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MIL way too critical and I want next visit to be different. Any tips?

(63 Posts)
ThatBintAgain Thu 27-Sep-12 13:08:59

She's coming to stay in a couple of weeks and I'm really not looking forward to it. She was up a month ago and it was a nightmare, she was constantly having a dig. In brief:

my cooking isn't suitable (bland enough)
my portions are too big
my house is too small
my kids are too naughty
my washing powder smells too strong
I use the tumble dryer too much (I don't!)
we are idiots for not buying a house (with what?!)

I could go on (and on) but suffice it to say that she seems desperate to point out things that we do that she thinks are utterly stupid and it feels like she would love nothing more than to see us come a cropper so she can say "I told you so." I have tried to rise above it and be very pleasant but actually it makes me just want to stay away from her.

I feel like saying when she arrives - "right, no criticism for the duration of your stay thank you!" but clearly I won't because it seems a bit antagonistic. But I'm getting fed up of turning the other cheek and the strain usually shows by the time she leaves with DH and I falling out.

Any practical advice please?!

tribpot Thu 27-Sep-12 13:16:17

What does your DH suggest? As it's his mother, I would expect him to be the one setting ground rules with her.

ThatBintAgain Thu 27-Sep-12 13:17:55

I dunno, it's mainly me that spends time with her, and it's mainly me that cops the flak. I might have a word with him about it but he's struggling with life in general at the moment and don't really want to put any more on his plate.

SuperSesame Thu 27-Sep-12 13:18:23

My own mum is like that and very critical.
I've a few different responses depending on my tolerance level.
"Mum, I'm 30, not a child."
"How did you get on with your own mother once you had children" (I say this to make her think, and something it does influence her behavior for a short time until she forgets!)
Or when completely pissed off with it " Mum, I'm sorry it isn't up to your high standards", said sarcastically or just a loud sigh each time she picks on something.
She criticises everything, my house cleanliness, my cooking, the way I stack the dishwasher, disciplining my DC, my fingerprinted windows, giving my DC sweets, not giving my DC sweets, you get the picture.

I know MILs are different and its not as easy to be so forthright but I think empthasising your age and the fact you manage to run a home should remind her.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 27-Sep-12 13:27:27

I think if it's just the two of you together... woman to woman.... you wait for the first barbed comment and then nip it in the bud. "I put up with it last time because you're a guest in my home and I believe in being polite, but if you've only come here to pick holes in the way we live you can get back in your car. Capiche?"

ThatBintAgain Thu 27-Sep-12 13:38:02

Oh god, I forgot the half of it; when she was here DS2 woke up in a head to toe rash that looked exactly like a measles rash. I was really worried and we got on to the doctors asap, to eventually be told that it was probably a viral rash. Was quite scary though. MIL was practically ridiculing me saying measles is spots (I swear to god if you google measles rash what you get looks like what he had) and then got really sniffy about the fact that we used a thermometer. (In her day they didn't have thermometers, they just felt the kids' heads, and the reason I'm so neurotic is because of all this progress. hmm )

Super your mother sounds the same as MIL, but I find it harder to tell MIL to shut up (which I would if it was my mother!) I was tempted to say last time actually, how would she have liked it if her MIL was constantly criticising everything she did; she was never in that situation as her MIL died just before DH was born.

Cogito - I like that approach, and if I get a few brandys in me I might attempt that. wink I've spent the last few years trying to be really nice to people no matter what (perhaps I'm taking Buddhism too literally?!) but some counselling I've had recently has made me see that actually, I really don't have to allow people to treat me like shit. It's an eyeopener, for sure...

PurplePidjin Thu 27-Sep-12 13:41:36

my cooking isn't suitable (bland enough) - cook with minimal seasoning, then ostentatiously put pepper and chilli flakes on your own meal. Or insist on having Indian and Jamaican food all week "because it's all dc# will eat, MIL"

my portions are too big - one big bowl in the middle, help yourself. "No point standing on ceremony for family, MIL"

my house is too small - "So much easier to clean, MIL"

my kids are too naughty - "We hate it when children aren't free to express themselves, MIL, we wouldn't want to stifle their natural creativity"

my washing powder smells too strong - don't do her washing, you wouldn't want her to get a rash can you get itching powder on ebay?

I use the tumble dryer too much (I don't!) - "Life's sooo much easier now than in the old days, isn't it MIL, and the kids love to run around in the garden without a washing line to hinder them"

we are idiots for not buying a house (with what?!) - "Yes, MIL, but we're waiting for some elderly relative to croak so we can get a really good deposit together" <pointed look>


CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 27-Sep-12 13:43:34

Being nice and being treated with respect do not have to be mutually exclusive. Bitchy old ladies are like six year-olds in the playground i.e. give them an inch and they take the piss. Knock them to the canvas with your iron fist in a velvet glove ... then offer a brew and a Hob-Nob before they realise what you've done. smile

PurplePidjin Thu 27-Sep-12 13:44:11

X post!

Re illness: "Wasn't the infant mortality rate shocking in those days, MIL, those poor families losing so many children. I'm so glad i can protect mine with just a little bit of knowledge"

ThatBintAgain Thu 27-Sep-12 13:45:37

grin @Purple - I wouldn't mind, but our crappy rented house is actually bigger than the one her family of the same size lived in fgs!

I'm basically resigned to the fact that everything we do is wrong, I'm just sick of f*&ing hearing about it! I get enough shit from my own family to be honest, I don't need it from DH's side as well!

ThatBintAgain Thu 27-Sep-12 13:48:04

"Knock them to the canvas with your iron fist in a velvet glove ... then offer a and a Hob-Nob before they realise what you've done."

Literally roared Cogito. Excellent. grin

ThatBintAgain Thu 27-Sep-12 14:27:43

I will have a word with DH about it. But I think ultimately it will have to come from me, as Cogito suggests. He doesn't see the half of it unfortunately. Plus if he and I disagree about anything, however slight, in her presence she piles in and I feel ganged up on. So he needs to be slightly more aware so we can at least pretend to have a united front on everything.

brass Thu 27-Sep-12 14:37:29

if she's like my MIL, being polite will be like a red rag. Cogito is right. I long ago did the 'my house, my kids, my universe, I'm not looking for your approval or disapproval and if you haven't got anything nice or positive to say better not to say anything at all' speech. She was cat's bum I was grin

MNHQ we NEED a cat's bum emoticon!

perfectstorm Thu 27-Sep-12 14:43:35

I agree with Cogito. As soon as she starts, personally I'd just say very calmly that if she hasn't the maturity to behave with basic courtesy in another woman's home, then she knows where the door is. If on the other hand she wants to have a lovely family visit, hopefully the first of many, then you're prepared to be the bigger person and forget her unnecessary comment on this one occasion. But you are not her child, she is a guest, and her behaviour is unacceptable to you.

I'd work out how you want to say it yourself, as it needs to sound convincing. And you need to walk away straight away, so she has enough distance between the telling-off and next making eye contact for a fresh start to be made, iyswim. If she tries to have a row, I'd say, "you are embarrassing yourself again" and keep walking.

I'd also be very sure your DH will back you, if she is likely to try to get him into it.

I sympathise. There are some lovely MIL in the world. Why don't we have those? grin

perfectstorm Thu 27-Sep-12 14:46:50

Incidentally since standing up to mine I get expensive presents all the time. confused I hate it, tbh, as I am sure it's part of the martyr routine to others, but DH has pointed out that she did that before I made a stand, but without the presents, so who cares?

I'm lucky. She winds my husband up far more than me, and as she is basically impossible to all, not just me, nobody blames me. I think more skilled manipulators must be bloody murder. And FIL is a saint. A PITA in many ways, but as fundamentally decent a human being as you could ever hope to meet. Which leavens it all considerably.

zipzap Thu 27-Sep-12 15:05:03

Pre-empt her so...

serve her food and say you be she has been looking forward to some nice tasty food, not her usual bland boringness

serve her out a tiny weeny small portion and wait for her to complain about them being small (so you can point out how contrary she is) - you can always give her more afterwards

point out that whilst you would love to buy somewhere to live of your own, you don't have the money and even if you did, houses are so expensive round here that it would be even smaller than this - and how did you cope in such a small house when you were in our position, at least I guess in some respects I am luckier than you in that we have more space now than you did then but at least you didn't have a MIL

what washing powder does she use that doesn't smell strong - they all smell these days!

etc etc

Also make yourself a mil bingo sheet - with as many of her expected criticisms on as you can think of and a few other outrageous things just for fun. as she says stuff, say ooh, bingo, just stop there a moment, hold that thought, wander off and actually cross it off your sheet. If she sees you doing it, all the better. And then say 'righty ho, carry on, where were we...' without explaining it to her, and see how confused annoyed etc she gets.

It gets better, because you get to put points against each thing - and points make prizes. So say she just says one thing during her visit - then you get a bar of chocolate. Two things - glass of wine and a relaxing bubble bath whilst dh watches the kids. three things - nice treat magazine. four things - box of chocs. five things - bottle of wine. etc etc but stick in things that you like. And of course have something nice at the end - so full house - new handbag or whatever you like.

Works on lots of levels - she'll wonder what you are doing. You have a way to interrupt the conversation and leave her just hanging when she is mid flow and saying offensive things. Tell dh you are doing it and he'll start watching out and seeing more things that she is saying that aren't nice. You'll start wanting her to say things because then you can cross them off and get more treats. By anticipating them, you've taken the sting out of them, so her power to hurt with them has gone.

blackcurrants Thu 27-Sep-12 16:47:56

OP is it worth you trying the Ginshizz method ? You need your H onside, and you need to be ready for some fallout, but oh my god she had some great success with it!

Your MIL sounds a nightmare. I have no experience of MILs (my own is so toxic DH cut contact long ago), we do xmas and birthday cards, that's about it) so in a way I am very lucky, I certainly think you have to get ballistic (in other words, set and enforce your boundaries very, very strongly) with people like this. GOOD LUCK!

Mayisout Thu 27-Sep-12 16:53:27

It's a way for her to feel superior/ more intelligent/ better educated/ more worldlywise or something and not to do with you at all. It's her low self esteem or something which she is boosting by picking at you.

But really does she feel happier or better for doing this? I doubt it.

Nip it in the bud with a cutting remark - as mentioned above - you would be doing yourself AND HER a great big favour.
(and don't try to reason or persuade just make the clear cutting remark)

Mayisout Thu 27-Sep-12 16:56:29

Nip it in the bud with a cutting remark like Cogito's suggestion

Mollydoggerson Thu 27-Sep-12 17:00:38

I have told my MIL to stop criticising me, guess what, it works.

We more or less stay away from each other, but she knows her boundaries now. And I know exactly what kind of a person she is. (ominous evil stare...)

NicholasTeakozy Thu 27-Sep-12 17:16:16

I was going to suggest Ginshizz but Blackcurrants beat me to it. grin

Lavenderhoney Thu 27-Sep-12 17:19:55

How long is she there for? My mum complained about my cooking when she was staying once. I said, tell you what, I really don't mind if you want to take over the cooking while you are here! Or if you want to use anything in the fridge and make your own. She mumbled something and i never heard about it again.
Put food in middle of table and let everyone help themselves. I do that or every meal anyway, no plating up. It saves a lot of bother. Plus you can save leftovers better.

House too small- really? We like it, but it would be nice to move- maybe you can give us some money! Tell her dh is the one to talk to.

Kids too naughty! They want your attention mil! They love playing with you! Get out playdoh, let dd make her upsmile or do a makeover - all dependent on ages/ activities. Then you push off to do the ironing / drink tea/ go to spa.

Washing powder too strong. Agree, and ask her which one she likes, maybe she coud bring her own? In a nice way.

Tumble dryer- its raining! And just smile!

Plus she is there to spend with the dc yes? Well, let hersmile keep her busy...

itsthequietones Thu 27-Sep-12 19:53:55

My MIL only used to be able to control her criticising impulses for 3 or 4 days when she used to visit. I eventually said to her 'MIL, I am not prepared to go through this any more with you. I'm getting very tired of listening to you criticising me. To be honest, if you think I'm doing such a bad job of things here then I think it's best if you don't come again'.

Dp was also told to 'have words' with his mother, which he did. He now has a talk with her before every visit.

It worked for me, unfortunately she now criticises dp instead (about me as well as him), but not in front of me.

catstail Thu 27-Sep-12 20:03:02

OP, I dont think its personal. I think she's a miserable moaner by nature, and if she has daughters etc I bet she is the same with at least one of them too.

pixwix Thu 27-Sep-12 22:05:52

Op - loads of good advice - I feel for you -mine used to wait till ex-dh was out of the room, and say something stinging...

I rather liked (loved) Zipzaps Mil bingo sheet though - it just made me spit diet coke on my keyboard!! grin

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