In-Law Trouble

Dear yayas,

My mother-in-law is driving me crazy. I feel like she doesn’t respect my wishes at all. For example, we’re vegetarian and I swear she has offered my kids chicken nuggets when I’m not there (my oldest daughter said something about it). We don’t do sleepovers (the kids are 5 and 3) and yet she begs for them to sleep over all the time. She even promises sleepovers to my daughters and gets their hopes up just for us to say no and then we look like the bad guys. She lives in the next town over and we see her at least twice a month, but she whines that it isn’t enough. Our schedule is busy and it’s all we can fit in sometimes. Our personalities have clashed from day one anyway, so sometimes I wonder if it’s that. I’m really tired of the passive aggressive texts and constant undermining. It’s all about her and not about what’s best for my daughters. I also feel like she favors our older child because she looks like my husband. My list of complaints could go on and on, but this summer has really brought me to my breaking point. I’ve played nice all these years and now I can’t take it anymore. She keeps making plans to take the girls places (even though we won’t let her drive them) or buying tickets to show or movies without asking so she “has to” go with them. I wish my husband would say more, he’s not happy about it either, but “it’s my mom,” he’ll say. He doesn’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do. It’s causing a lot of tension. What would you do in this situation? Thanks, yayas. 

– Insulted by In-Laws

Dear Insulted by In-Laws, The first step might be speaking to your husband about how you are feeling and see if he has any insight or is able to support you in communicating clearly with his parents. If that does not work, the next step may be to bluntly communicate how you are feeling. Relationships are dynamic, and sometimes feelings must be hurt at first in order for people to move forward in learning about one another with the ultimate goal of developing an ability to communicate clearly. With all of this said, it is okay to limit the time your little ones spend with others (family or friends) if you parenting choices are not being respected. – Bernie

Dear Insulted by In-Laws, yikes, I’ve not had experience with this but it sounds exhausting. Whatever you decide it has to be both you and your husband agreeing on it and saying “This is what our family does” and hold the line. Set the boundaries, just like you do for your children. Good luck! – Taren

Hi Insulted by the Inlaws, This is such a hard situation! But, since your husband appears to share your sentiments, I’d really encourage him to speak with his mom for two reasons. First, as your husband, his loyalty is now to you. Secondly, he will undoubtedly know the best way to handle a touchy and sensitive topic with his mom. That aside, as a family, you two could draw some clear boundary lines and make sure you to stand united when these topics come up. Best of luck! – Cortney

This sounds frustrating and exhausting. Your MIL sounds like a narcissist from your description. (Look it up, sometimes research can give you the words/terms to describe your feelings). I have no patience for people who make it all about them, especially when it comes to my kids. I don’t have a unicorn for “family” just because they hold a title. Being a grandparent is a privilege, not a right. Her lack of respect for your family’s boundaries and preferences is unacceptable. I can understand wanting to spend time with grandkids, but when it becomes about quantity over quality and is more about them than the kids, a time-out may be in order. You and your husband need to be on the same page. That can take years, but it needs to happen. You’ll have to talk about it and deal with it as a team. This can be exhausting at times, but it needs to happen. Your relationship with your in-laws *might* be life long, so I would address it and try to clear it up now instead of letting it build & turn into a dumpster fire later. It probably feels like there isn’t time for her because of the annoying requests and poor quality of the visits. We don’t want to spend time with people who annoy us, disrespect us, or complicate our lives—that’s a normal reaction to negativity. I hope for you that she can come to understand that and back off a bit, but she won’t magically come to that conclusion on her own, so a tough conversation might be in your future. I also wanted to address the favoritism: you’re not crazy in thinking this. I’ve seen it with my own eyes (not my kids, but others). I’m not 100% sure what the biological “stuff” behind it is, but you’re not the only person who has dealt with or witnessed this kind of thing. As far as scheduling goes, you can make it clear to your kids and your MIL that YOU make the schedule for YOUR immediate family. That will ward off any disappointment for the kids when she tries to make plans behind your back. Your girls can rest easy in the knowledge that nothing is actually going to happen unless you and hubby put it on YOUR calendar. Best of luck! – Lori Beth

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