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My MIL's obsession...(54 Posts)
It will be almost a year ago now that I spoke out for the first time on Mumsnet about my MIL's clear unacceptable behaviour.
She interfered in all aspects of our lives, criticised all we did, turned up when she liked, took our newborn baby to her own house when she liked, filled her house with baby things on the assumption that she would be looking after her regularly from day 1, even painted a nursery for her etc. It was frightening stuff, especially as I spiralled into very severe PND. To the point I believed my child was not mine, possibly because of her meddling.
Almost 12 months on, I am officially depression free, although still struggling with some anxiety. My DH and I almost separated over it, but I now have his full support and he's seen his mother's true colours- for months I didnt speak to his mother for the sake of getting better and she was told firmly to back off by my DH whilst I recovered. My FIL didnt speak to me for months and other family relations were strained as a result. My DH took our baby to visit them without me for a long time and they did not come round to our own house for long periods of time.
Since a month ago, I made the decision that I really want my Daughter to have a close relationship with her grandparents, like I did and have started allowing MIL to look after her for a couple of hours a week. On our terms of course. Things started well, but I've started to get that horrible 'get away from my child' feeling that I got in the midst of PND.
It has become apparent that MIL is utterly obsessed with our Daughter, she wants to know everything she's been up to everyday and sulks if we miss out some minor detail. When she sees her, I get a sidelong glance and short hello, whilst she holds our child with this weird longing with her eyes closed , kissing her over and over again, exclaiming how much she loves her and misses her. The more she sees her the worse it seems to get.
At a recent family gathering, she told me how upset she was that she couldn't sit and cuddle her the whole time as there were so many people there playing and cuddling her. She is still buying things for her and leaving them at her own house in the hope that one day, she'll spend a lot of time there. She's bought hardly anything for us to use at our house.
I feel so much better since I took control and put up boundries. MIL is so much better than she was, but still I feel completely threatened by the clear obsession and mannerism that she has with my Daughter. It has also been acknowledged as an 'obsession' by other family members. It's difficult to explain in words, but to watch her with DD, it's really weird to see. The more we give her, the more she wants and the more she treads on my toes as her mother, like the comment she made at the family gathering. She had looked after her on a 1:1 basis twice that week and it doesnt appear to have been enough. I'm just waiting for the criticisms to start again, she's already started the 'I used to do this... I used to do that...'
I really want DD to have a close relationship with her, but I can't help but feel maternally threatened by her manner and feel like screaming "back the f$$@ off!"
It has become clear that the way I feel about MIL isnt entirely an outcome of PND. And I wonder if it's because there is another woman in my DD's life who does things differently than I do and loves her almost as much as me?
Does any other women feel threatened by MIL's relationship with DCs?
Disengage with her and tell her why. You know how bad things can get if she carries on.
She sounds over bearing, overly involved and quite frankly wierd.
I think you and your dh (important that he is on the same page as you) sit her down and say 'for the sake of everyone's mental health we need you to back off from dd. She is our daughter, not yours, and you need to leave her alone. The way you behave towards dd is not normal, (list behaviours here that she has done). For these reasons we're limiting your contact with dd. '
Present it as a fait accompli, no questions, no opportunities for her to improve. You get to judge that based on her behaviour afterwards.
I think you have to seriously consider whether the ideal of a lovely GM is worth the risk of letting them spend much unattended time together. It's a beautiful thing when a child has a close relationship with a grandparent (and I'm a grandmother myself, to the loveliest wee babe in the world, er, except yours of course), but sometimes it just can't happen. Grandparents may die, be infirm, live overseas - or they may be just too bloody weird to trust with your child.
It seems harsh when her only apparent crime is excessive affection, but the fact is that it will lead to problems if you don't put a firm lid on it. It's all very well now your daughter is small and you can choose how much control to relax, but imagine what kind of stuff MIL will be whispering in her ear later on? Rebellious teens, granny will let you do anything you like, mummy just wants to spoil your fun? Remember, she is so convinced DD is her baby that she half-convinced you of it for a while! One day you may be wondering where your lovely girl has gone and what MIL has replaced her with.
Does DH have a sister/sisters? Just wondering if she'd wanted (or maybe lost) a longed for DD? Is it first grandchild? It is definately not normal grandparent behaviour. Very obsessive, almost like she thinks child is hers!
OP has she any history of mental illness or obsessiveness previously? You say other family members have noticed she is obsessive - can you talk to them and find out if there are other instances of this odd behaviour? Also I would do some digging with your husband into his childhood - did he have siblings and if so what kind of a parent was she? Did she, for example, tell each child individually that they were "her favourite"?
From what you have said she doesn't sound like she is quite right in the head to be honest and I think you should follow your instincts and intuition. What happens as the child gets older? If she thinks she's the mummy will she, as Annie said, be whispering stuff in her ear? Pumping your daughter for information about what goes on in your home and conversations between your husband and you? Trying to divide and conquer?
Having had an obsessive ex-MIL like this* (although not anywhere to this extent!) I would recommend you tread very carefully with this situation - obviously you don't want to deprive your child of her grandmother, but as parents it is our duty to protect and foster healthy emotional growth in our children, so you may even want to seek a professional's opinion on this. He or she may be better able to identify the obsessive behaviour and provide advice on how to handle it.
*Mine used to pump our daughter for information - I taught her from an early age, if she was asks nosy questions, to respond with a firm "that's confidential" response - which drove my ex-MIL crazier than she already was, but it worked. :D
In answer to your questions:
DD is her first grandchild.
She has a DD whom she has a strained relationship with due to her constant meddling and interfering. DH thinks that she sees our Daughter as her second chance at having a close bond.
She has a long history of obsessive behaviour, particularly involving money or compensation. She likes to get what she feels she's owed in life, which terrifies me. She took her old boss to the cleaners when he fired her and was paid thousands in compensation, the stress of it even made her mentally ill but she pursued anyway.
She controlled DH's life before I came along and seemed to dominate family events and traditions with what she wanted. I've changed a lot which has rocked the boat... I can definitely imagine her whispering in DD's ear in years to come.
My maternal instinct screams at me to keep DD away from her. Something DH and I had largely put down to PND, but I'm now not so sure. I feel she is craving to take a motherly role in DD's life and I don't like it. When she was first born, I felt like DD's babysitter, but couldnt see the wood for the trees as MIL was so helpful in cooking for us and doing our housework etc. Now I realise that she primarily just wants to meddle in our lives and use my Daughter to make her own miserable life happy.
I don't really understand why you started letting her get closer to your DD again when you knew how she was going to behave, but now that you have seen the behaviour again and you see that it is not normal, then it is time to let the idea of a close relationship like you had go and keep your distance. Your daughter will be fine without a close relationship with her grandmother. Of course it is a nice thing if it works out, but it really isn't worth sacrificing your mental wellbeing and causing strain on your family to achieve.
Personally, my own mental health and letting my DD be surrounded and having contact with others that are healthy in mind, would far out way wanting my DD to have a close relationship with her grandparents.
Please trust your mummy radar. Any contact that you have given will of course never be enough....she would only be happy (by what she has done in the past) if she became mummy. The fact is, is that she has had her children and her behaviour is hindering any relationship she will have with her GD.
If you think that it will get worse, that she in fact she hasn't really changed
has just hidden it well and other relations have noticed; I would limit contact again.
My DM took to whispering in my DS ears on one occasion poisoning his little mind against swimming club telling him he would nearly drown like she did. He is still afraid of water 10 years later. My DM has been cut off from us for a few years now for these reasons. I could put up with the adult on adult stress, but an innocent child!!
I wanted to add that my own DD has limited contact with my parents. Is she any less happy? Well, no. As I see it, a happy mummy is a happy daughter.
Listen to your instincts, they are right. She wants to replace you as your DDs mother. Which is completely odd, creepy and weird. She is not behaving normally.
Whilst I admire your desire for your DD to have a relationship with her grandparents - if she was my MIL I would be running for the hills.
You need to trust your maternal instincts Aqua. You know you do.
It would be lovely for dd to have a normal, close, loving relationship with mil, but there is one stand out problem - mil is not normal.
Protect your dd from this.
MIL will ultimately poison DD against you, you know.
That's not PND talking, it's your instincts. Listen to them.
Perhaps there are Grand-Aunts in the family who could be healthier grandmother figures for your daughter than your MIL?
I made the decision that I really want my Daughter to have a close relationship with her grandparents, like I did
Lovely idea - but presumably your grandparents were mentally healthy and not abusive wingnuts.
This woman has pinged your radar for a reason, and when other family members start backing that up, you know shit's got real.
You must get your DH on side or you'll have little chance of successfully removing ALL of her influence from your DD's life. You might have a read of Toxic In-Laws to get some insight into your DH's dynamic with his parents.
I think that you know the answer to this, and it's that the fantasy family you want is not possible because your MIL is possibly suffering from personality disorder
I didn't have grandparents as a child (they died before I was born) and honestly I didn't feel any lack in my life.
As an adult, seeing my parents own relationships with all their grandchildren, I can see how nice it is and that it's a lovely benefit all round. But then they are normal grandparents.
So as an adult, I can wish I'd had grandparents but it doesn't change the fact that as a child, I was perfectly happy not to. There was no gap or anything missing.
Don't feel your daughter will miss out by not having a close (or any?) relationship with this peculiar woman.
This kind of stuff happened to me, although it was done more subtly, and also my. MiL would subtly put me down, give out backhanded compliments etc. - very occasionally there were overt displays of matriarchy and control. Like yours, my MiL has a poor relationship with her own daughter, and like you, I felt that she saw my dd (her first gc) as a second chance and sought to replace me. And she did very well along that path. But unlike you, my marriage has failed as a result, and I am now unable to prevent her from seeing my children half the time. You are not mad, it is not in your head, and you still have the ability to prevent it. For what it's worth, I do not think the relationship with the grandparents was worth the loss of my dds stable home and immediate family unit at all. My dd is older now, and can see the lunacy for herself.
Dear God, you poor thing and your poor DH. No wonder you were ill.
Your MIL is very bad news and will probably remain so - deal with her on those grounds. Don't worry in the slightest about her 'granny rights' or DD's potential benefit in seeing her - those things are nothing compared to what you are having to deal with.
I don't know what to say about damaged old women who want to pretend someone else's child is theirs. Except eww, creepy. But it strikes me you won't get far dealing with her direct - maybe get some professional advice about how to keep her at a distance.
Don't doubt yourself and act as one with DH whatever you try and do. And try and calm down about it - she is never going to get your DD.
Hi op, I have only skimmed the replies but I know exactly how you feel.
I have a very toxic mil, ny dh is supportive as his childhood was tough. She is very overbearing, a bully, and lived too much through her two sons.
I'm currently pregnant with our first dc and as predicted all through the pregnancy she has attempted to insert herself on forcefully. She set up a 'nursery' in her spare room with baby clothes and such, when we found out we had to tell her in no uncertain terms she would not be spending time with the baby alone at any point.
Try to stay calm, whatever she says or does she has no rights what so ever to your DD, and she is totally at the mercy of you and your dps decisions regarding her access to your child. You always have that power.
Start distancing yourself from her slowly, do not be intimidated by her sulks or passive aggressive behaviour. It's in the best interests of your DD to protect her. You are not in the wrong here.
Does anyone know what professional advice I could get on the obsessive behaviour and how to protect my DD from it?
It's very hard as I've only got DH on board with everything I've had to deal with re MIL in recent months. To up it to the next level by limiting contact completely could put a lot of strain on my marriage and other than the problems MIL puts on us, we're very happy. It took DH a long time to see that MIL's meddling wasn't normal. It actually took her to meddle in our private finances for him to eventually see red.
My fear is that DD will hate me for keeping her way from MIL in years to come. She's every bit the doting, perfect GM on the outside, it took me a long time to see her real motives and my DH almost 40 years! I doubt a child would see it either.
I would suggest you start reading the Stately Homes thread and educating yourself on Toxic families.
Talk to your GP. Trust your maternal instincts, they are there for a good reason.
When you DD is an adult she will understand why you limited contact with such a damaged person, if you are honest with her as she grows up (in an age appropriate way).
I would recommend your DH gets some counselling, preferably with someone who understands toxic families.
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