10 answers

Mother-In-Law Taking Over

I've felt blessed in the past with my in-laws. My husband's family made me a daughter, sister, etc, immediately. However, we just moved 2 hours away after living 20 minutes away for the first year of my son's life. When we lived nearby, I was down to my in-laws' house often, and I understand that they miss him now. The problem? We get 24 hours warning MAX, then they're here, planning on taking him back with them for *5* days. This is every 2-1/2 to 3 weeks . My MIL tells us when she's coming to get our son, and doesn't even ask if that's alright. When they are here, she is the kind of person who can't sit and talk, or just play with the baby. She has to be doing something, which I've accepted in the past. But now, she's going thru boxes I haven't unpacked yet, rearranging them so I don't know where anything is, and when I asked her not to because it creates more work for me, she got mad because she was "helping me". I've tried to be subtle, I tried to ASK her to desist, but she just doesn't listen. The problem is, my sister-in-law got in a similar fight with her and is now ex-communicated from the entire family. I don't want to create a rift between us, but I'm about ready to blow up. She's constantly butting in! How can I gently tell her that we have our own life, and she can't run it for us?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hi Sara.... what about if you have some smalls jobs for her that you tell her you really really need her help. I know my MIL and FIL really want to help and also need to be busy, so I've changed my approach with them. I make a list of things that I tell them I really need their help with. Then they feel useful and busy and are not putting things away in the wrong places etc. Good luck!

More Answers

This is a very difficult situation but you have to remember that what is most important is for you to do what is best for your family (meaning your immediate family -- you, your husband and your little boy). I would start by trying to explain to your mother-in-law that you really appreciate her efforts to help and are grateful to have her in your life. At the same time, you need to let her know that your family needs to develop a consistent schedule/routine so that your little boy knows where he stands and isn't in constant state of change. Tell her you appreciate that they miss him and want to see him often but you would like to have these overnight visits better scheduled so that you can develop your family can develop their own routine and get settled in your new environment. Tell her you are looking into playgroups or Mommy/Toddler classes in the area so that both you and he can make new friends. You can't do that if his schedule is constantly changing. Then if it is amenable to you and your husband, pick a weekend (or 2) a month where you let your inlaws take your son for the weekend. That can be a win-win situation. Your Mother-in-law feels like she is getting her way but you are actually controlling the when and where and you and your husband can get a little adult time.

As far as the unpacking... Tell her that you are not sure where you want things to go from the unpacked boxes and want to go through them yourself to make sure you actually want everything in the boxes. Perhaps instead of unpacking boxes, she would be willing to help in other ways like taking your son to play at a local park for the afternoon or perhaps doing your laundry or dishes, while you unpack the boxes. If you know you want what is in a box and know where you want it, then let her help unpack those boxes. A simple nudge like "Hey, Mom, that box all goes in the bathroom. I don't need to go through that one so if you would like to unpack it that would be great." Try to redirect her energy to help you but at the same time make her feel included and as if she is getting her way. If there is nothing around the house she can really do to help, try to redirect her by telling her something like you need a break from working in the house and ask her to lunch/brunch or to go to the store with you to get some supplies you need for the new house.

My mother-in-law lives several states away but is very controlling when she visits. I've learned to try to redirect her energy so that it lets her help in a way that doesn't actually create more work for me. Most of the time it works. I do know that she always means well even in her controlling way.

If redirecting her energy doesn't work for you or she continues to come to take your son whenever she feels like it, then you need to talk to your husband and really have him set down some rules with his Mom. You may be surprised, though. A little redirection may be all you need. I can't imagine she is being spiteful when you have had a good relationship until you moved. It sounds more like she is missing not just her grandson but the relationship you had when she was living in a closer proximity. It really sounds like she is trying to spend time with you and help you out in her own way. Unfortunately, her way is not working for you at the moment. Try a little redirection of her energy and see if that helps. I'm sure that she wants your little one to develop friendships and a consistent routine (all kids need a consistent routine) to help him be a happier, healthier kid.

Good luck with your M-I-L.

I would say that you just have to be honest with her. You understand that they miss their grandchild but you and your huband have a life of your own that you have to lead and you guys deserve as much respect as she would expect someone to give her and her husband. Try and have your husband involved in this so as it doesn't look like it's just you feeling that way. If she can't handle it than I would say from what you wrote she has the problem. Take care of it now and they have no right to take your child anytime they want. Do not give in, it will only get worse if you do. Good luck!

Hi S.,
One VERY important rule that my husband and I have put into place since we got married...
His family (parents, siblings) is his responsibility; He deals with them as necessary. and my family is my responsibility; I deal with them as necessary. This is VERY important to the maintaining of good relationships, as it can be tricky with in-laws.
So, talk to your husband. He should be "on your side" with this. If he is not, then he needs to cut the cord from his mother and be responsible for helping his wife maintain sanity! You are his first priority, he is oligated to speak for you in situations such as this. He needs to understand how it makes you feel, and talk to his mither about what is/isn't appropriate. (that doesn't mean saying to her "S. thinks...") It needs to sound as though its coming from him.
Good luck!

Hi Sara.... what about if you have some smalls jobs for her that you tell her you really really need her help. I know my MIL and FIL really want to help and also need to be busy, so I've changed my approach with them. I make a list of things that I tell them I really need their help with. Then they feel useful and busy and are not putting things away in the wrong places etc. Good luck!

you need to simple tell her what the boundries are. and she will abide by them or else...she will get used to it when she says she is coming for your baby tell her no we have other plans and if she shows up go about what you were planning on doing. she won't stay totally out she may pout for awhile but stand firm.

I really can tell you some things on this type of situation. You see my mother and law use to be the same way with my second son right after he was born up until he was a little over a year old. Then when our other children came to join our family then everything changed she didn't want anything to do with our family . We have not even recieved anything for the kid at christmas or easter from her at all. She hasn't even seen our children that we have together since my youngest daughter was born,and she will be 4 years old this November. So my best info that i could give you is just let it ride out she will get board with it soon. Or you can politetly tell her that you already have plans . And then tell her that you really don't need help with unpacking that you have everything under control.

I would never in a million years let my in law dictate when they were taking my child - that is just rude. The bottom line though is that if you stand up to her you will create a rift not because what you are doing is wrong but because of her inabililty to respect other people's boundaries. The ONLY way it will work out is if your husband lays down the ground rules and sticks to his guns. It is his mother and the fact that she is taking over says that he still defers to her instead of you. He may not even mean to undermine your new family together but in reality he is. Work gently and lovingly on your husband not your mother-in-law.

Good luck!

My husband and I have been seeing a therapist because of similar problems with his parents. I agree with the others that your husband needs to lay down the ground rules with his mother. He needs to set clear boundaries and make it clear that his nuclear family (you and children) come first. Remember that she loves her grandchildren and that she will bend to your rules in order to have a relationship with them. It may be difficult in the beginning, but if you and your husband provide consistent, clear boundaries things will improve. We have had huge battles with our in-laws but in the end, they have learned to keep their mouth shut and bend to our rules. Things have gotten better. We still have problems, but everyone handles things better than they used to.

Instead of you talking to your MIL,try having your husband, her son, talk to her. It might help.

Wow! I agree with you. Your MIL is out of line. I don't know if you are going to be able to gently tell her. You may end up using a verbal sledgehammer, even though that would be the last resort. However, maybe you can redirect her energy, you know, the way you do when a baby starts touching things he shouldn't? Instead of waiting for your MIL's call saying she's coming to get your baby for five days, try calling her first. "We've got so many plans for things to do with the baby, and we're excited about them. But we know how you like to spend time with him and have him at your house. Would you like to come and get him for the weekend? But it can only be the weekend, because he has a play date/doctor's appointment/the world is coming to an end on Monday." :)
For all the "help" around the house, I think you might be able to do the same thing. Try as hard as you can to either unpack things yourself before she gets there, or put aside some boxes that need unpacking and ask her to help with those. Maybe you can find a few boxes that just need things sorted or would be the contents of one bedroom.
My MIL is not like yours, but my mother is. It was very, very hard for years. Every time she came to my house, she was in my stuff and trying to "help". I tried all the gentle things and ended up finally just shouting at her until it escalated into a huge fight. These days, she can't physically help anymore. She's 77 and has very bad arthritis, so she sits and talks now. Plus, my kids are old enough to drive, so they voluntarily drive the hour to her house, bringing friends and girlfriends, etc., and make her house chaos for the day! What goes around, comes around!

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