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Should I participate or hide?

Started by phillek, March 09, 2012, 01:59:41 pm

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Hi Ladies,

I'm trying to decide between two options for my ILs upcoming weekend visit.

First a little background:  My MIL consistently makes me feel uncomfortable with rude, intrusive, competitive behavior.  DH and I have summed it up this way:  To her, there can only be one "mother" (even to MY children) and that is her, therefore she must break me down or get rid of me in order to stay in her role.  Unfortunately for her, there is no contest when it comes to my DH and DS, and that makes her more resentful and uglier toward me.  Her guilt trips and rude comments are common but pretty subtle in a group setting, but when she gets me alone she lets is all out.  Most recently, she attacked me over the holidays over several things including my parenting and my FOO.  This is all in another post, but it ended with her having a sobbing fit begging me not to be mad at her or shut her out when it appeared I wasn't going to sit there and take it (I asked her to stop and got up to leave the room) She made no apology or explanation, rather acted like a four year old who thinks they can tantrum their way out of a timeout.  She has since called me several times, and I haven't returned her calls.  I know from experience (and her messages) she doesn't want to make amends, but she wants to continue the way things have always been.  Truly, I have never been anything but patient with this woman in the past, and have always tried to come from a place of love and be reasonable.  She does not respond to reason.

MIL and FIL are coming for a visit next weekend.  DH and I have decided that I will never be alone with her again (easier said than done, she has attacked me before at a restaurant when everyone else got up to go wash their hands, she's pretty ruthless in just 5 minutes) but that is the plan, and DH said he will field all intrusive questions, guilt trips and criticisms. (In the past, he has just tuned her out, leaving me to answer to her, since she directs them at me anyway)

We have a million reasons why we don't want her to babysit, but I won't get into it.  I will say that no one else babysits either, so it's not like there is a double standard.

Anyway, this will be one of the last times for a while that I will have to option of opting out, staying in my room when they are over, staying home when they go out.  Previously, my son was too young for me to want to be away from him all day or night (I don't work so we just aren't used to that; I was nursing on demand; there were holidays and I thought it unfair that I be separated from my baby just because MIL bullied me into staying away)  I'm giving birth again next month, so the cycle will start over - I won't be separated from my newborn on MIL's demand, and I'm not so low as to keep him from her altogether, so I have to suck it up and be in the same room with her when she comes to see him.

So, my poll question is this - do I save myself the grief of dealing with her this one time, or do we go with DH's plan to have him stay on guard for me?  Does it matter? - She'll be here again next month and I'll be forced to deal with her.  I'm conflicted because in a way she gets rewarded for her bad behavior, this is all she wants after all, for me to disappear so that she can be the only Mom in the room.  It may send a message that I really won't subject myself to her nastiness, or she could just feel like she finally got her way.

lancaster lady

Hi Phillek ...

Don't participate , don't hide .
Tell her not to come until she treats you with respect ...end of !


I AGREE!!!!  I would put my foot down and just tell MIL that if she acts rudely to you or says anything at all mean or nasty and critical, she will be asked to hit the door without so much as a warning. It is your home, you are the mother in  it, and she needs to respect that. I don't blame you for not returning her calls either. Best wishes on the newest little one soon to arrive...awesome!  J

Beth 2011

Hi Phillek,

It sounds like you would too many people happy to just disappear in your own home.


Personally, I wouldn't hide and I'd be there while letting DH field the questions. Although I don't think my MIL is quite that bad, letting my DH field some of the criticisms last time seemed to make a huge difference in our last visit. I think you two need to consistently present a united front.


Close the door and throw away the key. It is your haven...your home...you make the rules. Let her know that when she is able to honor your rules...you'll talk. Self respect dictates this. It's not a contest of wills. Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Quote from: JaneF on March 09, 2012, 02:44:27 pm
I AGREE!!!!  I would put my foot down and just tell MIL that if she acts rudely to you or says anything at all mean or nasty and critical, she will be asked to hit the door without so much as a warning. It is your home, you are the mother in  it, and she needs to respect that. I don't blame you for not returning her calls either. Best wishes on the newest little one soon to arrive...awesome!  J
Quote from: lancaster lady on March 09, 2012, 02:22:02 pm
Hi Phillek ...

Don't participate , don't hide .
Tell her not to come until she treats you with respect ...end of !

Love your thinking, ladies.  I hope and pray that if I have a DIL, and my actions are causing her pain, she will have the courage and respect to ask me to stop with specific examples.  That way, I have the opportunity to change my behavior and maintain the relationship.  HOWEVER, as I said before, MIL is not reasonable.  I have been through this with her several times.  I say, "It hurts my feelings when you say XYZ, please don't do that again."  She just gets more stealthy or tries a different tactic.  My DH tried to be direct with her recently and she literally closed her eyes, started rocking back and forth and humming.  The only thing I've found that helps is threats to not see us (DS) at all.  I feel horrible doing that -  I really, really, can't keep her from her GS, and DH is not okay with that solution, either.


Do I remember you saying awhile back that you lived fairly far away from any sort of lodging facility? That's the problem where I live, we're an hour from any decent sized town. When people come to visit they pretty much have to stay with us unless they bring a motor home. Hey, there's an idea! Put a trailer/yurt/tipi/guest house/tent/camper out on the back 40 for your guests; if they balk, go out and stay in it yourself, lol.

Seriously though, you can't have someone in your home making horrible comments to you. My strategy w/SM or DIL is to make sure I'm never alone with either one of them. When they start in I chirp, "Excuse me, I need to (get the clothes out of the dryer, check the fax machine, let the cat in, use the restroom, yadda yadda...)" and then I "forget" to rejoin them. I felt empowered the whole week my SM was here with DF a year ago; she couldn't complain to DF privately about my attitude because I was being nice; I was like a slippery little greased piglet.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


Pen, I LOVE it!!  What a metaphor! :)

They do stay in a hotel, at DH's insistence, to provide me some sanity (and therefore his sanity) through the night.  (He is as supportive of me as I think is possible for him)

However, the hotel is minutes away from our house and we literally spend every waking hour with them (either at the hotel, our house, or out) from minutes after we wake up - we eat breakfast together, to minutes before bed - "okay, we are going to turn in now".  I am thankful that she's not in the next room while I am (not) sleeping, though.  Last time, DH made the mistake of going on a day outing with just his Dad, so MIL camped out at our house and things got ugly.

I've got to learn how to be a "slipperly little greased piglet"  LOL!


Actually, you can put her in a long time out. With people like your MIL, the only thing that works is consistent natural consequences. She behaves badly, make her leave or you leave with the kids, and make the time between visits longer than usual. If she pressures you or DH, tell her that after how unpleasant the last visit was for you, you all need a bit of a break. When you are ready for a next visit, if it goes well there won't be such a big gap in between. It all depends on how well she can behave.

Maybe you could take little mini-breaks while they are there, and also decide that they need to give you both a break from time to time, say during your DC's nap. Make it clear that during nap time you need them to leave, because it is too hard to put DC down for a nap when he knows there is company in the house. You will call them when DC wakes up or you will meet them later for dinner or call them when it is time for dinner. Also, tell them that you need them to leave when it is time to get DC ready for bed. Once again, it is too much of a struggle with company in the house, because DC wants to be with the company. Or, you could lay down with DC for his nap. You could also find lots of reasons to run off to the store. On your way, stop at a coffee shop and relax for a while. If you have DC with you, stop at a park or a toy store for a while.

If she starts getting snappy with anyone, then it is definitely time for a break and she can return when she is less tired or in a more pleasant mood.

I think little mini-breaks would be a good thing for all involved. You will be able to be a more pleasant hostess, your DC won't get over-stimulated or over-tired, and this will make for a more pleasant visit for the ILs.


But Phillek, why can't you keep your kids away from her?  Seriously, do you want your kids to see you being treated poorly and "sucking it up"?  This is in fact a 'teaching moment' for DS.  That treating someone badly has consequences.  That he should never let anyone treat him like "that", whether it's family or not.    You should try reading "Protecting the Gift" - I've never read it, but I've heard good things about it.  Starting young, you have to make them "bully proof" and "molester proof".  I'm not saying that MIL is a molester, but, for example, letting an older relative smother your kid with kisses, against their wishes, teaches them that this is acceptable, and makes them less likely to resist when a molester forces affection on them.

I think you have to do a LOT more thinking about this before you can see the IL's.

I would make this a test, have DH tell her IN ADVANCE that this is her last chance.  That she obviously knows how to fake it in front of him or other 'witnesses', so she had better manage to fake it the ENTIRE time, because if she says ONE mean thing to you, or glares at you, or rolls her eyes or in general makes you uncomfortable, you just have to say one word to him and she's out and she won't be invited back when the new one is born.  But you have to both mean it and be willing to follow through, no matter what tantrum she pulls or what FIL says to you / DH, to try and get you guys to fall back in line, so HE doesn't have to hear it anymore.

Because, you know she can fake it.  You're not asking her to BE a different person, one who likes you.  All you're asking is that she keep up the facade and be civil to you.  If I could get that out of my MIL, I would be happy.