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My MIL is driving me crazy...help!!

(64 Posts)
mrsbun81 Mon 21-Oct-13 13:17:42

My DS is 12 weeks old, I'm English and my DH is of African origin. Since the day he was born my MIL has been antagonising me with comments about my DS, ranging from saying I'm not feeding him properly, not winding him, he has bowlegs which she 'will fix' to telling me that he will cry when he goes to nursery because I don't let anyone hold him (entirely not true!), we must pull his fingers out of his mouth when he tries to suck them, we mustn't let him do this and that.
Yesterday she came for Sunday lunch and started shouting at my DH because apparently we have given him the wrong name - we should have consulted her first and let her choose his name as this is the tradition in her culture! Then she took my DS and put him face down over her knee and started to pull his legs and say she would fix them. After I'd taken my DS away from her she asked me who in my family has bowlegs, I told her that he is absolutely fine and normal, she then proceeded to scream and shout at me saying that she would like to give him massages with hot water to straighten his legs but she hasn't because she knows that my DH and I are 'the wrong character'. I finally snapped and told her that he is my son and that she has no right to fiddle with his legs, nor to shout at me in my own home. My DH and his sister never speak back to her, they just let her scream and shout and say nothing so I don't think she was expecting me to tell her off so she stormed out of the house.
Frankly, I never want her to set foot n my house again and I'm really concerned about what she's going to try to do to my son next, but she is his Grandmother, and my DH's mum so I can't just cut her off.
What should I do?!!

TheBigJessie Wed 23-Oct-13 13:09:33

friday Absiolutely. But even if itisto do with her traditions, that doesn't mean that it's OK. A good test is "would I accept this behaviour from anyone else?" If the answer is "no", then it's not "being respectful of other traditions and cultures" it's "the racism of low expectations". This is why our society has tied itself in knots while failing to deliver effective child protection over issues like forced marriage and genital mutilation: by starting from the position that certain behaviours are acceptable if they are "traditional", we end up giving children (particularly girls) born into those traditions a lower standard of protection than we would give them if they were white.

This is one of the best posts on MN. The racism dressed up as being "understanding of different cultures" is something that really bothers me, and your post is the clearest explanation of why it is racism that I've seen yet.

Reprint Wed 23-Oct-13 12:51:48

I think the problem you face OP is not really to do with MIL's attitude to massage but with your DH conditioning.
He has grown up with a "domineering and bullying" mother and has learned at her knee that he crosses her at his peril. That is why you have noticed that he doesn't stand up to her.
And this is the problem you need to address.

I think you are going to have to fight fire with fire, or you will always be secondary to his mothers wishes.
Its a sad consequence of domineering parenting.

friday16 Wed 23-Oct-13 12:38:24

No idea why our earlier posts were deleted, by the way.

Indeed, more bizarrely, our little spat wasn't deleted, but your original and completely uncontentious posting was. Most odd.

EldritchCleavage Wed 23-Oct-13 12:26:23

I agree with that.

No idea why our earlier posts were deleted, by the way.

friday16 Wed 23-Oct-13 12:01:05

Please don't assume this has anything to do with MIL's traditions.

Absiolutely. But even if it is to do with her traditions, that doesn't mean that it's OK. A good test is "would I accept this behaviour from anyone else?" If the answer is "no", then it's not "being respectful of other traditions and cultures" it's "the racism of low expectations". This is why our society has tied itself in knots while failing to deliver effective child protection over issues like forced marriage and genital mutilation: by starting from the position that certain behaviours are acceptable if they are "traditional", we end up giving children (particularly girls) born into those traditions a lower standard of protection than we would give them if they were white.

mrsbun81 Wed 23-Oct-13 11:48:36

I give DS massages and so does h but we are talking about a completely different scenario. Baby massages are really beneficial for mother/father and baby but when you start talking about using it to correct bowlegs it becomes a totally different thing. I want to go to a baby massage class not just for the massage but also to socialise and h and I have talked about me doing that before all this happened.
I think it's less to do with tradition/culture and more to do with MIL being ignorant and also feeling like she can take control of how we bring up our child.

EldritchCleavage Wed 23-Oct-13 11:41:07

Please don't assume this has anything to do with MIL's traditions. It is much more likely to do with MIL being an overbearing character. Plenty of Englishmen have mothers like this, and cave in like this: it's all over Mumsnet.

2rebecca Wed 23-Oct-13 11:39:08

Her traditions don't over ride your parenting practices.
I must admit if my MIL had wacky beliefs about massaging babies to straighten their legs I'd be giving all baby massages a wide birth not booking into a different type of massage so I think you didn't help yourself there.
Did you not discuss these sort of issues before marrying and having a baby with someone with different traditions?
A friend of mine married an African woman and she had all sorts of odd traditions re the baby and her not leaving the house for weeks after the birth etc. All this was discussed in advance though so when the baby came everyone knew what would be happening, plus a mothers birthing traditions usually take priority over a father's as most birth traditions involve her more.
The straightening legs sounds potentioally dangerous as babies have softer bones than adults.
I would be limiting how much I see her and continuing to make it clear that no-one shouts at you. Your husband also needs to accept he has married someone who doesn't have African traditions and if the marriage is to last he needs to prioritise you.

friday16 Wed 23-Oct-13 11:12:10

So your husband is more concerned about his mother's views on your child than on yours? Hmm. You need to deal with that right now, because otherwise it will only get worse. And the problem is your husband, not your mother-in-law.

mrsbun81 Wed 23-Oct-13 11:08:34

Yes witchy - she seems to believe that he needs to be corrected and doesn't understand that all babies are bowlegged, despite me telling her that a few times, actually that seemed to be the reason she lost the plot and started shouting at me - because I was telling her that she was wrong. She's a very overpowering and domineering bully.

mrsbun81 Wed 23-Oct-13 10:57:28

I've told him that she will never be left alone with him and also that I'm not happy to see her until she's apologised to me but he's acting like I'm being really silly and ott and he's starting to get angry with me about it rather than being understanding.

diddl Wed 23-Oct-13 10:50:29

Perhaps what is needed now though is for you/him to speak to her at the time.

If you say something, will he back you up or at least not contradict you?

How does he feel about visits by her to you being VERY limited for the time being-and he can go see her when he wants.

Without your baby as he can't be trusted to keep him safe from her!

mrsbun81 Wed 23-Oct-13 10:42:58

diddl it'll be me doing the massage in a class.
eldrich you are totally right that the main problem is how confrontational and rude she has been to me and I think what hurts most is that DH didn't stick up for me and tell her that she has no right to speak to me like that. The massage thing is never going to happen and I will never trust her enough to leave DS with her because of what she's said and also what he's told me about his upbringing, I can deal with that. It's DH's lack of support and that he now seems to be actually siding with her that I can't handle!

Your child is 12 weeks old, right? Your MIL is talking about 'straightening' his legs (by whatever method she thinks is right), right?

Could it be that a 12 week old baby has what appears to be bow-legs but it is just the legs that were curled up under him in the womb learning, at their own rate of time, to straighten up all by themselves??? All babies legs take a while to straighten up by themselves which is why babies learn to crawl at different times (they have their knees under them at different times) and they learn to walk at different times (the muscles and bones in the legs are able to support their weight). Every child is different and every child straightens up at a different time in their development.

As for taking your child to a massage class, can you show your DH what type of massage you would be doing in that class and how it would differ from the type of massage that his mother would be doing? Are there any videos on Youtube you could show him so that he could understand more about what you are planning on doing and inform him rather than just saying the word 'massage' as it would have different meanings in different countries (grasping at straws here but there may be something lost in translation here)

Good luck with it all.

thursdaysgirls Wed 23-Oct-13 10:14:05

Yes, yes you can cut her off.

Do not ever leave her alone with your child.

Sounds like she has some severe mental health problems.

As for DH not standing up to her, he needs to defend his child.

EldritchCleavage Wed 23-Oct-13 10:10:38

Episode I do, and have PM'ed the OP.

Bit hard to ask the MIL what she means when she has been so confrontational. I think the message that she cannot treat the OP like that has to be sent before OP starts being conciliatory and asks her what she intends. Otherwise, it will be taken as OP deferring to MIL about her DS in a way the OP is not happy with.

Episode Wed 23-Oct-13 10:07:34

Are there any African posters or even Asian posters who could give an alternative voice.

I understand why a massage to straighten his legs sounds dangerous, but in reality it’s one of those things that's tantamount to an old wives tail.

African is not one homogenous culture but of the 6 or so African cultures that I know quite well, they massage for anything and everything! To flatten the head, to curve the head, to straighten legs, to lengthen bits and bobs!

It doesn’t work.

BUT it is harmless!

Perhaps a middle ground would be to ask her to show you what she means. Then of course you could stop her if anything got uncomfortable for you.

I think you'll find that whatever technique she is using will be similar to what you have been taught in the baby massage class. In fact, these cultures are where a lot of the massage therapies originate from.

Hot water to me sounds like she means after a bath as that’s when I have seen most baby massages take place.

If you want to be crafty, ask her to do it before sleep time and the worst that will happen is you'll get the best nights sleep in your childs life!

Reading your OP and reading the posts following, this does sound like something that been hugely read differently because of culture. I'm not saying do not stand strong as mum but I do think that it would be a mistake to alienate a unit which could be of huge support to you over the years.

My OH's grandma is Indian and we had all sorts of hocus pocus rituals done to the children. No harm was done and there was a lot of it I found stupid quite frankly but I picked my battles wisely and still do!

LouiseAderyn Wed 23-Oct-13 10:02:46

I am not at all a believer in sweeping things under the carpet and being quiet so it all blows over. I think she will walk all over you, if you let her and you cannot rely on your h at this point to defend you and reel her back in, if she oversteps the mark.

I think it is more important than ever to stand your ground.

If it helps to know, I had issues with my ils when I had my first baby. They very much wanted to take over - would follow me upstairs when I was bf, would turn up without asking and sit in my house all day, monopolising my newborn etc. In the end I had to tell them to back off and give me some space. Luckily I had a dp who supported me and understood. But if he had not, I would still have stood my ground because if I didn't they would have sucked a lot of the joy out of those early months.

It is a lot better now. Boundaries have been set and respected.

Also dh and I argued a fair bit in the early days of parenthood. It took s while for him to make the transition between being his parents child ( and therefore doing what they wanted) and being a grown man whose primary responsibility was to be a good husband to me. We were quite young parents and it took him a while to grow up!

It does get better though, if you stand up for yourself and don't allow the ils to turn you into a child.

CookieLady Wed 23-Oct-13 09:50:31

I'd like to point out that your husband has has years and years of being conditioned into believing that he has to respect his mother. Thus, it will be difficult for him to stand up to her.

You need to be firm and reiterate that mil will not be allowed to massage your baby nor babysit. You may even need to spell it out to your dh that if he is willing to compromise your baby's safety and wellbeing then he has left you with no option but to reassess your marriage.

diddl Wed 23-Oct-13 09:44:25

Yes I know that, but for some reason, all your husbands is hearing is that you both want the baby to have a massage-so I can see why he's annoyed by that.

Would you be doing it yourself or a professional doing it?

And it must be hard to him to think that his mum would hurt her GC-even if she did beat him!

I'd forget the massage for the moment tbh.

But calling you a hypocrite-nasty imo.

mrsbun81 Wed 23-Oct-13 09:40:06

diddl it's not that I have a problem with the massage, its that she said she'd use massage to straighten his legs which is entirely different and dangerous which is what I have the problem with.
I think my parents feel it would be better to just brush it under the carpet to keep the peace....maybe they are right but I'm seething and I just can't help feeling really disappointed and let down by DH.

EldritchCleavage Wed 23-Oct-13 09:33:37

Oh dear, sorry to hear that.

All you can do is calmly stand your ground. And ignore your parents: DH has to take sides because his mother is kicking off and making weird demands, not because you are being in any way unreasonable. Often the way: everyone expects the younger woman to just cave and toe the line to keep everyone else happy. But why should you? And how are are your DS's best interests served by that?

diddl Wed 23-Oct-13 09:30:04

He shouldn't have to take sides-it should be obvious that you & the baby come first.

Why are your parents saying to leave it?

Although I can see his point a bit if you blew up about massage, but want to take the baby yourself.

mrsbun81 Wed 23-Oct-13 09:08:04

I've been very vocal about wanting DS to know all about his Dad's side, in fact, it was me who initiated the African middle name, and made sure it came before the other middle name, I was trying to be as respectful as possible as I feel it's it's really important he knows his heritage. I really feel like I'm fighting a losing battle. Even my own parents are telling me to let it go now and saying that I'm putting DH in a really difficult situation by making him take sides but I feel so strongly about this and think he should be being more supportive of me. If he doesn't take a stand then I feel it will undermine me when I'm trying to stand up for myself.

ballstoit Wed 23-Oct-13 08:57:54

You're right to be angry.

Wish I had some more constructive advice, but hold on to that anger and use it to keep your son safe. The early months are often difficult, as parents try to negotiate how their own family life will be. I remember with ex-h feeling it was a his v. my family battle. We are both white British, so don't assume all difficulties are caused by the differing ethnic backgrounds.

Are there elements of DH's culture which you can show you are using with your son? To show him that it's the specifics of mils behaviour which you disagree with, rather than him feeling you are attacking him and his culture?

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