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New perspective on DIL

Started by Grieving, March 23, 2013, 08:09:41 am

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A friend who is going through a similar experience with her DIL mentioned yesterday that she thinks our DILs act like they do because we were such good parents--they feel intimidated that they won't measure up. Now, she is a more positive person than I, but it gave me pause to think. I do know when trying to discuss the problem with my son, he has told me that DIL is intimidated by me, and was working on it. He also said he felt like we had been good parents. I have no idea why she should feel that way, and quite frankly,at this point, I don't really care.

However, I thought I would share the idea. I know many embrace the idea of not making sense of senseless, etc. but I have not reached that point. While I understand the concept, I still struggle with the WHY. 


It's a good sign that your DS supports you as well as understanding your DIL. He sounds like a good guy.

Not all DILs fit the same mold or have the same issues, just as MILs are all different. We've heard many stories here, for sure!
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


It's like a damned if you do, and damned if you don't situation.  ::)

Those of us who made mistakes in our parenting time get criticised.
Those of us who were role model parents are intimidating.

I get to hear from my sons every once in a while; oh yeah Mom,..you are sooo perfect.
It's ridiculous, because they are both in their 30's,..but still; I apparently intimidate them.
I have learned to hold my tongue, keep my thoughts to myself, and not communicate with them the way I communicate with my friends. God forbid my sons would ever get unasked suggestions or comments from me. They would turn on me, with daggers in their eyes, screaming silent shut ups in their thoughts.

I have mentioned that I have a good relationship with one of my sons, ..but still, this applies to both of my sons.

As for my DIL, she has never ever asked me for any advice; ..and I am not about to volunteer any. I guess that is why we do have a good relationship. It's a polite relationship, but certainly not a close one.
The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.
            -- Michel de Montaigne


Oops, I did not mean to imply that this was the answer to all problems w/DILs--just that it was a way of viewing it that I had not considered before, even though DS (who is a good guy most of the time.) Even though, DS had mentioned the feeling of intimidation that DIL was dealing with, he did not mention specifics. Dense that I am, I focused more on the hurt that I feel, couldn't figure out why she would be intimidated by me----I am not physically imposing, and am really shy and lack self-confidence for the most part. It never occurred to me that she was intimidated by my(our) parenting.

As I said, just putting it out there as a possibility.


IMO, no two people are the same.  They may exhibit similar traits within certain roles e.g. familial roles, relationship patterns, in their jobs and this may be from learned behaviour or they may be taking anothers lead or may be struggling within a 'role' or with boundaries.  I try to think of people as individuals.  That is just my humble observations.  It might not be right for you, but if it helps, good, if not, never mind.  It can be a struggle trying to figure people out.  Sometimes if I am struggling with it I just approach the person and ask them out for coffee.  This may not work for you.  Just my experiences.  I wish you the best. xo


Sometimes the senseless makes a whole lotta sense when you come at it from a different perspective.  I know some GP feel put upon because the AC/SIL/DIL call only when they need a babysitter.  GP feel used.  However, for some GP, babysitting is the Holy Grail of grandparenting.  If your AC think you are one of those GP, then you can understand why they call only when they need a sitter - they think they are giving you a treat.  Giving financial help to AC can be double-edged sword.  Even if the AC need the money, it can still be a blow to their ego not to be financially independent.  So they take the money, but instead of being grateful, they are resentful.  You might think they should just turn down the money, but that's easier said than done (think of being on a diet and knowing "all" you have to do is eat less and exercise more).  Or say you have a houseguest - AC/MIL/FIL/SIL/DIL/DM/DF/friend.  You may think you are being a gracious host by turning down offers of help.  However, you houseguest may think you don't trust their cleaning/cooking/yardwork skills.    It's like one of those pictures that can be two different things - is it two faces in profile or a vase?  Is it an old woman or a young girl?  If you can't change your perspective, you think anyone claiming it's a vase when CLEARLY it is two faces is insane.  A lot of time and energy can be lost arguing when in fact, both sides are right.  What's the answer?  I dunno. 

More particular to the OP, our own perceptions of ourselves usually is very different from other peoples'.  I remember moving to a new city and starting a new job.  I was literally crying every night after work because things weren't going too smoothly.  Imagine my surprise when someone told me a mutual friend admired me because I had it all together and was never ruffled.  You may not think you're an intimidating individual, but you don't know what someone else finds intimidating.  Good luck.


I think that our DIL or SILs opinion of us says a lot more about them than us.  I have 2 DILs and one of them hates me, the other loves me - even after sharing a home with me for 2 months.  I have offered the same respect and assistance to both of them but have been rewarded in two very different ways. 

Some people are are good natured and respectful and others are naturally hostile and have to find fault. 


Me too Kate.  One loves me...the other hates me.  I think I shall, from now on, refer to them as "Ying" and "Yang" :)
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Too funny Pooh!

I am very tempted to follow suit.


This is directed to Free Spirit . . .

I posted elsewhere that I never had a good relationship with my mother.  I was born in Alabama - what a big mistake!  I never fit in and always wanted out - was encouraged by my grandfather to get out of the south as soon as I could.  I was blessed to be born with a high IQ, lots of natural talents, and a lot of "spirit" or "spunk".  My mother was sometimes an embarrassment to me - she was uneducated, born to poor sharecroppers and never went past the 6th grade.  She worked at a menial job all of her life - two or three if necessary - as my father had a hard time holding a job. She had dreams for me - she lived vicariously through me - and when my life didn't go the way she wanted, she didn't handle it well.  I was supposed to always be there near her - to be her best friend and keep her company.

She passed away in 2007.  Now that the daily friction is gone, I can see her in an entirely different light.  What I see now, is that she was a strong woman that did the best that she could to survive and raise me.  She was a lot of fun sometimes.  Now that I'm traveling so much, I find myself thinking, "my mom would have loved this or that . . ."  I now understand that a lot of her limitations were based on her lack of self-esteem.  In truth, she was a talented woman and could have been so much more.  She was the only child that made it out of the dirt of Alabama farms and into the city with a respectable job, a nice house, new clothes, and a good car.  Her sisters continued to sweep dirt yards in front of their run-down houses, didn't work, and had no life to speak of.  So the fact that she took herself out of that life and worked her way into a lower-middle class status says a LOT about her.  The problem was that she valued things over everything else, growing up with nothing.  She worked all the time to buy the things that she wanted and the things that she thought I wanted and thought that buying me things was a way to love me.  I'd rather have had her time with me. 

I was lucky to be able to be with her the last month of her life.  I moved to take care of her as I had promised her that she'd never go to a nursing home, as my grandmother and father had.  We managed to make peace with each other.

But the point I was going to make is this . . . I had those feelings that you describe coming from your kids.  Don't tell me what to do, I'm smarter than you are, I know more than you know.  I HATED it when she tried to give me any kind of advice.  It got to the point where I wouldn't tell her if I was having any kind of problem because instead of listening, she'd always try to "fix it" and that's not what I wanted.  But I never lost the gratefulness towards my mother for what she did for me.  I always stayed in touch, sent her cards and gifts, etc.  It wasn't what she wanted - she wanted me living near her - not 2,000 miles away. 

I find myself still wanting to fix things for my sons - but I've learned to just listen to them when they choose to tell me their problems.  If they ask for advice, I ask them questions before offering any . . . let them think things through on their own. 

My mother wasn't intimidating to me - but I'm sure I am a bit intimidating to my sons.  I am a former Woman Marine, ran my own company, bravely moved out of two bad relationships and made a life on my own, travel full time (with a friend) in an RV even though I am disabled from my time in the Marines.  And I know I am intimidating to my daughter-in-law.

It's so hard to just let go and let them fail on their own and pick themselves back up.  I wish my mother had let me do that more - I would have learned more at an early age and not have suffered so much as an adult!  And it's hard not to think, "Listen to me - learn from me so you don't have to suffer!"  But they don't learn that way - they only learn from making their own mistakes.

Hang in there!!


Quote from: Grieving on March 23, 2013, 08:09:41 am
A friend who is going through a similar experience with her DIL mentioned yesterday that she thinks our DILs act like they do because we were such good parents--they feel intimidated that they won't measure up. Now, she is a more positive person than I, but it gave me pause to think. I do know when trying to discuss the problem with my son, he has told me that DIL is intimidated by me, and was working on it. He also said he felt like we had been good parents. I have no idea why she should feel that way, and quite frankly,at this point, I don't really care.

However, I thought I would share the idea. I know many embrace the idea of not making sense of senseless, etc. but I have not reached that point. While I understand the concept, I still struggle with the WHY.

As a DIL, I can relate that I wanted to measure up and felt intimidated.  It's by nature a difficult relationship and believe me it is painful from this side too.  As a DIL I was much more sensitive to my MIL than anyone else.  I'm a MIL too, and I find myself bristling at little things my DIL does that aren't great.  As a mother we want what is best for our kids so it's easy to judge the negatives more harshly than we do with others.  So here you have a DIL who wants to measure up and a MIL who is naturally going to judge the DIL more harshly.  I suppose we both need to put each other in each other's shoes and have a little understanding.  Be patient with your DIL if you can.


I will tell you guys about the conversation DIL and I had a week before she left that actually does relate to what you are talking about.  She was washing clothes and the washer started thumping loudly.  I was in the kitchen and ran to the laundry room thinking that the load was just off balance or something.  I stopped it and opened the lid and oh wow, there was so many clothes stuffed in there it would have made 3 loads.  She had to have stuffed them in and pushed them down to get them all in there.  The problem was, she had overfilled it so much that it caused the inside piece that spins (tells you how technical I am) to thump around and hit the top of the washer, splitting the plastic in two on one side.

Ok, so I knew she didn't wash clothes like I did.  I never said anything before, because honestly, I had never seen her put that many clothes in at once.  Now granted, she would normally do laundry while I was at work, but on the few occasions I had seen her, I would internally cringe because she didn't seperate clothes.  Whites, red, towels, etc. went in the same loads.  I never said a word, because frankly, they were her clothes and I figured someday, when she ended up with pink bras and undies, she'd figure it out.

So she came in about the time I figured out what had happened, because she heard the thumping all the way upstairs and said, "What's wrong with the washer?"  I was admittedly annoyed because honestly, it's an expensive washer and dryer set.  I said, "Well, there are so many clothes stuffed in it, it caused it to bang the top and tear the plastic".  I grabbed the laundry basket and was trying to unload wet clothes and she was just kind of standing there and said, "So is it broke?"  I told her I didn't know yet that I would have to get enough of them out to try and restart it to see what it would do.  So I did, and when I restarted it, it started thumping again.  Ended up, it had bent up the metel basket under the plastic and was hitting the top of the washer.  I stopped it and said, "We'll have to wait until DH gets home and see if he can bend it back."

She took off running up the stairs, in tears.  Ok, I will admit that annoyed me even worse because I'm thinking, "You tore my washer up and you're crying?"   So DH gets home in about an hour, I tell him, he's annoyed even more and he works on it.  He gets it bend back down and just says, "It seems to be working now."  DIL had not come back down, so I went up, knocked on the door and told her she could use it again.  She just said, "Ok" and didn't come down the rest of the night. 

So the next day after work, she was sitting on the couch when I got home.  I waited a bit and then said, "So you want to talk about why you wouldn't come back down last night?  Were you scared we were mad?"  She nodded and said something that shocked me.  She said, "I always feel like I can't live up to you guys.  You have such high standards".

I couldn't believe what she said.  Me?  High standards?  Ok, personally, I don't think I have high standards compared to what I think high standards are.  So I asked her what she meant by "high standards".  She went on to explain that growing up, her family didn't keep the house this clean.  That she could leave clothes on the floor, towels on the bathroom floor, dishes in the sink, laundry not done for a week and things like that.  She said, "We weren't dirty, but we were messy and would get to it eventually.  The last year here, I've tried to do things your way since it's your house."  That floored me.  She was upset and apparently felt at times so out of place, simply because she wasn't used to someone that loaded the dishwasher or did dishes as soon as dinner was over.  Now I am no clean freak, but I don't throw clothes on the floor, I clean the kitchen after cooking, don't let laundry and mail pile up...etc.  But at any given time, my floor needs mopped.  But in her world, we had high standards simply because we keep a neat house.  She said there had been several times that she told me that she would do the dishes and then I would do them.  I told her yes, but that's because I would come in from work the next day, and they were still there.  She said, "I was going to get to them".  I told her that I didn't like dishes to sit there and the food stains to cake up and set in, plus bacteria.  She explained that every time I did that, she knew I was disappointed in her and she wasn't living up to my standards.  She said she's watched me sit down, write out all my bills for the month, with a date on the envelope to when it should be mailed and think, "Geesh, I can't do that.  I'm lucky to remember when I pay my bills."  (Most of the time, she's scrambling at the last minute to send or phone in her payment before it's late).  She also said that she watched me and DH go do what we wanted to do, buy what we wanted, go out to eat if we wanted and she wasn't use to people having that kind of money.

We ended up talking for about an hour about that kind of thing and I said, "You do understand that when I was your age, it was paycheck to paycheck?  That's it's taken DH and I many years to get to where we make enough money to be comfortable?  Yes, I do like the house orderly and I don't leave dishes in the sink for days, that would drive me bonkers, but I am also neater now that I am older and you figure out that if you do it then, it doesn't pile up?" 

We had never given her any rules or told her the house had to stay neat.  She figured it out by watching how we lived and tried to mimic it.  In her world, it was very hard on her because she had never been around people that kept a neat house and such.  She had never been around people that could just up and go, "let's go do this today" because her family never had money.  So for her, we have high standards.  She also remarked that we were big on morals and ethics, right and wrong and that her family wasn't that way.  She said they didn't have any goals or ambitions and just kind of flew by the seat of their pants.  So that was another thing that made her feel that we had high standards and she was trying to live up to them. 

So even though I don't think I have high standards, from her viewpoint, I do.  And if you were brought up in households that operated that way, then I guess it would feel like I had high standards.  I reassurred her that I'm sure it had been hard for her to come into a different environment than she was used to and feel that way.  I told her that we were two different people and there would always be things we did differently.  Different, not wrong.  We did get back around to the washing machine and I explained that although I didn't do laundry the same way as her, there were some things you just couldn't do without tearing things up.  She nodded and said that she was sorry.  She said she didn't think and was trying to get everything washed up so she could start packing. 

So now that I wrote a novel.....the bottom line is that your DIL may feel intimidated simply because of the a different lifestyle, different standards and just plain old different ways of doing things.  I never realized that my DIL was intimidated by me and it wasn't anything I did to her personally, it was just our differences that made her feel that way.  She was trying to live by my "standards" and not what she was used to, so for her, that was intimidating and made her feel like I was seeing her as a failure. 
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


 :) MollyM,  thanks for your wise  post. It certainly confirmed that I'm on the right track by keeping mum. 

My mother was pretty amazing. She hardly ever gave any advice. She was wonderful to vent to. She listened; sympathised, - but kept her mouth shut. I never had that natural talent.  I'm sure this was one huge reason why I loved my mother so much.
The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.
            -- Michel de Montaigne


Pooh, it sounds like you were really patient with your DIL and I admire how you dealt with the situation with the washing machine with her.  You asked and listened to what she had to say and how she felt, while still expecting her to take care of things in your home. It's great that you were able to see that it was hard for her too.  It changes things when they live with you because it is your home and you need people to have respect for your home and the way you do things and not ruin your washer, etc.  If they had not been living with you it would be easy just to conclude that it's not your business how DIL keeps her home or how full she fills the washer and it wouldn't be a source of conflict. 
I know you felt bummed when they moved out, even though you were happy for them.  It is how it should be. 


Thank you confused.  It is how it should be and I take comfort in knowing that they both say when he's done with the military, they would like to move back to this area.  Not next to me...Lol, just the area.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell