to be a chip off the old block.

Ana Wed 03-Jun-15 19:32:03

In the end I gave up and just let her do what she wanted. I was fed up trying to fight her.

How telling is that comment? hmm

loopylou Wed 03-Jun-15 19:33:54

I've read and re read this post and responses basically with a sense of incredulity and increasingly a level of disbelief that OP doesn't realise just what she needs to do......

grannydil Wed 03-Jun-15 20:49:42

This so reminds me of when I was first married and mil asked if she could bring a couple of her friends to our house to meet me. After the cup of tea and small talk she then said 'I'll just show Grace and Tom round the house and proceeded to do just that including our bedroom. I was furious and after the visit when DH told her that she shouldn't have done that as it was our house she replied that 'it didn't look as if I was going to do it so she had to'! She's 93 now and over the years has never tired of 'helping' including tidying my kitchen drawers. I do remember that one way I felt I could control her was to eat very little in her house so I sympathise with Nellybu's dil. I hope the comments on this thread help.