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Very dodgy step mother-in-law ... what should I do? (Sorry really long post)

14 replies

Ghosty · 18/04/2003 22:49

Hello ...
I am having a bit of a dilemma and I need some advice ...
My father-in-law married a woman from hell about 2 years ago ... he ran off with her 5 and a half years ago leaving DH's mum devastated and the whole family in a bit of a mess.
Anyway ... we have known for a long time that SMIL (Step mother in law) has an alcohol problem. In the early days it was a bit of a laugh really ... entertainment for us spectators to see her behave really badly when she had had a few. She says she is not an alcoholic as she will go for 2 or 3 weeks without a drink but then when she does drink it is a marathon binge of about 2-4 days ... starting with a meal out on a Friday, getting sloshed, starting the next day at 9am, going throughout the day and night, carrying on the next morning until she flakes out at the end of the third or fourth day and then she will stay dry for another couple of weeks.
Now I am not averse to a bit of alcohol ... been known to be plastered a few times in my life BUT the whole problem is her behaviour. She staggers all over the place, she shouts, she swears, she describes in great detail her sexlife with FIL (who is 71 btw), she is crude and pretty much disgusting.
None of this is new to me ... she has been like this for as long as I have known her and when it was just me and DH we used to just rise above it and try to ignore it ... the couple of times I mentioned it to FIL I got a stony response so I have just left it.
Recently though I have been having sleepless nights about it because of DS. He is getting older (3.5) and I am really struggling with exposing him to her behaviour any more. Last weekend they had a party and she was at her worst ... she said the 'f' word and the 'c' word I don't know how many times in his hearing, everytime I took him to another part of the house she followed us and carried on ... she told him to 's** off' when he said he didn't like the pyjamas she had made for him. She told him to shut up when he was whingeing about something. Then she complained that he didn't like her ... I told her it was because she shouted at him and he was frightened of her but she was so far gone it went in one ear and out the other.
I am ashamed to say that she even lifted up her top to everyone at the party to show off what $14000 can get you in the way of a boob job! Like I say, in the past we have ignored it, laughed it off etc but now that my son is exposed to it it is all too much and I can't take it anymore.
I have thought that I could take her aside soon (when she is sober) and try to explain that we need to protect DS from this but DH doesn't want to make a 'thing' of it. I am tempted to cut off all contact but FIL is the only grandparent that DS has in the near vicinity (my parents are in the UK) and also my DH really values the relationship he has with his father now as they never really had a relationship when he was growing up. DH did mention it to FIL law the other day and FIL just shrugged it off.
My other problem is that most of the time I cope quite well with being on the other side of the world to my parents but whenever I see the PsIL I get so upset as they are really bad in the grandparents stakes and it makes me miss my parents so much that I am in an awful mood for days.
I am getting upset just writing this now so I will stop ... sorry for this being so long ... just at the end of my tether....

OP posts:

clucks · 18/04/2003 22:57


Really feel for you. You seem pretty wise generally and I really think that you or your DS do not benefit from this woman's company. She sounds ghastly and she's not even his grandmother. I am sure DH would still be able to continue with his improved relationship with his dad without you seeing so much of this old drunk. They could go fishing and do other father/son stuff without your family having to endure this old dear's boobs etc. I would be livid at anyone swearing at my child, you must be an angel not to have kicked her teeth in.


Ghosty · 18/04/2003 23:04

Thanks clucks ... I want to, believe me, but I keep myself together for my son's sake ... the problem is is that she has no recollection when she is sober of what she is like when she is drunk. When she is sober she is really quite harmless ... in fact she doesn't say much at all ... she can only talk about clothes and make-up which I can handle. She has so many issues stemming from her childhood that I feel sorry for her and I would like to help her but the couple of times I have suggested she has counselling my FIL tells me it is none of my business ...

OP posts:

doormat · 18/04/2003 23:07

Well you dont need to make a "tit" out of her as she does the job quite well herself hey. I would put dp and FIL straight that you do not want her around your ds while in that state.See if FIL shrugs that off!!!!!

If he did not like the pj's that she made could he be feeling bad "vibes" from her. It is amazing what kids pick up!!!!


doormat · 18/04/2003 23:09

Sorry ghosty, but it becomes your BUSINESS when she is swearing at your son. We all have problems past and present but that gives no-one the right to treat a child in that manner.


Bekki · 18/04/2003 23:09

Ghosty I'm so sorry that you are stuck in this awful situation. It is tricky but not impossible to work this out. The most important thing for you to do is to acknowledge that you don't want yourself and especially not your son to be upset by this woman anymore. It is your father-in-laws responsibility to help his wife not yours. If your father-in-law has any sense he will understand that her behaviour is not appropriate near children and that he must help her to combat the problem, or he must insist that she stays away from family get togethers. If your husband dosen't care about how her problem affects everyone else then you must make the initial move to tell your father-in-law and/or his wife that you don't want her near your impressionable child while she is drunk. Don't beat yourself up over this, if you are affected then alot of other family members will be releived that you would have taken this stand on their behalf, as often everyone is too embarrased to speak out. I don't have an alcoholic in my family but an auntie of my mine is just as bad as her (sober), very similar actually- boob job and all. She is incredibly offensive but no one says anything out of fear of becoming a target or getting backlash from other family members. I'm the only one who stood up to her and now I'm the only one whom she dosen't pick on. Keep focused on whats important here Ghosty- your son.


Marina · 19/04/2003 09:48

Ghosty, she sounds atrocious and I think it is very big-hearted of you to try and bear in mind experiences in her past that have maybe made her the way she is now. I would not stand for such language in front of my ds either, but I would not mind betting that it is the "out of control" aspects of her drunken behaviour that he is finding scarier and that you might need to protect him from more (but then I live in SE London where ds can hear language like that from stone cold sober teens to pensioners on the bus, anytime without warning!).
I thought Bekki's advice sounded really great - especially the fishing stuff etc. My dh had a paternal grandma from Hell who did not need to be drunk to be an offensive, abusive bully of a MIL, parent, grandma, etc. Yet somehow he retains warm memories of the grandpa she was married to...and did go fishing with him a lot! My MIL just put her foot down and insisted that dh and his dad (while he was still alive, he died when dh was young) went on outings with this grandpa - they never visited the family house. I think it was hard and I know it did damage her relationship with her MIL. But the woman was such a wretch she didn't care about that...good luck. It must be very hard when the "good" grandparents are so far away.


Marina · 19/04/2003 09:49

Doh! It was Clucks who had the fishing idea! Sorry Clucks


Ghosty · 19/04/2003 09:55

Thanks Bekki ... that is the point isn't it? ... that my son is the important person here. I have been talking to DH about it and he has said that if I can find a good time to talk to SMIL then he is OK about me doing so and he agrees that my DS is too impressionable to be exposed to this kind of thing ... and that any child is. She keeps offering to babysit as she babysits for her own grandchildren quite a bit but at the moment I feel that it will be a cold day in hell before I take her up on her offer. My parents used to look after DS a lot when we were still in the UK ... overnight etc ... but I will spend the rest of my days staying in and NEVER going out again if my only babysitting option is her ...
If I do speak to her, my problem is how do I approach it ... do I just go for it ... and tell her that I/we hate it when she is drinking and won't see her if she is drunk or do I go round the houses? Usually I am quite good at tackling things like this ... try to be tactful if I am in a sticky situation but I am so mad at the moment that I think I will just go for it like a bull at a gate and cause a huge rift ...

OP posts:

Ghosty · 19/04/2003 10:03

And thanks to you Marina too ... posts crossed ...
I could go on forever about this ... she really did have an awful childhood ... one of twins ... parents couldn't afford to keep both but when she was born apparently she was so ugly her dad said that no-one would have her so they might as well keep her ... and that is the earliest memory she has of her parents, them telling her that ...
There was apparently sexual abuse by a family member when she was a little girl and when she finally told someone about it as an adult she was sued for defamation of character.
She got pregnant at 15 and was sent away from home to have the baby to save the family from embarrassment and had to give the baby up for adoption ...
There is just so much other stuff ... and she needs help ... if only to make life more bearable for me and DS ... but there is no chance my FIL would let me talk her into it. AAAAAAAGHHHH
I want my mum

OP posts:

mears · 19/04/2003 10:13

It sounds as though your FIL is in denial and that is why he has told you to mind your own business. Since your SMIL has no recollection of her behviour at these occasions could you subtly video her. It is not uncommon to video family events and perhaps you could capture her behaviour and shock her with it.
My friends mother is an alcoholic and she shocked her into doing something about it by not allowing her to see her grandchildren until she sobered up.
Perhaps you and dh should sit down and have an honest, frank discussion with your FIL and SMIL together to let them know that something definately needs to be done. Her behaviour is not acceptable and she obviously needs professional help. It is understanbablwe why she is like this, but she is obviously unhappy and needs guidance how to manage her emotions other than resorting to drink.
I hope you find a way forward with your dh.


bouncy · 19/04/2003 10:40

Ghosty, that sounds awful for you, a very difficult situation to be in. if it was me I would keep my son away from her when she has had a drink and only limit the visits to when she is going to be sober. I hope this is possible. Good luck.


tigermoth · 19/04/2003 10:44

ghosty, you seem to be so aware of all the undercurrents in this, while somehow trying to guide yourself and your son away from danger. It must make you feel so lonely sometimes, especially when your side of the family is far away.

I can understand how hard it is to tackle in laws on such personal matters. I have this too, but with vastly different issues. I don't have family on my side, and my inlaws are very kind and loving to me and have welcomed me into thier lives, but.... in the end I am not their child, aren't 'family', probably don't know all the family history, realise that there is some skating over the surface by mutual unspoken consent. I feel I would be stepping out of line if I ever seroursly went against my in-laws and husband's views or stirred things up. Indeed once when I was mildly critical of my dh in front of my MIL she said to me, 'remember he was my little boy'. True enough. Can't argue with that. So I appreciate the difficulty you may have as a family outsider.

If you feel you can't get anywhere by talking to them, could you simply vote with your feet? Say to your dh that you will attend family events with your ds but if you get there and your SMIL is playing up, you and your ds will quietly leave. Anyone must see that her behaviour is awful and not appropriate for a three year old to witness. I don't know how practical an option this is, but if you can do it, it might bring home to her and others how unacceptable her behaviour is. Could you say to your dh that you will only attend family events if you can easily leave?

I also think the dh and fil fishing trip alone advice is very good and as a shock tactic, the idea of videoing your SMILS drunken activity is excellent.


WideWebWitch · 19/04/2003 11:51

Blimey Ghosty, this sounds awful. I completely understand why this woman would make you want your mum and it must make it harder being the other side of the world. I agree that you should remove your ds from the situation whenever she is drunk and you should make it clear to FIL and SMIL (when she's sober) that you will do so. It doesn't sound as if there's any point in confronting her at the time since she won't remember it in all probability. You could just calmly and politely state your reasons though and leave. FIL will get the message I guess.

IME though there isn't anything you can do to stop someone being an alcoholic unless they want to seek help themselves. You can however, limit the effect it has on you and your family. I think they're both in denial and sadly, there's not a lot you can do about that. Best of luck, tough situation.


jasper · 19/04/2003 23:13

Ghosty, this sounds like a bad situation.
The bottom line is you don't want wee kids exposed to unsavoury behaviour, so steer clear. All the other stuff about missing your parents, and dh trying to buld a relationship with yhis dad are secondary.

ps isn't $14ooo a bit pricey for a boob job?

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