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MIL trouble

(13 Posts)
Khongor Thu 06-Jan-11 19:58:18

So here's the thing. My mother-in-law (sorry, I can't do the whole "MIL" thing) has, in her life, been around two men with families. There was raising her own family with my father-in-law, and there's my wife's brother-in-law. In both cases, then men were/are hands-off, basically useless non-participating fathers. My mother-in-law's got used to doing a lot.
And now my wife and I have a baby. And we're being equal partners when it comes to parenting.
This doesn't compute with my mother-in-law, who had literally never seen a man change a nappy before. I get lots of patronising compliments about how I'm "helping out." (I'm not helping out, I'm doing my job.) And when she's around - which is a lot - I don't seem to be in control of my own child.
I'm becoming increasingly stressed about the general mood in the house. My mother-in-law is a naturally nervous, busy person at the best of times, and now it's getting out of control. When she's around I usually just take myself off to another room - it's not like I'm needed for parenting. At the same time, our baby's quite young and my wife is still quite fragile, so I don't want to get into too much of this with her. Any ideas?

TheMonster Thu 06-Jan-11 20:04:04

Can you not politely request some time alone, just the three of you (mum, dad and baby) and maybe not have MIL around as much.

Coca Thu 06-Jan-11 20:04:56

Talk to her, calmly, whilst thanking her for her help. Annoying as she is to you she is trying to help. Keep being the dad you want to be and supporting your wife smile

LostVagueness Thu 06-Jan-11 20:07:45

It's a tough one isn't it? I know how it feels and you are probably right not to bring it up with your wife just yet. (after all the Mother in law is prob trying to help in the only way she knows how....however annoying it might be)
Maybe you could suggest that Mother in Law helps by doing something practical like housework while you look after your little one. tell her that you really appreciate her help and that this would be more productive. (my mother in law comes round and for some reason does our washing up for us or tidies away toys etc). I let her get on with it as I'm happy the washing up is done however pissed off that she thinks we cant do it ourselves.

Khongor Thu 06-Jan-11 20:43:33

Thanks for the good advice. I have tried to cheerfully talk to her, both to guide her towards housework-type jobs ("Hey, you know what would help ...") and trying to sound positive while telling her not to do anything. ("Thanks for everything you've done today. Why don't you take a break for a while?" etc.) That has actually made it a bit better. Mostly though, I think she does most of what she does without even realising. It's like she hits the door and goes on auto-pilot help mode. She's even told my wife that she likes coming to ours because she feels like she can relax more. (If this is her relaxing, I'd hate to see her at my sister-in-law's. Think Mary Poppins on speed.)
I suppose the best thing to do is just keep subtly plugging away until she notices that things are under control.

LostVagueness Fri 07-Jan-11 15:13:35

Alternatively, you could go on strike/pretend to be ill and show her what would happen if you were as useless as she appears to think you are. Or you could just knock her over the head and put her under the patio!

Good Luck

3littlefrogs Fri 07-Jan-11 15:22:50

She sounds well intentioned. I think you have to smile and hand her list of jobs that need doing as soon as she arrives.

Presumably you are not going to be at home 24/7 indefinitely, so if she gets the hang of using the washing machine/knows where the hoover is etc, that can only be useful in the long run.

I would have given anything to have had some help when mine were small. Unless she is really doing her best to undermine you or create upset I would just go with it for now.

hugglymugly Fri 07-Jan-11 16:20:40

Could you use a sling? And maybe time things so you're carrying the baby in the sling when your MIL arrives? That might give her a strong visual clue that parenting is an equal partnership in your home.

starfishmummy Fri 07-Jan-11 16:32:45

Could it be that by disappearing when MIL is there it is perhaps sending her the wrong signals -oh he's off again, soon turns into he doesn't care as he's never here, which makes her think she's needed more?

FakePlasticTrees Fri 07-Jan-11 16:33:25

Have you talked to your wife about it? It could be a daughter to mum chat is needed to explain how hands on you are compared to the other men in the family.

It can be hard for parents of the mother trying to help - we went to my parent's place in France for our summer holidays and they kept trying to take DS off us so we could have a break - I had to explain to my Mum that while I understood it was well intentioned, DH doesn't get to see DS all day when he's at work (and works alot at the weekends) and he was looking forward to spending time with his son, rather than seeing caring for DS as a burden. My parents were fine with that, they just hadn't thought that bit through, they see DS's care as just my 'job' that I'd want a holiday from. But, I can see that DH wouldn't feel confortable having that conversation, so i had to do it.

Other ideas that might help if she really is keen to be useful and your DW doesn't feel she can tell her to back off, could you put up a whiteboard in your kitchen with a list of "to do" jobs on it, then if she comes round to help you can point her to it and say you'd love help with that list.

annh Fri 07-Jan-11 16:45:14

What age is the baby and how often does your MIL visit? Perhaps some of the gloss of looking after your dc will wear off? If she's only visiting once a week it's a different proposition to her being in your house every day.

EldritchCleavage Fri 07-Jan-11 17:04:41

Are you my husband? My mother tends to do this a bit.

My grandmother was shocking-she thought a man doing anything domestic was some sort of breach of the Geneva Convention and never let the matter drop.

With those experiences in mind, I say

-keep up the praise and thanks;

-direct her (politely), so you're the boss and she helps where you want her to. You just have to interrupt the autopilot;

-don't disappear (unless you've got the baby with you), it gives her full rein and reinforces the man not involved pattern;

-don't hand the baby over unless and until you want to;

-don't be so subtle she doesn't notice/respect your wishes. I hate to say it but my mother, however devoted and well-intentioned, has been much easier with all her children's families once the child-in-law had firmly established boundaries (she takes it better from them than from her own children).

-let most of it go, but if she makes any particularly egregious comment about you doing things, pick her up on it calmly and correct it;
-make sure you get a say in the timing and frequency of visits.

QueenofWhatever Sat 08-Jan-11 07:53:49

Funny isn't it, we say the MIL is well-intentioned but if it was the other way and a man said that about a woman, we'd say it's sexist.

Or should I be over in feminisim with the rest of the sistas?

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