Communication with Daughter in Law and Son

Updated on January 07, 2010
A.C. asks from Thomasville, GA
12 answers

My son and his wife and 2 grandkids come to visit every so often. When here it seems my daughter in law does not care that I keep an orderly house and disregards what she sees when she arrives and leaves clothes, diapers, etc. all over the place for someone else to pick up (if not me then my son). I find this totally disrespectful as we treat both of them and our grandchildren with the utmost respect and shower them with all that we have to offer. How do I approach the subject without sounding like a silly mother in law?

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answers from Jacksonville on

Simply say "Daughter in law, do you mind taking up the diaper, clothes, etc." Most people don't mind being told things, it is usually how it is said that causes problems. Also some people are just not organized and neat.

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answers from Norfolk on

Next time, have them stay in a motel. Visit for a few hours each day, and then send them to their hotel room. That way everyone gets their own breathing space from each other.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I keep a very orderly house too. I understand how upsetting it can be for someone to be disrespectful... but I am also a daughter-in-law. My mother-in-law asked me to not let my son touch things at her house, as it was not child-proof. My son was 15 months old at the time- walking, and being a normal curious baby. Along with this request she would call my husband crying about how she never get to see her son or grandson because I was keeping them away from her and she would beg him to have us come over. Finally after going over about 5 time and running myself to the ground to keep my son's hands off of everything I told her that if she wanted to see us she would have to visit our home, or not get upset about my son touching her things. She has about 10 grandchildren, and godchildren, so child-proofing was not really an outlandish request. She got really offended and we didn't see my in-laws for about 6 months (we lived 12 minutes apart). Now things have calmed down, they visit us at our home, and the collectible, breakable things are put up at them home. My husband had a talk with his father to remind them that our son was normal, and we want to enjoy visiting with them, as opposed to running after our son, and spending no quality time. Apparently they understood, and things are really great. Basically my point is... if you don't like they way they treat your home, visit them in their home. Obviously say something to your son, maybe something along the lines of "I do not care how you keep your home, but you know I like my tidy, please be mindful when you come to my home." Don't expect miracles. Asking them to pick up dirty diapers is not a crazy request, but expecting them to clean up every little thing as it happens is not realistic. Focus on the time, not the mess. The mess can be cleaned up, you will never get time back. Good luck!

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answers from Jacksonville on

I agree with the post that asks what HER home environment looks like. That is a big clue. If her home is generally relatively organized, then perhaps she doesn't know what to do with the things. Or perhaps, she finally feels like she is on "vacation" from the constant work of doing it at home. If her home is a wreck, then it is because she just doesn't bother (whether she doesn't care or doesn't think it is a priority with the kids small is immaterial) and you won't be able to change her much by anything you say or do.

Maybe some "helpful" comments might be in order:
When they come in and start taking off coats/scarves/gloves... kindly let her know that "Oh (dear daughter in law), there are spare hangars in the coat closet/a coat tree in the hallway/the bench for those things is by the back door"... etc.
When she finishes changing a dirty diaper, you can let her know that "those are okay to put into the kitchen trash" or "instead of the kitchen trash, would you toss that in the bathroom trash?" or wherever you want it to go.
When the kids leave their toys all over the floor and move to another area to play, you can say "let me get you a basket/that basket over there is fine to put that in so no one trips"... (be sure you HAVE a basket, whether it is an empty laundry basket or a wicker one)
I must caution you, however, that if your SON is taking up her slack and your house is NOT being turned into a mess.. it's just that your son is the one keeping it from happening.. then say nothing. It's best not to meddle in their division of duties.

You didn't say how long they have been married, or how often you see her or they are in your home. If they are only there at the holidays, perhaps she is just overwhelmed with it all (I know my own husband, who is a wonderful man and very helpful at home) had NO CLUE all the work involved in packing for a trip with small children. It just all fell to me. Packing diapers/wipes/bottles/bottle-brushes/snacks/sippies/formula/clothes/ toys/pack n'play/blankies/car entertainment/pacifiers/bedtime books/medicines/etc.. PLUS my OWN things and his too AND any gifts or goodies for the holidays, and worry about getting it all back home again... left me frazzled, exhausted, and feeling like it was HIS turn once we got where we were going. Try to cut her a little slack... it is very challenging to pack up with small kids and go away. I'm sure you did it when your son was little, but it is a whole different world these days. Yes it is "easier" with all the things available now and disposable diapers... but that means a lot more to remember and manage as well.
Good luck.

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answers from Tampa on

they bring the kids to your house- do you want that to stop?

heavens were you so orderly when you had kids?

You will sound like a mother in law with too much time on her hands- and create a problem you will never be able to fix

she brings her children to your house- how much more respect do you need.

don't do it,k



answers from Orlando on

Honestly....if the visits are only "every so often" I would ask yourself if it's really worth saying anything Sometimes these types of awkward conversations/requests can be taken the totally wrong way and really ruin a relationship or create this resentment (which is normally silent on the other end and builds). Soon enough the kids will be old enough where instead of it seeming like you're telling the mom what to can just ask them to clean up their train/toys/etc. For now, I would just accept before the visit the way they are and try to just look past it and then once they leave (or when they run to the store or go to take showers or something) take a deep breath and then clean :)...that's what I do.


answers from Gainesville on

I don't want to sound rude or ugly, but I would start picking all that she throws around up and putting it in a place of your own and then if she asks where it is, show her a lost and found box in a closet or something, some way to help her realize how much trouble you are going through for her. Always put it in a different place, so she always has to ask where it is....
I have 2 babies and am very careful at my in laws because I want them to love us to come...
(just what I would do!!)



answers from Miami on

Try to be patient, especially if the children are young. We go to visit my in-laws at least 3-4 times per year and it is not easy - they are in VA and I'm in South Florida. It means flying there, packing all of the things that children "need" and then staying on top of them.

Childproof your house if the children are young so that the parents don't have to spend every second making sure the children aren't breaking something.

Offer to buy diapers/wipes/baby food in advance so that less has to be carried in route.

Provide a "play area" where messiness is encouraged. My MIL has a designated area in the family room where toys are to be played with...and my son understands this.

Ask your DIL and son about sleeping arrangements and do the best you can. It is very hard on young children to sleep in unfamiliar locations. Ask their parents what is best and then do your best. We have never asked my in laws to purchase anything for my son but we do ask that they understand that he is more comfortable in the same room as us.

If you send them to a hotel, which is a nightmare with young children by the way, don't expect future visits.

Be grateful for the visits and reciprocate when you can - it is easier for adults to travel than small children!




answers from Orlando on

When you see the house starting to look messy you could try the teamwork approach. You could say something like "Ok everyone it's time to staighten things up around here, everyone grab something & put it away." Involve the kids too if they are old enough, because they will have to learn how to pick up after themselves once they start school or daycare. Also what does her house look like? Is it clean & orderly? This may be a clue as to why she does this.



answers from Tampa on

What a tough place to be in. A MIL/DIL relationship is so hard as it is. I glanced at a couple of responses and have to agree that it is probably better not to say anything...unless you have a fantastic relationship with your DIL and I do mean fantastic. Otherwise you really risk making her mad and that might mean seeing your son and grandchildren a lot less. Only say something if you are okay with that possibility.

MAYBE say something to your son. But then if he says something to your DIL it might have the same effect.

Personally I wouldn't leave things lying around in other peoples homes. But any comment/complaint from MIL (my husband is smart enough to not pass those alone) would either annoy or anger me-and we have no relationship.



answers from Boca Raton on

Dear A.,
I'm a daughter in law who used to travel with my husband to come and spend summers and holiday vacations to be his parents. This can be a very touchy issue to give advise on, specially where you are going to find a lot of different daughters in-law's perspectives.....
When my kids were little I found that vacations with my in-laws were nothing more than a big load of stress, physical and mental work. First, because I had to make sure that, according to myself, I had to keep up with my mother in law and my father in law's expectations about mostly everything.... And second, because I had to follow my little ones everywhere they went, so they didn't break or touch something they were not supposed to, from the time they woke up to the time they went to bed... I was terribly exhausted at the end of the day. To that, include restaurants, parks, stores, etc.... So, as you can see my side, there were definitely not vacations for me.... Even though I tried to maintain the kids toys, books and else in one place, sometimes they ended up everywhere. The problem was that, even though my mother in law has been alway very nice, for some reason she didn't allow me enough time to pick the kids stuff. By the time I was done changing diapers, the toys my kids were playing with were already put in a box; or by the time I got off the bathroom, the kids clothes I was drying were already folded and on the bed... My thoughts are that she always felt uptight about having family over during the Holidays and having kids stuff around her house. I'm not saying I didn't appreciate everything she did but I think that just by being a little more relax about kids stuff, things can be more enjoyable for everybody and make a big difference in the relationship. There's nothing wrong with your son helping his wife to pick up your grandchildren stuff. After all he is their father, right? And he should not let you the pick up of the toys. That would take care of a lot of your concerns. Your grandkids will grow up and things will change. I definitely thing that next time when daughter in law leaves things everywhere, instead of picking them up, go to your son and tell him" I think you should help "Mary" to pick up the kids stuff, if you need help let me know...."
He'll get your hint and your daughter in law will love you for ever....





answers from Orlando on

I wouldn't say a thing!! Why jeapordize your visits? Is it really a big deal to pick up after her as a trade off of having your grandchildren around?? Every single family member (especially the ones who married into our families) has some sort of flaw that drives us batty. Unless they are hurtful, most of the time we need to suck it up, turn the other cheek on their flaw, and deal with it in order to have and maintain a good relationship. My mother-in-law opened her mouth about something and now she and her son aren't speaking and now she can't see her grandkids anymore (not me and my husband and my kids-- her other son). You never know if this will blow up in your face so why risk it just to have a tidy house???

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