Babies: 0 - 3 Months

Issues with In-laws

 [NOTE: I originally posted this in the 2nd Trimester forum, as that's where I am in my pregnancy, but I'd like to see what advice I can get from those who have already given birth and may be dealing with somewhat intrusive in-laws a little more immediately.]

 To start, I would have to say I actually have very sweet in-laws. They don't match up with the various horror stories I've seen around, but that's partly why I wanted to go ahead and ask everyone's advice anew - I feel like advice for the extremes have been covered, but I'm having a little bit of trouble figuring out how to deal with this particular, admittedly smaller but still frustrating, situation. This is part asking for advice and part vent. :

 My MIL is very used to having all of her children fairly close. Only one of her 9 kids lives out of state; the rest all live within 15-30 minutes of each other. Any time someone has a birthday (which with that many kids and spouses is quite often) we're all expected to gather for a family dinner. If she had her way, I think her dream would be to have a giant house and a bunch of land where all of us would live with our spouses and children under one roof. DH has mostly grown up with this, so while he doesn't share her dream of living *that* close, it doesn't bother him as much as it does me. I grew up with never living in the same state as my grandparents and visiting them once a year around Christmas when we were young (I still feel that I had a wonderful relationship with them even so). Currently, my siblings and my parents are scattered around the country, and we similarly get together at Christmas as often as we can afford it, but not much otherwise, despite being close via phone. Given that, as much as I love my family - and my in-laws - I've always preferred to have some distance and to have my own family independently. So that may be part of the reason this sort of thing is bothering me. It's anywhere from little things like my MIL sighing and sadly saying she doesn't know when she'll ever have her family back in one piece - because apparently a daughter living in another state means the family is broken - to bigger things like our conversation today.

DH and I are currently living with them in a separate apartment part of the house. It has been very generous of them to let us stay here, and for the most part they've been good about not dropping by unannounced. We were going to move out at the beginning of the summer - we were originally just staying here while DH finished his education - but every time we brought up that we were looking at apartments, they would beg us to stay. Again, it's very generous of them, but I can't help but feel a little smothered at times. We did end up deciding to stay, mostly because they raised the fair point that we can more easily save up for a house while we're living here. So now we're talking about house options. Today my MIL asked me where we were planning to live, and I listed a few towns we were looking at that were close to DH's work. Bear in mind, these towns are literally 15 minutes away from their house, maybe 20 minutes tops. My MIL then suggests that we could live in their same town, and even that there are houses for sale only a block or two away. I smiled politely and told her we were really looking at those other towns, but she wouldn't drop it and kept pressing me to live really really close by. Her reasoning was that we should be closer so it'll be easier for her to come visit the baby.

And okay, that might be what it comes down to for me. My mother once mentioned that with one of the kids she had this strange desire to board up all the windows and doors and keep everyone away from her baby. I?m definitely feeling that, and I haven?t even given birth yet. I?m glad family and friends are excited about the baby ? heck, I?d be sad if they weren?t ? but sometimes I feel like so many people ? my in-laws in particular ? are making plans to visit and I feel like screaming at them to not touch my child. It doesn?t help matters that my MIL is used to seeing her current grandchildren about once a week, if not more, and I really don?t think I could handle that, but I think that may be what she?s expecting. Of course I want my kid?s grandparents to be in its life, but I think I?m really hoping for more peripheral ? or at least not quite *that* involved. All in all, requests to live a block away just fills me with the desire to move to Sweden.

I?ve talked to DH about it, and we at least got the delivery room situation handled (we want just the two of us there), but I feel ungrateful and rude bringing up stuff like this too often. DH *loves* my parents, and again, his are perfectly sweet too. But I feel like I?m going crazy when it comes to this issue. I?d really like to just be straightfoward with my MIL, but any time I do anything even close to saying I?d like things to be different, she gets *so* hurt. One time DH talked to them on my behalf to gently request they tone down the political rhetoric as it made me a little uncomfortable (our views do not mesh at all) and she called me the next day crying because she felt so bad about hurting my feelings. She?s not doing it out of passive-agression or malice, but it makes me feel so guilty that usually I just don?t say anything at all, and it?s really hard to put my foot down about things that matter. It almost makes me wish she *was* mean, because then I could feel justified about standing up to her.

So Bumpies, any advice on how to deal with feeling so smothered or how to deal with a MIL who takes everything personally? On that note, the other thing looming on the horizon is differing discipline techniques between parents and grandparents as I?ve witnessed with the current grandkids ? mostly that the parents have rules and are frustrated that the grandparents seem to have none. How do I raise my concerns on that and similar issues when the time comes without hurting her feelings or being too demanding? (And am I blowing things out of proportion/is this just the hormones talking?)

Re: Issues with In-laws

  • First, it's pretty much a given that the parents have rules and the grandparents have none.  That's what kids love about going to their grandparent's house, they get to do whatever they want and eat ice cream and stay up late.  Let the grandparents spoil the kid, that's what they're for!

    As far as the rest, I felt pretty much the same way when I was pregnant.  We actually live across the street from my in-laws and they are great people and give us our space, but when I was pregnant I felt the way you do about already feeling overprotective and wanting to keep the baby all to myself.  I can't speak for how you'll feel but I can tell you that after I had the baby, that lessened quite a bit.  Now I really look forward to taking the baby over there and letting them keep him so I can get out for a bit, or even just going over there and hanging out and letting them play with him and hold him even while I sit there just enjoying the break.  Trust me, you will want a break from the baby and they will be invaluable to you then!  It might not happen in those first few weeks but I bet it will happen.  

    As for where you're looking at houses, just explain the reasons why you're looking at those towns and be done with it.  She can keep pushing her neighborhood and you and your H can just smile and nod and say maybe you'll have a look around but then go ahead and do what you want to do.  You can't control her behavior, you know it's coming from a loving place, all you can do is control your reaction to her and it sounds like you just need to relax a bit and remember that she doesn't make your decisions for you, so laugh it off and do what you want.

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  • Well it sounds like she needs everyone to revolve their life around her. My MIL is the same way but she isn't nice. She is a rude know it all and no one ever disagrees with her as they do not want to "wake the beast". Eh, I don't live like that so we have issues. I have an opinion and I do what I want to do, not what she wants us to do.

    How is DH in all of this? Mine totally sees how crazy his mom is and he backs me 100% on everything - thank God. Like for the buying a house close to them, just don't do it. If she asks why it's because that is where you both chose and you like it there. End of story.

    As for her taking everything personally, she sounds like she plays the "victim" card. And to me that's a game for everyone to do what she wants.

    You and DH need to get out of the house and do your own thing. He needs to understand that you have needs and wants for your own family, and it shouldn't revolve around what his mother wants.

    We were seeing MIL weekly, now it's every other week. I couldn't take it. We both work FT and spending every Saturday with them was too much. We have things to do and we want to spend time with L. She is in daycare FT so weekends are the time we get with her for the most part.

    Remember, this is your life and your family with DH. Having a talk with him about things is necessary. It is hard, don't get me wrong. You need to word things carefully and see how he reacts. Good luck!

    Lillian April 17, 2012
  • I completely get where you're coming from, and I'll have to disagree with PP. I really hope this lessens when you have the baby and that you start feeling more comfortable, but my LO is 11 weeks, and I still feel like hiding in a corner to keep her from my MIL. I did feel better about other people after a couple of weeks, but my MIL (while perfectly nice, much like yours) is always gently pushing us to do things her way or to "humor her" (I really hate that phrase now) and playing the martyr or the victim card to make me feel guilty. What I have done is set very strict rules about the things she does that make me uncomfortable, which I apply to EVERYONE, not just her, and have told her that if she breaks the rules, the privilege is taken away. Also, when it comes to seeing her frequently, do what makes you comfortable, and make sure DH is on the same page. I've made clear that we don't have to see MIL every time we have the opportunity, we have other family too. She doesn't like it, but I don't care.
  • First, make the best house decision for your family based on finances and school districts in conjunction with your commutes. Then you have basis to discuss with your MIL. 

    I will say we lived 20 min from my parents foe the first year of DD1's life and while it was great, the added help we have living 5 min away is invaluable with 2 kids. Again, you're not talking huge distances, so I don't think this aids your decision one way or another. But I would agree with the first PP that said that protective feeling lessens a bit, especially with sleep deprivation.  

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