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Marrying into a middle class family

(246 Posts)
derbyshire Sat 13-Jul-13 02:43:09

I'm working class, fairly well educated but sometimes find myself adrift with my MC in-laws. Been married for 15 years, 3 children in primary school. I think most people would say I'm a good mother: BF kids, they're all doing well at school, nice children etc. but often feel I'm just aping the middle-class mores around me.
My ILs don't understand why I'm not more chilled about birthday parties/dinner parties etc but I've never admitted to them that I never had a birthday party when I was young. Certainly no such thing as a dinner party - dinner was something you ate at noon and never in somebody elses's house!
I get so stressed about all those things they find "normal". I've never joined in with the forcing kids to eat veg - my fussy kids eat more veg than my mother! She won't cook for her GC as she said she didn't know how to cook that "stuff" (pasta).
I admit I'm ashamed to admit how much my childhood varies from their upbringing - food really is a class issue!
Strangely enough, educationally I probably outrank them - its all the niceties of life where I'm lacking. Think I'm probably considered "weird" but we never had drinks/socialising at home. I think the gap has become more pronounced as the years have gone on........just find myself struggling more as the years have gone on. Suppose it just feels more and more false.

AdoraBell Sat 13-Jul-13 03:01:14

I also never had parties or any other socializing activities. But I find my pseudo MC ILs rediculos because they really are so much more common than my WC parents ever were.

Do your ILs say things that make you feel on a lower level, or is that something that comes from you?

You've been married for 15 years and are raísing 3 DCs, so presumably you've had a bit of practice at kids parties if not dinner parties. Would it work to tell yourself that you can do these things and enjoy them? Maybe use a mirror when no one else is around.

stepmooster Sat 13-Jul-13 03:20:55

Hi Derbyshire, you aren't from the NE part of the county by any chance?

Oh I had a very WC upbringing and for me the biggest change was when I went to uni down south. I had never had mayonnaise, broccoli or eaten in a restaurant. I got teased a lot. I made some good friends of various classes one of whom none of us had any idea just how well off he was. Until he invited us to his parents for a summer party. My god it was a mansion, the garden stretched as far as I could see. Not once though had he ever hinted at his upbringing, and his dad was lovely. He spoke with a thick derby accent and had pulled himself to the top after losing his dad at a young age, growing up with a single mum and having to quit school earlier so he could work and support his mum and siblings.

Until then I think I had reverse snobbery, Being WC was like a badge of honour. Now I don't care. If anyone has a problem with the way I pronounce 'glass', that I eat dinner at lunch time and have my tea in the evenings quite honestly they aren't worth bothering about.

If my ILS or anyone tried to make fun of my background I would stand my corner, probably mock their noveau rich life, and remind them we all came into this world the same way.

derbyshire Sat 13-Jul-13 03:22:44

Oh I do it all (birthday parties etc) but always trying to second guess what other people would do - its tiring! It doesn't come naturally to me, I suppose.
I find it upsetting, I think, when I've done my absolute best and my ILs will criticise as it's not up to their standards.
I've begun to realise that it is a case of very different standards - they would be quite happy to make every meal a battleground with children, for instance, to eat what was in front of them. I'm not bothered - it's still a lot more nutritious than what I had as a child. And etiquette at meals: waiting until everyone sits down, putting your cutlery in a certain position when you've finished - my parents don't do that now! That stuff matters to them.

FrauMoose Sat 13-Jul-13 03:26:28

Might it be worth saying to the inlaws, 'Actually I never had a birthday party when I was young?'

It sounds like your marriage is an enduring one, and you sound like a caring, aware sort of person.

I think there are some 'middle class' parents who also had little experience of the kind of gatherings you describe. My father worked in higher education, but was very unconfident and visitors very rarely came to our home. He was made extremely nervous on the infrequent occasions when we ate out, and couldn't deal with unfamiliar words on a menu.

I sometimes tell myself that there are positives about having had an upbringing which wasn't that sociable. I think all the fuss about children's parties can just be about parents being desperately competitive, and putting pressure on themselves.. Much easier if the children just have a few friends round really, than all this hiring of venues - invite the whole class etc etc.

AdoraBell Sat 13-Jul-13 03:32:09

OP sounds a lot like my ILs, and the thing that makes it funny to me is that their standards are a lot lower than mine, and I would never be as rude as to criticise someone else's home, family or standards.

If they are criticising you for not being "up to their standards" they are pretentious idiots. How is DH in this respect, do he agree with them or back you up?

stepmooster Sat 13-Jul-13 03:36:54

Op one thing my WC parents did do was make us use a knife and fork properly, and to eat what we were given. I don't think that's a class issue. I never ate out as a kid unless it was McD's but when I started work and had to go to client dinners I think I would have been at a disadvantage not knowing how to use the cutlery properly.

Your ILs sound really impolite about your parties, how rude! Have you told them manners cost nothing?

derbyshire Sat 13-Jul-13 03:42:06

DH does back me up for the big issues: BF, education etc but I don't think he notices the small things. I just think the ILs think certain things are "normal", i.e. everybody does them (although not everybody does) and it wouldn't occur that it doesn't happen in some houses.
I do think it is nice that kids have parties but I am rubbish at organising games etc - it's more difficult if you've never had them when you're young. Same with drinks, dinner parties and all that.
I'd left home before I went to a restaurant!

derbyshire Sat 13-Jul-13 03:47:01

Nope - my folks were from extremely deprived backgrounds: I did not learn to use knife and fork properly. Never knew you used a spoon and fork to eat dessert!
The ILs don't criticise me directly - more passive aggressive "oh don't you do this" and general raising of eyebrows. It's very subtle but real.

AdoraBell Sat 13-Jul-13 03:53:58

So delegate the gámes organizing, let someone else take the strain of that part.

If they don't realise that not every family does exactly the same thing in exactly the same way then they must be very insular. My MIL tried to tell me How to do things, what and How to cook and buy, but she gave up after a few hmm why would I do that? responses from me. I am willing to take Well meant advice, just not interferring instrucciónwink

Does DH not notice the other things they are non-issues for him? As he backs you up on other things he's clearly not burying his head in the sand.

Maybe you need to work on a few súper polite sacharine sweet responses to their digs.

AdoraBell Sat 13-Jul-13 03:59:09

I also hadn't been to a restaurant before I left home, but I left home at 16. As for using a spoon and fork for desért, surely it depends on what the desért is?

Next time they do a "oh, you don't do X" could you reply something like - evidently notgrin - before continuing what you are doing?

FormaLurka Sat 13-Jul-13 06:21:30

Long ago, while on holiday with a tour group, DP and I were seated at the restaurant when two old ladies from our group joined us. DP was told off for not standing up when ladies approached a table. I made a passive aggressive retort. Conversation was a bit stilted after that smile

That plus not writing thank you notes for DS's birthday presents from his school friends are the only WC faux pas that I can think off.

Frankly OP, I can't see why it's an issue after all these years. In any case, isn't most of it just good manners and good parenting rather than a MC thing? I mean, despite her himbl

FormaLurka Sat 13-Jul-13 06:26:55

...humble WC background, my mum taught us to always leave some food behind. After all, you don't want people to think I don't feed you at home, she would say. Never tip your soup bowl to get to the last bits and never hold it to your mouth.

lonnika Sat 13-Jul-13 06:29:46

Not MC just rude inlaws
RE birthday parties - get them done at a wacky warehouse type place or similar - where the organisation s done for you. If to is too WC - how about paying for organised entertainment -

FormaLurka Sat 13-Jul-13 06:30:33

Pressed POST too soon ... again.

.. were other things we were taught.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 13-Jul-13 06:33:20

This is not a Middle Class thing, this is a bullying thing.

The answer to raised eyebrows and bitchy 'don't you do it like that?' remarks is 'no.... got a problem with that?' Don't let them intimidate you or make you feel insecure. Challenge, block and stand up for yourself at all times. If they're being unpleasant (even passive aggressively) be unpleasant right back at them.

My friend's snobbish mother decided, on hearing that I was a single mother to a baby boy, and presumably with the Daily Mail as her source of information on such matters, to condescendingly ask me how I managed to make ends meet and did I have some 'little flat' that we lived in. hmm Took great pleasure in describing my sizeable & rather expensive home and told her to wind her neck in..... smile

You are not some kind of Eliza Doolittle to their Professor Higgins. Be yourself.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sat 13-Jul-13 06:37:04

It is nothing to do with class I don't think, they just sound weird.

Waiting until everyone is served and sat down before you start eating, that is just good manners, surely? My very working class grandmother would have insisted on it.

gazzalw Sat 13-Jul-13 06:41:43

It's a strange one this....

I could say "ditto darling" although DW's family weren't super well-off they just did things differently when she was growing up. Whereas my parents would just say "no" to any school trips (there were four of us and for a time we were on FSMs) DW's family did things differently.

It just sometimes is difficult to over-ride those formative years of doing stuff at opposite ends of the spectrum. Although, that said, I think being the same age gives you a lot of similar values which can over-ride the class issues....

Actually in our house it's me who just gets on with doing stuff for parties etc...whilst DW gets into a bit of a state...But that's because she wants perfection....

I think you just need to chillax - it sounds a bit as if you are feeling a bit of a fraud.....Many middle-class families have their working-class roots. Indeed DW has several very middle-class friends had professional parents, but go back another generation or two and there are many miners etc... in the woodwork.

There are a lot more 'socially' mixed families around than you might think - we have some close friends who replicate our circumstances entirely.

I think it's less of a big deal now than a few decades ago......

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sat 13-Jul-13 06:45:58

Gazzl - 'in the woodwork' implies that people are trying to gloss over the fact!

I am very MC, go back to grandparents and they all started as working class and climbed the ladder.
No shame in that.

Taffeta Sat 13-Jul-13 06:46:12

I think you sound fab. Do stuff that doesn't make you stressed, embrace who you are rather than trying to please them. Why on earth should their way be better?

plantsitter Sat 13-Jul-13 06:59:41

My ILs are very MC too, and although my parents kill me for suggesting they are WC, compared to my ILs they are and my upbringing was.

I find things like Christmas v tricky indeed - my family get drunk and admit to liking the presents part of the day whereas the ILs do to Church and don't have presents until after lunch and make a big deal about how unimportant they are, and I have felt a bit break and working class with the generosity of my presents in the past.

I reckon you have to go with their way of doing things in their house, but try v hard not to worry about it in your own. Just pretend to be confident in the way you do things and soon enough it will be true. You don't HAVE to do dinner parties! And it sounds like your way with the kids and veg is right anyway!

However there is no answer other than self confidence really - I think you know this. The working class way is not the wrong way.

Valdeeves Sat 13-Jul-13 07:12:21

I get this I really do - there is still a class issue in England. I'm from the NW and now live down South in gentle middle class England and not a day goes by when I don't feel like an imposter, ha ha!!
I laughed at the cake forks - i'll never forget being bemused the first time I saw one. I think you just have to stop caring - your personality is fluid and you'll naturally do or want different things for your children. Honestly stop caring and really your background adds value ( and a down to earth quality) to your character. The greatest thing I learned from my parents was not to judge.
Btw for me the epitome of middle class in someone's home is a china or ornate lazy Susan and I really want one! Ha haha xxxx

Lweji Sat 13-Jul-13 07:16:23

I agree about self confidence.

Some people are critical, others are more accepting.

But surely your ILs know your parents and that you come from a different background.
I'd think it would be ok to tell ILs that you had never done something growing up.
They might guide you if you ask, or you can just tell them you do differently.

plantsitter Sat 13-Jul-13 07:19:19

Ha! Yes cake forks! I remember once wondering why my in laws weren't tucking into their cake until DH said 'they're waiting for forks' (and got them himself - it was informative not an instruction).

Extra unnecessary washing up in my view.

Lweji Sat 13-Jul-13 07:30:12

Cake forks are great because they are knives and forks rolled into one.
And quite useful if the cake is full of cream or very moist.

I see nobody mentioned fish cutlery. smile

I think I'm MC but my parents and grandparents would be mostly aspirational MC.
I find my mother quite eager to fit in or at least not seen to lower standards, while I'm much more relaxed.
All those things about rules sound a bit anxious to be seen to fit.

But we all do.
And social rules change a bit with region as well as social group.
It's a minefield that allows to know who belongs and who doesn't.
Like pombears... smile

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