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MIL providing childcare after mat leave - am I right to be worried? Pls help!

(103 Posts)
WestCountryBoil Mon 30-Sep-13 10:00:17

Hello. I'm a long-term MN fan but this is my first ever thread (just joined) so apologies if I do anything unmumsnetty. This is pretty long, so that's my first apology!

Before DS (6 months) was born, I had an excellent relationship with my PIL. I always felt loved and supported by them, and was really looking forward to watching them blossom into fantastic GPs. I have never ever had a cross word with my MIL and have always looked up to her, so when she offered (while I was pregnant) to look after our future DC for 2 days a week when I returned to work, DH and I were delighted to accept. I felt so privileged that she would offer, as I fully understand what a favour it is. (DS will be in nursery for 2 days a week also.)

However, then DS was born. I'm sure some of you who have had similar experiences can see which way this is going...but I didn't and got a massive shock. So: while my PIL are still the lovely, warm, funny, smart people they always were, they are completely obsessed with our DS and seem to think, probably unconsciously, that this is their time again and they will do it better than us. Fair enough, they are first-time GPs. I get that. But this attitude is making them (ok, I'm really sad to say mostly my beloved MIL) behave in ways that I am finding hard to deal with, and consequently I'm really worried about next year.

These ways include never once asking me ANYTHING in six months ie how I am (and DS was born by EMCS and nearly died), what I've been doing etc (we see them at least once a week - I always ask about their week and general lives), walking off with DS without a word and leaving me on my own, making pointed comments to DS like, "When I'M looking after you, you'll be eating PROPER FOOD and using the TOILET" (he'll be 12m!)...I know it all sounds so stupidly petty when I write it out, and I honestly wouldn't be here asking for your advice if all these things (and a 100 more, equally minor) happened alongside a general attitude of "But of course this is your DS and your turn and we're just here to love and support you." That attitude is completely absent and instead there is just an overwhelming feeling of itching to get their hands on DS and do things their (her) way. I don't feel respected or supported at all. DH feels this too but less sharply and is less bothered, so is happy for the 2 days a week to stand - I guess because it's his mum/parents it's easier for him.

Now when I look back I realise I have misread MIL's excitement (and she is one of those people who is completely gaga about babies anyway) ever since we told them I was pregnant - she has most definitely been excited for herself first (because she always hoped she would have a baby to look after) and us second. I feel like an irritating irrelevance and the family incubator.

So I have a big knot in my stomach when I think about next year. On one hand, I think I have to put our son first and learn to laugh off/manage the situation (tricky - DH's family don't talk directly about anything and I have spent ten years being uber-polite and respectful, a habit that is proving very hard to break), as he will indeed have a lovely time with her 2 days a week (I genuinely believe this.) And on the other, I think: how can I hand our son over to someone who, however subtly, acts like she is in direct competition with me? Shouldn't you have a very clear-cut, "I'm (we're) the boss and we can talk about anything at any point" relationship with the person/people looking after your child? But then of course, this is free GP care we're talking about, not a nursery...and should I really be causing a massive ruction for the sake of a principal? Am I just being self-righteous?!

I've been worrying about this for ages (months) and just don't know what to do, so any advice (however blunt!) is welcome.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 30-Sep-13 10:07:08

Get your DC(s) into paid childcare and do it on the basis that you're grateful for her help in the past but that two kids are too much of an imposition... you're doing her a favour. Then don't be persuaded otherwise. Having relatives doing unpaid work only ever comes off if you can either a) not sweat the small stuff or b) be assertive.

WestCountryBoil Mon 30-Sep-13 10:38:35

Thanks...that's what I've been suspecting. (Only 1 DC if that makes a difference.)

Squitten Mon 30-Sep-13 10:44:39

Sounds like a giant horror waiting to happen.

Agree with Cog - get thee to a childminder pronto!

TheSeaPriestess Mon 30-Sep-13 10:46:41

Well you've got three options really.
1 - start setting ground rules now. Correct her when she says daft things about potty training etc (at 12 months ha!), either with humour or a hard stare.
2 - find alternative childcare or maybe limit to one day/afternoon
3 - let them carry on as they are.

You are your baby's mum and therefore have the final say. I would recommend doing either 1 or 2.

Before pfb arrived, PIL believed they'd be looking after him when I went back to work, because GMIL had had DH and SIL when they were small. They also expected to be paid market rates hmm which had certainly not been the arrangement with GMIL!

They were slightly sideswiped when we said he'd be going to nursery instead. My logic was that we wanted to make sure it was a setting we could absolutely control which wouldn't be affected by anyone else's availability or sickness (they didn't see that their being away for months at a time would cause us any problems) and where we could have a completely professional relationship particularly if large sums of money were changing hands.

Later, when I took on more hours at work, DH arranged for PIL to have DS the extra day for a few weeks to save us money. This was finalised before anyone thought to speak to me about it and I would never have agreed to it otherwise. They just dragged him along to whatever they were planning that day (usually three or four supermarkets in succession) and didn't fit in meals or sleeps at suitable times, nor take him to the groups he was used to which we had already paid for in advance. It made him very hard to manage on the night and morning immediately following "their" day.

I recognise as you do that it's a huge favour to provide free childcare - in our area it would be worth hundreds of pounds a month. But that doesn't mean it's the best solution.

Of course in the case of the OP it's not so much the childcare aspect as the annexing of your pfb. It is absolutely rude to reject all the parents' plans and child-rearing ethos. They had their turn - is DH completely perfect wink? It's reasonable to have a certain number of rules that apply in different places (e.g. you can run in the house at granny's but not at home, pudding is always fruit at granny's but sometimes ice cream at home) but when it comes to major decisions like discipline or potty training you absolutely have to be consistent in all settings.

Is DH just going along with it for a quiet life, or does he actually understand your reservations? Does he just say "Oh that's just Mum" all the time, or does he recognise that she's overstepping?

Good luck OP.

IslaValargeone Mon 30-Sep-13 11:04:09

What cog said.

DoItTooJulia Mon 30-Sep-13 11:11:13

I would start having trial days to see how it goes.

Also view some childminders and nurseries too. That way, you are properly armed with all of the options open to you.

If you decide that formal childcare is the way you are going to go, just tell mil that it's better this way, not too confusing like a coupe of days here and a couple of days there.

Good luck!

WestCountryBoil Mon 30-Sep-13 11:17:56

HorryIsUpduffed DH swings back and forth between getting annoyed with his parents (esp mum) and getting annoyed with me for being being annoyed. He seems to feel really torn, although always says that of course we are his family now and he would never forget that.

We don't have this situation with my parents because I have always been a bit too sharp direct with them and they are being excellent at being lovely and supportive and respectful. But he's never had that sort of relationship with his own parents, and I think would do anything to avoid a confrontation (although says he will have it if we need to).

You have come from a family where this type of familial dysfunction (and believe me his parents are dysfunctional) is completely unknown so it is very hard to get your head around. This is about power and control at its heart. Your DH, having had a lifetime of such conditioning, knows no different. Not really surprised to see that he is happy with the current 2 days a week arrangement but I would also feel very uneasy indeed about this. You seen (and infact are) very much as the afterthought to them.

You cannot just laugh this off, it will not work and it will make you feel even worse.

They've been parents once, it's your turn now and what you say ultimately goes. MIL's pointed comments will be taken on board by your son as well, she could well say to him something along the lines of, "nasty/mean mummy won't let you have xyz. You can eat this here" (the subtext being I know how to look after you and your mummy does not).

Not all grandparents are kind and loving I am sorry to say.

Both you and DH need to raise your boundaries a lot bloody higher than they have been to date. You were right, you completely misread their intentions but you have come from a family yourself which is emotionally healthy, Dh's parents are not emotionally healthy.

You have a massive problem on your hands in the shape of his parents and your H. His parents will take over completely if you let them do this.
You need alternative childcare now, he needs a childminder and not these people looking after him. If they are too difficult for you to deal with, they are certainly too difficult for your child.

I would suggest you read "Toxic Inlaws" written by Susan Forward, there are excerpts online.

WestCountryBoil Mon 30-Sep-13 11:22:13

You are all saying the things I have been thinking. But I have been tying myself in knots trying to work out if my wounded fury shock and hurt at being elbowed aside in the race for DS/GS is clouding my judgement.

Can I ask a stupid question - putting the current situation aside, would DS (would any child) be ultimately better off with two days with their GM and two days at nursery, rather than 4 days at nursery? Or does it really not matter providing the nursery is excellent enough? No insult meant to anyone using nurseries FT.

Re your comment to Horry:-
"DH swings back and forth between getting annoyed with his parents (esp mum) and getting annoyed with me for being being annoyed. He seems to feel really torn, although always says that of course we are his family now and he would never forget that".

Not at all unusual and he is torn. What he needs to realise though that his primary loyalty is now to you and not them. He probably at heart would like you all to get along so that he can have a quiet life but that is not going to happen. He is also part of the problem here and he can no longer act out of self preservation. He needs to stand up for his family far more than he has had to do to date. The problem you also have is that he has had a lifetime of such conditioning and as such he may well be never fully able to stand up to them. Therefore you will need to.

EldritchCleavage Mon 30-Sep-13 11:26:11

I agree with going for paid childcare.
Oh, and stand up for yourself now, immediately. This does not mean being angry or confrontational, just firm and clear.

You have to be the boss where your child is concerned, not your MIL. Be friends by all means, but the parenting decisions, key ones, day-to-day ones, are yours. If MIL isn't able to acknowledge that, then the free childcare is going to cause more problems than it solves.

There are so many threads on here where women have no status in their own families-dismissed by parents and/or in-laws, running around after children and expected by partners to put everyone's else's feelings first. It is horrible, please avoid being that woman.

IslaValargeone Mon 30-Sep-13 11:26:15

I would never have left my dc in the care of her gps two days a week.
They are pleasant enough on the surface, but quite dysfunctional and I only have to look at my dh and his siblings to see how it has trickled down. There would no way I would continue the cycle.

IslaValargeone Mon 30-Sep-13 11:26:30

*would be

"Can I ask a stupid question - putting the current situation aside, would DS (would any child) be ultimately better off with two days with their GM and two days at nursery, rather than 4 days at nursery? Or does it really not matter providing the nursery is excellent enough? No insult meant to anyone using nurseries".

Only if both the grandparents are emotionally healthy and everyone involved knew and respected boundaries. Discussions have to be continually carried out.

In your case though, its a complete non starter.

Chunderella Mon 30-Sep-13 11:31:47

WestCountry that depends totally on the grandparents, the childcare and of course the child. There are no absolutes.

So DH is aware there is a conflict?

To be honest, as soon as there's a conflict it isn't going to work. It doesn't matter who's right: it just isn't going to work.

Paid childcare definitely. I know GPs are free and we should all appreciate them (and I did) but you have to be completely confident about leaving your children wherever it may be. And if you're not then, unless you're desperately skint, the money for professional childcare would be worth it.

MysterySpots Mon 30-Sep-13 11:39:39

If this is what she is like now, imagine what she will be like when she has control of your child two days a week? You also need to take into account that they are getting older and IME people become less reasonable as they get older as well as becoming physically less capable of looking after small children. I don't think it us going to be any better for your DC to be with their GP two days and nursery two days than nursery four days if it is going to cause conflict and quit different methods of child rearing in the two environments . Proper food? How dare she? And don't apologise for your decision. You sound like a very nice person but it is time to our your needs and what is best for your child first. Tell them what you are doing and d

Miserably Mon 30-Sep-13 11:42:16

What kind of childcare would you prefer? When you let them know you've decided on nursery or whatever, you could try explaining it in a positive way (good for dc to be around other kids, reliable in case of sickness or whatever). The bottom line is it will suit you better. You could also perhaps say you have come to feel like it would be too big a commitment to put on your PIL and you can't see any way you'd be comfortable with it, so as it stands your mind is made up. Let it be the start of the new, assertive you. If she mentions making him "proper" food for example, would you be able to say something like "I hope you're not saying I'm a rubbish cook!". Acknowledge the comments you're unhappy with, even if its just asking "what do you mean?"

MysterySpots Mon 30-Sep-13 11:42:47

Oops ... and don't enter into a discussion about it. If GPs start bossing me around I just say 'oh thanks for that suggestion but I am doing this'. It really floors them because you have politely acknowledged their 'suggestion' but batted it away.

MysterySpots Mon 30-Sep-13 11:45:38

I don't think you need to give any reasons for your decision other than that you have decided that this is what is best for you and your child. You are not answerable to them and the sooner they realise that the better.

eatriskier Mon 30-Sep-13 11:49:30

I second giving it a trial few afternoons with your DS. We were desperately hoping MIL would take DD and were delighted when she offered (we didn't want to ask). My MIL is lovely but she was quite set in her ways about how this new fangled parenting is wrong and when she had DD she'd be doing it this way or that way. I got a little worried but DD and MIL adore each other so tried to let it go. Turned out that was the best thing I did, 2 afternoons with DD on her own and MIL started asking how we did things/would like things done as she realised. If your MIL has always been good you may find that happens with you too. If it doesn't improve then you know you're going to have to go for paid childcare.

Granville72 Mon 30-Sep-13 11:53:49

Sounds very much like my MIL. She has practically raised her other three grandkids and provides all the financial support them and both sets of parents to ensure she gets to keep her hand firmly in.

I went back to work January part time and granny was having my baby (then just 5 months) whilst I worked. It lasted 3 days at work suggested I took my full maternity leave as we were already having problems and my son was deeply unhappy and stressed.

Naturally this didn't go well with granny, lots of texts off her saying no bond, he never goes over for granny to 'look after him properly', baby has an attitude problem etc. She's seen him ONCE since January and until there are apologies off her to me, her son and her grandson for her appalling disrespectful behaviour towards us then that is how it will stay.

I am now a qualified child minder and stay home 24/7 with my son whilst also being able to work full time.

Do what is right for you, your babies Daddy and more importantly your baby. If you're already having issues with his granny then it's only going to go one way and I'd suggest keeping the relationship as it is and not involve them in childcare.

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