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to find my in laws behaviour strange?

(36 Posts)
vcrees6 Thu 11-Feb-16 13:36:05

So some background to avoid Drip feeding -

In laws live in another country, since DS born 2 years ago they either come and stay with us or we go and stay with them (in total 3 times a year averaging 10 days per visit). DS is their first and only grandchild. They are in their late 60's, reasonable health, active on their feet etc. They have a quiet retired life and go on regular holidays which don't involve visiting us.

We live in a 2 bedroom flat with just 1 bathroom so them coming to stay is ok but does mean DH and I sleep on a mattress in the living room as DS won't sleep if anyone shares his room. DH works long hours, I am a SAHM and DS doesn't go to nursery.

We visited them at Christmas for a week and they are also coming to stay for 2 weeks in April. We tried to suggest that it wouldn't be convenient for them to also come and stay for 10 days in February as we are desperately trying to move to a new house and was likely we would have moved by April but still in flat in February. They like booking flights well in advance to save money so were not open to playing it by ear.

They insisted that February was a must as their daughter is going to live abroad indefinitely and wanted to see her before she left. They are just seeing her for one Sunday lunch though (they are not very close).

Anyway they are here now visiting and stated they were keen to help out and spend time with DS. So for me 'helping' is playing with DS - nothing too active just interacting with him doing puzzles, books, playing trains. Basically so I can get on with our everyday routine minus a toddler asking me to play whilst I'm trying to cook dinner, or me having to stop him climbing and falling off the dining table - without resorting to TV which is what I sometimes have to when it's just the 2 of us.

So far mornings are ok - routine breakfast, all of us off to the playground/park with grandparents in tow for a couple of hours then lunch and nap for 2/3 hours. In laws also nap.

*Finally coming to the part I'm find strange*: when everyone wakes up from their naps, the in laws just sit around in living room/adjoining kitchen doing solitary activities. MIL wearing headphones listening to audio books and doing crosswords. FIL on his tablet computer playing games or reading. DS walks around trying to engage them in play. They either ask the other one to play with him or play for 5 mins tops then back to their activities. I end up playing with him and then when it's dinner time I end up sticking the tv on as DS is around my ankles. When I do this, MIL finally springs into action and sits watching tv with him.

I am somewhat bemused and find it somewhat a) pointless for them to visit if point is to spend time with DS b) rude and anti social to be on headphones/tablet.

Is this a reasonable assessment? What (if anything) could I possibly say to them or do differently for the next visit?

TitClash Thu 11-Feb-16 13:40:43

YANBU, they are acting like a pair of teenagers.
If you are moving in April, tell them they have to stay in a hotel. You'll have enough to do without coping with that.

Bejeena Thu 11-Feb-16 13:42:39

Ask them to take him to park on their own after nap to help you out? It doesn't sound like you have done this

timemaychangeme Thu 11-Feb-16 13:43:14

How on earth is that helping I wonder! YANBU. You pointed out that there was a lot to do and it wasn't the best time, they said they wanted to get involved. V odd.

LaurieFairyCake Thu 11-Feb-16 13:45:44

They think that helping out in the morning is enough and that you should be doing what you need to when your toddler naps.

For them, afternoon time is their time - they see they've 'helped' by being out all morning.

Bejeena Thu 11-Feb-16 13:51:16

Actually i agree with what lauriefairy says, tomorrow suggest you take him out alone in morning so he can go with them inafternoon!

vcrees6 Thu 11-Feb-16 13:56:01

Thanks for your replies everyone. Ideally I would be happy for them to go and take to him to the park etc morning and/or afternoon however MIL has stated she wouldn't be comfortable taking DS by themselves as he is very active and overconfident/accident prone and their reaction times are not what they used to be.

LaurieFairyCake - yes this is what I suspected too. However I am the one running around the playground making sure he doesn't throw himself off the slide/climbing frame whilst they sit on a bench and watch.

ThumbWitchesAbroad Thu 11-Feb-16 13:59:54

It is rude and unhelpful of them, yes. And I agree that you should either send them out alone with your DS in the morning, or take him yourself in the morning and send them out with him in the afternoon, so that you get some time to yourself to do whatever you need to.

I don't "get" this sort of behaviour at all, but it appears they're just taking advantage of your home to use as a rest-stop, rather than actively wanting to spend a lot of time with your DS.

My MIL would never do this - she either helps out in the kitchen, or she plays with DSs, she wouldn't dream of fobbing them off like that sad

shovetheholly Thu 11-Feb-16 14:01:28

I think you have quite a low, eminently reasonable understanding of 'help' and they're not even managing to do that.

What happens when you ask them point-blank, i.e. 'I'm going to cook dinner now, can you please keep DS playing and amused so he doesn't bother me?'

And is there any way you could get them to take him somewhere for the morning session - soft play, the cinema, etc. so you could stay at home and get stuff done? You could then all go to the park in the afternoon?

Kidnapped Thu 11-Feb-16 14:04:12

So you never get a break from them? They accompany you everywhere out of the house and then they sit around all day in the living room and kitchen in your small flat, having bagged the only available bedroom for themselves?

What the feck is the point of travelling to another country just to sit around reading/playing on the tablet in the afternoon? Presumably like they would do at home if there was nothing going on.

And the whole "We're going to stick to our DIL like a leech for 10 days but only see our actual daughter for one lunch"? attitude. No. Just no.

Gobbolino6 Thu 11-Feb-16 14:08:03


Namechangenell Thu 11-Feb-16 14:10:16

I totally sympathise. We also live abroad and ILs visiting is an issue. FIL's last visit nearly broke me. He does nothing to help around the house, has to be told things so many times, overrides my decisions, changes plans at the last minute and messes up nap/bedtime etc. He is used to MIL doing everything for him and seemingly can't function properly without her.

They are both visiting next week. DH is taking time off work because I've refused to handle them (or rather, FIL) alone. They like to tell people they're here to help me and give me a break. In reality, it's like having extra children around (and disobedient ones at that!). Don't get me wrong, they are made welcome and I go out of my way to ensure we have foods in that they like, organise activities that they'll enjoy as well as the children and so on. They are young at heart and travel regularly. But dear God, they are frustrating! They are becoming more and more idiosyncratic as they get older, as I imagine we all do. I don't dislike them and their hearts are in the right place. But seriously, in my house, with my children, please respect my views and rules! Rant over...

paxillin Thu 11-Feb-16 14:22:49

Right, MIL and FIL, now we are all refreshed from our nap and I am finished with mnetting the laundry, DS needs to have a run around in the park and dinner needs to be cooked. Would you prefer to take him out to play or should I do that whilst you two cook and do the dishes? 10 day visitors need to muck in.

manateeandcake Thu 11-Feb-16 14:23:14

YANBU, but you or your DH needs to ask them politely but directly for the kind of help you would like. If you do this and they still carry on as before, I would not have them to stay any more.

vcrees6 Thu 11-Feb-16 14:25:41

Thanks all.

shovetheholly - when I've said ok I'm going to do X right now, can you watch him? they stick the TV on.

Kidnapped - no, no break at all!! I personally find it weird to have 2 adults loll around in a confined space not saying anything to me or DS. Don't get me started on their relationship with their daughter...

Namechangenell - good luck for their trip next week - my sympathies for your strange in laws too

I think I do need to find an activity they can handle by themselves and send them on their way.

diddl Thu 11-Feb-16 14:27:53

Well if that is all the "help" that they give, then that's that.

The problem is that February wasn't good for you yet somehow here they are.

How did that happen?

As for me regularly sleeping on the floor, that would just have been a no from the off.

vcrees6 Thu 11-Feb-16 14:33:06

diddl - no doubt we are wimps and need to put our foot down in some sort of tactful way.

We have made baby steps though - initially they would just tell us the dates they had already booked flights for. We then insisted they asked us first before booking.

diddl Thu 11-Feb-16 14:39:56

I know that it's easier said than done.

We used to have regular visitors & our daughter would have a camp bed in our room so thatthey could have hers.

Much angst over how we would tell them that the next time it wouldn't be happening.

In fact, I think that the next time ended up with visitor in daughter's bed, daughter in with me & husband downstairs on sofablush

Kidnapped Thu 11-Feb-16 14:40:05

You currently average 30 days per year either visting them or hosting them. Which is one hell of a lot. Do you spend 30 days a year with your own extended family?

This has now been upped to 31 days in just one 4 month period (Christmas, this visit and their visit in April), which is a totally bonkers amount of time. No wonder you are struggling.

You and your DH need to have a talk.

Options might include PILs staying in a hotel at least part of the time, them using the 2 week period to visit other parts of the country, DH taking time off work to spend with them, DH taking DS on his own to visit them occasionally, PILS and you both reducing the number of days visiting.

CrushedNinjas Thu 11-Feb-16 14:52:29

Sorry, but YABU.

They are LATE 60's.

You have no idea how quickly you can succumb to feeling knackered once past 60. My DH is 63 and needs an afternoon nap to cope with our 6 yr DS. He can be very busy in the garden and doing household chores but can't keep up the same energy levels throughout the day that he could, even just five years ago.

If you want them to help look after DGS you need to work out when their energy levels are at a peak during the day and use that period wisely.

diddl Thu 11-Feb-16 14:53:19

" DH taking time off work to spend with them, "

We've been lucky in that respect.

ILs have never visited us because husband would never promise to be off for the whole of their proposed visit!

Much as I would have hated being alone with them, I'd have hated him using all his AL on them more!

Easy to say when neither happened though!

vcrees6 Thu 11-Feb-16 15:02:42

Kidnapped - yes there has been a ton of visiting recently. Crazily we suggested the Christmas trip - partly to try and put them off visiting in Feb, partly because we feel more the merrier at Christmas and partly we didn't want to cook Christmas dinner!

To be fair to them when we go and stay with them they look after us well and I do get a break as DH is there all the time and happy to do the playing.

My own family live in a completely different third country. We have about the same amount of visiting and trips again with their own set of different challenges but they are obsessed with spending time with DS and very aware of wanting to give me a break/time to myself.

Thanks for all the suggestions!

FragileBrittleStar Thu 11-Feb-16 15:18:57

You have to tell them what to do. My DM does this a lot - sits on ipad /reads newspaper while DS demands attention/I am running around doing housework. I find suggesting that she does something - DS wants to play x/do a jigsaw/have a story works better- its a lack of volunteering rather than saying no (DS is older now and asks her himself)

Ask if they would rather read to DS or make dinner - or clear up while you do x etc - I think they are just not accustomed to help rather than unwilling

waxweasel Thu 11-Feb-16 16:04:52

How annoying! I don't think you're unreasonable at all - and to the PP who said that your ILs may be getting tired due to their age, I'd point out that a) you'd already said they have a decent daily nap while DS sleeps and b) they're the ones claiming they're coming to 'help'!

My ILs aren't this bad, but they are a bit useless at giving me a break from DD when they're here. They're good at tidying/cooking/other forms of help if directed, but that's not what I need generally. They're just not very proactive at entertaining DD, and their default is instead to slope off to read the paper or watch TV. My parents are the total opposite and just whisk DD off for days out, play with her, sort her tea, etc etc without being asked. DH is very good at bossing them around when he's here, but I just can't be that direct with them so tend to just simmer quietly on the rare days I'm alone with them and they're here to 'help'.

It isn't such an issue at the moment but DD2 is due soon, and MIL is going on about wanting to come and stay to 'help'. DH has told me, but said that he's quite happy to decline her offer. Can you get your DH to have a word with them?

RedFlagsOnTheRight Thu 11-Feb-16 16:26:51

I think YABU to expect them to interact with DS all day. They are probably exhausted and want some time to relax in the afternoons. They're not used to looking after a boisterous lively toddler and probably feel they do their bit in the mornings when they watch him or help you at the park. Expecting them to be on duty all day is a bit much, especially when they've just woken from a nap. They are guests not child minders.

However YANBU at all to tell them they can't visit this time. Just be firm and say you are too busy. It sounds like space is very cramped and you will be busy and stressed and resent them.

When you are settled, with more space in new house, you may find you enjoy their visits more. But do lower your expectations, it's unfair to expect them to keep DS entertained all day.

When my mum stays she loves to cuddle, play and interact with my DS. He's a very clingy baby and wants constant attention. It's great having a few hours to get on with housework, shower, cook etc and it's a help to have an extra pair of hands when out. But she also needs time to herself and I'd never begrudge her that. She likes to nap then read for a couple of hours or listen to radio, and sometimes likes to sit quietly on our balcony (alone) with a cup of coffee and watch the world go by. I'm happy that she enjoys her time with us. She's part of the family and a guest, not someone who has come to watch my baby for me. However, if she wanted to visit and it wasn't convenient she wouldn't insist on coming.

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