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Differences of opinions causing problems

(40 Posts)
d3speratedad Mon 28-Dec-15 16:27:05


I'm looking for advice. I've been married to my wife for 3 1/2 years now - we've been going out for 8 1/2. We have 2 wonderful kids together - a girl who's nearly 4 and a boy of 2 1/2. They're both lovely. I love my wife and we've had a great time together but we're really struggling to agree on how to bring up our kids and it's making things very difficult between us.

We come from very different backgrounds. I'm from the UK and she's from Eastern Europe. My family has quite a bit of money, her's doesn't.

Most of the problems start between our daughter and my wife. Our daughter is quite a strong willed little one. She's lovely but not easy - just like my wife. For example, our daughter doesn't have a big appetite and will often eat very little. This angers my wife to the point of shouting. Once she's done with shouting at our daughter she starts shouting at me. Why is it always up to her to discipline the kids (discipline = shouting) ? Several times it's even involved forced feeding. I'm quite a calm guy but several times it's almost come to blows between us. I'd never thought that I could be in a relationship like that.

On top of that she's always fretting about the health of our kids. Every little thing is blown out of proportion. I've lost count of the times we've rushed to A&E after the most minor of tumbles. She's convinced our kids are ill because they've got a few lumps on their necks. Goodness knows how many check-ups they've had and no problem found. They have no other signs of illness (our daughter is thin but so are we). To make matters worse she's a doctor so she considers this her domain - I don't have a say. I have started questionning things but then she feels that I'm undermining her.

The kids have been waking up in the night. I wanted to put a stop to it as I believe most of the time they're just playing up. She insists on getting up and cleaning out their noses (as the mucus will run into their throats). Once she's exhausted herself she'll shout at me to do it.

At the moment we've got her mother over living with us as we've just bought a new place with loads of refurbishment to do. She'll be staying 3 months. She's lovely but she comes with her own set of rules. No cold drinks, ice-cream (they will make the kids sick). Baths can be dangerous (even when the house is heated to 25 degrees C!). That puts me in a tricky situation. It's difficult explaining to the kids why previously these things were OK before but now they're not or having to openly contradict the mother-in-law.

The problem is that my wife and her mother both believe that they are right. They're nice people with different views and these views are not open to negotation.

The situation at work isn't much fun. I'd have changed a long time ago but I receive a decent wage, the economy isn't great, we have bills to pay and my wife hasn't been working. Overall I feel that things could be great but my wife would need to change her outlook and I'm not sure that she can - it's part of who she is. I didn't get to see this side of her before we had kids so I had no idea how it would develop. When work's not much fun and home's a pitched battle, life seems like a slog. I've got too much invested in it (both financially and emotionally - especially with letting down the kids) to give up on it easily but how long can you batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to pass? Maybe these arguments will be replaced with teenage disputes. I admit that from time to time my mind wanders to the idea of getting the light relief that used to exist between us elsewhere but I know that would all end in disaster.

Does anyone have any ideas / advice ?

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 28-Dec-15 16:45:43

What do you get out of this relationship now?.

So they are from Eastern Europe but that is immaterial really. Their behaviours all the same are disturbing. This is not just down to different cultural practices. Abuse is no respecter of person, country of origin or creed and cuts across all classes and divides.

Your wife and her mother are one and the same; both are being completely unreasonable to say the very least. You seem to have no say at all in this house. Her mother is certainly not nice or lovely either (why do you call her nice or lovely at all?) and has imposed frankly daft restrictions on your lives. No wonder your wife is the same; she grew up with this type of overbearing control and regards it as normal. This is her norm.

Force feeding the children is abusive and cruel behaviour. Presumably this happened to her as a child but its no excuse or justification. Her behaviours towards you and her children are not healthy are they?. What would your advice be if someone else was writing this?. Where is your own tipping point if it has not already been reached already?.

Why is MIL living with you at all?. I would be telling the MIL to move out as of now; its not working out and things are becoming more stressful for all concerned. Things were not great in your marriage to begin with and now they are even worse.

Re your comment:-
"I've got too much invested in it (both financially and emotionally - especially with letting down the kids) to give up on it easily but how long can you batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to pass?"

This above thinking is the "sunken costs fallacy" and is basically further causing you to make poor relationship decisions. Read up on this subject with regards to relationships. Do not get bogged down in sunken costs. It’s also what keeps us in bad relationships. People change. Often, those changes will result in formerly good partners no longer being good matches for each other. In those circumstances, it’s best that couples break up or transition to some other form of relationship. It is often the case, though, that couples will look at their history and conclude that too much time, effort, and energy has been invested in the relationship to end it. That is what you are saying really in the above.

This is a mistake. There are certainly plenty of reasons why long-standing partners might not want to break up. Their experience with each other may show them that they are only in a temporary rough patch. Their lives may be so entangled that leaving the relationship would be incredibly painful. Their issues may just not be as bad as they seem.

But it’s a mistake to think that the amount of investment in a relationship automatically adds value to that relationship. It doesn’t. The value of the relationship consists of what is happening in the present and in the future. The past is done. The past is useful in predicting the future, but the past by itself doesn’t actually add any value. The length of a relationship or the amount of effort put into a relationship doesn’t actually add value. If it’s clear that a relationship won’t serve you in the future, your previous investment in the relationship won’t change that.

Rationally evaluating our relationships requires acknowledging that their value is derived only from our reasonable future expectations. Sunk costs are unrecoverable.

The damage here has already been done by her. I would think very carefully about the future of your children and you within this relationship.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 28-Dec-15 16:51:47

"I admit that from time to time my mind wanders to the idea of getting the light relief that used to exist between us elsewhere but I know that would all end in disaster".

Of course it would, at least you are being sensible in that respect. Your children's welfare I would argue however, is far more important.

If you want to leave make a clean break of it and seek legal representation asap. You do not have to act on it immediately but knowledge after all is power. Wanting to seek "light relief" (and btw that sounds bloody awful as well) is the very last thing you need and is really not a solution.

Claraoswald36 Mon 28-Dec-15 19:18:35

Bless you op that all sounds very hard to live with. You sound very chilled out to be able to put up with it. Some of their behaviour is absurd and agree with pp that plenty is abusive. Force feeding is very abusive. Your wife sounds abusive and a bit deranged. I'm surprise you want to come home at all especially with mil there too. Get it and get a solicitor I can't see this lunacy changing sad

metimeisforwimps Mon 28-Dec-15 19:36:29

op, I also married into a different culture and could have written about half of your post.. We have the same issue with ice cream and baths, if they laugh too much they will have a heart attack, and loads of other stuff. However, car seats are daft and when ds2 drank bleach out of an opened unlabeled bottle that mil left on the floor I was silly to make such a fuss. I understand hoe ridiculous and infuriating in can be. But, leaving the mil aside for a moment you need to accept that you have married someone from a completely different culture. Within your marriage, neither of those cultures can be superior. you need to respect her point of view, which is very real and deeply ingrained, and save the arguments for the make or break stuff. E.g. force feeding. Also she is bringing her kids up in an alien country, which can be very threatening and may be contributing to her anxiety. I'm not saying give in to her completely but she might feel calmer if she feels that you acknowledge her concerns.

metimeisforwimps Mon 28-Dec-15 19:43:02

Sorry if my post sounds like I think you are in the wrong, I don't, but it sounds like the cultural.differences between you only became apparent after kids, and there are ways of handling these. It might be that you can work through this together if you acknowledge it. Ur wife and mil do.not sound abusive to me. Different cultures have very different ways of parenting.

junebirthdaygirl Mon 28-Dec-15 22:59:23

Did your wife suffer from post natal depression do you think?She sounds like she has high levels of anxiety. Could you get her to see a doctor as some of the behaviour is very bizarre.I would completely go against her on the force feeding. Tell her that in the UK the social workers could get involved for that carry on. Also you can go against her mom on the baths. Just put your foot down and say that in the UK kids have baths every night. But overall it's a difficult situation. If ye separate your wife would probably have the children most of the time and you wouldn't be there to protect them.

LineyReborn Mon 28-Dec-15 23:03:45

She's a doctor? In the actual NHS??

metimeisforwimps Mon 28-Dec-15 23:50:56

Its a good idea to gently mention social workers, as it gives an idea of what is acceptable and not in this country, without making it sound like its you critisising her.

Twitterqueen Mon 28-Dec-15 23:58:59

Very difficult.
Divide into 'small stuff' and 'big stuff' and come to an agreement. Give way on the ice cream and baths, but put your foot down massively and firmly on the force-feeding and mucus-cleaning. This is abusive and disturbing and absolutely should be stopped.

Enoughalreadyyou Tue 29-Dec-15 00:14:25

Sounds horrendous. Poor children. Can she really be a doctor? Has she ever practised? Why is MIL living with you? With such a career why doesn't she work?
Seems like you have been made a stranger in your own house. We're you so bowled over by the light relief you forgot to get to know her character.

springydaffs Tue 29-Dec-15 00:20:21

I do feel sorry for medics with kids. They've seen too much, know too much, have seen things go disastrously wrong too many times. It's a short step to panicking about their kids - this could be one of THOSE instances where everything spirals out of control very quickly. Etc.

I agree with metimes that you have married into a culture that has very different ideas about bringing up kids. The ice-cream/bath stuff goes deep - but you have bigger fish to fry, you have to let things like this go. If you are stressing about these things, that don't matter , you are on a hiding to nothing. Choose your battles, let these go.

By the same token, your wife has also to accept she has married someone from a very different culture. We are horrified by eg force-feeding (just as she is horrified by other things) - you have to find a way to negotiate these differences ie professional: get thee to a therapist. You need to find ways to delicately unravel your differences.

I'm surprised she hasn't noticed the way others around her in the uk are parenting their kids though?

I may be thick but I didn't get the 'mind wandering to light relief' thing?? Do you mean you're not having a jolly time bcs mil is in the house? (See, i'm fudgng the issue just as you were!)

I had my decidedly foreign MIL living with us for 6 months. It was hell and I was ready to strangle her after 4 - i'm afraid I made an ultimatum: her or me (I won). And she is a lovely woman. It's all very well for me to give you advice decades after the event - I know much more about cultural differences now, how deep they go (how different they are!), but at the time I had no idea what I was dealing with, had no idea my views were blindly, and profoundly, British. But I would say you may need to cut short your MIL's visit if at all possible.

LaurieFairyCake Tue 29-Dec-15 00:21:15

A doctor?!? A medical doctor or someone who wrote a thesis on widgets???

Seriously? Mucus draining? Believing ice cream gives you colds? Not knowing that force feeding is cruelty/contributes to eating disorders?

Maybe she needs further training ...

Enoughalreadyyou Tue 29-Dec-15 00:50:59

We'll the fact that I work in education has actually given me a much more relaxed attitude to parenting.
What a load of bollocks.

d3speratedad Tue 29-Dec-15 08:52:11


Thanks for all the replies. I wasn't expecting quite so many so soon! Maybe my post made things sound a bit worse than they are - it's difficult to paraphrase 3 years into one page.

The forced feeding hasn't happened very often and not for quite a while. It's more usual that she'll end up shouting at our daughter for not eating or punishing her in some other way.

The point about the cold drinks was one of consistency. When the MIL is not with us we have one set of rules and when she is another. It's difficult to explain to young kids why that should be the case. This morning I left slightly earlier than normal. Our daughter was having a tantrum because she wanted to drink cold orange juice from the fridge and she wasn't allowed to. I don't want us to be openly contradicting each other in front of the kids. Obviously our daughter playing up and having a tantrum because she can't have her own way isn't ok but in my opinion we shouldn't be changing the rules all the time either and they're our kids so it should be us making the rules (she even told me off for drinking cold orange juice the other day - not that I took any notice!).

I think some people might be underestimating the cultural differences slightly. What seems completely normal in the UK and other western countries would be seen as abusive in other cultures and vice-versa. In Eastern Europe anything to do with cold is very bad. We've had the kids out with woolly hats in summer and we don't live in the UK but in France - the South of France. Letting a skinny kid eat not much at meal times would be seen as irresponsible parenting - selfish, not caring if you like.

Also in their culture it's normal for the grand-parents (especially the maternal grand-parents) to be very involved in the child-rearing process. Perhaps the father has a lesser role. Working age parents often have to work 2 jobs to make ends meet.

Before we had kids I knew that my wife was feisty but I don't know how I could have foreseen the rest of the problems which are linked to the details of raising children. We're both very outgoing, adventurous, party people. Without kids we were very compatible.

When I was talking about light relief I wasn't talking about going about sleeping around - just a bit of light hearted flirting. I know I shouldn't do it so I don't but the temptation is there. I'm reasonably popular and the slog at work + pitched battles at home gets very heavy after a while and there's no indication when it will stop. I know it's wrong to think like this but 20 years of grind with no fun is a depressing thought. If we can't get the light heatedness back into our relationship I don't know how things will work out. But it's difficult to have that when you're always expecting the worst - a permanent state of semi-panic.

Again I'd like to reiterate that my wife isn't a bad person. She's very loving and generous too. The kids both love her and so do I. She has many great qualities but she's insecure and always expects the worst. I'm the other way round and I know they both think I'm irresponsible - too laissez-faire. She also needs to control things (such as with the eating). She takes the fact that our daughter is officially underweight (normal - we're both naturally very skinny) as a personal failure (cultural pressure playing a part again I'm afraid).

Anyway thanks again for all your replies. I hope this post has clarified things a bit. As I said it's hard to accurately describe the whole situation in one page.

pocketsaviour Tue 29-Dec-15 08:59:09

What seems completely normal in the UK and other western countries would be seen as abusive in other cultures and vice-versa.

But your wife, and her mother, have chosen to live in a western european country, and need to accept the customs of that country.

The inconsistency you describe will be highly confusing to the DC and I would actually say it is cruel. They will have no idea of why the rules are constantly changing, which must feel very insecure.

TBH in your shoes I would be making plans to get my children away from this woman who thinks it's okay to force feed, shout, control, mucus drain, forbid baths and cold drinks, and escalate arguments to the point of violence.

Are you in France permanently or is it a temporary work situation?

metimeisforwimps Tue 29-Dec-15 09:05:15

It really just sounds like you need a heartfelt discussion and some ground rules. my mil will defer to my opinion if I state it strongly, that's another aspect of their culture, I don't know if the eastern European is similar, but eople are quite strong and direct in their opninions, and expect it from others. Being all nice and English about it doesn't work!

d3speratedad Tue 29-Dec-15 10:06:03

But your wife, and her mother, have chosen to live in a western european country, and need to accept the customs of that country.

Is this the case within the 4 walls of your own home? As a parent you're pretty much free to do things as you like (within the law obviously) irrespective of what everybody else around you is doing. I've tried this argument with her but in my opinion it's not the most watertight one. Obviously I'm a product of a Western Society so I see her ways as counter-productive. She counters that with saying that if I was stricter the problems would go away. They think I'm too soft on the kids. I'm supposed to be the Ultimate Authority (the one has the last shout and who shouts loudest of all). Obviousy being the Ultimate Authority doesn't extend to having your own opinion on anything to do with the kids (they never see this contradiction).

I agree that we need to have (another) heartfelt discussion about this but things really are quite complicated. The MIL is a chemistry professor and she truly believes that she's protecting the kids from my irresponsible attitude. She's very sensitive. Directness will have her in tears (but won't change her mind). I really want to avoid overprotecting the kids. I want them to be confident and adventurous and not have their heads filled with imaginary dangers. That was the way I was brought up. But I think that their take on it is that guys are basically selfish and irresponsible and that kids need to be protected. Anything else would be seen as neglect. There's also a touch of arrogance (Chemistry Professor + Medical Doctor). I'm equally well educated myself but they consider this to be their domain and they know best - better than me and better than all the other families with kids around us with parents that aren't so well educated. Sometimes intelligent people can be the most stupid of all as they believe themselves to be above questionning.

Thanks again for your posts!

metimeisforwimps Tue 29-Dec-15 12:57:22

Pocketsavior in my experience even quite young children are capable of understanding that different people have different rules. The current wisdom on parenting in this country is just that, current. Over time and between places there will always be different ways of doing things, which may seem shocking to others who don't have a good understanding of time and place. Despite our struggles I feel our childrens lives are enriched through a combined traditional and modern culture, and over time I see the benefit in many things that my western mind originally balked at.

d3speratedad Tue 29-Dec-15 13:32:01

The How to Bring up Kids Handbook seems to be different wherever you go. I'm sure if this discussion were on a website in her country I'd be the one with the crazy ideas.

The "easy" route would be to split up. When she has the kids her rules apply and when I have them mine apply. I really don't want to do that, though. So many people we know already have - it seems to be more than 50% in our circle. The thought has crossed my mind, though.

Enoughalreadyyou Tue 29-Dec-15 14:07:07

Despite MIL and DW being scientifically intelligent they seem to be very rigid in their views on child rearing. It doesn't seem loving at all. Instead of exploring and embracing new ways with an open mind they are stuck in some draconian regime from their own experience. And they haven't the intelligence to question it. Very black and white.

I have worked in education in the UK for over 25 years and the regime they are currently administrating goes against the grain. Current good practise is based upon the principle of encouraging independence and making their own choices and ultimately responsibility for their own learning. Simple things such as choosing what they want to wear or how much they want to eat. They are small human beings not pets.

My only rule with my own children was bedtime. Of course you have to be a good role model and I only ever shouted once. If you have to shout at a child you have lost control. Your dc are getting mixed messages which will cause tantrums. Both my children are confident in themselves and gained first class degrees from top universities because that was their choice.

The general anxiety both these women are showing stems from insecurity. They really don't know what they are doing and they know it.

Enoughalreadyyou Tue 29-Dec-15 14:12:51

Another idea might be to employ a nanny if you can afford it as your DW doesn't seem to be a natural mother and quite clearly doesn't enjoy it. Then she could go back to work.

pocketsaviour Tue 29-Dec-15 14:21:37

Op you may benefit from reading this book: For Your Own Good by Alice Miller

Have a think about how your daughter feels, imagine yourself as a tiny 4 year old being force fed food, shouted at and shamed at the dining table.

d3speratedad Tue 29-Dec-15 14:35:03

I get where you're coming from and agree with you. I'm a libertarian at heart and believe very strongly in individuality and personal responsibility. I've even looked into sending them to a Montessori school. My approach is more to warn them that if they don't eat they'll be hungry later and if they are then tough - next day they'll know. They see my way of doing things as neglect as the kid could go to bed hungry.

I'm with you on the bedtimes - I like to be strict at night as if nobody sleeps then it's a downhill spiral into burnout for everyone. Unfortunately the kids know that all they have to say is that they're hungry and bingo they'll be downstairs for the 2nd/3rd dinner as they can't be allowed to go to bed hungry. Our son wakes up every night and asks/screams for water. He screams for his mum as he knows I won't come. It's just an excuse to get up. If we stopped going in he'd stop pretty quick. In the end we're all exhausted as we never get an uninterrupted night.

d3speratedad Tue 29-Dec-15 14:37:51

The idea of a nanny is one I have brought up. My wife has been working part time for 6 months (before that she was off for 2 years). She says she doesn't trust anyone else (expect her mum) enough and doesn't like the thought of them being brought up by someone else. Again there's a cultural influence (and I'm not 100% sure she really wants to work full time either).

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