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I don't want to be gatekeeper to my in-laws

(21 Posts)
rookiemater Fri 07-Feb-14 12:55:46

Sadly all this is generally regarded as women's work.

Yesterday I handed over a leaving card for a colleague to a male member of her direct team. This guy who is efficient, organised and generally a nice guy firstly asked me why I was giving it to him - because I don't work a Friday and then had to ask his other colleague to remind him that he had it in his desk, all in a slightly huffy way. The inference was clear - female job and therefore nothing to do with him. I must admit I was quite surprised, up until that point I thought he was an ok person.

Or another time when dining out with SIL, BIL and their DCs, I joked that if anyone didn't receive cards or presents on their birthday, they should take it up with DH. BIL replied that he was lucky that he had a real wife that these things properly. I was completely horrifiedshock, but it was a special family occasion so I didn't want to get into a further discussion about it.

Tellingly I have now taken on the role of present buying for most of them - reason being that DH has his favourites that he will remember but not the rest, and I want to make sure they are not forgotten - apart from BIL of course, it will be a cold day in hell before I go to the bother of arranging his birthday card.

LoonvanBoon Fri 07-Feb-14 09:43:12

My MIL took this attitude with me, OP, & I didn't nip it in the bud. Ended up writing Christmas cards to people I'd never met (& still haven't) on the grounds that they were apparently "so fond of DH & so interested in hearing about how the family's doing!". Ending up doing all the present buying, arranging visits, etc. etc.

DH isn't lazy, but he'd found a way of dealing with his family that stopped working once he had a partner on the scene. He used to smile & nod & ignore what his mum was telling him to do, but it was a lot harder for me. She used to corner me and start these "chats" that were, in effect, informing me of my wifely duties.

It's 14 years on now & I've only recently disengaged, started forwarding the emails to DH, stopped writing cards to people I don't know, stopped reminding DH of birthdays etc.

For me the turning point has been realizing that my MIL (it's only really her who's the problem in DH's family,there are no other self-appointed matriarchs & no large extended family) takes me completely for granted. This is just my role, in her mind, & it hasn't brought me any status or even approval. She still chooses to blame me whenever we don't do what she wants, choose not to visit at a particular time or whatever.

Similarly, even though I'm the one who's encouraged & facilitated her relationship with my DC / her GC over the years - sending pictures etc., updating her when they were little (we're quite a distance away), organizing visits - she now adopts the attitude that it's my fault if they don't write letters to her or don't want to do something she suggests. She would never dream of voicing her criticisms to DH.

There's more to it than this in my case - years of digs & snide comments & unwanted advice, too - but it's surprisingly easy to stop doing it ONCE you give up on the need to be liked / approved of by the ILs. I think I was a bit needy family-wise, as my own mum died quite a long time ago & I don't have siblings around. I realize at last that I'll never be good enough in my MIL's eyes anyway, so I've stopped giving a shit if she's annoyed about my dereliction of duty.

DH is completely supportive, has always appreciated stuff I've done in this area, but says he's going to take responsibility now (he also knows his mum hasn't been all that nice to me). And if he doesn't, or just forgets (often the case), it won't happen. Similarly, he'll be saying yes or no to invitations & so on.

I just wish I'd stopped earlier, before I'd built up so much resentment towards MIL.

Joysmum Fri 07-Feb-14 09:42:19

I agree with everyone else. You need to grow done balls and opt out. No explainations, just the stock phrases like:

I'll just get DH
I'll get DH to call you back
You'll have to ask DH
I've forwarded this to DH (for email)
You're better off talking to DH

Etc etc

NumptyNameChange Fri 07-Feb-14 09:26:42

imagine you were at work and kept getting emails and calls that were in relation to someone else's job not yours. you would be polite but you wouldn't do the work. you'd say oh you seem to have come through to the wrong person! let me just put you through wink

you can have some stock phrases like, 'oh you'd have to ask dh about that', 'gosh i don't know, i have enough trouble keeping track of my own relatives, let me get dh for you'. whatever. rehearse saying them in a cheery non committal tone.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Fri 07-Feb-14 09:17:54

Yep, wifework (read the book, it's great!).

It's not just your in-laws handing you the job of being family secretary, it's your husband too.

How do you resign the job? Whenever your MIL comes to you with wifework, say, "I'll tell DH" (or hand the phone to him if he's there). If you get emails, forward them to him for action, perhaps with a message saying "Thanks for the message MIL, I'm forwarding it to DH so he can act on it."

Basically, every time you are cornered into a situation where it is expected of you to do X Y and Z, don't do it, and nominate the person who should, within both their earshots. Both the asker, and the person who needs to do the job, need to get the message.

Beachcomber Fri 07-Feb-14 09:00:06

My DHs family are like this. They have the big fights too. I have done as others have suggested, I simply do not cooperate with the role they want to foist on me and I do not care if they feel let down.

DH does not want the level of contact they demand and so they tried to slot me into his place as family contact person. They constantly make digs about how we are rubbish at contact (we probably speak to PILS once a week) because we won't live in their pockets. MIL calls SIL everyday for example.

You just have to not do it. Talk to your DH and tell him you will not be doing his family secretarial work for him and that he needs to either do it or accept the fall out.

And allow yourself to not care. The world will not end.

TheBookofRuth Fri 07-Feb-14 08:45:37

How do they contact you? Can you get caller id for your landline so you can screen their calls? On some email accounts you can set up automatic redirects - could you do that so anything from his family is automatically redirected to his email? That way you don't even have to see them.

I've recently had to disengage from my husband's family as I got tired of being their whipping boy. I ignore their emails, don't answer their calls and - and this is the real biggy - stopped nagging/reminding DH to call /email them. As a result he never bothers and I think it's finally getting through to them that they are not as big a part of DH's life as he is theirs - and hopefully they may also realise that their relationship with DH and DGs is dependant on them being nicer to his wife!

livingzuid Fri 07-Feb-14 08:43:21

Maybe he doesn't do it for a reason, because he doesn't want to be that involved either and listen to a ton of bs all the time? Totally not your responsibility he should manage his family not you.

KouignAmann Fri 07-Feb-14 08:41:27

This family has clearly bought into Wifework wholesale and sees all the family maintenance as Wimmin's Work.

If you step away and make it clear that his family are his responsibility and you will manage your side, then you have to accept you will be vilified for challenging the status quo. To suggest that a Man is actually capable of writing a card or picking up a phone will threaten their world.

But then again, do you care what they think of you?
What does your DH think of all this?

Hawkmoth Fri 07-Feb-14 08:33:44

My FIL literally shouted down the phone at me because DH hadn't given him my parents' address for a Christmas Card. I don't answer the phone. Real people have my mobile.

Zazzles007 Fri 07-Feb-14 08:31:28

I agree with advice that has been given above. You need to resign the gatekeeper role, and accept that at least initially the shit will hit the fan. You won't be their favorite person for a while, but if they are anything like you have described, another drama will take place and eventually you will be forgotten about.

Good luck, its hard not to get sucked into their power plays and games, but that is what is happening. And that's why your 'D'H has let the gatekeeper role fall to you, as he is well aware of how difficult they are.

Walkacrossthesand Fri 07-Feb-14 08:29:34

How does that sound, breeze - will your relationship with DH survive this approach? I somehow feel it can't be as simple as that, or you would have done it already....I suspect you've been having to choose between getting it in the neck from DH or his family, and you've chosen the non-resident option....

diddl Fri 07-Feb-14 08:28:15

Why is your husband lazy for having little to do with your family??

Will you also be lazy for withdrawing from dealing with his??

I agree with SGB btw.

merrymouse Fri 07-Feb-14 08:24:24

I think your bigger problem is you have to do what SGB says and then not care what they think or feel guilty.

cupcake78 Fri 07-Feb-14 08:20:25

I get this and my answer to this is you deal with your family I will deal with mine.

If your dh's family have a problem they should speak to him about it.

I couldn't be bothered with any of this op.

CMOTDibbler Fri 07-Feb-14 08:16:22

Yup, just refuse to be drawn in. It might take a while, and there might be some telling off (wtf is that about anyway), but deflect that as 'oh, didn't they? let me get dh and you can talk to him'

NumptyNameChange Fri 07-Feb-14 08:08:10

perfect advice from sgb. it has to be every time - or if he's not there say oh sorry he's not here i'll let him know you called.

ROARmeow Fri 07-Feb-14 07:56:05

Good advice from SGB.

You could be a trailblazer to help women of that family for generations to come. Smash the system!

It does sound very draining, don't blame you for being annoyed by it.

WeekendsAreHappyDays Fri 07-Feb-14 01:01:01

I was about to advise exactly nsame as SGB

Maybe every time they phone, say, 'Hang on, I'll just get DH' and hand the phone to him? And forward any emails to him? Without actually saying to them 'It's his job, not mine' just hand it all over to him while smiling sweetly and remaining calm.

whostolemybreeze Fri 07-Feb-14 00:53:52

Somewhere along the way I have been appointed as gatekeeper to my DH's family. Not just his immediate family but to the scores of others littered across the world and I really DO NOT want the job. My DH works very hard, but when it comes to keeping in touch, he is a right lazy bugger. The culture in my DH's family seems to be that the women of the family are the bossy boots, naggers and matriarchs. As you can see, that latter description has it's own set of challenges for me, but I am trying very hard here to keep to the issue at hand, but I will say that one of the reasons why I do not want to be gatekeeper is because the women in the family are not very nice to me so I prefer to keep my distance and keep it civil so we get along.

If PIL want something they contact ME. If "we" have not done something, they contact ME and I get to hear the telling off. My MIL is very big ion keeping contact with their extended family even though when I have met ay of them (very rarely) I can see that they all do not get along and don't even like each other. However we are expected to send them birthday and Christmas cards and to comment on photos that has been forwarded to us by PIL. If my SIL has something to ask us, she contacts ME. By the cats bum faces I get, I also think that if something is not done, It is my fault. Whenever they visit us one of the first things they do is ask us to put on Skype and start calling round the world to video chat with people for hours as they want to see us apparently. This is so bloody draining. They also have major dramas and fights with each other and I don't want anything to do with this. As for my own family, If I want something I pick up the phone and I talk to my own brothers. I get along well with my SIL's but my DB is my DB and I will talk to him about stuff. My DH has very little to do with my family because he is lazy and I deal with them and that is how I want it.

I have told my DH that I only want to deal with his mum, dad and sister. I have told him that if it is his cousins wife's birthday (who lives in France) then he can send them a card/ talk to them on Skype. If Uncle Tom in Australia is upset with his mum, I am not interested, I don't need to hear about it.

The advice is, how do I resign from the role with his mum without getting into a fight with her. Basically I want to say hey MIL, you know what, they are not my family and it's not my job to send them cards/ email them so can you please talk to DH about it. But that won't go down well.

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