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Yet another PIL thread.....(11 Posts)
Following in from the thread in AIBU about the woman who's parents keep trying to push money on her. Really reminded me of my PIL so thought I would start my own thread rather than hijack. Wondered what you all make of this behaviour:
DH parents are very generous but also very opinionated and like to be in control. DH has a brother who works for the family business, lives in a flat bought for him by he family (in which he is banned fron putting up posters!!) and drives a car bought for him by his parents.
I get the impression, they would like a similar life for DH, but he rebelled as a young man and has forged some independance. I would not be with him otherwise!
DH also works for the family business part time. I am due to go back to work full time to a job I love. DH will take over as the main carer for DS (8 months) but continue to work his 2 days a week.
We have just been to visit PIL and they are clearly unhappy with the arrangement. MIL kept up a stream of comments, massively overstating the difficulty to me of leaving a child to returnto work and to DH of picking up the slack. Raised lots of practical issues. Most of which I have already talked through on mumsnet and am confident we can handle (thanks mumsnet!) But still managed to plant little seeds of doubt.
FIL took DH aside and said "For Gods sake, your 30 years old, you can't waste your life babysitting"
As with the poster on AIBU, all this is accompanied by material generosity (paying at the restaurant, new clothes for DS, sent us home with baby food and nappies)
I've always felt like the generosity has a catch though, like it makes them feel justified in the meddling. I also think they resent any evidence that we are competent to manage on our own.
For example: just before DS was born, I had a little wobble about money. My mum helped me go through a budget and reasurred me I could manage. MIl volunteered the opinion that we wouldn't be able to cope and suggested solutions that would make us more dependant on her!
DH thinks this is a case of cultural difference, a lotof middle class families operate like this and being from a poorer background Im just not used to it.
But its not that, is it? They genuinely have appalling personal boundaries don't they?
I've seen some friends who have parents who throw money at them but want complete control. They don't seem to be able to cope when the offspring stand up to them.
Both sets of parents for us have been supportive and loaned money when we needed it last year to pay the mortgage when dh was made redundant with no payment.
There is being supportive and there is being controlling. Your inlaws sound like the latter.
Do you tell them personal details and then balk when they try to offer or push advice?
I think if you're keeping your cards to your chest, and just getting on with your life then they can just p-off and find something else to stick their noses into.
Sounds very frustrating though! I've no experience of it, but know some people with similar parents.
FWIW, your set up of you working and DH being a SAHP sounds like it's well thought out and like it could work well for you as a family.
Your FIL's comment was to me as a SAHM. Surely he'd only be home with the child for a number of years, is hardly "wasting his life"!
I feel for you!
No its not cultural difference at all and not all middle class families act like this either. This is primarily about power and control and their want for same over yourselves.
Their genorosity is not without unwritten conditions attached and those conditions are "bend to our will!!". We buy you stuff so bend to our will!.
Honestly the best bet is to limit as far as possible all contact with them and return all gifts. Both of you certainly need to raise your boundaries re them a lot bloody higher than they are currently.
His parents have and still continue to use money to try and control; small wonder your DH rebelled against this. Unsurprisingly his parents do not like this at all and probably blame you for "turning" him against them. No, he had enough of being controlled by them a long time ago and decided to make a life for himself. He still is partly enmeshed with them because he still works albeit part time for the family business; is there any way he can leave?. I would seriously consider finding alternative employment rather than work with such people.
I would suggest your DH reads "If you had controlling parents" by Dr Dan Neuharth because his parents will certainly be in those pages.
They do sound a little overbearing, and yes, with some boundary issues. Your father in law definately sounds sexist.. And no, this is NOT a "cultural" difference, what a ridiculous and patronising thing to say! (I say that as a middle class girl with very generous parents, who totally let us all do our own thing and enjoy life the way we want to without judgement or attempts to control, despite helping us all out with money on occasion).
So whilst your PIL probably think they're being helpful, it is up to your husband to explain to his father that looking after his own son is not "babysitting". and that that's a rather sexist view.. does your FIL think you should be doing the staying at home despite you being the one with a full time job?
I think wanting to be in control like this is not always a sinister or even conscious thing on the part of parents. The material geneoristy may well come from a desire to help and also the advice / controlling bits. But ultimately its pretty misguided and I think can reflect parents who have not really 'let go' mentally of their children and do not see them as independant adults in their own right.
I think some of these parents think they are being extremely loving but actually they are only projecting their own needs and preferences onto the children who they either don't trust to make their own choices or still feel this sort of 'ownership' of.
I'm not saying any of this is your PIL since it's hard to say exactly where this sort of controlling behaviour comes from but it's something maybe to consider?
Your MIL options of solutions which make you more dependent on her could stem from an anxiety she has that all will not be ok and a need to try and make things ok in a practical sense. It IS a control thing but it roots might not lie in just a desire to be meddling for the sake of it (or it could be that too!).
I think at the end of the day neither of you are obliged to accept the help or solutions they offer. When they do do this could you not reply with a firm but clear 'thank you but we have decided on X as a solution'. Yea it sounds like their personal boundaries are rubbish, but you can lay down boundaries yourself by being firm and polite and going your own way regardless.
I don't think though it has much to do with middle class values or anything like that, I think it's a bit mean of your husband to suggest because of you being from a poorer background you are not used to it
When it's your own child it's not 'babysitting', it's parenting.
Don't give away private details that PIL don't need to know about, and if they try to insist on you following them plan, just keep re-iterating that you're doing X but thanks for their suggestions.
It's nothing to do with background or being middle class- it's simply down to how your PIL operate, nothing more general than that.
Thanks all of you for the replies. Mumsnet does love a good mother in law thread
I recognise both Attila's and SundayGirls assessments of the situation.
I often ask myself is MIL Carmela or Livia Soprano? Ie: Is she someone who enjoys a matriarch status but is ultimately harmless. (the SundayGirl view) Or is she something altogether more dangerous as Atilla seems to be implying.
The answer obviously effects how to respond.
MIL seems to offer up opinions on what we should be doing re-actively, like drawing breath, will take offence if we disagree but will rarely check if we followed through with any particular course of action.
We've been primarily doing smile and nod, then going off and doing our own thing. I only rarely voice disagreement, for the simple reason that once I started I'd be arguing with her the majority of the time.
It annoys me though. (Don't even get me started on their views on breastfeeding!)
I used to find the same behaviour insufferably weak in DH. Then I thought, actually What is the mature response to being completely infantilised? Is there one?
Needles: I've learnt not to offer any personal information beyond how well everything is going and how we are all fine. (Which is true BTW!) They will pry though.
Don't be too hard on DH's comment. I am very proud of my working class heritage and we talk quite openly about the differences in our backgrounds. I think DH genuinely thinks his family dynamic is normal. Really interesting to see that its not.
Attila: thanks for the recommendation. I will point him towards it
And yes, I am FUMING about the sexist babysitting comment
I would suggest your DH stops working for the family business if you can afford it - does he currently work for his other work 3 days a week? It might be far better for you as a family to be completely financially separate from them and pay for childcare (even if it means relying on your mum some days to cover, never MIL if they like control!). Because he does work for them, they do still see they have a right to be involved. Life is too short. You need to completely separate your finances and while part of your family income is dependent on a business they own, you aren't. He could always go back to working there in a few years time, but I see no reason to do that now.
Most middle class families aren't like this BTW - it's more of a middle class trait to leave you to sort yourself out financially, because it's less likely you'll need help or have needed it yourself when younger (if you're the grandparents).
Imv they truly believe they know best (probably to do with DFs upbringing - domineering father and subservient mother or something) so they believe they are 'helping' you all. So smile and nod, smile and nod.
This situation will not be forever, as they age their attempts to interfere might get worse, as they TRY to remain the able people they were when younger, but eventually they will be looking to you to support them. Just saying this to encourage the patience you are showing at present, things will not always be like this.
And any gifts of money should, of course, be without ties. But smile and nod , smile and nod.
I don't think it's a middle-class thing at all. If anything, I've found that working class families are far more worried about anything that seems to be a non-traditional lifestyle. 'Get a proper job' 'Have a trade to fall back on' 'Get your qualifications before you go swanning off ballet dancing/being a stand-up comedian/exploring the Arctic/whatever' etc. What you're up against are bossy people that just have very fixed ideas on what is 'the right way to do things'... and I don't think there's any monopoly on that.
Glad you're keeping conversations to trivia only and, if you get any prying or an unwanted opinion, either firmly rebuff or smile, nod and then do your own thing.
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