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Sorry, it's a MIL issue, but I don't know how to cope with my feelings...

(82 Posts)
ToffeeWhirl Sun 01-Sep-13 11:05:23

I have ruminated over this for months. I know some people on MN have terrible MILs and that's why I haven't felt able to post for advice, because I know I'm lucky really. But I could do with some advice.

I have known my MIL for over 20 years and we have always had an amicable relationship, even though we are completely different. To give you a taste of what she's like - she reads the Daily Mail and believes wives should give up work and look after their children. She thinks divorce is always traumatic for the children and pities me because I am a child of divorced parents. She talks inane nonsense and never listens to anyone else, including her DS. She is very judgemental about anyone who doesn't conform to her limited view of how people should be. She is very needy and tries to win her grandchildren's continued love with an excess of junk food. Anyhow, after a stint in hospital a couple of years ago, when she was 83, she came to us and I looked after her for 10 weeks whilst she convalesced. I may have had to sneak off to the kitchen for a slurp of wine to get me through this now and again, but we both stayed friendly, and the house benefited from the extra housework I did to get away from her.

After her illness and convalescence, she moved nearer to us and now lives five minutes away. This means we can look after her and she can see lots of the grandchildren. She is very generous with babysitting and money and I know we are lucky in that respect.

But now I find myself struggling. She is making me really, really angry and I don't know how to remain civil with her. DS1 has SNs and things have been difficult with him over the past few months. I know this has made me less patient with MIL than usual, as I can't listen to her wittering on about trivial things when I'm so worried about DS. She thrives on stories of death and illness, so she is always telling us about the latest death at her sheltered housing, or relishing the details of somebody's struggle with cancer. She does it under the guise of concern, but she loves it. It's like a hobby for her. If she goes to the GP, it is always a big event. I find this particularly difficult to cope with because several people in my family have had/are coping with cancer. In fact, I think I have just said goodbye to one for the last time sad.

I also don't like the way she criticises everyone. When she left her previous home, she was glad to get away from several so-called friends that she didn't like. Well, surprise! - now she has more friends that she doesn't like confused. She complains about them all the time - how they take money from her, ring her up too much, get her to care for them (which she does because she is just so caring hmm) and so on. I have introduced her to my friends and she usually has a few cutting things to say about them too, which hurts me. And now, after a couple of Christmases with my Mum here too, she has started on her. She doesn't approve of her, apparently. Well, I love my Mum, so I take exception to that in particular.

Oh, and we have recently asked her to stop bringing junk food for the DC. I knew this would be an issue for her, but I was fed up with it. She complains, now, that the DC can't have 'anything'.

And, I know this is irrational, but the gene that has caused my DS's SNs (he has TS/OCD) comes from her and I feel so angry with her for that. I can't justify it because I know that's mad of me, but it's just how I feel.

Unfortunately, my irritation must be showing because last week DH told me that she was in a terrible state after her last visit, saying that she couldn't bear it if I banned her from seeing her grandchildren. WTF? I have never, ever threatened such a thing and wouldn't dream of it. I'm not sure if she is showing early signs of dementia or is being manipulative.

I have to see her today. I now have so much pent-up anger towards her that I don't know how to be civil. How do I get over this?

ToffeeWhirl Wed 04-Sep-13 23:09:36

Lavender - funnily enough, disappearing into the kitchen to cook Christmas lunch is the way I survive. I can't drink until the meal is on the table or it all goes horribly wrong wink.

Pilgit - MIL has been obsessed with death and illness since I first met her (in her 60s). It's like a hobby for her. However, I am on the lookout for dementia, especially as MIL does say some odd things sometimes. The funniest thing was when she suggested that I wouldn't ever be able to put my Balinese cat into a cattery because all the other cats would think it was a bit 'la-di-da' grin. Still, she's always been a bit daft, so it's difficult to tell.

lotsofcheese Thu 05-Sep-13 08:48:25

Toffee, I can only sympathise; my MIL sounds very similar to yours. She has the capacity to talk endlessly about herself & people I've never met before, had a Daily Mail/1950's housewife mentality & is incredibly judgemental/critical of others (with rarely a kind word to say). I have never encountered anyone so lacking in empathy or compassion & with such little spirit of generosity. And she's only mid-60's.

Right, now I've got that off my chest, I can share some thoughts on dealing with her. For me, the only way to go was less contact, as I was feeling so resentful & angry. I decided to stop feeling that way. And realised I had a choice about that.

The final straw had been DS being practically ignored on Xmas morning - aged 4, he was bottom of the priority list & didn't get to open any presents till after midday. For me, that was a turning point.

Challenging her on some of the crap she comes out with, while making me feel a bit better, didn't really achieve anything as her mindset is too closed-down to be open to different perspectives.

Don't apologise for your feelings - you clearly have 20 years of built up frustration!!!

ToffeeWhirl Thu 05-Sep-13 09:33:26

lotsofcheese - yes, your MIL does sound very similar. I'm sorry she is only in her mid-60s wink. That is so sad about your DS being ignored on Xmas morning. In that respect, my MIL is the opposite: she dotes on both her grandsons and it tends to be us who get ignored in favour of them, which I am perfectly happy with.

You are right that challenging the crap is pointless. In my MIL's case, it will only upset her and probably lead to more of the 'she's going to take my GC away from me' hysteria.

MIL is coming round today for her fortnightly post-haircut cup of tea. Last time, she arrived 20 minutes early and the hairdresser hadn't even opened, so she turned up at our door. We were still in our dressing gowns and half asleep, as it was the summer holidays! This morning, I am planning to take DS1 out for his CBT exposure practice session at a cafe, but, thanks to MIL's visit, I need to fit it in between the hairdresser opening (so that I know she is safely there) and her calling round afterwards (anytime after 10.30). So DS1 and I will have to rush back for her <grumble, grumble>. Then I will need to be a good DIL and listen to her until she goes home again <puts head in hands>.

Yes, you're right - it is 20 years+ frustration coming out here!

LisaMed Thu 05-Sep-13 09:42:17

Re phone calls - I have gone twice through Plants v Zombies computer game while making listening noises. In my case an uncle. When my mother was in last stages I played computer battle ships for around 59 minutes steady (phone deal was free calls up to an hour) every day. I have also done an online grocery orders (tidied up afterwards), but I can't mumsnet as I 'mmm, really' inappropriately. hth

ToffeeWhirl Thu 05-Sep-13 11:55:59

That's really funny, Lisa. So many useful coping strategies on this thread, and it makes me feel better knowing I'm not the only one coping with these feelings. Doing an online grocery shop whilst listening is skilled stuff - not sure I'm quite at that level yet grin.

MIL has just gone. Things feel a bit better between us. I made her a cup of tea, then sat and listened politely to her news. She went away happy.

And DS1 coped with his anxieties in the cafe and stayed for the full hour, so he did very well too.

EldritchCleavage Thu 05-Sep-13 11:58:29

Phrases for your notebook:

-Fascinating
-And how do you feel about that? [for use only when you have perfected the art of not listening to the answer]
-Well, there we are
-Gosh, it's all so complicated/difficult these days, isn't it?

My English Grandmother adored my father (once she'd got over her disgraceful reluctance to have a black son-in-law that is, not that anyone was ever allowed to bring that up). She had no idea that the entire relationship was based on the fact he honestly never listened to a word she said. He had a special MIL auto-pilot mode that enabled him to read, watch telly and even to doze while saying 'Hmmn' and 'Oh' and 'Really' periodically. We used to snigger away watching him do it. But as far as GM was concerned, he was hanging on her every word, and was a God to her as a result.

ToffeeWhirl Thu 05-Sep-13 12:17:44

Those are good phrases, Eldritch. Wish I could emulate your father. What a clever man.

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