Critical Mils and Birthday Parties

Updated on October 09, 2012
M.B. asks from Milwaukee, WI
22 answers

My daughter's 4th birthday party was this weekend and I tried really hard to make it special. I invited family and a few of her friends from the neighborhood that she loves. It was from 2pm-4pm and I made a three-tiered princess castle cake from scratch and served it with ice cream and sparkling grape juice. I always have anxiety leading up to my children's parties because my MIL is so judgemental and usually manages to make it known that I didn't do something right. This year was no different and she claimed that no one would pass her the birthday cards while looking at me angrily (we've never really passed them around), saying that I should have served sandwiches (I cut her off before she could build on her list of things I should have served), apparently I should have had an activity like painting pumpkins for the children, etc. She watches me all the time to the point where it's a little creepy. Then she stayed until 5:30pm long after the others left. I felt like I should ask her to stay for dinner but left it up to my husband - her son afterall. He laughed and said no thank you when she left and I said she could have stayed for dinner and said he didn't know why she won't leave when everyone else leaves. Anyway I was relieved when she finally left. I stood up for myself more than I've done in the past but I still feel like she sucks the joy out of these events. Any advice?

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answers from Indianapolis on

Don't invite her?? lol

You made a 3-tier cake from scratch!? You're amazing! :)

Just shrug it off. She wants you to do things HER way. But she is not Mom. She is Grandma. If she wants all those things she can have her own party.

By the way, I LOVE the sparkling grape juice idea! :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Pass the birthday cards? No one does that! You should put it all on her - tell her what you have planned ahead of time. Then tell her she is free to BRING other food to serve and BRING supplies for other activities if she doesn't agree with what you have planned.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

I think that as your DD gets older, you can cut out the extended family. My DD's 4th party was this year and I did not invite the grands to the friend party. Let the grands (including MIL) do something on a smaller scale with DD vs being at the friend party. Simply state (or have DH do so) that DD has her own friends now so you are doing things differently with the party.

BTW, I have had parents thank me for having unstructured parties where the kids mostly just play and do a few things like dig in a sand pit for prizes. Did DD have a good time? Nuff said.

And start practicing, "MIL, this party is not about you. It is about DD. If you have nothing nice to say about your granddaughter's celebration, then please keep your criticisms to yourself."

We don't pass cards around, either and this may be the last year I open presents in front of guests - they got a little crazy.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

"Well, Ma, the cards are right over there. You're welcome to get up and go take a look at them."

"If you're still hungry you're welcome to order some extra pizza or run to Subway and bring it back for us. The contribution from you would be greatly appreciated and we would count it as your gift to Ciara."

"I'm sorry you didn't like the cake. Blame Ciara, because it's her favorite. Mommy aims to please her best girl!"

"I'm sorry you found it so noisy, Ma. Next time you're welcome to simply stop by the day after the party for a brief visit and we'll save you some cake to share with Ciara."

"I'm sorry seemed so stressful for you, Ma. Maybe next year you can take Ciara out on a Grandma and Ciara Day for her birthday, just the two of you, so that you can avoid the annoyance of a party altogether."

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Sounds like she's competing with you. You built a 3-tier cake? So what? *I* would have served sandwiches! *I* would have made sure those cards were passed around to everyone! *I* would have had a fantastic pumpkin painting activity!! *I'm* going to stay here longer because *I'm* the grandma and it's my right to do that!

Don't sink to her level. Do what you do, have confidence in what you do, OWN it and don't let her judgments get you down. The only way she can successfully insult you is if you let her. If she truly thought you were doing a bad job, she wouldn't feel so insecure. As it is, she is EXTREMELY insecure and builds her self-esteem by putting you down. Recognize this for what it is: competition pure and simple. Don't stoop to her level. Just keep doing what you're doing because you're obviously doing just fine!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on I the only one who truly loved my mother-in-law?

I married a man who was 10 years older than me. His parents weren't young when they had children. So, they were quite old fashioned in many ways. Grandpa had dementia and Grandma was a very strong woman to take care of him. She always said exactly what was on her mind and I have a very sharp, sarcastic sense of humor. We actually liked that about each other. My mother-in-law could say whatever was on her mind, and I was free to do the same thing. Strangely, we never argued even if we didn't agree. Honestly, we were like best friends who could be ourselves with each other. We laughed our heads off. When she passed away, I was devastated. Her birthday was yesterday. She's been gone 17 years and I still miss her.

Maybe it's an old fashioned thing, but my own mother likes looking at the birthday cards too. So...I gave her the job of keeping track of the cards and who gave what for the thank you notes.

Try some humor. No one can make you anxious unless you let them.
You can always say, "If I did everything perfect, you wouldn't have anything to complain about. Would you like to get it all out of your system now? Before the party starts? Because everyone is going to have a good time whether you do or not....whether I'm perfect or not. Let me have it now....get it out of the way and let's be done with it."

Let her get it out of the way if she must. But, it's my guess she would get the message.

Hang in there.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

first off, your husband needs to talk to her, gently, but firmly. secondly, he needs to lay out some boundaries for her. if she can't abide, don't invite her anymore.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Wow, so your husband isn't manning up & telling her what's what? I would have a major problem with that. Until he stands up for you & puts her in her place, then she shouldn't be invited to any more family functions. She's already a critical beyotch, so who cares if she gets mad. She's an unhappy person, and nothing you do will make her happy. Take control & keep her out of your lives.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

She wants to be YOU! Lol. She cannot let her little baby go. Shes bitter, you're not doing anything wrong.
I feel like your husband telling her to shut it, will just make her more resentful to you.
Maybe you and your husband could make out in front of her? Im kidding.
When your husband hearsyour MIL being a biaotch, he should then talk you up about how wonderful you are.
You sound like you rock to me. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bellingham on

Next time allocate some jobs to her. Tell her she's in charge of cards and pumpkins.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Ugh! Boomers! You've gotten some great responses. You can't change her, neither can DH, just ignore her the best you can. In a year or two, DD will be having friend only parties and you won't have to worry about it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I see all these MIL and FIL and IL questions and it makes me so thankful that I never met my MIL and saw my FIL once shortly before he died. I've been married 25 yrs and it worked for me.

We prefer to live a plane ticket away from everyone so we don't have issues like you and many others describe.

Try to encourage your MIL to have a good relationship with your children. Maybe she will interact with them when she is at your home.

GOod luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dover on

You and your husband need to have a talk with each other and then together with her (when no one is worked up or at some special function). I suggest talking with your husband first since it is his mom and to help show a united front.

Talk to her and tell her that you feel as if she is super vigilant and critical of you. Ask if she feels you aren't able to handle a child's birthday party for some reason or if you've done something horribly wrong. Explain that while you may do it differently than her, it isn't necessarily wrong AND by her always pointing it out you feel she is indicating you didn't do it good enough.

If that doesn't work you can say "Mom, I appreciate your ideas but they would be better if given prior to the party rather than being critical AT the party" or "Well, the next time YOUR 4yr old DAUGHTER has a "princess" party, please feel free" or "Mom, I could have served sandwiches too but since it wasn't meal time I chose not to". For the cards (or similiar) you could have said "If you wanted to see the cards, you certainly could have asked since I wasn't otherwise passing them".

I wouldn't have necessarily served sandwiches for a party from 2-4 either since it wasn't at lunch or dinner time but rather at snack time. I do plan to have my daughter's party around that same time this year and do plan to have some food but more like appetizers but that is more because of the theme I am going with.

As for her not leaving when everyone else does...that is to be expected. When we have parties, we specify a time so parents that drop off know when to be back but some good friends and family will is over but we are visiting.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Well, you need to have some witty responses handy and the confidence to stand up for yourself. Such as, "This was not intended as a lunch party, hence the reason it was from 2-4. If you think sandwiches would have been nice, than you could have brought some." Also, give her an assignment, she can be the one to pass cards around or to write down which gift is from whom. She can lead the kids in a game of musical chairs. Keep her busy with her grandchild and off your back.

As for her not leaving when the other guests left, I don't know it seems normal to me. Grandparents usually hang around long after everyone else from what I typically see in these situations. If you want her to leave, than wind down the conversation, pick up her purse and jacket, walk to the door and say, "Thanks so much for coming to the party, we loved the gift. See you soon, we need to get dinner ready for the kids!"

Once your child enters school and starts having more friends over, than the parents coming by for parties tend to die down. We usually have like a family dinner type thing for that, than the friend party at a different time.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Ugh, how annoying! My husband's family can be critical and judgmental as well. His parents are deceased, but he has 4 older sisters. When my oldest was a baby/toddler, I'd have the big family parties and invite everyone. It was so stressful, and his two oldest sisters would be in the kitchen questioning and criticizing everything I was doing. I stopped doing big parties years ago. Now, I just do a little something with the kids' friends, and have my parents over for pizza and cake. Nice and easy. No stress!



answers from Washington DC on

OMG. Sounds like my family party this saturday. My in laws will always find something to criticize. One year it was no one talked to them enough, another year we ignored his sister that had horrible behavior, my house not clean enough, too much cat hair. This year, my aunt, who has a big mouth, asked them questions and gave some of her opinions. Most of it was harmless, normal conversation, asking about my nephews college plan, what my SIL does for a living, etc, which to me is just normal conversation, to them it is prying. She stepped over the line when my MIL started complaining about my SIL and family moving back home and then she told them they should charge her rent and give it back to her when she gets her act together. AGG. So now for the last few days they have been texting me and emailing my hubby about how offended they are by her constant prying. I got mad at my husband because he encourages it by emailing them with, "did you hear what Sally said to Dad?"

I had long given up having them over because I just can't stand them in my house. Too much stress. I relented because it was my daughter's first birthday (my older two are now 6 and 9 and we gave up family parties a long time ago). I told my husband today that I can't stand how over sensitive they are and they need to deal with people that may ask them things they don't want to answer and that I won't be inviting them back for another 1 1/2 years when we have to do a First Communion. I am tired of them and if they ask me why I won't have them over I will tell them to their faces. Enough is enough.

So good luck to you. You aren't the only one with miserable in laws.



answers from San Francisco on

Either learn how to ignore her or quit inviting her.



answers from Houston on

Keep yourself out of earshot. When she says something ridiculous to you, just look at her like she's speaking a language you don't understand and say nothing. That will throw her off, and you will have fun with it. (I just burst into laughter imagining doing this.)

Next time she starts making suggestions, either walk away abruptly (funny again) or cut her off with a cheery "You are a guest here, so I don't expect you to bring your own good ideas," and walk away.



answers from Amarillo on

Wow. I went to my grandson's first father's day party (father and both grandfathers present) he had yellow mustard all over his face from potato salad. Then attended the first birthday party with the chocolate cake all over the face. Later went to the 6 and 8 year old parties. But I never criticized what was planned.

I asked what I could do and they said nothing because I drove into be at the parties and that was enough of a special treat.

If my DIL had made up a cake as you described I would have praised her for her patience and creativity to do so and taken a dozen pictures before the cut was cut. Cards are nice but this isn't a baby shower and they don't have to be passed around for a child. You can look at the cards at the end and enjoy seeing who brought what.

Continue to do what yu are doing and enjoy your life. She is grand and you are mom and mom trumps grand any day.

The other S.



answers from Honolulu on

I can't believe that Hubby allows his Mom... to continually denigrate you, and in front of others.
He has to put her in her place.
This is terrible.
Borderline abusive.

She will continue to do this, unless she is not allowed to denigrate you.
She is ruining everything for everyone. And she targets you.

Does the woman have mental problems?



answers from Washington DC on

Next time: Your husband (not you -- your husband, her son) lets her know well in advance: "Mom, we want Child to have a birthday dinner with you, so we're taking you and Child(ren) out to Child's favorite place on Date X! It's going to be so grown-up and exciting for Child to eat there with you and that's the time to bring any presents. We know you don't want to be around all those little kids!"

Then have a separate kid-friend birthday party and don't invite mom.

Sorry, she will complain and accuse you of all sorts of things. But you smile and smile and don't cave. Enjoy the kid party, which you clearly cannot do right now with her hovering. If she bit>>es through the dinner out, smile and ignore. She is getting her kicks out of criticizing you, so do what you want to do your own way and do not reward her with any reactions.Just keep up the line that it's Extra Special To Go Out With Grandma. Your husband, who needs to man up, by the way, should do exactly the same. No explanations, no excuses, just a consistent line of "We want you to have a special time with Child and the kids' party is going to be packed with loud kids."

She may even turn up at the kids' party if it's at your house. So hold it somewhere obnoxious to her (Chuck E. Cheese?) or put her to work immediately when she gets there, refilling drinks in the kitchen or slicing cake IN THE KITCHEN. She will really hate it, and you.

But why try to please her? Enjoy your kids and forget her.

Seriously, it sounds as if (1) she lives too close to you for comfort, no? and (2) you put too much emotional investment into your kids' birthday parties. I would ramp back, frankly, and invite a few close friends over to a "birthday play date" where you have a low-key play time, some cake, and that's it -- no themes or giant cakes or invitations to grandma or anyone else, frankly.

And above all, your HUSBAND should be stepping in and spiriting mom away from you the moment she launches into what you should have served, or any other criticisms. Tell him flat out that he needs to get involved and cut her off. Every time.


answers from Boston on

Okay, so next year have a small family party at a restaurant as someone else suggested, or just make it a non-kid gathering so Grandma can hold court with everyone else in attendance to her needs. No cards to pass, no activities.

DO NOT invite her to another kid party. She does not enjoy them at all. You don't need the stress, and your child does not need Grandma's crappy attitude. At 4, she didn't notice much, but it's only going to get worse and pretty soon Grandma is going to ruin it fo ryour daughter.

Keep the parties small - one for a few family members, and one for a few friends. Resist the urge to have 20 kids - that's a nightmare anyway, in my view, but also since you said you get anxious before parties, you're better off keeping it very manageable. It sounds like you made a wonderful cake and as long as it's the sort of thing your daughter enjoys, then do that.

I think your husband has two choices - engage his mother and set her straight, or ignore her. He's chosen the "ignore" route, and that may be the best thing for this woman and their relationship. Sometimes setting someone straight works, and sometimes it backfires. She could become even worse, or she could be so resentful that will be another thing she criticizes. "Oh, I'll just sit here in the corner because if I make even one suggestion, my son and his wife will fly off the handle."

She's insecure and she can't appreciate anything you do. You cannot make her feel more secure by criticizing her (as much as she deserves it). I doubt you can get her to change her ways.

So all you can do is avoid it. Your child will benefit from 2 birthday celebrations, your MIL will have special time with her granddaughter without the distractions of activities and other kids, and you will have a stress-free party.

If she asks why she wasn't invited, you and most especially your husband can say she had such a bad time every year that you decided to set up special time just for her and isn't that just super wonderful for everyone!

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