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WWYD re Challenging Inlaw Behaviour?

(46 Posts)
CoffeeMum Tue 13-Oct-09 10:35:22

Please be gentle with me, this is my first ever Mumsnet post! - and apologies as it's quite a long one.

DH and I currently have a 19 month old DS, and I am also seven months pregnant. I have a demanding full time job and DH has an extremely intellectually and emotionally demanding full time job with long hours, working weekends etc.

His parents stayed this weekend, and treated our home like a hotel. They didn't so much as make a cup of tea or offer to change a nappy. They knew full well how hard DH has been working [12 days straight now, and long days at that] and they knew that not only am i fairly heavily pregant, but that I had also hurt my neck. They also saw me having to make work calls and write work emails while they were here.

The one gesture MIL made towards 'helping' was to bring a dirty cup through to our tiny kitchen, literally as DH was dishing up lunch. They do bring food and drink with them, but they like their food and drink [as do we, to be fair!] so it's a small gesture towards the vast amount of catering we do for them.

DH and I have been together nine years, and this has always been the dynamic when they have stayed, but it has become intolerable now that we have DS, and one on the way. I don't know if we will cope when DC2 arrives if they continue in this way. Another problem is that while they adore DS, they play with him very loudly for a great deal of time for the entire duration of their stay, to the point where it leaves your nerves jangling if you remain in the room. Because it's so noisy and grating, this playing with DS doesn't actually help in terms of reducing our workload.

We don't know what to do now. They [especially MIL] respond very badly to confrontation. Last Christmas, I snapped, and had a go at MIL, and she responded like a small child, sulked and demanded that FIL take her home immediately. It was so awful and tense that I felt compelled to apologise though my point was fair and valid. DH wants to confront them in a more measured way as he sees no way foward unless we do so. I am terrified that at the very most, confrontation will lead to out and out family feud, or at the very least, a tense 'treading on eggshells' environment that I will feel ill equipped to deal with with a 2 year old DS and a newborn baby.

Absolute dilemma. Should DH confront them, or are there any alternatives? Has anyone dealt successfully with similar? Are PIL actually being that unreasonable, or should we grit our teeth and bear it?

thanks if you've got this far!!

3littlefrogs Tue 13-Oct-09 10:37:05

How often do they stay with you?

CoffeeMum Tue 13-Oct-09 10:44:15

About four times a year for two nights/three days.

We go to them about four times a year too - that's easier, because we don't have to cater/host, but it's still tough because when they do the extended loud playing with DS, you can't really escape without blatantly walking out!

bigchris Tue 13-Oct-09 10:45:37

no i wouldnt confront them

i would have them to visit once or twice a year and you go to theirs once or twice a year

grit your teeth and bear it

if they wont lifta finger to help then get in fish and chips, do less cooking

when they are noisily playing with ds take yourself upstairs to mumsnet

go out, plan trips

it is the only way i cope with my inlaws staying

i aldo have a two night rule! if they stay three nights i let them babysit and me and dh go out, sometimes stay in a hotel grin

3littlefrogs Tue 13-Oct-09 10:50:45

You might want to consider non confrontational tactics first, as it is only 4 times a year.

Perhaps they could be persuaded to take your ds out to the park or for a walk for some of the time when they visit?

Are they a bit deaf? Maybe that is why they make so much noise.

It would be reasonable for your DH to warn them in advance that if they visit when you have the baby that everyone will have to be very quiet, and it would be really helpful if they would take ds out - you could research suitable places.

What are your childcare arrangements currently, and what will they be when the baby arrives?

Hope you don't mind me asking, but are their cultural issues here?

wannaBe Tue 13-Oct-09 10:51:51

No I wouldn't confront them.

Tbh when I have people to stay I don't expect them to offer to help out - they are guests in my house. If they offer then that's lovely but you shouldn't expect it IMO.

gorionine Tue 13-Oct-09 10:55:31

I am like wannabe, I would not ask for someone who is visiting to do any "chores" but it is a bonus if guests do decide to help!

MaryBS Tue 13-Oct-09 10:57:07

It may be they feel they are treading on eggshells too.

You could try asking them to help, or maybe DH could? Would you feel happy doing that? Swallow a bit of pride, in the interests of family relations?

CoffeeMum Tue 13-Oct-09 10:57:10

I really like your suggestion bigchris, but there are a couple of flaws for us. Firstly, DH wants to keep the frequency of visits as it is - his DGrandma is frail and elderly, so he wants to see her as much as he can while there is still time. Also, despite all this, he does love his family and wants to see them, and keep their relationship steady with their grandchildren. So that may be a no-goer, sadly.

I agree about the takeaways - that's a great suggestion. We do it sometimes, but they also demand cooked breakfasts, decent lunch, bowls of crisps, afternoon cake, and a constant stream of coffee/tea/booze so dinner is just a small part of that.

Trips would be great, but are tricky...we're in London so alot of activities demand financial outlay and none of us are that well off. We'd happily go to the park, but it's frustrating as they are car orientated and walk at such a slow pace that we find it like pulling teeth. Also, to be blunt, they are quite sedentry, and are basically ones for sitting around the house the whole time. Maybe we could push the trips to the park though? - would get us all out of the flat.

Also hard to leave them to it when they do loud 'playing' as we find they need to be supervised with DS. For example, DH has had to dive in when they have given DS foods that he may be allergic too - and have been warned about. Also, they seem to have a moral aversion to moving hot drinks out of DS's reach, so we need to keep an eye on that too. They've been told about both on several occasions...

But i like the takeaway and the getting out to the park options, that could really help, thank you!

3littlefrogs Tue 13-Oct-09 11:03:33

Also - I hate to say this - as one whose dh worked 120 hours per week for 10 years when my boys were small, you need to think seriously about how you achieve, or try to achieve, a reasonable work/life balance. You never get these years back. Your stress at your in laws is bound to be exascerbated by other stress factors in your life, and long hours and demanding work is a huge stress.

CoffeeMum Tue 13-Oct-09 11:04:28

Thanks all. No cultural issues here 3little frogs. Childcare is full time nursery for DS during week, but never during time when PIL are here - they come at the weekend. I will be SAHM with both when DC2 arrives.

Wannbe and gorionine..i know what you mean about the not expecting help, and for nine years, i have been the host with the most for every single visit...constant attention with drinks, three decent cooked meals a day, homecooked almost always, dessert AND cheese biscuits every evening. With friends, i wouldn't expect them to lift a finger. But most grandparents seem to do SOMETHING when they stay? And they know how busy and tired we are...is it not a bit weird to let your son and daughter in law do absolutely EVERYTHING for you? Also, we really pitch in when we stay with them...have been known to cook them meals in their house, always make our own hot drinks, always pour our own booze drinks in the evening...

We asked them to help at the weekend - to get DS to drink his bedtime milk sippy cup while we prepared dinner.We got back and they were playing riotously [10 mins before bed]with milk untouched...

CoffeeMum Tue 13-Oct-09 11:08:42

3little frogs - good point. I agree completely that our life work balance is absolutely rubbish right now. We've taken alot on, and while we wouldn't change it for the world, life is busy and tough. However, we have plans to change this. I will be SAHM when DC2 arrives which means i will still be extremely busy, but i won't be torn between full time work and child as I am now. We also plan to leave London within two years to achieve a much better quality of life - big house, more relaxed city, much more comfortable finances that will mean we can afford cleaner, holidays.

It's just a rough time for us now...but it also represents how hard we're both working. DH has been 'golden boy' his whole life and never expected anything of PIL. Is he not allowed one tough time when they might help out?

gorionine Tue 13-Oct-09 11:13:50

Maybe I am just jalousblush, not that you have to do everything but that at least one of you (DH) gets to see their familly several times a year. We only see ours (both live abroad) once a year if we are lucky.

Maybe you are expecting too much? I am saying that in a good way,not an attack. You have your routine WRT bedtime and things and as granparents do, your ILS mess it a bit up but surely, it is part of their job? They raised their own children, gave them srtucture and everything and now they just enjoy their grandchildren, without strigs attached?

wannaBe Tue 13-Oct-09 11:16:24

"DH has had to dive in when they have
given DS foods that he may be allergic too." Does your ds have alergies? I ask only because you say may be alergic.

gorionine Tue 13-Oct-09 11:17:26

Oh and also, maybe you should tell your ILS (you or your DH) how hard you are finding things at the moment WRT life/work balance. As silly as it may sound, they might not have noticed that you could really do with some hands on help because to them it looks like both you and DH are coping marvelously at juggling it all?

3littlefrogs Tue 13-Oct-09 11:20:28

I think some people are just thoughtless and selfish TBH. My inlaws were used to having servants and being waited on hand and foot - no experience of looking after babies or small children as this was all done for them. My experience was identical to yours - which was why I wondered. Sorry - I hope you weren't offended. Mine had no idea about safety either.

The only thing that worked for me was cutting down contact, and getting dh to visit with dcs on his own, or me going away for a weekend break when they were due to visit. (With lots of thanks about how I appreciated their kindness in helping so I could have a break). I couldn't do that until dcs were a bit older though.

CoffeeMum Tue 13-Oct-09 11:20:54

Gorionine, please don't worry about giving your opinion - that's what i came here for! You are right, we are so very lucky that both our families love us, live close enough for regular visits, and are devoted to DS.

I think the crux of the problem is that we have gone from actively enjoying seeing PIL, to dreading it a little bit as it's bloody hard work and leaves us exhausted. I can live with not being keen on my inlaws [i wouldn't be the first] but DH is a bit heartbroken that it's become so hard and they seem so oblivious to the fact we're struggling a bit. He wants to get back to looking forward to spending time with them which he feels is just not the case at the moment.

But i tend to agree with alot of you here...no good can come of a big confrontation. Makes me quite ill to think about it. I think we need to start gritting our teeth...

CoffeeMum Tue 13-Oct-09 11:24:33

Wannabe, no allergies that we know of, but I have several that have taken me to A&E three times, so we're worried that he's inherited them. He eats a really wide range of food but it's only nuts that we're restricting because of the potential drama of the reaction - eg. can be life threatening, rather than a bit of a rash. We've asked them not to give him chocolate/biscuits/anything that might be nutty. He's had to interject twice when they literally had the food in question inches from DS's mouth.

3littlefrogs Tue 13-Oct-09 11:24:59

I think you do have to take the long term view.

My MIL thinks I am "wonderful" now, but it has taken 30 years! grin She has also mellowed with age, and has appreciated her experience with her grandchildren. (I think I have probably mellowed with age too.)

DuelingFANGo Tue 13-Oct-09 11:26:11

"DH wants to confront them in a more measured way as he sees no way foward unless we do so."

Do this, get him to do it I mean. But rather than do it now could he approach the subject next time they arrange to come, while still in the planning stages, with a kind of 'we'd love to have you but have to stress that we'll both be working and won't be around to pick up after you like we have before' thing?

Is there also an element of them inviting themselves to stay? If so could your DH and you actually refuse when they pffer to come with a 'we're very busy/tired' kind of excuse and stressing how tired you are with the kids and were after their last visit?

Whatever you do I think your DH should be the one to speak to them as it makes no sense for you to be blamed.

3littlefrogs Tue 13-Oct-09 11:26:13

You will have to accept that they will always have to be supervised, so they will be a bonus rather than a substitute IYSWIM.

CoffeeMum Tue 13-Oct-09 11:27:57

Gorionine, i know what you mean - DH and I are both quite capable sorts, and have always 'done the right thing' and handled life pretty well [touch wood]. But this weekend, DH clearly told them how hard he's been working, we commented several times onj how busy our lives our, my seven month pregnancy is more than visible, and they know our DS has us up by 6am every single day. Even knowing all this, not so much as a single cup of tea from them... sad

colditz Tue 13-Oct-09 11:32:37

You can't inherit specific allergies, so your avoidence of biscuits for a child that probably doesn't even have a nut allergy (or is no more likely to than the rest of the population) is OTT and nonsensical. If you let that go you may find yourself relaxing about the way they care for him.

colditz Tue 13-Oct-09 11:33:18

they are guests. You don't invite guests then whine about how they expect to be treated, um, like guests.

CoffeeMum Tue 13-Oct-09 11:33:28

3littlefrogs - it does sound we are/were in similar boats, and no offence caused at all, i came here for absolute honesty! I do think PIL think i'm pretty good and compare me very favourably with son in law so i should be grateful. It's just the sheer hard slog involved. I think your suggestion of leaving them to it from time to time is a great one - I will have fewer qualms about disappearing to another room to get on with stuff when they're here, and i may just take long showers, or a good book to sneak off to at their house....

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