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How to deal with MIL comments

(28 Posts)
KikiShack Mon 17-Mar-14 10:12:21

I've got some relatively minor MIL issues and just wondering if anyone has any suggestions how to deal with this sort of thing in a low key way - I'm not sure this merits a full on confrontation but I'd be interested in thoughts.
MIL (and FIL, but we don't interact so much) is fairly negative and I think a bit passive aggressive. She likes to make lighthearted put downs to, well basically everyone! It's not aimed at me, it's how the whole family interacts. DP (together 9 years, one DD, apologies if me calling them PIL annoys people since they aren't officially) used to be like this but I made it clear I wasn't keen and he's adjusted, though he slips back occasionally. It could be just their version of banter, but to my mind if it's not funny then it's not good enough for banter! Fine to make a funny joke, but a non-funny snide comment is just pointless. DP is the kindest, softest, loveliest man alive so the fact that he used to interact a bit like this just proves it's the whole family dynamic IMO. His brother and sister are like this too, but mostly in a witty was and can take as good as they give so that's fine.
Anyway examples of the sorts of comments:
I told MIL that we were going to start weaning DD when we visited them next weekend - I thought they'd appreciate being involved (watching). Her response - oh, do you finally think she's ready? (she's 5 months 2 weeks, 6 months by due date next saturday, and they were trying to get me to wean her at 3.5 months but I was very clear we were waiting till 6 months). I said 'yes, it's 6 months by due date so I'm happy to start, and she's been grabbing things off my plate and looking very hungry indeed'. MIL responded 'poor thing, you're not looking after her'. My reply 'given her weight I don't think anyone could accuse me of letting her go hungry!' MIL: 'oh, how big has she got now?' me: '22 1/2 lbs 10 days ago'.
This is typical - she makes a fairly small fry negative comment, I 'correct' her, and she comes back with more negative about my correction.
It sounds small when written down but I'm not used to it - my family are encouraging rto each other, so I'm wondering what the best way to handle it is. Or should I basically correct her when necessary and ignore it the rest of the time, which is what I currently do?

Wigsy Mon 17-Mar-14 11:41:53

SharonCurley I got into researching MBTI personality types for a project, and I unexpectedly got really into it, as I'm fascinated by what drives different people.

This page gives descriptions of a few personality types under stress - ie at their worst. MBTI typology is no means set in stone, but there is a lot of food for thought in it, and it really helped me understand that some people are just the way they are and helped me not to take their behaviour personally. I've yet to read up fully on how much one's type is determined by nature or nurture.

Kiki I'm glad you have the sense of humour and the tough hide to not let your MIL get under your skin. I love 'what do you mean' and 'in what context', too. smile

FancySpaceGloves Mon 17-Mar-14 11:23:55

I have extended family members like this. I smile and nod. If seriously annoyed, I laugh and make a joke that takes their implications to the extreme: "Oh god, parenting is soooo hard, I can't even feed them right. Shall we all go out to McDonalds? I bet DD could eat a chip."

So what if your MIL thinks she is right and you are wrong? So what if she faintly disapproves? You don't have to convince her that you are right. Why should you justify yourself to her? She's not your boss.

Ask them what they recommend, or what did you do with your children, how was this done in your day, why do you think it is done differently now a days etc can get them talking about themselves and their own opinions (their favourite topic) instead of judging you. If you treat their spiel like listening to a mildly interesting radio 4 documentary about the olden days, not a tutorial, then you might find some useful nuggets and can just let it roll off you.

Olddear Mon 17-Mar-14 11:23:33

Usually with these kind of people I say 'sorry? I'm not with you' they usually hate being called out on it, and haven't expected you to want an explanation. I like to see rude people squirm.......

FunkyBoldRibena Mon 17-Mar-14 11:22:04

I've been using them for years; particularly 'in what context' when someone spouts nonsense in meetings - gives me a chance to formulate an amazing retort.

OnlyLovers Mon 17-Mar-14 11:17:02

I agree with answering her with a question. It sort of defuses people's attack and can make them see how silly are the things they're saying.

KikiShack Mon 17-Mar-14 11:16:05

The not looking after her one was particularly amusing - the implication was I'm letting her go hungry, where actually she's now ~23lbs at 5 months so is waaay off the chart huge, and we're actually being referred to a paediatrician to rule out any genetic growth things as she's so big. I don't think there's anything to be worried about, she's just big (lots of tall people both sides of the family though I'm only average myself) and I produce a lot of milk, but it was a very strange thing to accuse me of given she's ansolutely huge! I quite like 'what do you mean' and 'in what context'. I'm sure they'll be met with silence most of the time or a laugh then 'oh, I didn't mean anything, I'm just pulling your leg' but they're a good subtle way of asking her to explain herself, which she won't be able to do.

FunkyBoldRibena Mon 17-Mar-14 11:08:58

I'd respond
'What do you mean'
'In what context'
Why do you say that'

Just keep answering with another question designed to unpick the situation and she will soon get bored.

OnlyLovers Mon 17-Mar-14 11:08:11

I think the correct response to something like 'poor thing, you're not looking after her' is 'Please do not criticise my parenting. How rude.' but people tend to think I'm bolshy too grin

fieldfare Mon 17-Mar-14 11:05:09

Sharon the right response there would be "yes, I'm sensitive to rudeness! Please stop it."

Op, I think you just have to ignore the pettiness and not let it get to you. If they say anything contrary just be mildly sarcastic back "yes of course I'm neglecting her, (laugh) aren't you silly!" Some people try to make themselves feel better by being negative to others, I have an aunty like this. We don't see her often.

KikiShack Mon 17-Mar-14 11:02:37

Thanks for all the supportive and understanding replies, it's good to know I'm not alone with the small stuff, as I know this is nowhere near as bad as some of the MIL threads on here.
I guess at least it helps me see how not to be a MIL should I be lucky enough to be granted that status one day!
I think it's also worth picking my battles. I got loads of grief from them both over xmas about feeding DD too much - she was 10 weeks old in a strange house with two licky dogs, lots of people she hadn't met before, sleeping in a new cot etc, and she wanted lots of comfort feeding so I kept her on my breast a lot. The comments I got about that! And this is after MIL proudly telling me she fed DP until he was 2 and loved the closeness. But she told me that before DD was born when I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to BF or not, so it's always slanting things to scold me.
Anyway...thankfully DP and DD are ace so I'll do as you all suggest and disengage from PIL when they start with their comments...

brass Mon 17-Mar-14 11:02:16

if that's their attitude to your career then I wouldn't show any deference to them AT ALL. They will be threatened no doubt by whatever decisions you make about anything.

You are not seeking approval or disapproval, you are capable parents enjoying your baby. They can either be happy for you or be left by the wayside.

It took me years to figure out the aura of schadenfreude radiating from MIL. Why would a parent find it difficult to be happy for their own child? I can't fathom it. MIL has failed at every stage of our relationship and family life.

The world is full of odd ones.

LoonvanBoon Mon 17-Mar-14 11:00:52

That's the purpose of passive aggressive comments, isn't it - to make it impossible for the recipient to respond without appearing oversensitive / rude / paranoid.

If you want to shut the comments down, I find it's best not to respond to them in detail or in a self-justifying way. It's obvious that your PIL aren't interested in being persuaded about particular issues, if they turn away when you're giving your opinions - they're just interested in point scoring.

So - with the weaning example - you could just say: "Yes, we're starting weaning now - it's the right time for baby". No more details - you don't have to justify your parenting decisions to PIL.

MIL's follow-up, saying you're not looking after DD properly, really does up the ante & is quite nasty. Don't carry on explaining yourself, show MIL that you can see she's being nasty & don't appreciate it.

Remarks like "Oh, what a mean thing to say" or "I'm sure you didn't mean that the way it sounded" might be useful. I'm guessing MIL would immediately say she didn't mean any harm or that you're being too sensitive. In which case, you could repeat a simple statement like: "I still don't appreciate comments like that".

If you get lots of unwanted advice / implied criticism, you could try smiling & saying "Oh, I wasn't asking for advice, thanks"; or comments like "Well, we're happy doing it like this, thanks!".

SharonCurley Mon 17-Mar-14 10:58:40

Interesting wigsy-do you mind me asking what personality type those traits would be common to?It seems to be a reply I hear alot these days-e.g dp interrupted me mid conversation last week to look at something or ignored me whilst he looked at iPhone.I dared to suggest that I found this rude but he said I was way too sensitive.Seems to be whenever I don't like something mil has said - I am way too sensitive.Can't help perceived slights on my parenting upsetting me though.

Olddear Mon 17-Mar-14 10:51:20

Tell them nothing. If they say 'oh, you're doing it that way' say 'yes.' They require no further explanation from you. Do not explain, justify your opinions or actions. Or you could play them at their own game and respond in kind.

Ploppy16 Mon 17-Mar-14 10:50:34

Sorry, major cross posting there x

Ploppy16 Mon 17-Mar-14 10:49:51

My MIL is exactly the same as yours. It took me years but I finally figured out how to deal with her when I started to find her comments amusing rather than annoying. It sounds ridiculous but comments I get about how I raise our children or how my house isn't as clean as my SIL's or how she could never do whatever it is I'm doing start to seem quite funny after a while.
An example is her latest one about bedtime stories for our youngest. DH does it usually and I mentioned that I'm really not that keen on reading stories. Her immediate response was "Oh don't you read to the children then? I used to love reading to MY children".I honestly laughed and just said "actually I spent years reading the same books every night for weeks with the other two, it's his turn now!" As it happens DH doesn't ever remember her reading a book to him at all so she's generally talking bullshit anyway grin
Try and look at it as "guess what she's said this time" rather than taking offence or letting it get you down.

Wigsy Mon 17-Mar-14 10:49:31

I think you're responding in just the right way, Kiki, and I really admire you. She turns away because you've called her out on it and she knows it. You're making it clear this isn't going to wash with you.

Sharon, I get 'too sensitive' as an accusation as well, from my mother, who is foul. I've become really interested in personality types lately, and there is one type that never admits wrongdoing or allows any sensitivity from others. It helped me a lot in understanding/not giving a stuff any more.

High-five to you, Kiki. Better that she stops talking to you and turns away than carries on talking to you, by the sound of it.

brass Mon 17-Mar-14 10:46:38

I would agree that volunteering information is just giving them bait.

You are after a type of relationship with her that may never be forthcoming I'm afraid: Involved, encouraging, supportive, non judgemental...

Best strategy is to smile and nod, offer the least information and involvement. So with the weaning I wouldn't have made an announcement, I'd just start doing it. Don't get drawn into justifying any of your decisions. You are in charge and remember if they turn away while you're talking you can do the same too.

So if she starts questioning anything you just repeat 'this works for us' and change subject/walk away etc

KikiShack Mon 17-Mar-14 10:46:02

Haha thanks Cogito - I am tempted, but DP loves his parents and especially his mum, he can see what she has to put up with (again all minor bullying from FIL, nothing at all serious, but I imagine it's eroded her sunniness a little over the years) so I don't want to deliberately argue with her and cause him heartache. I will try and stick to taking the high road.
The good thing is DP very much doesn't want to end up like his dad, constantly making 'hilarious' put downs of other people and this is something I can very gently reference on the odd occasion he's slipped back into old habits.
I think it's just when it's a perceived slight on our parenting of our lovely brand new DD that it makes me 100 times angrier and more defensive then when it was a comment about me or DP. I think they're also slightly jealous of us actually, we are both quite successful at work etc and I think they were both a bit scared of the world when they were in their 20s and 30s to go and and achieve, instead settling for mediocrity. They view us e.g. getting promotions and changing jobs as us being a bit grabby and never sitting still. I'm a civil servant so I'm hardly a banker treading on the little people to get ahead! But I studied hard (funded myself through a PhD) and am not afraid to try for a promotion after being in a job only a year. In their lives you stay still for 10 years like a good girl without peeking a toe out of line.
I think a lot of it is a generation thing, and I'm very lucky indeed that my parents didn't fall into this trap and are wonderfully encouraging people so I know you don't have to become sour as you get older, also this sets a good example for DP.

Poughle Mon 17-Mar-14 10:45:23

I know what you mean about the tone of voice. My MIL might easily make a similar comment to me but she is kind and supportive, so it would come across differently.

Would it work to respond as if you thought she was joking - so to the"poor thing" comment, laugh and say, "Yes I've been starving her, I'm surprised she hasn't wasted away to nothing!"

SharonCurley Mon 17-Mar-14 10:44:22

The hungry baby seems to be a common one.Mil was obsessed with weight and feeding and started solids .I was having none of it.Sil has recently had a baby and is Bfeeding and she is encouraging her to start solids soon as he will need to be filled up!

SharonCurley Mon 17-Mar-14 10:41:25

Oh and in my case I am labelled 'too sensitive'.

SharonCurley Mon 17-Mar-14 10:40:07

Don't stress yourself out over it.Its clearly their issue.As already mentioned, limit topics of conversation to more general stuff.My pils argue/ debate everything just for the sake of it.I find it exhausting.Can see where dp gets it from.Seems to be a power/control thing.I'm trying to disengage as I am worn out.You know what is best for your baby.

outtheothersidefinally Mon 17-Mar-14 10:38:34

It doesn't sound 'nothing' at all. Awful, ingrained behaviour. Keep form in setting and maintaining your boundaries!

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 17-Mar-14 10:34:01

Trust me, I know the tone of voice you mean. It's very condescending and rude. The way I see it is that, if someone has you labelled as gobby and opinionated, don't disappoint them... smile You've got carte blanche to tell them anything you like.

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