My MIL is driving me crazy...help!!(64 Posts)
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?!!
Your Mil isn't the problem, your DH's passiveness is.
Standing up to her was probably a shock to her but a very good move on your part. Better to set the boundaries early on.
'Massages with hot water to straighten his legs' would worry me.
I am generally of the opinion that GPs want the best for their DGCs and wouldn't harm them but I think this would make me terrified to let my DS out of my sight when she's around.
Has your DH commented?
but she is his Grandmother, and my DH's mum so I can't just cut her off.
Yeah, you can.
Your husband needs to grow up, however, and prioritise his family over his mother.
Various people are accredited with the phrase "when I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my revolver". They meant culture in the sense of opera and theatre, of course, but these days it seems apposite towards mother-in-laws raising the "in my culture" card.
When she apologies, as she must if she wants to be around you and ds, then lay down the ground rules very clearly. This is your time to lay out exactly what role you feel she has, how she must respect ur role as his mother etc.
Make a list, discuss with ur dh and have to hand when she gets in contact.
Has she only just found out his name at 5 weeks?
What Holiday said, I would also add in a very clear line from you, that whilst you respect her culture, it is not your culture and you will not have anything imposed upon your child that you are not comfortable with. Cruelty and ignorance is far too often dressed up behind cultural traditions so you really need to lay down the law.
Sorry, 12 weeks, how come she didn't know his name sooner?
I agree with holidaysarenice
I think it must be part cultural differences and part her character. It won't have helped any that her children never stood up to her or challenged her opinions and she's stormed off as it probably came as a shock.
Domineering people do often back down though when they're shown that they can't just railroad everyone.
Be firm, but don't lose your cool and let her know that you and DH will be bringing up your family the way you see fit and that's all there is to it.
Holy shit. She would give your baby hot baths?? !!!
I'm sorry but this is shocking. She wants to abuse your child?? Wtf next? Goes to granny for a sleepover when 10 & is excorcised or something for being cheeky?
Being from a different culture or nationality does not excuse dangerous behaviour towards babies & children.
If you read any pages about sling use etc. they all show how babies legs are a bit froggy/ bowlegged & should be supported like that for natural development.
Do not let that woman have unsupervised access to your child. Ever.
If she can not be polite & respect you she should not be around you.
You need to make sure your husband does not have any of these crazy/ dangerous ideas.
Don't leave her alone with your son, you can't trust her and your dh won't stand up for your son so you can't trust him to help your son if she starts pulling and applying hot water to his legs.
She sounds almost manic, is she always like this or is it since ds came along and she isn't the main Mother anymore, do you think?
Either way she can't be trusted with your son and your dh needs to face up to his issues about his Mother because he needs to back you up here.
At the very least make sure she is never alone with your DS.
Pulling at his legs like that could seriously damage him and hot baths WTF.
What does your DH think/say about trying to 'correct' your DS?
Also worth considering whether she might try to circumcise him given half a chance. It depends on the tradition in her culture, but if your dh is and you don't want your son to be I wouldn't leave him alone with her. She sounds dangerous.
Restrict her visits and make sure she is never alone with your child. Ever.
She knew his name straight away. The tradition in their culture is to have a middle name that corresponds with the day he was born, so we have given that name and also my grandfather's name, so he has 2 middle names, already excessive in my view but she apparently feels that we should have consulted her before we named him and she should have chosen a third middle name. Why she feels it's acceptable to kick off about it 12 weeks later is beyond me!
DH is quite a passive character and I think he just wants to try and keep the peace but I have told him that he must tell her that she can never disrespect us like that ever again, but whether he actually does that is another matter. I'm really scared that if he doesn't stand up to her and she keeps behaving like this our relationship won't last. I will never allow her to babysit my DS as I'm just too scared of what she might do. My DH used to get beaten by her as a child so what if she feels she can do that to my DS? It's such a sad situation to be in.
cees she's always been like this. I personally think she's got mental health issues.
This sounds a nightmare.I think you should carry on standing up to her.This is your child,dont let anyone do anything you arent happy with.Sounds like she wants to be in charge of...EVERYTHING
And I thought MY MIL was bad! No way would I ever leave my baby with this woman. Your DH may/ may not be able to stand up to her, his upbringing will be working against him in this, however, you CAN do so and really need him not to undermine you at the very least. Obviously, in an ideal world he would be speaking to her and laying down the law but you can do that yourself providing he backs you up, even if only by keeping out of it. Good luck
OP what is your relationship with your own mother like?
Just wondering if you get on ok with your mum whether it might be worth having her over next time MIL is over to maybe stick up for you. It might keep your MIL in check. And also remind her that your DS has TWO families not just her side. Just a thought.
Being a mum sometimes means protecting your child from other people, sometimes those people are family.
In your shoes I would be extremely harsh with her, I would be very concerned about my child's safety in her care & there is no way on earth i would leave the child alone with her. She has a long road back to re-gaining your trust, until then.....keep her at arms length.
You don't need your DH to stand up to her because you can do it on your own...it's better if he does too, but you don't need to count on him.
I was beaten as a child by my mother. My children have never met her.
My sister initially took a different road & even let our mother babysit her 1st child. Needless to say, it didn't end well & my mother no longer has contact with any of her grand children.
So based on my experience, I would say prepare for the worst. If she beat your DH, she is likely to beat your child too because that is how she 'loves'. It's quite common with narcisstic personality types.
Does your DH seriously think it is acceptable to sit back and watch his son being hurt? If he chooses not to speak up for himself then that's his choice, but bloody nora he ought to be speaking up for his son - that's his job as a father.
I would have very serious reservations about continuing a relationship with someone who was prepared to stand back and let someone actively try and hurt their baby, just because they are family.
It's not your MIL you need to be harsh with - it's your DH. I really don't get this mentality that family trumps all. Family is nothing more than a blood relationship. It is essentially meaningless unless we choose to make something more of that tie. You wouldn't volunteer to spend time with someone you didn't like, so why put up with it just because you are related?
Did your husband want his son naming as per his culture?
If so, fine.
His mum sounds dangerous tbh.
"Fix his legs"????!!
WTAF is that all about.
As for your husband...
His mum used to beat him & it sounds as if she is already looking for reasons to start on your son.
Luckily I have a really good relationship with my Mum and she's amazing, all she wants to do is play with my son and love him like a GP should. Unfortunately though, my parents live in France so we don't see them as often as we'd like. My mum is totally on my side though and I think she would definitely say something but I sincerely doubt my MIL would say anything whilst my parents were there, especially as now she knows I'm going to stand up for myself.
I'm still waiting for DH to say something to her, I felt like he was making excuses for her last night so now I'm worried that he's not going to say or do anything....I'm trying to make him understand that if he does nothing he may end up on his own....is that really harsh?! I just feel like if I can't rely on him to have my back, and protect his son then I can't be with him. I love him more than anything but my DS comes first.
"I'm trying to make him understand that if he does nothing he may end up on his own....is that really harsh?!"
I don't think so tbh.
If your husband wants to do nothing & take it whilst his mum dishes it out he can, as an adult, choose that, although my respect for him would rapidly diminish!
When it comes to your son, who cannot defend himself, you should both be on side.
What if for some reason you aren't there & he gets browbeaten into her taking your son out for a couple of hrs?
Just remember that while you are together you will have control of whether your MIL sees your DS unsupervised.
If you leave your DH, what he does during his access time will be none of your business so your MIL may have far greater access to your DS.
Oh, and lots of people may come on to post about how in African culture people probably try to defer to older people more,
Laming Report into the death of Victoria Climbie, paragraph 6.300: "(Social worker) believed there can often be a sense of formality in the relationship between parent and child in Afro-Caribbean families “because respect and obedience are very important features on the Afro-Caribbean family script”."
That worked out well for everyone involved, didn't it?
Fucking distasteful post. What point are you making, exactly?
That assuming behaviour, that would otherwise be worrying, is part of a cultural script is not a safe assumption. I fail to see why that's "fucking distasteful". There's similar language in the SCR for Kyra Ishak, too.
I would absolutely keep her away from him. Can you get your Health Visitor involved? Maybe get your health visitor to come round when your MIL is over next.
Well why quote my post as a preface to it, that was making no such claim?
My entire point tot eh OP was that she should ignore any suggestion this behaviour was culturally mandated and therefore to be tolerated.
And this isn't an 'Afro-Caribbean' family.
Your mil needs to be told that her culture does not override yours. So although it might be the norm in her culture for the mil to choose part of the baby's name, it is not the norm in yours, so she had better get used to the fact that not everything is going to go her way.
And yes, you can stop contact with someone who would cause harm to your child. To do otherwise would be a disservice to your baby. She wouldn't be going anywhere near mine if she was my mil.
Well done for shouting back at her - she sounds like a bully and this has already had an impact on your dh and sil. The sooner she learns it won't work with you, the better!
My entire point tot eh OP was that she should ignore any suggestion this behaviour was culturally mandated
Indeed. Which I was, I thought, re-inforcing. Sorry for any misunderstanding.
I'm so angry!!
So not only has dh spoken to his mum and just acted like normal and not said anything, when I told him that I'm going to go to some baby massage classes he told me I am a hypocrite!!!!!!! Like he doesn't see what the big deal is. He claims she didn't mean that she'd massage him to straighten his legs but that is exactly what she meant, that was what the whole argument was about. And apparently she meant warm water, even though she said hot. He's sticking up for her and making excuses for her and really doesn't seem to understand why I feel it's so important to speak to her. I don't feel he respects my opinion at all!
Then you are going to have to take control of this and not allow her any unsupervised ( by you, not h) contact.
Continue to stand up for yourself and remind her, when she next tells you what you should be doing with your baby, that she's had her time to parent and now needs to
stfu step back because now is your time.
Keep working on your h - it will take time to undo her influence. But it can be done. Be wary of leaving him because you won't be able to control what happens in your absence.
Sorry it didn't go well
I agree with Lousie of that's your DH attitude then I wouldn't trust him alone with his mother and DS. Make sure that your DS is only in her company when your around.
If your DH is going to be so weak take your MIL to task yourself be firm if she continues with her suggestions and attitude towards you (screaming and shouting are an absolute no no) then she will be banned from your house and very limited in her contact with your DS.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I agree with that.
No idea why our earlier posts were deleted, by the way.
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.
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.
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.
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