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Tricky MIL Situation, any advice?

(52 Posts)
ACowKickedFred Tue 17-Sep-13 00:49:59

My MIL has always been absolutely stark raving bonkers slightly eccentric, but recently it appears to be getting worse. Either that or I've reached breaking point and my tolerance level has fallen to zero. She acts all nice and caring but simmering underneath is a real bitchiness which is kept carefully hidden most of the time. She's visiting for a few weeks at the moment and I'm getting stabby already and she's only been here 3 days.

I have a daughter from my first marriage. She's 20 but is autistic so emotionally is more like a 12/13 year old. My husband is the only dad she has ever known. MIL seems to swing from being doting thoughtful grandma to behaviour which I'm struggling to find words to describe other than bloody weird.

Yesterday she decided to go to the local bakery to buy everyone a nice cake for afternoon tea. When teatime came round she got them out and we got to share her entire thought process as to why she chose that one for DH and this one for me and that one for FIL etc. But she didn't get one for my daughter because she didn't see one which she thought she'd like (daughter is a dustbin and will eat anything). Why would anyone think that was ok?

Then today she decided that we'd all like pancakes for dinner, she'd clearly thought about it a lot before travelling as she'd packed her pancake frying pan confused. She called my daughter down as she was about to cook them. My daughter sat at the kitchen table waiting for hers. She cooked one for FIL, one for DH, one for me, then another for FIL and DH (they were in the other room so unaware of her shenanigans), then tried to get me to take the next one. I kept saying that DD hadn't had one yet and she kept trying to avoid cooking her one and was doing them for everyone else. In the end I gave DD the second one she cooked for me. She then cooked more for herself, FIL and DH. Basically, if I hadn't have given DD mine she would have gone hungry.

I noticed that last time she visited that DD only seemed to get a half portion of meals on her plate. MIL was cooking as I'd just had a baby. I just thought she was rubbish at plating up evenly, but now I suspect she resents DD, possibly only surfacing following the birth of DS, her first blood grandchild. I also suspect she is trying to pretend she doesn't because if FIL notices he'll be very angry as he thinks the world of DD.

What should I do?

knittedknickers Tue 17-Sep-13 22:50:56

I feel so annoyed on your behalf for your daughter. Narcissistic (i.e. with a condition) or not - she needs to know that you won't put up with her being a bitch to your daughter anymore! You've handled it very calmly - much more delicately than i would have been able. I think your husband's plan is good but still not confrontational enough. Rather than swapping his plate (or whatever depending on particular situation) I think he should point out to her that she's unfairly left your daughter out/not given her as much as everyone else. She sounds jealous of the attention your daugher is getting. What's good is that you and your husband are on the same 'side' about it.

ACowKickedFred Tue 17-Sep-13 22:11:40


I've just been reading about narcissistic parents. It's MIL through and through. My husband once told me how he was beaten up every single day through school and how his mum was furious about it. Not because her baby was being hurt but because it looked bad on her that he was involved in all this violence. Also without a shadow of doubt she has destroyed his sibling relationships by setting SIL up as the golden child who can do nothing wrong and demanding the others worship at her feet.

But the bit that really struck me on the website I read was this:

'Everything she does is deniable. There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to help you.


It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanor or they way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. As a result, you're always afraid, always in the wrong, and can never exactly put your finger on why.'

Which is pretty much what I was trying to say up thread.

brass Tue 17-Sep-13 16:45:41

the control thing sounds familiar, we once had to travel with PILs to another city by train for another relative's celebratory meal.

We asked for the restaurant name address etc given we were making such a journey and with small children. But would MIL disclose the information to us? Hell no.

Sounds crazy but the insidious way she kept deflecting the question was bizarre. And when you're right in it it's so hard to think straight.

EldritchCleavage Tue 17-Sep-13 13:12:35

MIL sounds incredibly childish. Hoick her out of that car seat every single time she does it. And yes, make sure DD gets her share of food. But ultimately, you'll probably have to raise it-not to discuss, but to bring it out into the open and lay down the law to MIL about how things have to be. Possibly just before they are about to go home, and on the basis PIL agree to this or don't get invited back for a good long while?

Blu Tue 17-Sep-13 10:07:47

I agree that the kimono purchase was about grandstanding her generosity. As was the relating the cake purchase as if it was a bloody opera!

I also wonder whether she is trying to prove to herself things that SHE believes about your DD's condition? Trying to prove that if only people stand up to her she will sit anywhere in the car? Does your DD have any eating issues - likes, dislikes etc, and is the hoo ha with cakes and pancakes about your MIL writing her own story around your DD's needs?

Of course the getting into the space in the car then gives her another arena in which to act out great martyrdom - 'look how I move to a different seat'.

She sounds very very hard work.

I would take her at face value. if she huffs and puffs while cleaning, say 'oh dear, perhaps you should start taking it easy, if the cleaning is too hard, have a sit down and I'll bring you some tea, after all I can easily manage it all myself anyway'

Viking1 Tue 17-Sep-13 09:31:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrsHoratioNelson Tue 17-Sep-13 09:30:37

OP I'll preface this by saying that I don't know much about AS so apologies if this comes across wrong. But, from what I understand, fathoming "normal" social interactions is something that people with AS struggle with. Given the wildly divergent behaviour of MIL, your daughter may be really struggling to make sense if this (or alternatively may not have noticed at all).

You mentioned guilt and I'm not trying to like it on (god knows, I have enough of my own to go round) but I wondered if you and DH had considered it from this perspective? I think you (primarily DH) must tackle this as others gave suggested.

ACowKickedFred Tue 17-Sep-13 09:19:09

Gosh, I think you're all right. The kimono thing was about attention for her rather than DD. Now you mention it, I think everything is about attention for her. The seating arrangements are about trying to make herself the centre of attention. The cakes was about the attention from the selection 'story'. She couldn't come up with a suitable story for a cake for DD so DD didn't get one. God knows what the payoff for the pancakes was.

Now that I think about it, I don't think it is aimed at DD. I think I'm just more aware of when she's taking the brunt. We had to go and buy an adapter for DS's car seat the other day. She saw what we were looking for first and got hold of the last one of the type we wanted. DH wanted to look at the pack so he could make sure it was the right one for our car. She wouldn't let him have it. She kept hold of it and tried to read aloud the details off the packet, basically trying to be in control and have everything revolving around her. She got quite narky when he tried to take it off her so he could read it himself. He walked off in the end and told her that when she'd decided which one she was buying for herself (she doesn't have a car) he'd come back and have a look and decide which one he was getting. grin

Currently she's tidying up for me. I haven't asked her to. I don't expect her to. I just leave her to get on with it. But she's huffing and puffing as she's doing it in a dramatic 'look at me aren't I working so hard' kind of way all to draw attention to the fact that doing it. Listening to it is exhausting me grin

She stays with us for long periods of time as we live abroad.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 17-Sep-13 09:10:50

Why are you letting such a toxic person into your home at all given her behaviours towards your DD?.

This woman is deliberately withholding food towards your DD for reasons only known to your MIL but I could give you some possible answers. She probably does think your DD is eating either too much or too much of the "wrong things". She does not also regard your DD as her grandchild being an equal to your DS now.

You would not tolerate this from anyone so why have you both allowed this to continue to date?. Both of you need to present a united front with regards to his mother. Boundaries need to be raised by the two of you a lot bloody higher than they are currently because MIL will continue to do this under your very noses.

Gifts can be used by such people as a further means of power and control; the kimono was given by MIL I would argue as a further way of exploiting her own power over your DD. It was not given out of kindness.

NeedlesCuties Tue 17-Sep-13 08:44:48

Is she one of these people who don't 'believe' in autism? Maybe she is wilfully acting this way as a way to punish your DD for being different?

I know that's a terrible idea, but sadly I've seen something like that in my personal experience.

I agree that your DH should say something, in private.

Does your DD notice it? Is she upset?

maras2 Tue 17-Sep-13 08:41:21

Anyone can buy a kimono in Hong Kong.No thought needed.Only nasty,spiteful people would withold food like this.Definitely malice aforethought.Get it all out in the open and stand up for your DD.

Viking1 Tue 17-Sep-13 08:31:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Jewelledkaleidoscope Tue 17-Sep-13 08:27:49

Does your dd have any food issues, OP? The food examples sound like someone with 'an opinion' on your daughter's weight/ eating habits.

The seat thing- she's trying to 'train' her out of her AS.

Just talk to her. She doesn't sound malicious to me, just stupid.

SunshineMMum Tue 17-Sep-13 08:18:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Shodan Tue 17-Sep-13 08:18:05

I actually agree with KatOD about the kimono- my first thought was that it was a big, obvious present which shouted "Look at me and how generous I am".

All the other things are sly, insidious ways of making her point (whatever her weird point may be).

Agree with all the others- call her on every single thing- and do it loudly, too.

buss Tue 17-Sep-13 08:15:22

That's really awful behaviour. I hope that dd isn't too upset by it all.

Do you think she may think (in that wanky way that some very ignorant people have) that you just need to be firmer with dd etc and she's trying to prove a point?

Buswanker Tue 17-Sep-13 08:06:34

I agree with other posters who say call her on her behaviour as soon as it happens.
Eg my daughter seems to have smaller portions of food?, My daughter does need to sit in the car in that seat, you know that etc.
Do it clearly as soon as it happens, everytime it happens even if anyone else is there.
She cannot treat your daughter this way.

Minnieisthedevilmouse Tue 17-Sep-13 07:33:53

Incase you disbelieve, the wedding we went to where dd was introduced as 'her official' gc to every guest. Was particularly memorable.

Minnieisthedevilmouse Tue 17-Sep-13 07:31:35

Hi had to post. My mil is exactly the same. I at first half wondered if you were a mate posting for me!

I felt I had to post primarily because our dcs aren't autistic etc. just so you had some (?) batshit crazy stories where mils are targeting kids that aren't sn, incase you thought a link. There really isn't. I do genuinely think its blood (?) related angst coming out. We have almost exact replica stories to tell. Always targeting the step dcs. Or favouring the blood grandchild as you describe.

Dh adores mum and also is mighty upset and wouldn't call her out on it for ages. Then I explained (quite sober I hasten to add) that were we to split and his new gf exhibit similar views I would have no hesitation in limiting access or removing entirely. It's dispicable behaviour and I won't let my dcs learn it. Fortunately he agreed. It still happens bit he's quicker to see it now its been brought closer to home for him.

So sorry it's happening.

KatOD Tue 17-Sep-13 07:21:20

Kimono thing sounds lovely but a bit OTT such that it actually could be to get her attention for being generous rather than it being about your DD.

I'd go with the poster who said ask politely if DD has done something to upset her. Sounds horrible.

Morgause Tue 17-Sep-13 06:58:35

This is really odd. It's obvious that your MIL thinks kindly about your daughter because she bought her the absolutely right present from Hong Kong, she saw it and knew it would be perfect, which shows more than ordinary kindness.

The seat thing could be because she believes that adults should get first dibs on seats in the car. There's a kind of hierarchy that some people my age adhere to and she feels that she should get that seat because she is higher in the pecking order (in her mind) and it's appropriate for her to have that seat. There's also the possibility that she thinks your dd needs to learn to accept she can't always have her own way. A common reaction from older people who don't "get" AS. At one time experts recommended parents to break such habits.

She may have overthought the cake thing and then just given in because she couldn't find the perfect cake. Weird, though. Is she a bit OCD?

I don't get the pancake thing at all.

I'd suggest to just be alert to what's going on and politely point out when she's not taking your dd into account, rather than confront her.

needasilverlining Tue 17-Sep-13 06:49:22

Just occurred to me - does she think your DD is getting it all her own way and needs to be trained out of it for the benefit of the beloved GS?

It's a pretty sick way to think if so, but it does sort of fit the way she's acting.

needasilverlining Tue 17-Sep-13 06:43:49

This is probably very PA, but I'd be tempted to settle down for a good gossip with her and recount the story of your friend whose bitch MIL started mistreating her stepgrandson because a 'blood' GD had been born - so now she's not invited to the house so she doesn't see either child and it's a shame but what can you do...

BTW, kudos to your DH for noticing and being prepared to do something. It must be horrible knowing your mother is that spiteful and petty.

atrcts Tue 17-Sep-13 06:34:12

Seriously, your poor daughter needs to be protected by you. I wonder how aware she is that she is being short changes like this? It must hurt her every time if she notices.

In regard to the car, I would not even unlock it until your daughter is ready to get in. Then you can make sure you open HER left hand side and say "daughter (insert her name!), you get in your seat first". Maybe for a while steer MiL to the front passenger seat until it becomes painfully obvious that everyone is directed to their seats by YOU not her

In regard to the pancakes, I would make sure I was the person handing out the plates. Or, if MiL is handing them out directly, I'd intervene the recipient, whipping it of them before they made a start eating it, while making a joke about "age before beauty" or mock-scolding "be a gentleman please"!!!! Then make sure your daughter is the first person to eat.

With the cake scenario I would advise you to ask "are there enough for one each or do we need to cut them to share?", then you've opened a way to 'count' them out to people and if MiL has said there is one each but in reality there is one short, you have the powerful weapon of exclaiming your feigned surprise and shock, and then an "oh dear! Never mind, I will go without then" --or better still, orchestrate it so husband goes without as I'm sure his Mum won't want that (they like to feed their boys!) wink

If all these interventions fail, THEN is the time to mention it to the MiL. She should NOT get away with it.

I don't envy you, but it seems to be you have a choice between upsetting your daughter or your MiL and I know which one deserves it I'd choose!

anon2013 Tue 17-Sep-13 06:30:58

I'd make DH aware and even if he brushes it off I'd keep a record if everything she does to exclude DD the cow.

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