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Not sure what to do - grandmother pressure.

(13 Posts)
lottieladybird Thu 14-Jul-11 17:03:49

I hope this is in the right place.

My husband and I have a 2 year old daughter. My husband has a niece who is 9 years old and ever since his niece has been born she has spent a lot of time with my in-laws. Every weekend she is there from Friday evening to Sunday evening and she goes there during the week too. I think my PIL have sort of taken over a little from the start, but I think DN's parents (now split ) were glad to hand her over sometimes too, although I'd sometimes speak to her mum (when she and BIL were together) and ask where's DN and she would say 'Oh, MIL has got my baby again'.

Before I became pregnant with my DD, I was wary that this was not going to happen with our child too.

We do get on well with MIL, but I feel increasing pressure to let her have my DD at times. We are always glad to see her when she visits and she is welcome any time. We've tried to be fair in that she sees our DD as much as my mum and my DD loves both her grandmothers equally. I've noticed that she tries to ask me rather than my husband as I will be more polite whereas he will be quite blunt I guess. Sometimes I'd like some extra time to ourselves but I'm scared that if we give an inch she will take a mile. I just don't want my daughter to turn into my niece iyswim.

NanaNina Thu 14-Jul-11 17:13:35

I think the important thing is what does your DD want - does MIL want her overnight and if so is your little girl happy with this. If so, it seems a good arrangement now and again. In view of the arrangements with your DN I just think you need to be extra vigilant that overnights or weekends with MIL are kept at a level you are happy with (maybe an overnight a month, and a weekend every 2 months) I don't know - it depends on what you are happy with. I think it is good for children to enjoy time with their grand parents, and presumably the 9 year old would be there some of the time and little girls of 2 love big girls of 9!

Why don't you and your DH talk together about frequency and then tell your MIL that is this what you were thinking and is she ok with that. Tough if she's not but at lest by asking the question she will feel that her wishes have been taken into account.

I am a MIL and gr/prt and with 2 of my sons and dils I know I can visit anytime and don't even have to ask, and can have the children whenever, but with son and dil No 3 it is tricky and they live about 300 miles from us....so I asked in the beginning when their first child arrived, how often then thought it reasnable for us to visit and we sort of agreed monthly. However it tends to be 6 weekly because of the cost and the travel etc and they (well my dil really) is not happy about the children coming to us so I have to respect that. In any event this is a strange place for them because they only come about once a year.

ShoutyHamster Thu 14-Jul-11 17:20:27

If you give her an inch then yes she WILL take a mile - as you can see from whats happened with your niece.

You just have to bite the bullet I'm afraid. Firstly, you're not being at all unfair. The situation with your niece is crazy. Your daughter should be spending her time primarily with you. She is your daughter so what you say goes. Of course she should have a good relationship with your MIL - but as a grandmother, not a surrogate mum! Your MIL is chancing her arm because she's got away with taking over before.

If you hit the right note now, though, your MIL will learn that she can't push you around - and although at first it will be hard, it will be so, so worth it in the long term. Far better than years of you dreading the phone, of trying to 'outwit' her, of sulks and manipulation.

So bright and firm. It will KILL you at first but the sentences 'No, I don't want DD to go anywhere today' 'No, I'd rather spend some time with her myself' 'No, we are having family time just us this weekend' will save you so much heartache in the long run. If she persists, then I would sit her down. Say that you know how much she has had care of your niece, so you can see why she MIGHT think that DD would also visit as much. But you and DH want time to be split equally between grandparents, and you also want BY FAR the majority of DD's time to be spent at home with her parents. She can't really argue with that - if she does, it's time again to bite the bullet. Firm smile, and 'Look, I really don't want to fall out with you over this, but I will say now that DD just won't be spending anything like as much time with either of her grandparents as (niece) has with you. We want a different system and we want you to enjoy being a grandparent without the pressure of constantly caring for DD. After all, that is MY job' (steely look). She'll get your drift smile

If you always mention 'both grandparents' it should help her see that a. it isn't all about her and b. realise how unreasonable she is being if she does ramp up the demands. And make sure your DH is fully on board. Next time you get an unreasonable request, make HIM sit her down. He can presumably be straighter with her - and if he's not keen, ask what he'd prefer, him helping defuse a situation or you ending up not wanting MIL around at all? He can and should make it quite clear to her that the situation with your niece is not one you want to replicate.

Only you know how she's likely to respond to all that! But if she's a cheeky one, direct action is the only way. Remember, you hold all the cards - you just have to be prepared to use them!

lottieladybird Thu 14-Jul-11 21:52:23

Thanks both, I really appreciate it. Shoutyhamster - is yours the voice of experience?

At the moment, both my mother and my MIL have babysat DD for us for a few hours whilst we have gone out. This has happened maybe about 10 times in her life.

The pressure I am getting at present is from MIL wanting to take DD in the car with her. The car seat she has in the car is a high back booster seat that she uses for DN. She seems to think that it is suitable for DD (2 yr old) too. I have tried to tell her that it is for approx age 4 upwards but the message does not seem to get through. This seems to happen when I am waving her off after visiting us and DH is in the house (not listening) and she asks if she can take DD for a spin. I always say no. Last week my DH was taken to hospital suddenly and I under desperate circumstances let her take my DD on the mile journey home. She now seems to think this is the green light and she's been telling people she is going to take DD on holiday (600 mile round trip).

That night, I also asked another family member to take care of my DD (mainly because she has a baby and had all the nappies, milk, wipes etc to deal with my DD at short notice). We were lucky that DH was let out after a few hours and we picked up my DD on the way home. The next day MIL was curious if she stayed over and was asking my DH questions about it.

When my DD was 2 weeks old, she turned up expecting to take her to a school play of DN. We said no, and she said 'Oh, I've taken the day off now - don't you trust me?', I think trying to make us feel guilty. My DH had a polite word and she did back off, but now we're feeling the pressure again as DD is not a baby anymore.

I think as well, DH and I were in our mid thirties when DD was born, we'd lived a lot before and we were quite happy to calm down and spend time with DD when she was born, whereas I guess BIL and his exP were relatively young and wanted DN away from them sometimes.

Ahhh, I think if she was less keen - I'd be more inclined to let her go more. As we get on well and she has many good points, I don't want to fall out or be too harsh. Perhaps I should let my DH do most of the talking. We've both always thought that the DN situation was too extreme.

MrsBloomingTroll Thu 14-Jul-11 22:24:52

OP, your post rings a bell with me.

Especially your comment about you and your DH having "lived a lot" and being happy to spend time with your DD, whereas your BIL and his exP hadn't and so were happier to hand over your DN to your MIL. Are you me?

We're going through something similar with my DD and DN. PILs care for DN a lot whilst SIL and her DH continue to live a lifestyle not dissimilar to the one they had pre-DN. (DD and DN are both aged 2+.)

MIL has made it clear on several occasions that she wishes she saw as much of our DD as she does of DN.

In our case, my DH didn't exactly lay down the law with his parents, but luckily he has a great relationship with his dad (my FIL) and made it clear that our family time (DH, DD, me) is our priority, especially as my DH works stupidly long hours, often travels, and doesn't get to see us much.

We manage the situation by ensuring PILs get to see DD on a regular basis on our terms (monthly, as do my own DPs, and we plan a couple of months ahead) and every 3-6 months or so we ask them to babysit in some capacity so that we can have a night out or a night away. This is a drop in the ocean compared to what they do for DN.

However, because PILs know DN much better than our DD, and because they are the same age, when they look after DD they forget her preferences (food, toys, books, TV, etc.) and often just foist on her what they would do with DN (or what SIL dictates they should do with DN). Which is a real shame now that DD has the ability to express her own thoughts, preferences and feelings.

I try to look on the good side of this. I have PILs who are willing and able (arguably more willing/able than my own DPs) to look after DD whenever I ask. With DC2 on its way soon, that's definitely a positive!

The flip side, FWIW, is that DN sees PILs as 'primary carers' and plays them up at every turn, just as she would her own parents. PILs don't seem to enjoy spending time with DN - it's a chore not a pleasure.

Let your DH do the talking, as you suggest. If he feels the same as you, which it sounds like he does, then that will be a good basis for moving forward.

Good luck!

Don't give in if it's something you feel very strongly about. I sorely regret the amount of input my parents have in my DC's life sad it's like they're not mine and it breaks my heart sad

lottieladybird Fri 15-Jul-11 09:12:02

Thanks both Generalcustardshardhat and MrsBloomingtroll. I'm sorry to hear that General sad. It's a strange one for me as my own mother (widowed) is very busy socially and not really bothered about looking after DD on her own. She does love her though and will help me out if I asked but she's not biting at the bit to do it iyswim.

I then find it difficult to cope with someone who is the opposite. I think MIL's life is a little empty (her husband is alive but not really interested in home/ family stuff), so she thrives on time with GC a bit too much.

MrsBloomingTroll Sat 16-Jul-11 09:13:18

Same here re. my parents versus PILs. My own DPs worked their whole lives and are now busy enjoying their retirements, as they should, and keep very active and busy.

MIL gave up her career long ago and seems to have had quite an empty life until GCs were born, now fills her hours looking after DN or longing for next time with GCs. I encounter a lot of women like her in my gym and they just seem so sad with their lot in life.

Makes me very determined to resurrect my own career once DCs are safely installed in childcare!

Throw your MIL a bone, so to speak. Make sure the next time with your DD is put in the diary ASAP (preferably before) after each meeting, as it will give her something to look forward to and plan for. But make sure any contact is on your terms! (And believe me, when/if DC2 comes along, you may be biting her hand off for help.)

lottieladybird Sat 16-Jul-11 11:53:14

Thanks MrsBloomingTroll! Don't worry too much about empty lives smile, I think it just depends on the person - my mother is older and retired, but she does not turn down any invites and has lots of friends. She is always busy with lots of trips and activities planned. My MIL is still in her 50's and works full time, but her life consists of work, DN and ferrying her (non driving) husband about.

I'm wary to ask MIL to babysit too much (on my terms) as I don't want to feel like I 'owe' her DD in return iyswim. Of course we'd do anything else for her in return.

We've been pressured since we got together years ago about giving them grandchildren, then DN took away a bit of that pressure, then we had the comparison of 'BIL has produced us a grandchild, what's wrong with you??' sort of thing. It just gave me a red warning flag before I even thought to have children.

I think she has been a positive influence in some ways on my DN's life, but they don't tend to do much. I remember going up to PIL house and she would just be watching DVD's everytime. (Not that that is bad in itself, my DD enjoys the TV too, but there is so much to do here (beaches, walks, parks etc), it seems a waste not to do something on the weekend). They go on holiday to visit extend family and then when we ask 'Oh, what did you do?- did you see X,Y and Z attractions' and they say 'Oh, DN liked the hotel room so much, we just stayed in most of the time.'

The house is in quite a bad state (not that mine is sparkling or anything, it's not), I think MIL does not have much time to clean and declutter with having DN most of the time, so we tend to invite them here instead of going there, so I'm quite wary of her wanting to take her there. Also her husband is not a pleasant person (I won't go into that), I don't really want DD spending time alone with him. So those things are in the back of my head too, but obviously I cannot say that to MIL.

Sorry, I'm rambling but it's helpful to get it down on paper to make me realise what I'm scared of.

Fluffycloudland77 Sat 16-Jul-11 14:41:06

I haven't got dc but my first instinct is don't let her have the baby, if gerblife is empty that's her problem to solve not yours.

She had her kids. This is yours.

Remember no is the easiest word! Once you have said it you don't have to do anything else.

Fwiw I think she would take over given half a chance. And no way would I let anyone but the parents take a two year old on holiday!.

Fluffycloudland77 Sat 16-Jul-11 14:42:59

Her life, sodding autocorrect.

diddl Sat 16-Jul-11 16:19:40

Children do not have to stay over at GPs/visit GPs without parents/go on holiday with the GPs if the parents don´t want it.

I never did & my children never have.

It´s not obligatory!

lottieladybird Sun 17-Jul-11 11:56:20

Thanks all, it's been really helpful smile. Just have been starting to feel guilty I guess.

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