Author Topic: MIL visiting...Help!  (Read 3206 times)

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Offline lady T

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MIL visiting...Help!
« on: December 30, 2013, 05:24:57 AM »
Please allow me to give a little background on my family:

DH and I have been married for eight years, together for 10. We’re both in our mid 30’s and have four children (ages 6, 4, 2, and 9 months). My MIL is 75 and is from Argentina and as lived there her entire life. I’m only mentioning her place of origin bc our differences may be slightly cultural. I’m American btw. Despite our differences, I truly believe that my MIL appreciates the fact that I’m a good wife to her DS, and good mom to her GKs. Here’s the problem:

Whenever my MIL comes to visits I feel strongly that there is an unspoken competition between her and I, and I hate it! When she visits it seems that she wants to compete with everything to cleaning the house, the kids, & DH. It’s to the point that I really don’t like her visits.

I first noticed her behavior when DH and I were dating. He invited me over one evening to cook dinner for him. I was so excited; this was the first time cooking for my BF. When I arrived at his apartment, I noticed that I needed more food. He and I walked to the store, and when we returned, my MIL was in the kitchen pealing the potatoes I left on the counter. She took the chicken out the bag and began seasoning it. I told her that I didn’t need any help but she insisted. I was so disappointed bc I had been looking forward to cooking all day, and didn’t expect MIL to highjack my meal.

A month after we married, DH and I threw our first house warming party, another first that I was excited about. MIL asked if I needed any help, I told her no thank you, but she stood behind me in the kitchen anyway. I gave her the dishes to set the table (just to get her out the kitchen); she set it, and came back 3 minutes later. She asked if I needed anything else, when I said no, she folded her arms and stood there with an angry look on her face. DH tried to get her to leave the kitchen, by inviting her on the balcony to see our fantastic view, but she said she don’t want to leave the kitchen. After dinner, she got up and began serving our guest the desert. After everyone finished eating, I got up from the table to wash the dishes; she got up too, then snatched the dishes out of my hand and proceeded to wash them herself.

After our fist child was born, I noticed more competition. Whenever I danced with DS she would dance with him. Whenever I sang him a lullaby, she would sing a lullaby. When I was holding him, she would even walk up to me, take him out of my arms, and then walk away without saying a word. One day, after an episode of competition, I decided to take baby into the bedroom to get away from her. This infuriated her!! I won’t do that anymore, bc I really don’t want to be one of those moms who takes here kids away from there GM… She is a good GM. Plus; I don’t want to stoop to her level. Last time she came to visit, I would just leave the room when I noticed her competing. But, I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to do either.

I can go on and on with examples of why I think she’s competing with me. But the point is, I’d really like some advice on how to handle the situation. I fear that if I talked to her she would only deny that she’s competing.  What should I do?

Offline Stilllearning

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2013, 06:00:42 AM »
Honestly I can so see how this might happen and I really understand how much it must make you resent your MIL's presence.  I am so sorry that this has happened to you.

The very essence pf competition requires two sides and you are in complete control of one side.....

Have you ever thought of making yourself into a cheering squad?  Before she comes ask her if she wants to prepare meals and what groceries she wants you to buy.  When she is with your children complement her on how well she handles them. She is, after all, copying you and that is the highest form of flattery!!  Enjoy the break and remember that for her it is a visit and she wants to make the most of it.  She can never take your place in your children's hearts or your DH's , well, you know!

My MIL used to constantly ask what she could do to help and it does get really tiring!  It made me feel inadequate because I was not doing things every minute.  I was tired just from thinking of things she could do!  Now she has dementia....you have no idea how much I miss that woman!! 
Your mind is a garden your thoughts are the seeds
You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.
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Offline Pooh

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2013, 06:02:17 AM »
Welcome Lady T.  When you get a moment, please read the posts under "Open Me First".  They contain the forum rules and how we flow around here.  Nothing wrong with your post, we just ask all new members to do this.

Well, you definitely have your hands full.  First, I love that you see her good qualities.  That speaks highly of your character to be able to see the good in her while having to deal with the bad.

I know it's not easy at all having an MIL that seems to want to take over things and compete.  One of the things I learned was you can only have a competition if there is more than one player.  Meaning, although you are not doing anything to be competitive, she is and by you seeing it as a competition, you are competing.  That probably didn't make sense, but if you can look at maybe a different way, it might help ease your anxieties.  Instead of looking at it as a competition, look at it as she sees you as such a good Mother and Wife that she wants to mimic your behaviors? 

How long are her visits and how often?  Is there a way you can look at it as a vacation for yourself?  Let her cook, clean, etc. and give yourself a break?  I know you want to make things special sometimes, but with 4 kids, I'd be all, "Oh you want to cook and wash dishes?  Ok, I appreciate it.  I can take a break then.  Thanks!"

I know the older I get, the more I am learning to try and shift my way of thinking about things.  Is she annoying when she does stuff like that?  You betcha.  But once I figure out that's how they are, and I know they also have good qualities, my only way of feeling better about a visit or such is to change my way of dealing with it.  She's not going to change.  (And I'm not saying let her run over you, just pick your battles with those that really make a difference.)
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

Offline luise.volta

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2013, 07:00:38 AM »
Welcome, T.- I honestly don't know what I would do in your circumstances. I'm afraid I would close the door and not allow a guest to take over my home and family, related or not. What does DH say? I agree with the others that MIL probably isn't going to change for the better. Conversely, she could easily get worse, if thwarted. Boundaries are often hard to set and even harder to maintain. Not setting boundaries can make things worse if MIL uses that to extend her authority in your home. Since she isn't in charge and seems to have to be...she may just keep expanding her attempts at control, if you don't take a stand. I think what this requires is a variety of maturity I'm not familiar with or capable of. My take is that she is not respecting you or your choices. What happens, when your child gets older and she disagrees with your parenting? You and DH are adults...you are establishing your own home and family unit and you get to make up the rules...just like MIL did when she established hers. I gotta' say anyone who snatched my baby from my arms would never get a second chance. I don't see that as competition...I see it as untenable. Just saying...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Offline confusedbyinlaws

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2013, 10:35:10 AM »
I had similar issues with my inlaws taking over when they visited and it wasn't ok with me.  Just because she is your husband's mother doesn't mean you have to allow her to behave in a way you wouldn't tolerate from other guests in your own home.   In my opinion if a guest asks you if you need help and you don't want help and say no, they should respect that.   If she doesn't perhaps you could explain to her that the meal you are preparing is a gift from you that you wanted to give your husband or guests and that by taking over she is taking that opportunity away from you.  I also think it's important for your husband to back you up on this.  I am not saying you have to engage in the competition with her, but it's your home and you are allowed to do things your own way in your own home.  It probably is more about her wanting to feel important rather than her feeling like you aren't doing it well enough, but it's still ok to expect her not to take over in your home.  It's great that you respect her and see good qualities in her but that doesn't mean you can't ask her to show some respect for you and your home.  I'm 30 years into and after 30 years I'm done!

Offline confusedbyinlaws

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2013, 10:47:53 AM »
I made the mistake of thinking that just because my inlaws were my husband's parents that I had to let them do whatever they wanted since my husband didn't object.  They were happy with me being that way but I wasn't.  I am just beginning to learn a little late in life that I don't have to be that way, and if someone else doesn't like it, so be it.

Offline Pen

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2013, 12:02:26 PM »
What Pooh said!  :)

I would hope I am secure enough in my own skills and talents as a wife and mother that an occasional visit from someone who wants to "help" doesn't send me into competition mode. There's no competition if only one person is participating in the contest.

Good grief, it's a once in awhile visit, not every day of the year! Reschedule that special dinner w/DH - you've got the rest of your lives together. Appreciate her "help," praise her efforts, and try not to let her hear your sigh of relief when she leaves :)
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Offline lady T

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2013, 12:54:13 PM »
thanks for the responses & questions!

1. MIL comes to the U.S. twice a year. She stays with us for two weeks. She plans to move here within a couple of years and live with her other DS and his wife. They live one hour away from us.

2. My husband is very supportive of me. In fact, I haven't even had to complain to him. He defends me all by himself. For example, the night I wanted to cook for him, not only was I excited, he was too. He told me it was his first time having a GF cook for him. When he saw his mom cooking the food, he sighed and said "mom what are you doing"?!

She's backed off a lot with the cooking (mostly bc she saw that DH was getting annoyed) but she still tries to compete in other areas. DH told me she just wants to feel "needed". With all due respect, I don't "need" her. I'm a very domestic person and pretty good at taking care of the home, kids, & the cooking. Like someone else mentioned, she is my husband mom, so I don't want to disrespect her. I'm still learning that fine art of demanding respect (but not being rude).

TBH, I'm a little upset bc I have the feeling my MIL thinks its my job to give her a sense of meaning and purpose when she comes to visit. In an effort to include her, I do invite her along with me a few times each visit (to the mall, park, or the kids school). In order for her to spend time with DS & GKs alone, I even leave the house to have some "me" time. I just don't think I do it as much as she would like.

I also tried complementing her. Last visit, she took it upon herself to do some yardwork. I think she was picking dead leaves off the trees in the backyard. Even though DH & I thought the project was pretty meaningless, I thanked her & told her that she made our yard look so much better! I think she liked that I acknowledged her. I'll do that again next visit. Hopefully, it will help her to lighten up some. She visits next week so we'll see.

Offline Stilllearning

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2013, 05:16:39 PM »
Oh wow!!  That means you always have a task she can help you with!  "Gee, MIL, I have this covered but the trees outside have lots of dead leaves I need to pick.  Thank you so much for your help!"  LOL
Your mind is a garden your thoughts are the seeds
You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.
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Offline confusedbyinlaws

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2013, 06:06:15 PM »
Lady T.  It isn't your job to give your MIL a sense of meaning and purpose and it's all right to politely refuse her help if you don't want it.  In my case it wasn't about not wanting my inlaw's help but it was about not wanting them to take over and they did so without even asking.  It sounds like your MIL does much the same.  If you cave on the things that are important to you, she will continue the same behavior and you may dread her visits.  This could be more of a problem as she moves closer.  My inlaws visited a few times a year until they moved close and hen they tstill had the same expectations.  I can tell you it's hard to change the rules so far into the relationship.  It's ok to stand firm on the things that matter to you.  I wish I had.  It doesn't mean you have to be mean about it... just firm.  I wonder how my MIL or your MIL or any other MIL would feel if we took over their kitchens and meals when we visited them.  I disagree with anyone who says you should just put up with it.  It's nice for someone to offer to help, but when you say no you don't want their help and they try to help anyway they are no longer doing it for you but to you.   It might make your MIL happy but it's not going to make you happy and ultimately it could destroy your relationship.  Would you want your DIL to just put up with you or would you want her to be honest about how she feels and what bothers her?   I would prefer the later.  Don't feel guilty about saying no to her.   That being said, finding ways for her to help that won't offend you like the yard work or whatever and complimenting her on that, could be a good way to handle her.  I am glad your husband is supportive, but  just sighing and saying what are you doing and then letting her do it anyway is just telling her he doesn't like it but he's going to let her do it anyway.   Apparently like with my inlaws, telling them you don't like it doesn't do the trick.... you have to say no.

Offline DixieDarling

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2013, 07:10:23 PM »
Even tho your MIL may not know it? She has a dandy in you! A sweet caring DIL that would never dream of hurting her and is trying hard not to.
I don't know how it will all work out? But I hope it will be with you feeling proud and happy. You deserve that. I can't help but think your husband loves you even more for your tender kindness.
I hope the visit is as pleasant as possible. Let us know.

Offline lady T

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2013, 07:36:35 AM »
Thanks for everyones great advice! I'm sure the visit will go well. I like that point that Pooh made about how a compeition can only exist with one person. I'm going to drill that into my head...


I'll let you guys know how it turns out. Happy new year!

Funny thing:
I asked my DH this morning is he excited about his DM visiting next week. He replied "I haven't really had a chance to think about it, but I guess so", then he continued eating his cereal... I think I'll stop stressing and relax like him.

Offline DixieDarling

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2013, 08:06:21 AM »
That is funny lady T. About your hubby. Sometimes I think men are so easy to make happy.

Offline Pooh

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2014, 06:01:48 AM »
I would like to point out something on the "need" thing.  Sure, you don't need her help.  You have it all covered and do a great job at it.  Her wanting to feel needed isn't a reflection on your abilities.

I learned this the hard way in a male-female relationship.  I in no way, shape or form "need" a man to take care of me.  I have always been a very capable, independent woman who can work, take care of the house, including yard work, etc.  What I found out about myself over the years was in knowing that I didn't "need" anyone, I made the other person feel horrible.  It had nothing to do with the fact that I couldn't do it all myself, but I was telling the other person that they were not needed....therefore not wanted (in their head).

It's not something I did on purpose but I did it.  People need to feel needed.  One of the things that makes my current marriage so great is that I "allow" him to feel needed.   Yes, that sounds bad of me, but it's truly what I do because I have to fight my own independent nature to let him do things for me.

I think your approach with the yard work she did was great.  It allowed her to feel needed even if you didn't need her to do what she did.  That may be the trick with her.  Give her a mundane task to do that you don't care if she does.  But also don't forget to let her do some stuff she likes to?  One of my favorite things I got to do the last two weeks was give GS baths.  DIL didn't need me to give him one.  She's capable.  But she allowed me to and it was a great bonding time for me and GS.  I hope she saw that as a break for her as well.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

Offline luise.volta

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Re: MIL visiting...Help!
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2014, 11:29:37 AM »
P - Good point on the 'need' thing. I am fiercely independent, too...I am prone to turn down offer of help and to never ask. Am learning that those near and dear are really enjoying my attempts to change that at least a little. They never complained...they are just vocal, now, about how nice it is for them.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama