MIL needs to make the peace

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  August 9, 2011 06:00 AM

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My daughter-in law has no respect for me. I am extra kind to her. She does not talk to me. She pretends that I am not in the room. I do not want to make my son mad. I have a real problem with her. She goes out of her way to be nasty. My son says that I am wrong. Many other people notice this.

I have 2 small grandchildren that I love dearly.
Thanks
From: Joan, Sylmar, CA


Dear Joan,

It is never that one person is blameless and it's all the other person's fault. So you need to face up to reality:

Reality #1. These are your (only?) grandchildren. Like it or not, their parents control access to you.

Reality #2. For whatever reason, you and your DIL don't hit it off. If things continue the way they are, I guarantee you will see less and less of your grandkids because no mother wants her kids exposed to hostile relationships between the generations. It doesn't take a crystal ball to see that.

Reality #3. Your son says you are wrong, that his wife isn't nasty to you. What if he's right? What if he's wrong? Does it really matter either way?

Bottom line? If you want to see your grandkids, it's up to you to make the peace, whatever that takes. If you can't stand doing that , it's your decision. Own it.

Readers, am I being harsh? Please weigh in.

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5 comments so far...
  1. I can totally imagine the DIL's side of things:

    Dear Barbara,

    My MIL is a real pill. She thinks I have no respect for her, but she goes around bad-mouthing me to all of her friends. She's constantly trying to give me 'helpful advice' about the kids, much of which is seriously outdated, and gets mad when I don't immediately follow it. She also thinks she's being nice when she offers to take my preschoolers for ice cream at bedtime, etc. It's to the point where I don't talk to her, because I'm afraid I'll say something awful. My husband agrees that she's awful, but we don't know what to do. I want my kids to know their grandmother, but I can't stand to be around her.

    Sincerely,
    Joan's DIL

    Joan, take a good hard look in the mirror, take a deep breath, and TALK to your son and DIL. Tell them that you don't want things to be strained, and ask what you can do to improve things. REALLY listen, and work with them to find a mutually agreeable solution.

    Posted by akmom August 9, 11 06:44 AM
  1. LOVE it akmom!

    Posted by smt August 9, 11 12:40 PM
  1. It's entirely possible that the DIL is unpleasant. Or, it's entirely possible that the MIL is oblivious to her own behavior. Joan, I have an incredibly unpleasant MIL. I'm sure you're not a nightmare like mine, but I do suggest that you make an effort to examine your own behavior to see if maybe you are doing things that you are unaware of that's fueling your DIL's resentment, especially if your son doesn't see his wife's behavior as a problem. Yes, your son's first obligation/loyalty should be to his wife and family, but most men I know are perfectly willing to talk to their wives if they think there's a problem. My husband doesn't dispute that his mother is a very difficult, unpleasant person, but he also will point out if I let my feelings get the best of me and contribute to the problems. So I ask you (and be honest with yourself) to ask yourself these hard questions:

    1.) As a previous poster asked, do you sometimes (or frequently) give your DIL unsolicited "advice" about childrearing or how to live her life? Your advice may be well-intended, but especially if it's a frequent occurs, such "advice" can get tiresome really fast.

    2.) Do you recognize that your Son and DIL are adults who are entitled to make decisions about their lives? My MIL *constantly* meddles. If we don't do things the way she would do things, she then gets huffy and demands an explanation, where none is owed. There are plenty of MILs who are not childish like mine, but who forget the notion that they've raised kids, so now it's time to back off and just be Grandma and let Son and DIL have their turn.

    3.) Do you make unreasonable demands on their time or on holidays? My MIL will hog every holiday weekend if we let her. She gets huffy if we spend any time with mine. It's understandable that grandparents would want to see their grandkids, but I'm sure you remember that it's not easy to juggle families. And you can probably sympathize with the idea that sometimes, a young family just wants some downtime. It's not personal.

    4.) When you visit, are you high-maintanance? Do you expect to be "hosted," or hover constantly? Are you considerate of the family's schedule? Do you complain about what you are served? Do you "announce" visits on short notice without seeing if it's really a good time for visiting? Stories abound about MILs who pull all of this and don't really consider that it creates problems for the families, even if they're not intending to be inconsiderate.

    5.) Are you cognizant of how you sound? Is what you meant to convey what you actually convey? Sometimes, well-meaning comments can come across as criticism...especially if they're a frequent occurrence.

    6.) Do you expect a lot of contact? There are times when my MIL will phone 8 times in a day, and about inconsequential things. I'm a full time graduate student who is also a parent and works. It's nothing personal, but I simply don't have time to talk. I'm close with my own parents, but I only talk to them a few times a week tops. No amount of gentle reminders to my MIL have gotten this across. I'm sure she thinks she's being very nice, but I also think a DIL shouldn't be expected to be her entertainment when she's bored.

    7.) Are you respectful of your Son and DIL's values? Do you make comments about their religious practices (or lack thereof)? Do you undermine their values by giving your grandchildren gifts that they've said that they'd rather their children not have? You may be thinking, "Oh, grandson would LOVE this, and what's the harm?" But if it's not something his parents want him to have, it's not quite the nice gesture you might think.

    Posted by HistoryNerd August 10, 11 12:20 AM
  1. Even though I agree with most of the above postings about MIL's, I do think it's possible that the DIL is just plain rude. My MIL is annoying sometimes too as most can be but I would never treat her that way. I want to tell this DIL to grow up and stop acting like a child ignoring and pretending the MIL is not there. If the tension is that bad I think a sit down is in order asap. Get everything out in the open. I know it's easier said than done but it will only get worse if you don't.

    Posted by m's mom August 10, 11 12:04 PM
  1. Joan, I'm curious -- was your DIL always this way or was it after she had children? If it's the former, maybe you two just never "clicked" and you need to have a conversation about how to make peace for the sake of the kids. If it's the latter, I wonder if you have upset her in some way related to the kids (interfering, for instance).

    Posted by alison August 15, 11 02:10 PM
 
5 comments so far...
  1. I can totally imagine the DIL's side of things:

    Dear Barbara,

    My MIL is a real pill. She thinks I have no respect for her, but she goes around bad-mouthing me to all of her friends. She's constantly trying to give me 'helpful advice' about the kids, much of which is seriously outdated, and gets mad when I don't immediately follow it. She also thinks she's being nice when she offers to take my preschoolers for ice cream at bedtime, etc. It's to the point where I don't talk to her, because I'm afraid I'll say something awful. My husband agrees that she's awful, but we don't know what to do. I want my kids to know their grandmother, but I can't stand to be around her.

    Sincerely,
    Joan's DIL

    Joan, take a good hard look in the mirror, take a deep breath, and TALK to your son and DIL. Tell them that you don't want things to be strained, and ask what you can do to improve things. REALLY listen, and work with them to find a mutually agreeable solution.

    Posted by akmom August 9, 11 06:44 AM
  1. LOVE it akmom!

    Posted by smt August 9, 11 12:40 PM
  1. It's entirely possible that the DIL is unpleasant. Or, it's entirely possible that the MIL is oblivious to her own behavior. Joan, I have an incredibly unpleasant MIL. I'm sure you're not a nightmare like mine, but I do suggest that you make an effort to examine your own behavior to see if maybe you are doing things that you are unaware of that's fueling your DIL's resentment, especially if your son doesn't see his wife's behavior as a problem. Yes, your son's first obligation/loyalty should be to his wife and family, but most men I know are perfectly willing to talk to their wives if they think there's a problem. My husband doesn't dispute that his mother is a very difficult, unpleasant person, but he also will point out if I let my feelings get the best of me and contribute to the problems. So I ask you (and be honest with yourself) to ask yourself these hard questions:

    1.) As a previous poster asked, do you sometimes (or frequently) give your DIL unsolicited "advice" about childrearing or how to live her life? Your advice may be well-intended, but especially if it's a frequent occurs, such "advice" can get tiresome really fast.

    2.) Do you recognize that your Son and DIL are adults who are entitled to make decisions about their lives? My MIL *constantly* meddles. If we don't do things the way she would do things, she then gets huffy and demands an explanation, where none is owed. There are plenty of MILs who are not childish like mine, but who forget the notion that they've raised kids, so now it's time to back off and just be Grandma and let Son and DIL have their turn.

    3.) Do you make unreasonable demands on their time or on holidays? My MIL will hog every holiday weekend if we let her. She gets huffy if we spend any time with mine. It's understandable that grandparents would want to see their grandkids, but I'm sure you remember that it's not easy to juggle families. And you can probably sympathize with the idea that sometimes, a young family just wants some downtime. It's not personal.

    4.) When you visit, are you high-maintanance? Do you expect to be "hosted," or hover constantly? Are you considerate of the family's schedule? Do you complain about what you are served? Do you "announce" visits on short notice without seeing if it's really a good time for visiting? Stories abound about MILs who pull all of this and don't really consider that it creates problems for the families, even if they're not intending to be inconsiderate.

    5.) Are you cognizant of how you sound? Is what you meant to convey what you actually convey? Sometimes, well-meaning comments can come across as criticism...especially if they're a frequent occurrence.

    6.) Do you expect a lot of contact? There are times when my MIL will phone 8 times in a day, and about inconsequential things. I'm a full time graduate student who is also a parent and works. It's nothing personal, but I simply don't have time to talk. I'm close with my own parents, but I only talk to them a few times a week tops. No amount of gentle reminders to my MIL have gotten this across. I'm sure she thinks she's being very nice, but I also think a DIL shouldn't be expected to be her entertainment when she's bored.

    7.) Are you respectful of your Son and DIL's values? Do you make comments about their religious practices (or lack thereof)? Do you undermine their values by giving your grandchildren gifts that they've said that they'd rather their children not have? You may be thinking, "Oh, grandson would LOVE this, and what's the harm?" But if it's not something his parents want him to have, it's not quite the nice gesture you might think.

    Posted by HistoryNerd August 10, 11 12:20 AM
  1. Even though I agree with most of the above postings about MIL's, I do think it's possible that the DIL is just plain rude. My MIL is annoying sometimes too as most can be but I would never treat her that way. I want to tell this DIL to grow up and stop acting like a child ignoring and pretending the MIL is not there. If the tension is that bad I think a sit down is in order asap. Get everything out in the open. I know it's easier said than done but it will only get worse if you don't.

    Posted by m's mom August 10, 11 12:04 PM
  1. Joan, I'm curious -- was your DIL always this way or was it after she had children? If it's the former, maybe you two just never "clicked" and you need to have a conversation about how to make peace for the sake of the kids. If it's the latter, I wonder if you have upset her in some way related to the kids (interfering, for instance).

    Posted by alison August 15, 11 02:10 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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