Disappointed in MIL :(

Updated on April 30, 2012
M.G. asks from Fairfield, CA
26 answers

Hello all today we had an outing and get together with my in-laws. In the beginning we picked up my MIL to go on a kiddie fishing outing for a few hours. It was fun and all went well. We then all went to my FIL's for a BBQ. My FIL and MIL are not together however they are friends. They have an agreement that we're all well aware of that when the grandkids are over MIL will not be having alcoholic drinks or be getting drunk. No, she cannot just have a drink and be okay. She agreed to this so that we all can visit as family at FIL's home. Well, while the food was being cooked she decided that she would be having a beer, one of the large cans from a conveinence store.

Upon my FIL arriving home she proceeded to have another one however hidden inside a sock(as a cozy I presume?)and continued to drink. When my husband, her son spoke up and asked didn't they have that agreement she stated that she's an adult and will do as she pleases. We all left it alone. However, a bit later on my son was climbing on an unused vehicle in the backyard; obviously not an appropriate thing to do. My FIL, MIL, and BIL were in the backyard with my children so I didn't feel a threat to had. Once my FIL realized what my son was doing he asked my MIL to not allow him to climb on the vehicle as he could easily fall and be injured and there are other things for him to do. MIL got angry, words were exchanged, though no names called according to my daughter, 8. I was inside the house so did not know of any of this until MIL came storming through the house stating how she is done and she is going home.

Once informed of why all this occurred we all continued on with our BBQ and visit without any issue. I did however have to inform my daughter that no of course nothing MIL did was right and luckily she is smart enough to know that none of it is anyone else's fault. Upon arriving home and getting onto Facebook I see a post hours after the fact from my MIL stating that once again her entire day was ruined because she chose to trust someone she should not ever believe in and everyone just enjoys ruining her fun. Obviously this to me is childish and over the top. No one at all has commented on it because why feed the fire? I am appalled that a grown woman can act in this manner and IMO put her own desires to drink above spending time with her grandchildren. However, I do realize it is what it is and there is no changing it.

Am I over-reacting for allowing this to bother me seeing as the anger was not directed towards me?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I am no longer bothered by this today. I would like to clarify a few things based upon some other posters messages. No one else was drinking at all and there was no liquor in the house prior to MIL buying her own beer. I do agree that FIL & MIL have their own issues in their relationship and that is their own thing to manage. My children being in the backyard at the time with my FIL and BIL(who is a grown man himself)was not an issue because they were requested by all the adults to be played with outside.

As far as going to AL ANON this will not happen. MIL was ordered to go to meetings and she did but she admittedly only went to meet friends and for going her church gave her a place to live for free.......not sure of all the details on this but that was what was portrayed to us from MIL. MIL claims she is not an alcoholic because alcoholics have problems, she's a functional drunk. Those are her words about herself. In my opinion they speak volumes about her mindset. I hope one day she will wake up and realize how alcohol affects her life but I don't bet on it. She is happy with who she is and her life, or so it would appear though no I do not believe it to be true but that's her and her life and has nothing to do with me or the life of my children. I hope the next time she is around her grandchildren she can do so without drinking.

If there is a next time with a similar situation I will make sure to take my family and be on our way not out of disrespect to her but rather because it is my duty as their mother to only allow them to be around positive influences.

Featured Answers



answers from Seattle on

Alcoholics SPECIALIZE in getting under people's skin, making it everyone else's fault, and manipulating as many people as possible into believing them.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

The whole thing would bother me. Take the high road and refrain from commenting on her FB. However, I would have serious reswervations about the next get together and would discuss up front that if she has any alcohol that you and the kids will be leaving immediately.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Austin on

I suggest you attend Al-Anon. Get your husband to attend meetings too

It will help you with MIL. It will also help you keep your sanity.

It is worth your time and effort.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

She's an alcoholic, and this is what they do. Try not to let it upset you - if it does, perhaps some Al-Anon meetings would help you and your husband to be better equipped to deal with her behavior and have it be less upsetting. Friends whose parents are alcoholics have really benefited from Al-Anon and it's helped them to set appropriate boundaries and not take it personally. Lousy position to be in!

10 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

If she has a drinking problem, then you can't expect her not to drink and it's wrong to be disappointed in her, if she is an untreated alcoholic. You can't make deals with an alcoholic not to drink. I certainly hope that she didn't DRIVE home in that condition. If this family bbq was taking place at your FIL's house, why on earth did he ask your MIL to take care of discipline? That's not appropriate. Your MIL was not in charge of the kids. It's HIS house and if the parents are inside, he shouldn't be asking her to do this, he is the grandparent too.
You say there's no changing it, but if she has a drinking problem, treatment CAN change it.

EDIT: I'm not sure from your SWH that you understand what Al-Anon is. Al-Anon is not for the alcoholic. It is for the family of the alcoholic, to help you with coping strategies.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Champaign on

Your MIL is an alcoholic. This is not about putting "her own desires to drink above spending time with her grandchildren." She has an addiction. As others have suggested, it would really help if you could learn more about alcoholism and about addictions in general. If you have never faced an addiction, it is important to try and recognize that this isn't really something you can ever understand or rationalize. You will never really know what it's like for her or understand the internal dialogue as she sees the cans of bear and desperately wants one and knows that she made you a promise, but the bears are calling her name and she wants one so desperately. You just have to accept that this is what life is like for her.

She needs to go to AA meetings. She needs to know she's not alone. She needs to have regular meetings with other alcoholics so that she can talk to the only other people in the world who know what it is like for her everyday. She needs to learn how to live in recovery, and this will take time and be a life-long struggle at the same time.

Right now, she needs all family gatherings to be alcohol free. You might want to enjoy a beer at the family BBQ, but she can't handle it. Right now she needs your support. Believe me, it's totally worth it.

My husband is an alcoholic. He was in recovering for more than 10 years when I met him. There is no alcohol in our house, and there never will be (except on the weekends he is out of town, ssshhhhhh! He doesn't know I do that :-) He's been in recovery for over 20 years now, and we are able to attend family gatherings, parties, weddings, etc., where alcohol is present. Not sure it's always easy for him, but he does it. Really, the only time I get to drink is if I'm out with the girls.

Encourage her to go to AA, and no alcohol at family gatherings. She really needs you to support her during this difficult time. Alcoholics can never have a drink ... ever! Help her make this a reality. Please don't make her do this alone.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

it's not surprising it bothers you. it's not okay behavior, but your MIL has a disease. you might be bothered with someone who had pneumonia for hacking and coughing all the time but you wouldn't be angry, right?
it's not a direct correlation because alcoholism has such baggage and danger associated with it, but you see what i'm saying.
for starters, it's no use trying to make deals with alcoholics that they won't drink unless XYZ is going on. they won't stick to the deals. you can be as disappointed as you like, but them's the facts. the disease precludes all honor.
knowing that she is what she is, i can't imagine why your FIL went to her to discipline the climbing child. all of the nastiness would have averted if he hadn't relied on the alcoholic to take care of something someone sober should have handled. this is an 8 year old. why wouldn't a simple 'get down from there, honey! i don't want you climbing on that' from FIL suffice?
i think downing your MIL to your daughter is a big no-no. there's a big difference between 'sheltering' (ie lying) to our kids about distressing family members and treating them as if they're near-adults and over-sharing. if your daughter asks, a simple 'grandma has a hard time with her behavior sometimes' is really all that's needed. you can validate your daughter's concern without trashing her grandmother.
the FB thing is certainly childish and i'm glad no one has responded to her.
your upset is certainly understandable, but you can't expect the drunk to fix her behavior. it's up to you to take steps to mitigate potential damage, or avoid her altogether.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

You can't reason with a drunk. They are sick though and you can educate yourself with the support for the family in which you may be familiar. Al-a-non can be a tremendous help for loved ones.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

By getting so angry you're allowing your MIL to control your feelings. Find a way to not take her drunk actions personally. Al-Anon is a good resource for learning how to deal with an alcoholic. As Riley says, the way she acted is a given with alcoholics. Don't allow her to upset your world. She cannot upset you without your permission.

That said, I would be upset if this were my MIL. I'd have to remind myself to not take it personally and to not let it bother me. I'd force myself to think about something else, while telling myself that I'm not letting this get to me.

I think it's great that she left and the rest of you enjoyed the evening. That's a great way to handle the situation. If she leaves you certainly don't have to leave. I'd not leave in this sort of situation even if she didn't leave. Let her make a fool of herself. Don't take it personally and have a good time.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think your FIL has some culpability in this. It was his house and I assume his vehicle. IMO his telling your MIL to discipline your child was designed to anger her. Why was this her her responsibly? It's HIS house. I would have been angry too and I don't drink at all. That fact that she was drinking and no one wants her too made it possible for everyone to turn the blame for this onto her when it could and should have been avoided in the first place, if your FIL would have either told your child to get off the car himself, or come inside to get you or your husband.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

It actually doesn't sound like she made drinking her priority. Sounds like a little chain of past present and possible future events. She cannot deal effectively with her anger, true. But she is apart from FIL and sounds like even now he can push her buttons. Why is he telling her, his not wife to go take care of your child? Cannot he not speak up since they are all there in the backyard. They are still in roles, she's mommy to him evidently and he's never grown up at least around her. Did she say she was drinking on Facebook? She might be a drama queen, but this sounds like a case of poor family dynamics. It is horribly sad.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I don't think having 2 large beers sounds like your MIL was intoxicated or her judgement was impaired.

She's divorced from the dad? Why on earth is HE telling HER to get the grandkid off the used vehicle? That is no one else's responsibility but your very own husband's. 2nd in line would be the FIL as it's HIS yard. Your MIL is not a child to be told what to do by other grown men. She's probably beyond sick and tired of being told what to do and especially by an ex while trying to 'behave' on their terms. He knows how to push her buttons and he contributed to this cycle that she's done with.

Alcoholic or not, she's not their doormat.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think the only way to have her not drink at a gathering is if EVERYONE does not drink and there are simply no alcoholic beverages around. I think it is unfair to ask an alcoholic to be around others enjoying a drink.
And why would FIL ask MIL to do something at his own house? Could he not just have said something to the kids? Seems the dynamics in their relationship are still troublesome.
It is difficult to see the situation objectively while you are in it, and I applaud you for asking for opinions. It would be so easy to stew about it on your own and then perhaps lash out at MIL when she is ill and FIL seems to be feeding the fire with his demands.
Mostly realize that while you may wish to help, people need to help themselves. I would choose and plan carefully next time for a gathering and limit exposure to short get togethers with activities that do not include drinking (museums, zoos, playgrounds, hikes, pick-your-own farms, etc.)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Your not over reacting but I would caution you to not run the mother in law down. Your statement that "I did however have to inform my daughter that no of course nothing MIL did was right and luckily she is smart enough to know that none of it is anyone else's fault" will backfire on you. Kids tend to say things out of context. And you will be at a future event where your daughter will say "well mommy says that grandma is always wrong and nothing she does is right" it won't be what you meant but it will be what she is hearing. Leave the kids out of the grownup conflict.

Her desire to drink is not a good thing but it may be the only way she feels she can get thru one of these forced family visits. If she feels she can only see your children and the family is by coming to her ex's house she may be uncomfortable.

I would try to let the anger go. If she did nothing to hurt the children then yes I feel your anger is misplaced. You say yourself that you were outside. why did your father in law have to say something about your children climbing on an old vehicle. If there were many adults present why was it your MIL's job to take care of the little one? where was your husband and yourself during this? not judging just asking. I think not commenting on her post is the way to go.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

She's not a grown woman.

Alcohol stunted my emotional growth from about the time I first started using. I'm an alcoholic, btw.

Think about that - alcohol is an escape from feelings. No feelings, no mechanism develops to handle them. Just the drug of choice.

Your mother isn't acting childish. She is childish because her coping mechanisms are locked in time.

You and your family are the only people ABLE to take the high road.

Next deal ought to include rehab, or at the very least some meetings. And you and yours need (NEED) to get to Al-anon.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

If you believe your husband's mother has a drinking problem, you or your husband should have been present to look after your children. Your husband's father or brother have no right to order her around.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

You are justified in feeling that way you do but I would suggest to let it go. As you stated it is what it is, you won't change her and holding on to the anger just has a negative impact on you (cause she sure isn't bothered by it).

I would suggest trying to be sure no alcoholic beverages are accessible when she will be around.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Your MIL is an alcoholic. Her disease makes her choices for her.
Until she addresses her issue and you all educate yourselves about dealing with an alcoholic in a non-enabling way, nothing will change. And she will continue to TRY to lay blame on every other possible place, except where it belongs, which is squarely on her own shoulders.

Since she is obviously not going to adhere to any "rules" about her drinking, leave her out of the next outing altogether. While this will not "cure" her, she *might* begin to think about what her drinking is costing her.

Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Just to clarify, Al Anon is for you and your family. It is a support group for those who have a family member or close friend with an addiction. You can (and should) choose to go to Al Anon. This would really help you understand the disease better, know that you are not alone and find some coping skills and strategies to better deal with your MIL.

Your MIL needs to go to AA (not Al Anon). Whether she chooses to go or not is, obviously, her decision entirely. You could always offer to take her there. A friend of mine took his brother to an AA meeting and then went into the Al Anon meeting next door. Good day for both of them!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Your MIL is an alcoholic. She hides it in her sock, for crying out loud. She will say or do anything that allows her to continue to drink, no matter what the previous agreement is.

You are upset that a grown woman and grandmother would put drink above her own grandchildren. But that's what alcoholics do! They put them ahead of their wives, their husbands, their children, the rent.

You are not over-reacting, but you ARE ENABLING. You said "We all left it alone" and THAT'S the first mistake you made. The family should have taken her home.

The ONLY way she is going to stop drinking in the presence of your children is to NOT allow it. This is you and your family's choice. Make it and stick to it, or just expect that something bad is going to happen when she's drinking in front of the family.

OR, don't invite her to family functions.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Hi, I am so sorry for the drama that your MIL has been bringing to the family dynamic. It is good that you are able to separate her stuff from the family after a day away from it. Your MIL is an alcoholic and, while she may have agreed to the "rules", she clearly is not abiding by them. However, you all can establish clear boundaries with her and try to remove the emotion from it. I know this is hard because I myself live with it all the time (I had/have an abusive ex), but, if you can remove the emotion of it and lower your expectations, it may make you happier. I would not expect her to be responsible when it comes to your children since she clearly is emotionally a child herself. This does throw the burden of responsibility more upon you, but, for every event she attends, have a backup plan and clearly communicate it to her. For instance, if she decides to drink at an event, make arrangements for her to go home. Let her know ahead of time about the expectations and follow through without emotion. Tell her you really want her to be a part of your lives, but that drinking (whether hidden in a sock or not) is a deal-breaker. Let her know that you will support her as a person (this doesn't mean $$$), but that you draw the line in the sand when she makes her needs violate those of all others. I believe Al Anon is more a support for the family and friends of alcoholics. Your MIL can attend AA, but it sounds like she is choosing not to. That is not atypical of alcoholics. She is in denial. BUT you are not. You can use all the support you can get. Al Anon can be a good resource for you and your family. It might be worth trying out just so you can wade through the drama your MIL will surely bring again. I wish you and your family the best. It is a difficult challenge and sad, too, but you don't have to let alcoholism suck you and your family in. Maybe there is hope for your MIL, but she needs to do some of the work herself and no one else can walk that walk for her. Best of luck and hugs to you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I do think you are over reacting. She only ended up ruining her own day, not yours, so while she should not have made a scene in front of your kids, I would let it go.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

Next time have the fun fishing, or whatever, outing with your MIL and your kids, then drop her at her house and go on to your FIL's without her.

The kids get to see everyone, but you have removed the dynamic of ex-spouses hanging out together; removed the issue of sitting around drinking; and set the boundaries that you need to put in place to deal with her behavior.



answers from Spartanburg on

I have never been around alcoholics, growing up I had always heard they are at the margins of society, they're poor, uneducated, without a family behind them or just sick in their head. When I moved to the US all of a sudden at least 80% of the people I met had someone who was (or had been) an alcoholic in their family, some of my girlfriends divorced alcoholics and so on.That was just mindblowing to me, how these people could associate with addicts like it was normal. I understand your MIL is still part of the family but she sounds like someone I would not want near my children. Could her children have her checked in a rehab or such until she is able to overcome her addiction? I could never imagine having someone like that in my family. By the way, you did great ignoring her FB comments, I would keep ignoring her altogether until she's not a threat to the stability of your family. She's in need of serious help and should be treated as such - maybe she'll realize she hurting everybody, including herself and that's not a way to live. Simply not acceptable.I hope your husband and his siblings can find a solution to help her. She's not normal.



answers from Phoenix on

She sounds like an alcoholic, and with no sense of personal responsibility, to boot. She will be this way until she gets help & will drag everyone down with her. Family or not, she gets excluded from events, outings, special occasions. Your kids & your family deserve better than that.

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