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Struggling with MIL(13 Posts)
Hi everyone. I guess this could be an AIBU but I've always found everyone in the adoption forum so much more supportive than the general MNers and I do feel there is a possible adoption aspect of it. Thanks in advance for your non judgemental listening and any advice you may be able to offer!
Partner and I have been together 15 years and I have always had a v positive and close rship with MIL with never a cross word between us. She is naturally a very warm person who would do anything for anyone and is generally lovely and very well intentioned but on the other side is pretty bossy and does have a habit of dishing out "advice" in all of her rships which is quite often unsolicited. If you can imagine she's lovely person BUT v much one of those ppl who thinks they are a qualified doctor, parenting expert, mechanic, DIY extraordinare etc so it can be very hard to escape her "suggestions". She is also not especially worldly is a bit of a one for absorbing whatever the daily mail says so I have had to bite my tongue many times when politics has come up! I suspect that the fact I am v polite/diplomatic as a person and non confrontational means that we have always gelled along fine whereas I suspect different daughter in law's may have struggled more! I have up until recently always been able to laugh it off in my head, and used to notice that she would undermine my sister in law's parenting sometimes with our older niece but tended to view it through the lens of doting grandparent. However since adopting my little boy (now 21ms) since November, and having been v intensely spending time with just her and father in law whilst not being able to see much of my family, her almost constant well meaning advice etc is turning from a mold irritation to upset and dread that is causing me to avoid going round there (a precedent started to be set where she was asking me to pop over to see her in garden every day) and I'm finding visits with her are leaving me feeling resentful. I think as an adopter I have struggled at times with feeling a a "legitimate" mummy (however ridiculous the logical side of me knows that is!) And maybe this is playing into that.
These will sound pretty examples but it's things like - constantly offering unhealthy snacks to my son despite me repeatedly telling her he has set snack times and has just eaten. Constant commentary on doesn't he have any shoes/hat/coat/raincover when perhaps I haven't felt it necessary for him to wear those items that day. Commenting on him being on his "terrible 2s" and a "handful" (with laughter as a sort of joke but still...) because she will insist on giving him ornaments/age inappropriate toys/delicate books to play with that he will subsequently be rough and boisterous with (things we don't let him play with at home for that v reason) and then I spend the entire time round hers having to police his behaviour and play in a way I never have to at home. Not so subtly buying him toys around skills she seems to think he isn't developed in yet (for example she kept casually mentioning he "needed" a "practice" at shape sorting because he wasn't getting on v well with puzzle type toys at 13ms and presumably she thought he was a bit behind...he's since mastered skill fine through casual unforced play). Making not v tactful comments that usually revolve around how young her 2 children were at doing things like self settling/dropping bottle/dummies etc and "what you wanna do...?"
Eugh. I've started to feel insecure, exhausted, inadequate and undermined after each visit and I've been trying so hard as I've been taking round bits of shopping for them and got into habit of giving her company during lockdown so I feel quite disloyal feeling like this as I know it's all well meant. I'm useless at confrontation and conflict and so I tend to just smile my way through bit it's really getting to me and my partner doesn't really get it (he's just more blunt than me, will say something to her at the time but think nothing more of.it) so I end up resentful. I know I need to take ownership over this and accept some of this is my responsibility so I have started to pull back a little on time spent over there. I don't know what I'm after lately but maybe ideas for how ppl have handled similar situations once they've come home? Oh and just to add adoption stuff into mix she sends her friends pics of him without asking first, fairly sure she tells.ppl stuff about his background that I'd prefer her not to, and uses less than ideal references to his BPs as his "mum and dad" which are forgiveable but grating...
That all sounds really tough. I think you need to have a serious talk to your partner, he needs to tell her to back off.
To be honest, I would be getting tough with her, tell her the corrrect terminology, don't tell her any information or give her any photos. If she is undermining you then you don't visit her.
Will it help as lockdown eases and you become busier doing all the normal stuff?
I know thats easier said than done. Would she be open to reading a book? There is quite a good one for grand parents - sorry can't remember the title.
Good luck - its a shame having these precious first months overshadowed by this.
I think the book Ted means could be Related by Adoption. You could just leave that at her house and hope some of it goes in. I think it's good for grandparents, especially when they're not really on the right page and it's less confrontational than having to keep setting her straight.
If it were me I would be going around a lot less. It sounds exhausting. It's so important that you're kind to yourself and ideally you'd be surrounding yourself with people who are far more supportive. That's not so easy at the moment, but you don't have to spend time at this woman's house. If you do go there stand your ground on what's important but perhaps also pick your battles. Around the issues of dummies, bottles etc. get yourself a standard line something like "well all children are different aren't they" and roll that out every time you need it before swiftly changing the subject, ideally to something about her to take the focus of you and your son. Above all try not to let her words hurt you and remind yourself that you are doing an amazing job.
Thanks guys I really appreciate you taking the time to advise. I should stress she is absolutely not one of those evil MIL figures. We get on v well and she is genuinely c well meaning and not doing it to be critical of me but more than anything i see it as a boundary issue. She just doesn't have that switch sumx that things might be tactless, not her business or that she may not have all the answers. She's also not a very good active listener which find very hard in stark contrast to my own mum who really is. We are such different ppl. I think before I speak because I'm v much an empath and hyper aware of ppls feelings and she just is foot in mouth syndrome. I know she's upset a couple friends unintentionally before by not thinking before she speaks. Thanks for the tip about the book. Sadly funny enough we bought both her and mum that book before he came home but clearly it didn't sink in lol. Think the idea of having some standard comeback lines could be helpful tho like a subtle way of showing the topic not up for discussion and that we're moving on. I kinda get the instinct she thinks some of my parenting choices are just a bit...odd. I also think she misememebers stages of children's development as she seems to have some funny ideas. Like literally when he was 14 months old and nowhere bear mastering even a spoon yet she was setting a little mini metal knife fork and spoon set out for him for family meals which was v odd. Thank you for your help. You are both definitely right that I need to start limiting visits. However well intentioned her comments it's not doing my mental health any good which saddens me to say
Hi OP, that sounds so tough for you and it must’ve been so difficult for you to have your post-placement ‘honeymoon period’ so curtailed by the lockdown and the worries over COVID. I think that what the Mumsnet forums in general - and not just the adoption section - are really fantastic at is the importance of reminding women of the importance of setting and maintaining healthy boundaries around all their relationships. Generally speaking, we’re pressured societally not to make a fuss and to acquiesce.
However, welcome to the world of adoption where you will need to grow the hide of a rhino and the protective skills of a tiger mother (plus the poker face of a champion as you do the daily walk of shame across the school playground 😂). I’m middle-aged and my Mum is nearly 80 but she will (dangerously and occasionally) dare to criticise me for not bothering to enforce a raincoat for my four-year-old. I’m 14 years in to my adoption journey and if a toddler prefers to get soaked to the skin in a rainstorm while I am nice and dry in my Goretex, then I’m happy to let that one slide - because I’m so over battling to be seen to be doing the right thing.
I think if you had posted this on AIBU, the consensus would be that your husband needs to have your back and deal with his own mother. What I would say is that it most definitely will not be healthy for your son to have a grandparent who continually finds him so wanting in his skills and abilities. Regardless of their starts in life (which will never have been ideal), our children do generally struggle with their feelings of worth and their self-esteem; they really need everyone on their team to be their cheerleaders. Maybe it’s time for a frank conversation with your MIL about the challenges your little one will face throughout his life. Failing that, once lockdown is over, be VERY busy with playgroups and activities - all in the interest of helping your boy catch up with his peers.
I’m useless at confrontation and conflict
In the kindest possible way, you need to find a way to get better simply because you’ll need to fight for the things your child needs and smiling and nodding your way through it won’t help.
I’d be pulling back, it’s a lot to see anyone outside your family every single day, that alone would breed over familiarity and resentment - it’ll also be hard for her to know where her boundaries are if you’re there every day.
Other than that, I’d pick your battles, stuff around your child’s identity, background etc I’d be very clear on and correct her terminology every single time. Thinks like dummies and the bottles I’d completely ignore - but worth getting into a tussle over. And you’ll find it easier to ignore if you’re there less and have other folks views on how you’re doing.
I’d also suggest visiting less. I know it’s hard, especially if you are taking on a caring role for your parents in law. Is there times you can pop down with shopping without your baby? Her nose will be out of joint but it will be a clear sign your unhappy with things and opens the door for discussion. I think if it’s affecting your relationship and your mental health you need to address it on some ways.
Also, everyone compares their children. You’ll hear all the time - he can’t walk yet? My baby walked at — and the such like. That happens whether your child is adopted or not. It’s harder to hear when your child is compared with a child who has healthy attachment and hasn’t gone through what your son has gone through and all you want to shout is “he has been too busy surviving to learn new skills!!!”. Instead smile and nod and say “that’s lovely your child mastered that skill so young”. It’s not worth getting yourself upset about (hard I know).
In terms of photos and sharing info set her straight. Say something like “I told you things because I wanted you to understand him better and I don’t expect you to broadcast it. That’s not fair. If we need people to know then we will tell them. It’s not for you to share it”. I’m good at giving people into trouble!!
Also, therapeutic parenting is hard. It’s different because it’s so much more than regular parenting. Things seem odd but stand by your convictions. You are a thoughtful and considerate parent. That comes across. You’ve got this
Leaving aside the adoption bits at the end, this really is so typical for first time mothers with toddlers. Everyone, everyone, everyone will know better than you and really the MN advice to ignore, smile and nod is the best thing about these sorts of things - ie in relation to things like the laying out of cutlery, the comparing "my child could swing off the top of an oak tree and fly gently down without hurting themselves at the age of 11 months".
It will not stop. Even if your child when older is doing well at everything and thriving, someone will have an Opinion which will often seem so bonkers you end up doubting your sanity if you let yourself.
I think your partner has it - respond at the time, forget about it. Unless the unlikely event that they make a good point in which case consider and decide for yourself later on.
With photos I would be very assertive about the decisions you have taken, get your husband to have words. With what she is telling others, you can do nothing about it so I think just put it right out of your head. Maybe sit down and decide how much time you want to spend there and what is reasonable in your opinion and stick to it?
Hi everyone and I'm sorry for the delayed response. Thank you so much for taking the time to offer advice. As I say MIL is certainly not one of those toxic MILs you see in some families and she really doesn't have a cruel bone in her body nor do I think she actually means to be critical - she just has an incredibly bossy type of personality and has some odd ideas and the manifest themselves into being a bit of a know it all with things plus she has no tact so doesn't have that filter of emotional intelligence you might have when knowing it may not make someone feel great to say these things. But basically the point is I feel totally worn out by it and possibly because of combination with other factors it is making me feel really undermined as a parent. I know I need to work on my assertiveness in these situations as one poster pointed out there will be far tougher battles than this with an adopted child and I will need to learn to speak up. I am actively trying to visit less and visit when my partner is with me more. I do agree that maybe I need to have a bit of a sit down with him and explain that it's getting me down a little. I know he has sympathy as he finds his mum annoying for similar reasons but the difference is he a) doesn't take it as much to heart as I do and b) is capable of being blunt to the point of rude to her and she has a thick skin - he has never had any issue with being assertive with ppl tho at the same time would probably view it as isolated comments and wouldn't perhaps connect the bigger picture of how it is combining to make me feel. He would just deal with it in the moment and not really think about it after which I think in this situation is probably the best way to be. I'm conscious that I'm letting this affect how I feel about a very dear MIL who I have a fantastic rship with and who I've never had any issues with. We lived with her for 3 years while we saved for a house and I think we both found it weary sometimes and she is quite stick in her ways so I saw some of it but I think when it's connected to your child or brings up a whole other element. I will definitely take everyone's thoughts on board but certainly need to work on boundaries and if there's one thing in particular I want to try to improve is my ability to hold my ground when I disagree with something or she's over stepped the mark by commenting on something that she doesn't understand or is just my place to do as a parent. I felt guilty yesterday because i found out they have finally sold their house (it's been on the market for a few years) and they'll be moving further away. Not too far and we'll easily be able to jump on the car and see them within 45 mins but I felt almost like I'd wished them away. Atm the nice part is that my son can see them whenever he wishes too and is developing s close bond but if I'm honest? I think a little space would help and it feels a relief to me, is that bad?
I think a little space would help and it feels a relief to me, is that bad?
Not at all - it sounds like some space is exactly what you need to preserve the good relationship you have with her. Boundaries are much easier to set and keep when there’s a little physical distance. You’re a new mum and need to find your feet in your own way with the child you’re parenting. You sound lovely, and speak so kindly of her, a wee bit of space is a good thing.
I know I need to work on my assertiveness in these situations ...he a) doesn't take it as much to heart as I do and b) is capable of being blunt to the point of rude to her and she has a thick ski I think that you have identified the two issues here - one is how you deal with others who are treading on your toes, and the other is how you internalise it. Being assertive with others involves asserting your boundaries while also being respectful of the other person - not being rude, for example. Whether or not your DH is rude I couldn't comment
but when I said he had it right, I was referring to how you said he moved on quickly, didn't internalise someone else's narrative unnecessarily. This is to do with emotional intelligence too - being able to process and move on quickly. I think that asserting boundaries in a healthy way also means understanding that you can't control others but you can control how you react to them.Once you start doing this you will feel better, I think, and feel more confident about handling others in relation to your parenting.
Whether "blunt" is rude will depend on the circs and also the perception of the person hearing it.
I think a little space would help and it feels a relief to me, is that bad? your feelings are your guide - it is what you do as a result of them that matters
I would be firm with her and call her out on it when she's really out of line. Unless you're prepared to basically break all contact then if you just stop visiting as much or don't address things then it'll just become a perpetual cycle of avoidance and you'll never have a decent relationship and the awkwardness and snide comments will just be there when you do visit which will presumably end up being mostly special occasions and that'll make these awkward and unpleasant for you and your LO eventually.
For what it is worth I don't think she really knows what she's talking about when she's critical. For example LG couldn't do loads with a shape sorter at 13MO (I don't know many kids that could?!?!) but I think is pretty advanced with maths/spacial skills. She'd mastered a quite complicated shape sorter by 15MO (it just clicked one day like most things do) and could stack her entire set of stacking cups independently by this age too. Obsessed with 'circles' by 17MO and pointing them out in the real world etc, could do a 24 piece jigsaw independently before she was 2 and at just over 2 is able to count out objects in a book up to about 6/7 fairly accurately. And even if a child is destined to become the next einstein or will barely ever be able to add 2 numbers together you can nurture them and have the right toys around etc but you'll never be able to force it. Learning through play is far healthier as you've already learned.
And who really cares when they stop using a dummy or sleep by themselves etc?! I have 2 people in my life that tell me to just leave my kid to cry because she's awkward at bedtime and will make similar brags about their kids. They think they're experts. One's kid is obnoxious, unfriendly even after she's got to know you a bit and constantly demanding of her parent's attention even at age 6 and the other's kid is a sweetheart but a total nervous wreck and saying things like 'I want to die' at age 9. I'm not saying that's their parents faults but I'm not sure they should be doling out advice on how to raise an emotionally regulated child either. It sounds like you are very good at putting yourself in your child's shoes and guiding their behaviour and play accordingly and IMO that's highly effective parenting. You'll get people who think they know what's best for your child in all walks of life and you have to learn to shrug it off or confront it and just do you. If your gut instinct tells you that you're doing what's right then keep doing it. Good luck xx
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