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To ask for tips for dealing with nightmare MIL

(79 Posts)
bringmesunshine2009 Fri 12-Aug-11 21:47:38

We are going to stay with MIL for 3 weeks out the country, during which time we will be inside the house quite a lot.

She is an overbearing matriarch for whom it is her way or the high way. I need a strategy.

Some examples of what I am up against:

DH will never back me up over anything his mother does, no matter how dangerous, contrary to reason or plain madness.

- She tried to feed 3 month old DS1 a banana when I caught her.
- Dragged a screaming DS1 from my arms when he was sick, because 'she wanted a go'
- Thinks car seats are neurotic and secondary to her need to wave us off at the airport rather than home.
- DH wants me to cook for the family 'to show [MIL] my skills' so she knows I am looking after him!
- That DCs should be dragged round stranger relations past their bedtime, where they are expected to be immaculately behaved or their are catsbum faces at me. If I suggest we should go home and put them into bed DH and MIL accuse me of BU.
- MIL gets me to prepare food and clear up the house before her other guests come round.
- Told to give DS2 a cup of herbal tea to settle his tummy (EBF and 3 months old)
- Giving DS1 yogurt mixed with granulated sugar, because he likes the taste
- Buying toys clearly marked as unsuitable for under 3s and gettinghuffy when I won't let DCs play with them

I could go on ALL DAY. But am going so may as well make the best of it.

I saw "smile and nod" on another thread... so was wondering, how to mentally prepare for the 'quiet war'.

I have previously tried resistance with a smile. This time was thinking smile and nod.

Coping mechanisms wanted!!!!

BikiniBottom Fri 12-Aug-11 21:51:08

Poor you sounds a nightmare. I think it is your dh you need to lay down the law with. It sounds fairly dreadful and archaic to ask you to cook to demonstrate you can look after him. This is his mother and he needs to make it clear to her the boundaries, it is much easier for him to do this than you. I do appreciate this is easy advice to give and hard to do but I think it is the best way forward. He needs to back you up!

DoMeDon Fri 12-Aug-11 21:53:57

Accept that it's not about you. She has different, old-fashioned views. It is not done to upset you. Stop taking it personally.

When she becomes confrontational or annoying imagine she is a boxer in the ring - the only way to avoid the fight is not to step in the ring.

Do not try to change her, she doesn't want to change. Accpet the way she is, assert your views without commenting on hers.

But most of all - it is not about YOU! Nothing hurts when you realise the other persons actions is a reflection of them.

fedupofnamechanging Fri 12-Aug-11 21:57:21

Your problem is that your dh won't support you. you are his wife - his first loyalty should now be with you.

Personally, I would refuse to go.

If you are going to go, quietly insist on raising your children your way. If they undermine you, take the children and leave. So you will need to keep the passports/money/keys to hire car handy.

parakeet Fri 12-Aug-11 21:58:35

Er...sounds like it's your nightmare husband who is the problem.

Insisting you "show MIL your cooking skills"? Tell him to feck right off. How about insisting he show you his husbandly skills - i.e. supporting his wife in the face of unreasonable behaviour from in-laws.

If you've let things get this bad, and then still agreed to a 3-week visit, sounds like you've only yourself to blame, sorry. Never understand these threads.

TheSkiingGardener Fri 12-Aug-11 21:58:53

What do you mean "gets you to prepare food and clean up the house". She can't make you do anything. Your problem here is your DH. He needs to stop letting her try and bully you, and backing her up when she does. If you become impervious to a cats bum face there is not a lot to bother you here.

I would, however, try and talk to her about the fact that you love her son dearly but were brought up a very different way and so you and DH have to find your own way to be together and to parent. That may not be her way but you hope she can understand.

How assertive you get depends on the level of contact you have I would suppose.

TheSkiingGardener Fri 12-Aug-11 22:00:09

I also imagine your cooking will regress significantly in MIL's house. Burnt toast and dry beans anyone?

aquashiv Fri 12-Aug-11 22:00:22

DH wants me to cook for the family 'to show [MIL] my skills' so she knows I am looking after him!

I would give DH an opportunity to educate his Mother on how men are also skilled and cook the dinner himself.

ChaoticAngeloftheUnderworld Fri 12-Aug-11 22:01:53

I agree with those who say your H is the problem here.

Get him to grow the fuck up and grow a pair. If he won't then refuse point blank to go. He can't force you to.

oranges Fri 12-Aug-11 22:02:00

Most of what your mil wants sounds like generational differences that can be resolved.

WhereYouLeftIt Fri 12-Aug-11 22:04:29

What parakeet said - "Insisting you "show MIL your cooking skills"? Tell him to feck right off. How about insisting he show you his husbandly skills - i.e. supporting his wife in the face of unreasonable behaviour from in-laws."

And I wouldn't practice nodding and smiling - I'd practice saying NO.

bringmesunshine2009 Fri 12-Aug-11 22:05:10

Very funny SkiingGardener!

I know DH should support me, but he doesn't and there we are. Yes yes leave the bastard etc but let's just say, I can't for a variety of reasons. It is quite literally not an option to refuse to go, because DH will take the children and god knows what will happen to them in that time.

I went mental when he said about the skills! I screamed at him I did not have to prove anything to his mother and was perfectly secure in my own abilities ta muchly and if he wasn't he knows where to find the door!

Am thinking, shut up, put up, cross days off, suspend principles until back home.

and Brrrreeeaaattthheee

DoMeDon Fri 12-Aug-11 22:06:01

His mum is traditional and he wants to show her he has a 'good wife' - naff, sexist and sad but hardly lay down the law time. She won't change her attitude now - leave her to it. Rise above it.

MIL is DH's mother - he will only get the one and wants a good relationship with her - that's normal. Let him have that - for the sake of cooking something special and slapping on a smile, I would do it.

I would not allow her to endanger my children obv - I would assert myself and kindly tell her things have changed. i would put my DC to bed if they needed it and tell her that I decide these things. There is no need for confrontation here - it always seems like such a battle with some IL's - only you can change your behaviour - you will not change hers.

rhondajean Fri 12-Aug-11 22:06:43

I dont think its unreasonable of her to expect you to help out with things while you are staying in her home, tbh. And if its a bit of peppermint tea for the wee one, its been a while since I had a tiny baby but that used to be ok for wind.

The rest - flips sake.

I am not always known for my rational responses when dealing with my mother, but this is reminiscent of her - my MIL wouldnt dream of imposing her views on me, weirdly - and I have been known to take my children and flounce until she realised I mean what I say about no sugar/set bedtimes etc.

Thats not really helpful and if its MIL you may be emotionally removed enough to be calm and rational. The others are right - DH should be helping with this - but if it helps you be assertive, remember your most important role right now is protecting the health (in all ways) of your children while they are too young to be able to do it for themselves and not protecting the feelings of another full grown adult. Remember that, take a deep breath and lay down the law (gently if you can!)

BBQFrenzy Fri 12-Aug-11 22:11:14

Do you have to be in the house quite so much? Can you plan an escape every other day at least, take the kids somewhere, (will you have independent transport while staying there?) just to give yourself a breather...<grasps desperately at straws on your behalf!>

DontGoCurly Fri 12-Aug-11 22:12:12

Why have you agreed to go?

Especially if he doesn't back you up?

bringmesunshine2009 Fri 12-Aug-11 22:12:59

DoMeDon,that is it in a nutshell, thanks.

Part of the problem is we don't speak the same language. I can communicate the basics but not the nuances. Thus DH is the go between and would never articulate a difference of opinion, would just say mother dearest is right and not translate the detail. Sogh.

Am definitely not opposed to helping out, but it is a bit much to be 'expected' to (sorry for drip feed) clean bathrooms, change bedsheets, hang out and fold washing, prepare meals, veg prep, table laying and clearing. Grrrr.

Some good advice! Thanks ladies!

skinnymuffin Fri 12-Aug-11 22:13:09

Jayzus you lucked out there didn't you sunshine? If she's half as bad as you make out I wouldn't want to go at all.

Still, given that you are going, I would have a really good talk with your dh beforehand, try and establish a plan you can both live with and then try and stick to it.

If he doesn't back you up then I can't see how you can just nod and smile through it, honestly.

Good luck smile

ps I once had a yoga teacher who got us to do an 'eagles wings' visualisation during relaxation. Basically you imagine a big eagle has lifted you up above all your troubles and carried you away - you could try that??

Or imagine a big eagle has carried her away? In it's very sharp talons? grin

parakeet Fri 12-Aug-11 22:13:20

If it's reached this stage then why not refuse to go, and refuse to let him take the children. Hide their passports if necessary.

If you would genuinely like to leave him but cannot for financial/practical reasons then I feel very sorry for you, but it doesn't really sound like that's the case.

As for everyone else defending the indefensible here. HELLO! Welcome to the 21st Century! No, it is not normal and reasonable for a wife to be a doormat, and not just to her husband but to her MIL to boot.

bringmesunshine2009 Fri 12-Aug-11 22:15:13

BBQFrenzy, no transport, can escape every few days to a friend's house. She recognises it is my sanctuary and is truly fab and very supportive. That is definitely where I will be.

Took a lot of DVDs and books and will keep self occupied to avoid confrontation.

ChaoticAngeloftheUnderworld Fri 12-Aug-11 22:18:51

He can't take them if you leave the house with them for the day, or hide their passports as has been suggested.

As for cooking, well if you cook badly no one is going to ask you again.

Slightly off tangent but I dislike coffee. Someone asked me to make some once and I had no idea so I just stuck 4 tea spoonfuls in each cup. Nobody ever asked me to make it again.

bringmesunshine2009 Fri 12-Aug-11 22:19:07

Good work skinnymuffin, like it.

Parakeet, of course it is indefensible, if I start to go into why refusal isn't an option or implications for leaving the thread will spiral off at the deep end, when I have spent 3 years carefully deciding my long term strategy.

Just need to keep head above water.

fedupofnamechanging Fri 12-Aug-11 22:19:19

He can't just take your dc against your will if you don't give him access to their passports.

Why not insist on staying elsewhere with the dc. He is not the boss of you, you can refuse to do anything you don't want to do.

fedupofnamechanging Fri 12-Aug-11 22:19:58

x posted

pigletmania Fri 12-Aug-11 22:20:02

bringmesunshine sounds like a typical Mediterranean mother in law, and I have one myself grin and I have a Mediterranean mother too. They do molycoddle their sons, my dh is very molycoddled that he cannot even make toast for himself. And is lost if I am not around to cook. But he does take my side and support me if I disagree with MIL. I am lucky as my MIL does not sound as bad as yours

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