June 24, 2009,
L.S. asks from Williamsburg, VA on June 22, 2009
Seeking Advice on How to Deal W/mother-in-law
My mother-in-law has an overbearing personality and comes across as though she knows best with respect to most everything (our little girl, planting flowers, cooking, places to go, etc.). I do my best to grin and bear it, but have been having a really hard time dealing with her since our daughter has been born. Prior to our baby's birth, she bought a crib, stroller, bouncer, clothes (she has more clothes than we do and we have a lot!), diapers, toys, swing, etc. for her house (she lives 30 minutes away). We didn't know the gender of our little girl until she was born, so we waited to have the baby shower. At my baby shower, I got a first curl box and she shouted out "I've already got her first curl". Then she told everyone she had already bought gifts for every holiday for our daughter up through age 5. At the shower, she acted more like our daughter was hers than ours by making comments like "this is the way you should hold her", "this is her favorite toy", and "she loves it when you do this" to the guests. When we take our baby girl to visit her, she immediately changes her clothes and puts a bow in her hair. Sometimes she changes her clothes several times a day, just for the sake of changing her clothes. The most recent issue that really seems to have put me over the edge was yesterday on father's day. For some reason, my mother-in-law bought a "Happy Father's Day Daddy" card from my daughter for my husband. It seems to me that this should be my role as his wife and not his mother's, but maybe I am looking at the situation the wrong way. Should this bother me? Any suggestions for how to deal with it? I'm getting upset at my husband for not dealing with it. Understandably, I know he doesn't want to be in the middle. Plus, he has dealt with his mom for many more years than I have, so he is just able to let it roll off his back. Thanks for your help!!!
2 moms found this helpful
D.A. answers from Washington DC on June 23, 2009
First and foremost, hang in there. I know it's hard. I know it's akward, but let me tell you that my parents have not even acknowledged my son and he is almost 2. We live a few states a way, but when we have gone home to visit, they didn't even come to see him. Everyone goes through their own private hell.
Your MIL probably doesn't have much going on in her life and this is her purpose for living. I know it's annoying, but she obviously loves the child and that is a gift in itself. My MIL has some similarities and it had gotten to the point where we couldn't even walk in our house due to all the toys, books and clothes she sent.
I confided in my friend at work who's a grandma and she said something crazy happens to you when you have a grandchild. It's like an addiction and you can't stop. I'll never forget something she told me. She said, "You love your children, but your grandchildren are SPECIAL."
She advised I let grandma do her thing and give the gifts and do all the spoiling. She said one day I too will go crazy over my grandbaby and would appreciate a patient daughter in law.
I'm not saying to relinquish your parent card or to be a doormat, but it's not as uncommon as you think for a MIL to act this way. Certainly set boundaries and stand firm about being the Mommy, but don't let it get to you.
Your lil one only experiences their grandparents once and it's such a short time for them. Grandma and Grandpa don't live forever!!
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L.D. answers from Richmond on June 23, 2009
First of all, your husband should be the one to handle this -- just as you should handle anything with your side of the family. Although, honestly, I think she's just excited about being a grandma. I'm not sure why it bothers you that she's changing her clothes, etc. It sounds like she's just enjoying her granddaughter. Plus, this gives you a little break. However, if it bothers you, just have your husband talk to her nicely and set some ground rules. A loving grandparent can be a wonderful help.
1 mom found this helpful
A.T. answers from Norfolk on June 23, 2009
I'm gonna be honest with you here. I think your mother-in-law is having the best of intentions here. My guess is that she and her son were VERY close. I think she just doesn't realize she is hurting your feelings. Don't worry about her changing her clothes or any of that. I would imagine this woman could probably be very trustworthy and a valuable source for much needed mommy time for you later down the road. So tread carefully. I really think she is just completely enamoured with your child. That is a good thing. The issue is that she has crossed the line by hurting your feelings and doing some things you feel is your job to do. I know what you mean. It seems like she is telling you everything you do is wrong and everything she does is right. My grandmother-in-law is the same way. Their hearts are in the right place. You just have to mention to her that it hurt your feelings when she bought the card for your husband b/c you felt like it was something you should do. There is nothing wrong with her giving him a card for father's day, but perhaps just honoring him as a father. Perhaps mention, that you could sign it together for him. She seems like her feelings could get hurt easily here, b/c she has invested so much in your daughter. The trick here is just minimize your time. When you feel like you're about to blow.....stay away a couple days. lol. Make sure your husband supports you when you do say something, and please be delicate. (if you go off the deep end....he cant support you.)
1 mom found this helpful
L.A. answers from Washington DC on June 22, 2009
I've dealt with this very same situation when I had my daughter who is now 2 1/2. First off, your baby will never confuse you for anyone else, not even Grandma, no matter how many toys she buys. Secondly, neither you nor she can take back the stuff she's done in the past no matter how wrong or upsetting it was.
Moving forward, you want to assert yourself with each thing she does that you find unacceptable, and do it in a way that says, "please understand, I'm her mom and this is my family". If that means not seeing them as often to give them a clearer message, then so be it.
She's obviously missing her time as a mom to a young child, and doesn't think twice about your feelings when she acts. Approach her with a little more compassion as if she doesn't really know what she's doing when she upsets you. This is your time to teach her.
It takes practice being calm and accepting to someone who upsets you, but it is possible and right now necessary because you want to keep peace in the family.
L.W. answers from Norfolk on June 24, 2009
Hi L., my mom in law used to piss me off when my kids were babies too, by saying how the baby looked like her,, or her husband, or my husband,, or her daughter (who I didn't get along with)..or her mother... her auntie... which would all have been fine but NEVER did she say that the baby looked like me. What did I do? I ignored it. It was her flaw but other than that she was and is a good mother in law to me. Your mother in law however, is going to have be told something since overbearing and intrusive is part of her personality. Does your mother in law have her OWN husband??? that could be part of the problem as well. Somethings can be ignored like-- the fathers day card-- yes she overstepped her boundaries, but its not that big a deal. You could have said something like-- oh honey, now you have 2 fathers day cards from our baby.. or not bother saying anything because its not a big deal. Her changing the baby's clothes... well that would piss off anyone as well.. but again, let her change the baby's clothes all day if she wants. Your daughter is either going to hate her grandmother because of her perfectionist ways... or will love going to grandma's because she has so much stuff over there. She is the grandma and you shouldnt tell her how to be one... and likewise, you are the MOTHER and when she tells YOU how to be a mother, without you asking her opinion.. you have to step out of the shy role.. respectfully and tell her that you dont want her telling you how to be a mom, just like you don't tell her how to be a grandma. I am 34 too, and used to be shy and still am sometimes so I know its hard girl but you can do it!! OH!! but about her cutting your daughter's hair!!! NO!!!!! that is not a grandmother's job. You must call her on that.. she must know that changing her outfits is one thing... but cutting your daughter's hair-- any permanent changes is another!!! she must get permission from you.. absolutely. okay and good luck!! trust me by the second kid you won't even care about half of the stuff she pulls-- as long as she keeps babysitting. oh and P.S. you can always change her outfits back to what you originally had on her if it really bothers you so much... she is just an overexcited grandmother... she'll calm down... however, when she clearly plays the mother role-- you gotta put her back in her place... and do try to keep it polite.
D.P. answers from Norfolk on June 23, 2009
Try not to let your emotions run the conversation, but you need to put your foot down. YOU are that child's mother and no one else is allowed (well, 'cept your hubby of course) to rule in that child's life. Period. Set ground rules, make a line that can't be crossed and STICK WITH IT. Because it sounds like the people in your MIL's life let her get away with everything she wants because they love her, and in reality that just doesn't work. Hmmm, in a way, it's kinda like raising children. They need structure and clear boundaries too!
E.M. answers from Washington DC on June 23, 2009
Boy, you are in a tight situation and I feel for you. My mother started out that way when my daughter was born. I politely explained to Mom that she had her opportunity to raise her children and now this is mine. Since I know she is capable she will be my "go to" person for help and extra spoiling for my daughter but I want to be able to make my own decisions and mistakes. Let her know that children can not have too much love and it is up to the Grandparents to spoil and parents to make the decisions. Good luck!
S.H. answers from Richmond on June 24, 2009
I'm curious - does your husband have a sister? It sounds like your MIL is relishing (too much so) in having a little girl around. You are right to feel put out though - she's going too far!