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Wanting to be a good DIL and include MIL, how to gently set boundaries?

Started by lalanono, January 13, 2016, 05:28:47 pm

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Hi everyone, I'm new here and looking for advice from a MIL perspective. Thanks in advance for reading, it's very long lol. I don't think my my MIL is a bad person and I think (or at least I thought) those feelings are mutual. I'm expecting my first baby which is also the first grandchild on both sides. I would never keep any of the grandparents totally out of my baby's life unless they were hurting her, but there's a difference between just having obligatory monthly grandparent visits and including grandparents regularly. At the present moment I'm not particularly looking forward to MIL being involved and that is NOT how I want it to be. I want to be happy to have her around.

1. She calls the baby growing inside of me "my baby" or "our girl" as if she is the mother rather than a grandmother. She has never referred to the baby as her grandchild, hasn't picked out a grandma name yet, and says she feels weird thinking of herself as a grandmother. The first time she called the baby hers, I told her lightheartedly that her baby is in the kitchen (my DH). Another time when she said she was glad to see a picture of "our baby" I said "I'm glad you enjoyed seeing your grandchild" back, but again in a non confrontational tone so I'm not sure she gets the picture.

2. She touches my belly without asking everytime we see her. I don't mind when most people do this, I know they're just excited. But before my belly was big, MIL told me how annoying/rude it was when people start touching your belly without asking. And then the first time she did it she paused and said, "Sorry I know it's so annoying when people touch like it's not part of your body, but I'm the grandmother so I'm allowed" and then continued touching my belly without waiting for my response. If she thinks it's rude to touch without asking, why doesn't she ask me first? I would said yes. I can't stand the "I'm the grandmother so I will do whatever I want regardless of your feelings" attitude and I fear it will continue when the baby is here. Like, is she going to think she can snatch the baby out of my arms because "she's the grandmother?". I haven't said anything about this because the fact of the matter is I don't mind the touching of the belly, I mind her entitled attitude and it's hard to express that.

3.  Showed us some bibs she got to keep at her house and instead of saying something like, "so I'd love to help babysit sometimes" proclaimed, "so iiii get to have her(the baby) sometimes" in a pushy tone. The former would've been appreciated but the latter makes me not want to ask her to babysit ever. Again it's not that she wants to see the baby, it's the entitled attitude about it. Noone other than DH and myself are entitled to "have" our daughter.

4. Keeps suggesting we name the baby after herself. We haven't asked for name suggestions at all.

5. I figured maybe I am overreacting to these things and even if not, maybe going out of my way to make MIL feel included would help the situation. So I invited her to one of my ultrasounds that DH couldn't make it to. My own mom also came and even offered to drive MIL since they live near eachother. The first thing out of MIL's mouth when we got to the scan was asking my mom if this was the first one she had been too as well (my mom had been to one other but she didn't feel the need to share this with MIL). It's possible she was just making conversation but I get the vibe it was competitive. At the end, MIL rubbed my belly (without asking of course) and said to it, "don't forget I'm the favorite" and then when my mom and I said nothing she said, "haha just kidding there are no favorites". Maybe she was "just kidding", but if my own mom had joked that in front of MIL I would've been like WTH are you thinking, that's rude even in jest. But since it was MIL I didn't say anything. Thankfully when I talked to my mom about it later, she said it didn't bother her she thinks MIL is just insecure.

I know most of these things are not big deals on their own. I think there are two reasons why they get to me so much:

1. Since DH and I started dating MIL has done little things that make me feel excluded. Nothing so mean that I could make a big deal of it, but enough that I feel like she doesn't really think of me as part of her family. I don't think it's against me personally, I think she would do this to any of her son's GF/wives (in fact she does it worse to DH's brother's GF whom she personally dislikes). Before DH and I got married I figured well we aren't married so I'm not technically part of her family so I can't fault her. But even now when we're married she doesn't make me feel included. For example, this Christmas was the first DH and I spent together (first married!). I volunteered to go to his parents' this year. They have a tradition of everyone opening stockings together on Xmas morning. MIL fills everyone's except her own and FIL does hers. She knew weeks ahead of time I was coming and didn't bother to do one for me. Christmas Eve afternoon she told me, "Oh I should've gotten you a stocking...Next year". I can't imagine it just slipped her mind while she was getting stuff to fill her sons' and husbands' stocking to get one for me too (and if that were the case, the stores were still open when she 'realized', she could've went to the dollar store or gas station 5 min down the road).

2. She and FIL seem to want the perks of being grandparents but haven't shown any interest in helping us. I'm due in 11 weeks and her +FIL don't ever ask how I'm feeling, haven't gotten anything for the baby, and haven't inquired what we need at all. I know they aren't obligated to get anything for the baby... but then we aren't obligated to give them special grandparent treatment (you don't get to say she's your baby, we aren't naming her after you, you don't get to demand to have her, etc). It should be noted they are quite well off financially so it's not as if they aren't able. My parents, on the other hand, have been amazing. They've gotten us a crib, changing table, high chair, swing, paid for my unexpected prenatal bills, bring us groceries frequently, and are hosting a shower including DH's side since MIL doesn't want to host one. And they don't act entitled to the baby , just excited for her. Metaphorically speaking it's like my parents are working their butts off asking for nothing whereas my inlaws show up late every day and are demanding a raise ( mostly the moms on both sides). Who do you think I'm feeling more inclined to include?

So I think the reason MIL's attitude of entitlement to the baby bothers me because 1. she didn't and sometimes still doesn't make me feel included in her immediate family so it's hard to want to make her feel included in mine and 2. she hasn't done anything to help or showed concern for me during this pregnancy, and given that my mom has been amazing it's making it really easy to want to include my mom in everything and MIL in the bare minimum. Like "you don't care about me or about helping, you just want my baby, and that's not happening".

That said, I would like to give MIL the benefit of the doubt that she doesn't intend to come across like she is. That what she meant when she said "Iiiii get to have her" is "I would love to help babysit", that when she touches my belly without asking she's doing so because she thinks I don't mind, not because she just doesn't care if she's being rude to me. That when she calls my baby hers, she isn't trying to lay claim to my kid like it's hers, she just feels old saying she has a grandchild. That when she "forgets" to include me in her family stocking tradition, it's not to hurt me, she's just having trouble coming to terms that it will never be just her, FIL, and their sons again. The thing is, even if I give her the benefit of the doubt for these things, it'd be nice if they could stop happening. Pretty sure I will go bonkers if she tries to snatch the baby out of my arms unsolicited like touching my belly without asking.

I think my MIL is a good person (she raised the person I decided to spend my life with afterall!) and is probably scared of being "the other grandmother" and that's why she's been doing and saying some of these things. So MILs, how do I gently (preferably non confrontationally) let her know that if she acts helpful rather than pushy I will be happy to have her around? On the other hand, if she does whatever she wants with the baby despite my wishes "because she's the grandmother" I will hate having her around. That if she wants to be included in all of the fun stuff later, then it would be nice if she could help with the less fun stuff now like my mom is doing. And that all of this would also apply to my mom if it were the other way around. Additionally, in the same way I go out of my way to make her feel included by doing things like inviting her wedding dress shopping, asking her to help pick wedding decorations with my mom and I, and inviting her to the ultrasound, it would be nice if she could do the same for me with things like the stocking. I ask this because if I were in her shoes, I would want to be told rather than have my DIL silently be annoyed and eventually not want me around. She can't change if I don't give her a chance, ya know. And I would like to leave my husband out of this as I try to refrain from saying anything negative about his parents to him.


Welcome, I. We ask all new members to go to our HomePage and under Open Me First, to read the posts placed there for you. Please pay special attention to the Forum Agreement to be sure WWU is a fit. We are a monitored Website.

My take on your situation, (and you will probably get many points of view), comes from having my own being one. To me, your MIL sounds like she is insensitive, competitive and self-absorbed. I doubt she is going to change. If you can find a way to have her be how she is...that may bring you some measure of peace. However, when you find you need to set boundaries, be prepared for war. I doubt she is going to hear anything you say from a position of learning from it and adjusting her approach. I picture people like that as having ear plugs...they have a verbal output but no intake. I know this doesn't sound encouraging but is about her, not you. Hugs!
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


QuoteSince DH and I started dating MIL has done little things that make me feel excluded. Nothing so mean that I could make a big deal of it, but enough that I feel like she doesn't really think of me as part of her family.

I think Luise "hit the nail on the head".  The above statement describes my sister-in-law and father-in-law (luckily my MIL was absolutely wonderful).  After almost 50 years of marriage, I still am "excluded".  And, it has never changed (unless "servant" duties are required - which I do dutifully because I love my husband). 

There is a way of interacting with those who will never never accept us - it is called "the medium chill".  Basically it involves disengaging emotionally and giving neutral responses to what someone does or says. I wish I knew this method of interacting years ago; but it could work for you (try googling for more information if interested).  I suspect your MIL will never change; my FIL and my SIL "hated" me (and those were their words) for .... actually, I don't know why.  I feel your husband may need to be the one to do the "interacting" with his family, especially after the arrival of the new grandchild.  By the way, my FIL and SIL loved our children; it was just me that was "hated".  It is so not about you ..  so sorry ....


My Mother always told me to "Pick your battles".  I really didn't understand what she meant until I got older. 

What I finally understood was that she meant to accept people for who they are, didn't mean giving in to everything that bothered me, but to cut them some slack on the pettier stuff while standing my ground on the bigger things.  A balancing act to have a decent relationship.  Lesson two was that you can't control the other person.  Some people, you can do this with just fine and it works for both of you.  Some people, it doesn't matter what you do, they will do what they want or get upset if you say anything.

So, not picking your post apart, but some of the things you listed, I can see just letting go and chalking it up to no biggie.  The whole calling the baby "hers" or "our"...I'm guilty of...but not because I think my Grandchildren are my children, it just comes out.  They come barreling in my house and I yell, "My Boys!!!!"  I've picked up my Granddaughter and said, "My Girl!" "My Sweet Pea!", etc. I went to ultrasounds with my DIL and would say, "There's our baby!"  I promise, it's no slight against their Mother.  I know she is Mom, I just feel slight ownership in them as MiMi.  :)

The touching your belly thing?  Yes, I did ask DIL and actually she would offer to let me when the babies were moving.  I'm only pointing out that if she has seen it doesn't bother you when others do it, then I'm sure she feels like then it really wouldn't bother you for Grandma to do it. 

Bibs at her house - I buy things and keep them all the time.  It never fails, that something gets left at home when they come for a visit.  Or that way, DIL doesn't have to haul so much (bath stuff, food stuff, pajamas, etc.) I also buy for them as well, so maybe that's the difference in how DIL sees it?  She'll look at me when they come over and say, "Well guess who ran off and left the diaper crème?  Do you have some?"  I'll get it, give it to her if they are going somewhere else and replenish my stash later.  I guess as Grandparents, we just assume that we will the Grandbabies around at times.  I see that one as a two way street.  They get time away from the kids, we get grandkid time.

Now, the others?  Yes, I think you need to set some boundaries.  The baby naming, the comment over the ultrasound, not including you in a tradition that you she does for everyone else...I would nicely say something.  Wait until next Christmas and see if you get a stocking (or the next time you are there for Christmas).  If you don't,  I would get with her and say, "You know I don't have to have anything, but it really hurt my feelings to be left out again."  The baby name?  I would just look at her next time and say, "We have other ideas for names that we want."  Sometimes, you can be very nice about things, sometimes a little firmer is in order.

And when all is said and done, she will either except it or she will not.  That's the thing you can't control.  Kudos to you though for wanting to figure it out with her.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

Green Thumb

Your MIL has some kind of problem, this is not normal or healthy behavior. I am a MIL and have a MIL. I highly suggest you read up on narcissism (a personality disorder) and also the book, Life Code by Dr Phil. I think perhaps your MIL is a narcissist.

A lot will depend on how your husband is towards his mother. If she is a narcissist, he may have been trained to do her bidding or get slammed verbally. Children of narcissists usually do not know what this is or understand it, and may feel the problem is within themselves (the child) because a narcissist makes the other person always the wrong one always the scapegoat. A narcissist is always all about himself or herself and never takes ownership of their own behavior or takes responsibility -- they are just flat out never wrong. So husband may have trouble setting boundaries with his mother and she may try to take over this baby as "hers" - cause she sees it as "hers" not yours, not her grandchild -- just "hers" cause the world revolves around her in her mind. If your son can set boundaries with his mother, you will have an easier time.

If narcissistic is your MIL, I highly suggest you set strong boundaries. You are gonna be seen as the cause of all evil, there will be a lot of conflict when you won't allow her to babysit, take over the baby, etc. So get ready for this backlash, stay strong, and stop trying to please her and stop wanting her to love you. If you breastfeed, she may not like that cause she wants to own this baby and bottlefeed, for example, so she'll interfere and put you down for breastfeeding.

I would also highly suggest you only have hubby and maybe a doula or a good friend in the delivery room. Talk to your husband and be strong about this. If your mom will be helpful in the delivery room and not make this all about herself, then she could be good there.  You two will need to NOT tell MIL that labor has started, he will need to call her AFTER baby is born.

Good luck! I had a former Narc MIL and I have a current Narc MIL and my husband's family is full of them. WHOEEE!!!


GT, I modified your post. If we can figure out what word you's the same as using it. Please reread the Forum Agreement. Thanks.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


I'm not a MIL, but I just wanted to say a couple things from my own experience.

On not involving your husband - it might actually be better to involve him. He 'speaks the language' of his FOO, and I really think spouses should act as ambassadors between their FOO and spouse. He may be able to help you navigate speaking to your MIL in a way she'd understand. Talking to him about it doesn't mean you're dumping on her. Talking things over with my own DH helped me see that a lot of the big issues I have with MIL are way more about her own personal issues than they are about me.

I've found a good litmus test for whether or not something is worth choosing the battle is if it would bother me if my mom did the same thing. Sometimes I find the answer truly is no, it probably wouldn't and then I know it's a knee jerk reaction because of our somewhat strained relationship. And sometimes the answer is oh yes, and I would've given my own mother an earful had she said/done it.

This part may not be super helpful, but I just wanted to share because this was my experience of trying to make someone feel included when they felt insecure or paranoid about being "the other grandmother". Nothing we did or said was ever enough to squash that insecurity. Not one thing. I did things I was uncomfortable with in order for MIL to feel included, and I wholeheartedly regret it. It was like trying to fill a bottomless pit. Don't do things you are not comfortable with, and begin as you mean to go on.


Wow, New Mama, you may not be a MIL, but that was really wise advice  :)

Green Thumb

Yes, New Mama, that was good advice!

Do involve the husband, because it is better if the child of the "problem adult" MIL or Mother does the intervention or talking. It is more powerful for the son to say to his mother, "Where is my wife's stocking?" and it changes the dynamics. If MIL wants to please her son, she'll correct this. If she wants attention and love from her son, she'll correct this.

I think it is perfectly fine to talk to your husband without bashing his mother, using "I messages" like "I was hurt there was not stocking for me." Then listen to what he has to say. Then ask him to do what you want/need. Never make MIL the bad guy, always use your feeling words, hurt, sad, angry, depressed that ---- happened. You might even ask his advice for how to deal with his mother, talk to her, handle her, whatever word you'd like to use,  And sometimes it works well to say a compliment first, and complimenting the husband for the little things he does is a beautiful and easy way to keep your marriage happy. Your goal is to help husband see the MIL's behavior for what it is, and without bashing her. Another tactic I have use is to tell my husband, "I think it is mean how your sister says --- to your brother" or "It hurts my feelings that your parents said you were stupid cause you are really very smart." This tells husband you have his back and you think he is a great guy. Husbands tend to want to be the night in shining armor to their wife.  :-*


There is a wealth of good advice above..... 

Looking back, I experienced some of what you are going through now.  At that time, it overwhelmed me.  But my spouse supported me, spoke up on behalf of me, etc.  And looking back now, I realize my MIL was behaving the only way she knew how to behave.

You have a healthy perspective and attitude in all this.  Continue with that and you will be fine.