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about DH 40th birthday photo album in which I don't appear...?

(159 Posts)
Mothproof Tue 26-Feb-13 10:32:29

Regular, but have namechanged for my first AIBU, in case the Mn judgement is that I am being unbelievably petty. This is long, as I'm still a bit stunned, but to sum up, AIBU to be hurt and baffled by a 40th birthday photo album of my DH's life, in which I am almost entirely absent?

My DH turned 40 recently, and when his parents came to visit, his mother produced a big photo album she had had professionally made up (engraved leather cover, glossy paper etc) of montages of photos from my DH's life. (They've done similar for significant birthdays of all of the family.)

My MiL showed it to me first before giving it to DH, as he was at work - I thought it was a lovely idea, and said so. So there we were sitting on the sofa, leafing through the album, and I'm cooing over his baby photos and his cub scout award photos etc and as we got towards the student years - which is when DH and I got together, now over 20 years ago - I made a joky remark about being apprehensive about what I was going to look like when I started appearing in the photos, as I had this mad head of henna'ed hair as a student and some horrifying paisley shirts.

So I was mildly relieved not to see myself in the first few pages of student photos, but then thought it was odd I wasn't in any of the graduation photos, as we had been together two years by then, graduated in the same ceremony, and his family knew me well. It went out of my head fairly quickly, though, until I gradually realised I wasn't in any of the photos - not in our MA conferring (again, was in the same graduating ceremony), not at his 21st birthday, not at his PhD conferring, not at family weddings, PiLs wedding anniversary party, not in snaps from two holidays we took with PiL, not in ones from a ski holiday we took with friends, where the only photos are of him solo or with the other two.

It got totally surreal - I was honestly wondering whether I only imagined I had been there on all these occasions! I featured in five group shots - student class photos, a survivors' ball photo etc, and the third last page of the album consisted of three photos of us as a couple, all - oddly - from about eighteen or nineteen years ago.

But, as we had a baby last spring, our first, I thought I would surely feature there - no. There is a lovely photo of DH snuggling our newborn DS in hosiptal, four photos of DH and DS, and a couple of DS solo. End of album.

At this point, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and said something light-hearted like 'Oh, it looks as if DH had a baby by himself', but MiL clearly didn't get what I meant.

AIBU to be so hurt at appearing in 8 photos out of 400 plus, especially not in any of the baby photos? I thought I had a reasonably good relationship with MiL, assuming it was she who collected the photos (it's not my gentle, passive, FiL's kind of thing), and I have been her DS's partner, latterly wife, for 20 years, and am the mother of her youngest grandchild. Now I can't stop wondering whether this is malicious (I've always worked to maintain a cordial relationship, but we're very different people, and she has vocally disapproved of our decision to not have a big wedding and baptise our baby) or whether it simply didn't occur to her that I was an important figure in her DS's life, because I hadn't done what her other DiLs do, which is marry young and have a large family in their twenties.

I keep imagining her going through the hundreds of photos of family occasions and choosing the ones I'm not in. Again, how do you overlook a newborn baby's mother, even if the baby is the child of your adored youngest DS?

I'll never bring it up, but AIBU or being stupidly over-sensitive? Or can you think of any other explanation?

PanickingIdiot Tue 26-Feb-13 12:03:50

She sounds mental. Did you say you lived in different countries? Rejoice in the fact.

I'd have probably asked her about it right there and then, but since you didn't, bringing it up now would make it a bigger deal than it needs to be.

I think it's a good thing that your husband offered to pull her up on it, it shows he isn't as mental as his mother - again, rejoice in the fact. But I also think you were right in asking him not to.

She sounds awful. You sound reasonable and generous and your husband seems to know where his priorities lie. That's the important stuff. The rest is just a stupid photo album that will gather dust on some shelf till the end of time.

DeWe Tue 26-Feb-13 12:09:53

Is it perhaps just that the photos she has of both of you, for some reason didn't make the final cut. She may have gone home and thought "oh heck, I didn't realise".

I wouldn't expect them to go and borrow off your parents, simply because it wouldn't occur to them.

When we big mistake went away with the IL a couple of years ago, dh did a photo book afterwards for the pil. He asked everyone for their photos, but when we went through the photos and initially just picked out our first choice we discovered we only had one or two (out of about 60-70) of one of the families involved. And of those one was the whole group one, and the other they were fairly background.

Not because we were being nasty, just they don't tend to take well in pictures, so the initial picking out of ones that were suitable and nice reduced them down. One of the other families (who incidently was only there for half the time) featured heavily because they looked lovely in almost every picture they were in.
Now we noticed it as we were reducing down, when we were trying to make sure that each family had a representative (as it were) on the front cover) So we ended up doing a tally and making sure that it was roughly even between the families.

If they didn't think of it, then they may not have noticed. Once you've noticed it may be very obvious.

Mothproof Tue 26-Feb-13 12:11:49

grin at some of the suggestions. No, it's not a photo album with the see-through plastic pages - the photos were scanned and printed onto glossy paper and bound - so there can't be any swapping of photos!

I'm probably coming across as some kind of megalomaniac here, but I'm honestly not. I know it's not about me, and I certainly wasn't expecting to feature heavily - it's DH's life. It's just a bit disconcerting that we now have a huge coffee-table book (I swear, it is huge!) that looks like a family bible in which 20 years plus of my life with DH don't seem to exist, and our gorgeous baby was magically produced by his father alone!

mrsjay - that's a good question. I have no idea whether she likes me after all this time. I think she'd be confused by the question. I'd say she fundamentally doesn't get me. She grew up very poor and brought up her own large family in very difficult circumstances, and I really admire her for that. The trouble is that the flipside of her energy and determination is very little flexibility, humility or imagination - she's a battler, with no idea that there are other ways to live. I also grew up very poor, but managed to get to university on scholarships and grants etc and make a very different kind of life, and I think she thinks I'm 'posh', despite my parents living down the road from her in an identical house!

I'm sorry about the whole thing as I've honestly worked so hard at maintaining (I thought) a good relationship with her. I'm still going to work at that, as she's elderly and unwell, and I'm very fond of my FiL, but I feel a bit smacked down.

ajandjjmum Tue 26-Feb-13 12:13:00

Can't you change some of the pages yourself to include photos with you - and next time you see her, say you might like to see the modifications we've made to your gift, DH is much happier now that it's a true reflection of his life.


pinkdelight Tue 26-Feb-13 12:13:12

Also agree it could be residual hurt from the wedding. I'm another who had a quiet wedding with no family and thankfully they were fine with that. I get what you're saying that no one attended so it wasn't a snub, BUT that doesn't mean they weren't hurt and disappointed. I think you have to take this album in the same spirit. It's a gift from her to her son. It would have been lovely if you were included more, but you aren't and that's her decision. YABU to feel hurt and disappointed, but a photo album is less of a big deal than a wedding, so I'm afraid you just have to be big about it - as presumably she put on a front and didn't go berserk about the wedding. You can't have it both ways, make out some of these family things are meaningful and others aren't, according only to your rules. So whilst I sympathise totally, I really think you have to smile and suck it up.

pinkdelight Tue 26-Feb-13 12:14:05

"YABU to feel hurt and disappointed, but a photo album is less of a big deal than a wedding"

Sorry, I meant YANBU to feel hurt...

FakePlasticLobsters Tue 26-Feb-13 12:15:00

If they were set on a big Catholic white wedding then I don't think it matters how many others they have been to. If his siblings all had them and he's the only one no to have one, they still might have an issue with that.

Especially if they had been waiting 19 years for it and perhaps thought that the pregnancy might encourage you both to finally get married, and in the way they imagined, the way the rest of the family did.

It's not really about wanting to be in more photos in the album though, is it? It's the way it has made you question their feelings for you after all this time, and wonder about how they view you as a member of their family.

And I do think that has to be addressed in some way. They might be very upset to realise that they have hurt you. But as you have said you are not after a scene, are they the sort to make one?

pinkdelight Tue 26-Feb-13 12:16:16

Playing devil's advocate still, when you say:

"bible in which 20 years plus of my life with DH don't seem to exist, and our gorgeous baby was magically produced by his father alone!"

She could equally well think:

"There was a wedding in which my life as mother of your DH didn't seem to exist - as if your DH was magically produced from thin air with no family just for you."

Like I say, I'm on your side, but I'd like to think I wouldn't give any more of a toss about a book of pictures than I would about the charade of a big wedding.

I think I would save up the money and have the book redone - using pictures from the book your MIL had made, but adding in more of your life together - pictures of you both at graduations etc, and particularly of the two of you with your baby.

And I would be very tempted to tell your MIL, calmly and politely, how upset you were at being airbrushed out of your dh's life like that, and to ask why she had done it that way - then if she is really upset about the wedding, you can get it all out into the open, explain the reasons behind it, and sooth her hurt feelings - thus proving yourself to be magnanimous, and hoping she would do the same.

GoEasyPudding Tue 26-Feb-13 12:25:40

This big bible like book can be put away in an equally big box and that box can go in the attic.
Next clear out you do it can be destroyed. That's what I would do otherwise future historians and family geneologists will know nothing about you and you will be deleted from history!

Maybe you can get DH to ask for the compter file in which the format and pictures were saved in? He can say there are some fab pics and he would really like a copy to make other prints.

Those big printed books cost a lot of money but even so I would suggest you make a new one and make sure you get yourself back into this photo history.

JackieTheFart Tue 26-Feb-13 12:26:18

DeWe I think it's pretty insulting to say that over twenty years MIL could only find 8 acceptable photos of her!

OP YANBU, I would be devastated if my mum had done a book for me with hardly any pics of DH in it. MIL clearly spent a lot of time and effort doing this, so whatever her reasons she has done it on purpose. I also think it's probably got a lot to do with being put out about the wedding - although I wish we had done it your way.

JackieTheFart Tue 26-Feb-13 12:30:08

pinkdelight - have you been excluded from a family member's wedding or something? Because seriously, a wedding is a nice day and all, but it is personal to a couple. You can be married without having a big song and dance about it.

Your comment 'There was a wedding in which my life as mother of your DH didn't seem to exist - as if your DH was magically produced from thin air with no family just for you.' makes no sense IMO. There are plenty of pics of MIL - but MIL wasn't the one getting married. It is no essential for her to be there!

Hell I'm not explaining myself very well, but I think she is being VERY UR and I wouldn't have a book like that out. What a slap in the face every time you see it.

rollmopses Tue 26-Feb-13 12:30:15

Ghastly, such passive-agressive sting, if you will.
Be terribly lovely and don't mention it.
However, the next time MIL visits, make sure she sees the said album under years-worth of copies of New Scientist or similar, heavily covered in dust.

pinkdelight Tue 26-Feb-13 12:35:47

JackieTheFart you seem to have completely misread my post - I excluded people from my wedding!!! I totally see the OP's side of things. I am, however, trying to be helpful and also see things from the MIL's side of things. Luckily (like i said!!!), my family were okay and also took the view that a big song and dance wasn't necessary. But the OP has said this was very much not the case with her MIL and there's the whole catholic thing etc. So while it's all well and good for us to say a wedding is not a big deal, clearly it is to some people, many people many in fact. And a MIL who dotes on her son enough to compile such a vast album of his photos could quite understandably have felt airbrushed out of his life on his wedding day.

I hope that's clear now??

But I second the advice to just bung the album in a box in the attic and forget it.

firesidechat Tue 26-Feb-13 12:35:59

This does seem incredibly thoughtless.

We did a similar album to give to our daughter when she got married recently.
Knowing that the guests would be looking through it during the reception, we made sure all the significant people from her life were there. This was tricky with some because we had more pictures of friends than family. We had been on holiday with said friends and you always take more pictures on your hols don't you? We still made sure everyone was in there.

Perhaps she just didn't think. Clutching at straws here.

Just noticed that you were in some of them, so that doesn't seem so bad. There is limited room in an album and perhaps including more of you would have excluded some people.

beatofthedrum Tue 26-Feb-13 12:37:08

Poor you, YADNBU, she sounds very unpleasant. I agree, no point in challenging her as the deed is done. Just file it away and don't trust her. You don't need to live with her on your doorstep, so try not to let it cast a big shadow. That sort of spiteful behaviour is not worth fretting over as you can't change it. What a shame she did that. The problem is clearly her, not you.

JackieTheFart Tue 26-Feb-13 12:37:51

pink you are right I misread blush


pinkdelight Tue 26-Feb-13 12:39:09

No sweat. Fellow wedding-minimisers unite!

drjohnsonscat Tue 26-Feb-13 12:45:51

poor you Moth. She sounds mad and you do not sound like a megalomaniac at all. You are the most important person in his life and you gave him DCs and she has edited you out of his life story!

There's a chance she was being thoughtless rather than malicious, I suppose. If it was malicious, would she have included you at all? Perhaps she didn't really notice or think about it properly. Or that she didn't have many photos of you in the first place. It's true to say that barely any photos of me exist in the world because I'm always holding the camera. But I'm sorry - she sounds absolutely mad.

You are right to be hurt but don't feel you are being neurotic or paranoid. It's just a very big mistake on her part - either she meant it or it's an oversight but either way it's her mistake.

PessaryPam Tue 26-Feb-13 12:48:22

I'd take the album into the garden, douse it in BBQ fluid and burn it.

scarletforya Tue 26-Feb-13 12:49:24

Wow, yanbu OP.

That must have stung. You seem to have a good insight into her and I think you are correct that she was a bit huffy about the wedding and semi-unconsciously tried in her mind to 'redress the balance'. I think you're right that she's probably not self-aware enough to realise she's done this as a bit of a dig at you.

Very unfair of her. Especially to sit you down and go through the book with you. I mean if she had genuine premeditated malice then that was a nasty thing to do.

Either way, I think you're right to leave it. You're in a no-win situation here. She launched her little shitty stealth bomb more or less un-noticed. But she's elderly and in bad health and mistakenly perceived she'd been snubbed for the wedding. You can't do anything really. She doesn't get it.

If she is that primitive in her thoughts and actions and did it as revenge then best let her on with it. She'll wage a war with you and percieve any attempt to explore/understand why she did it and if it was intentional as an 'attack' and make a spectacular hoo-haa about how you selfishly ruined her sons birthday suprise photo book.

Some people place great store in marriage/weddings etc. I find it hard to get into their heads but they do exist. Perhaps she's that old school.

She lacks grace anyway. All you can do is be the bigger person and let her actions speak for themselves I suppose. Maybe get your own photobook made of the family, it might help you feel less slapped down.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Tue 26-Feb-13 12:49:26

5 group shots and 3 as a couple? no I think MIL knew what she was doing

shesariver Tue 26-Feb-13 12:51:05

jackie I do get what you are saying but to lots of people a wedding day is about sharing it with the people who mean most to you. Obviously you see nothing wrong with the bride and grooms parents not being there, others, like myself think differently - I would be devastated if any of my 3 children didnt invite me to their wedding but of course I would have to deal with it if thats what they wanted, and I certainly wouldnt react like this MIL, if indeed that is what has motivated her. And pinks comment makes perfect sense to me - I wouldnt react like that but I can see how someone may think this.

OP I dont think YABU at all, and I to would be very hurt if this me.

allibaba Tue 26-Feb-13 12:52:40

I have been with my DH for 10 years and have shared in pratcially every major celebration of his life and that of his family.

There are no photos of me in their house. There are no photos in the house of my DH post meeting me - its almost like he got to 24 and the camera broke and they didn't get a new one.

Its sad but unfortunately this is how some people are and there isn't much you can do about it. Doesn't stop you getting upset though and feeling pretty betrayed by the people you thought had accepted you as part of their family.

TolliverGroat Tue 26-Feb-13 12:53:51

It could just be thoughtlessness. When DH and I got married his mother ordered an album of photographs from the photographer: there were more pictures of her niece (who was, admittedly, cute and seven and one of the bridesmaids) than there were of DH, and I only featured in a couple. But she hadn't done it on purpose -- she'd just gone through thinking "Awww, that's a lovely picture" and sticking them in, and hadn't stopped to consider the overall balance. It could be similar with your MIL. Possibly. Or she might have done it on purpose.

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