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Grandma's latest bright idea

(8 Posts)
RowanPatrick Tue 23-Aug-11 00:29:10

I have committed two MN sins. I have namechanged and this is another MiL thread. Sorry. It's also long. Sorry again.

You'll need some background and there's a lot of that. I'll try not to leave anything out.
I have never really got on with MiL because we are like chalk and cheese. I am quiet and reserved. She is outgoing and talks a lot. I think she's a nosy gossip. She thinks she's friendly and interested in everyone. I think I'm loyal and confidential. She thinks I'm introverted and non-communicative. You get the picture.

DH and I have had some serious problems with our marriage. He had an affair and I had a near breakdown. It was only as we were getting through it with counselling that it all came out how MiL had been running me down to him. It was like a Toxic Inlaws case study. To my face, she was polite. Behind my back, I was lazy, incompetent, an unfit mother, evil, a bitch and more. She does cause this kind of trouble with other family members. She'll run down my SiL to DH, then tell SiL that DH has said those things about her. DH started to believe her and I'll admit that I blame her for a lot of the problems we were having.

We're both people that like to help others. I'm the type that can't say no and sometimes end up feeling that I've been taken advantage of. MiL will think of what she'd want in that situation and do it even if it's the last thing the person wanted. Usually she'll have the idea and someone else will be pressured into carrying it out. For example, she once took DH and DS1 on holiday with her. I couldn't go because I had to work. I was just settling in front of the TV that evening, thinking that at least I had a quiet evening to myself when FiL knocked on the door. She'd sent him round to take me on her favourite nature walk so I wouldn't be lonely.

She can completely over-react and become hysterical. She phones DH every day, sometimes more. She comes round at least twice a week. I find this difficult to cope with. DH thinks my family is dysfunctional because we don't do this. I'm very matter of fact and I hate the dramas that MiL seems to thrive on.

That's my side of the bad relationship that has existed between us. Recently she said she had not understood me, by which I think she means DH has told her some of the things that came out in counselling, and we've both been trying to build a better relationship that has been successful so far even if it's a bit fragile.

DS1 has special needs and goes to a school where he has to board weekly. We have had problems with MiL trying to take over where DS1 is concerned. She once attended a concert at the school and followed DS1 up to the boarding house and tried to take him home, insisting he was homesick and needed her. I had to go in and sort it out. The boarding staff insist he was fine until she turned up.
She has had him to stay overnight or on holiday and once refused to bring him back when he clearly told her he wanted to go home. DS1 is now reluctant to stay with her so I don't push it even though she's always asking for him to stay. I would allow him to stay if he wanted to. He is 12 and ever since he was born, I have felt that she was behaving as though she was his mother and she was trying to sideline me. She sidelines FiL too.
Once or twice she has attended concerts and events by working it so I had to stay at home and she's done the same with weekends away and holidays so that she gets to go away with DH and DS while I'm stuck at home with our other DCs. Since they were born, she's offered help that is withdrawn at the last moment or told me she's got other plans and can't look after DCs, then turned up at the event itself in my place. She does it differently every time and it's hard to see what she's doing until she's achieved what she wanted. I have learned never to rely on her. She is not like this with any of our other DCs.

I think that's all the background.

In a few years, DS1 will go to another school and board full time. The new school is in the next county and only 25 minutes away.

Today, I found out that MiL is moving. At the moment she lives nearby and she's been moving ever since I've known her. This time it's serious and she's looking at a house in the town where DS1 will be at school when he's older. DH told me and I think he thought I would be glad. Of course, I'm not. I can't tell you how shocked and upset I feel. I was in tears this morning.

I know I can't dictate where MiL lives. I know she will move there whatever I want. I know she'll be all the more determined to move there if she knows I don't want her to.
I just see her going to DS1's new school all the time. She'll be there for all his open days, sports days, she'll probably collect him from school. I feel she's overstepped the boundary and I'm finding it hard to explain to DH how I feel. I only know I don't want her there. I feel like I'm fighting her to keep my own DS1.

DH can't understand at all. He thinks I'm over-reacting. He says it's not a competition and I'm being selfish. Maybe I am.
How can I explain how I feel to him? I just can't do it adequately and, if I could, at least he might understand.

tb Tue 23-Aug-11 16:01:14

What does your dh think about her over-involvement with ds?

If he is agreement, you could always contact the new school and give them details of who is allowed to collect your ds.

I would think that with ds1 having sn, any decent school would want this sort of thing on file anyway.

I think that it's vitally important that you and your dh present a united front on this.

His mother has been slagging you off to him and yet he thinks you are being unreasonable in wanting to reduce / minimise her involvement with your children.

Your DH has to stop and think how this must feel for you. He has let you down very badly with his affair and he has not put your feelings ahead of his mother's in relation to the children.

I think you and your DH have quite a bit more work to do. His mother isn't really the problem in my eyes (although she is clearly toxic) its your DH's behaviour that needs some work; after all you are never going to change your MIL so you can only change how you and your DH deal with her.

RowanPatrick Tue 23-Aug-11 19:56:49

Thank you for taking the trouble to reply. I think you are both right.

I am allowing my resentment and anger against my MiL to cloud the real problem which is DH allowing her to supercede me and my feelings.

I think that he sees me as the one who isn't normal and up to now he's seen her involvement as proof that she cares even if she does show it in a funny way.

I tried again this evening after reading your messages. I told him that I had not made a fuss over having to miss a very important event at DS1's school last term because of her manipulation but that I was still very hurt and upset about it. He acknowledges that what she did on that occasion was unacceptable and he accepted how bitter I felt at having to miss it all. For once, he doesn't blame me, he blames her for it.
I also reminded him of the occasion when she'd gone to the boarding house and he agreed with me again.

So then I tried again to explain more calmly why I feel such horror at the thought of her impending move and this time I think I've got through. He said he understood why I felt the way I do. He still thinks I'm over-reacting a bit (his words) and he thinks nothing will come of it. She's been on the verge of moving several times in the past so I can see why he thinks that.

The main thing is that he's beginning to look at it from my perspective. I know we've got a lot of work to do. He's had years of training from MiL so it won't change overnight. I do feel more positive now.

I will definately speak to both schools. The present school are on the alert since she tried to take DS1 home and I think they might even tell the next school anyway but I will make sure. I didn't realise we could prevent MiL from taking him and I've worried that he'll lose his place if they have to cope with this sort of thing again. She says she's his grandmother and has the right to see him.

As DS1 has got older, he seems to have taken against her in not wanting to spend so much time with her. MiL blamed me for poisoning him against him which isn't true. Part of DS1's SN is that he's very literal. He doesn't lie and doesn't understand prevarication and manipulation very well so I suppose he finds her behaviour difficult to cope with.

JsOtherHalf Tue 23-Aug-11 20:48:03

You can prevent your MIL getting past the reception of his next school. She can be prevented from ever seeing him whilst at school if that is what you want.

However, your DH has to be in agreement with whatever decisions are made. He has PR and as such his wishes are given equal weight.

Dozer Wed 24-Aug-11 13:18:13

She sounds horrible! But think there's also a big problem with your DH's attitude.

Even if there wasn't this history with mil, and you liked each other, it'd still be weird and overstepping the mark. But given the history and her ongoing behaviour, you are DEFINITELY not overreacting!

Your DH is the immediate problem. Sounds like he appeases her and wants you to put up and shut up so that his life is easier. Also sounds like there may be some gaslighting going on so that you doubt yourself.

Dozer Wed 24-Aug-11 13:20:05

For example, why is dh going away with his parents and ds and leaving you with the other dcs? Going to school events with her and without you? That is poor.

deepheat Wed 24-Aug-11 14:51:54

Being positive, the most important things here are that a) you've recognised that you can't control her behaviour, and b) it seems as though you are making progress with your husband.

b) is absolutely crucial because as others have said, you need to be united on this one.

The reality is that preventing her from having access is pretty straightforward. You simply advise the school that only you or your DH can visit/pick-up/whatever your son from the school. I can understand that you wouldn't want to further inflame an inflammatory woman, so just ask the school to advise her, if necessary, that this is an agreed policy. If they're confused about this simply ask them to speak to the previous school.

Forget about having discussions with DH/MiL/FiL/Whoever about who or what is 'normal'. Its a silly word and using it is generally a prelude to some kind of conflict. What is important is the wellbeing of your son, and as his parents it is up to you (and him to a certain extent) to make those decisions. Nobody else.

And then just keep making progress with your husband. Try to remain as calm and rational as you can under difficult circumstances - he needs to recognise that your concerns are solely about your son's wellbeing and not about any dislike you hold for your MiL.

Good luck.

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