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Conflict with decision making - Chinese inlaws

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
My inlaws are wonderful. I love them very much. And they are driving me over the edge. I have been a stay at home mom for this first year. My inlaws are constantly asking my husband why we are not getting a new house, why we don't have more money in savings... all to drive home their desire for me to return to work. They want to take care of my baby and they want me at work. I resent it very much. My inlaws also insist that I need to ween my baby from breast-feeding when she is one year old. We plan on breast feeding for two years. They also are blaming me for our baby's infrequent bowel movements...saying that my milk is not good for her, that she needs solids and water. Nevermind the fact that it is normal for BF babies to go as long as she goes. We have let our daughter try rice cereal and some fruit. She doesn't want anything to do with it. My inlaws want us to do cry it out, take our baby away when she's crying -- as if I'm causing her to cry -- and I think are just disrespectful to me. I feel like they want to raise my daughter and that they want me out of the picture! My husband is making me go back to work full time and I think that they are largely responsible for him not being willing to bend on this issue. I am very upset and don't know if this is a cultural issue or just a personal issue. It is causing serious problems in my marriage and I'm really worried about the future.

I was wondering if anyone else has had this kind of issue with their inlaws of different culture, maybe not Chinese even, and what you did about it. I have been told that this is a typical thing to happen in a Chinese family. I have also been told that I am not the one who is supposed to speak up about issues, my husband has to or it can cause a rift in the family. I want to stand up for my daughter but I don't want to cause problems in the family. I feel a horrible rift growing between me and my husband. I am also worried a about them taking care of my daughter while I am at work! I'm afraid that they will make her feel dirty for breastfeeding and that they might throw my milk away instead of giving it to her! I don't know what to do about it. I have asked my husband to stand up to them and he says he will, but he doesn't. It is like he is a child! I don't know what to do and I would really appreciate any advice any of you might have or any experience you may have with similar situations with multi-cultural families. Thanks in advance for your help!
post #2 of 38
I don't think this is a Chinese in-law thing. I think it is a overbearing pushy in-law thing (or in H's case parent thing). I don't want to really tell half my life story here but you and hubby need to let mom in law know in no uncertain terms your the parents, they're the grandparents and they already had their turn. It can and will only get worse (first hand experience here, it will get WORSE). Same with the marriage and job issue. She has her own relationship to worry about, I assume, and even if not she has no business butting into yours and hubbys. Hubby needs to stand up to his mother and put what's best for his wife and child first. Same as the parenting issue, if he bows down to his mother when she tells him how to make relationship decisions (in this case the job) it will give her the green light to make other decisions for him. How to approach her in a respectable polite mother approving way about this though I can't help you with. I'm at an age were I don't worry about polite anymore. Good luck.
post #3 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by wednesday2004 View Post
I don't think this is a Chinese in-law thing. ....
I think it may be cultural. I know a couple of Chinese families where they have sent the young children back to China to live with the grandparents until they are 5 or so (this is from the school that I work in). I also know of someone's brother who is married to a Chinese woman & her parents always ask 'when's the baby coming here?' It's definitely a small sample size, but something I've seen.

But I totally agree that they are being pushy & overbearing! You & your dh have to sit down & decide what you both want as a family. He may think he is standing up for you, but it may not be well defined in his mind what he is standing up for.

Good luck - & it definitely needs to be addressed now.
post #4 of 38
My in-laws are also Chinese. Grandparents taking care of their grand-children has become the modern view of what Grandparents do. My in-laws also thought they would be taking care of my son and taking him to China, as my husbands cousin's did with their children.

The generation before them were all cared for by their mothers and breastfed for 4-5 years. I breastfeed my 2.5 year old. They just view the way I raise my son as the old Chinese way.

It sounds like your in-laws do not want your daughter to rely on you for anything and that is why they want you to stop breastfeeding. Your husband should be the one to talk to his parents. Just keep on insisting.

Good-luck!
post #5 of 38
I'd say no matter what the culture, don't put your child in the care of those you don't trust, and that may be something where you'll have to put your foot down with DH. As for the rest of it, there needs to be some serious and long discussion between you and DH, these things left too long can fester and do more damage.
post #6 of 38
What a horrible situation to be in. I'm sorry. I don't have any advice other than pick your battles wisely and don't give up.
post #7 of 38
Parts of this are just typical overbearing pushy ILs (if you search this forumn you'll find a lot of that,) and parts of it are cultural.

Which parts are which doesn't change what's most important here. These people can not be trusted to do what you wish while watching your child, they will do what ever they please.

Now I'm going to talk about the cultural aspects in ways that are frank. Obviously not every single Chinese IL will act this way (my FIL really isn't like this, but he choose to break from tradition in some ways.) From what you have said so far though, this will fit.
  • First off, unless you ILs are wealthier than you, them pushing for you going back to work is likely in part b/c they want more financial support from you and your DH.
  • Your DHs opinion doesn't matter. They feel he should just do as he's told by them, and it sounds like he has been well conditioned and is indeed just going along with them.
  • They will verbally agree to things then do whatever they want anyway. If they agree to give you child the pumped milk, they will almost certainly dump it and tell you she drank it while they actually feed her white rice and broth.
You need to just say no. Moving across the country will make it easier, but of course that might be impractical. You are an adult, this is your child, just say no. You DH is not going to go against the familly. He has been taught from a very young age that he is less important than they are and will always go along.

You are the only person here who is going to protect your baby. Be strong and say "no."
post #8 of 38
Thread Starter 

thanks

Thanks to all of you. I went to my husband and addressed the milk issue, which is the most important issue of all. We are going to try to educate his mother and if she does not buy in, she will not be taking care of my daughter. My mom will take her full time. Of course we will not let my inlaws know this is the contingency b/c I don't want them to pretend to buy our philosophy. As for the annoying control issues... I think I don't have any solution except I'll be grateful the care and grin and bear it. Oh and bite my tongue and do what I know is best for my family.

Thanks again for all of your help, advice and experience!
post #9 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by eepster View Post
Parts of this are just typical overbearing pushy ILs (if you search this forumn you'll find a lot of that,) and parts of it are cultural.

Which parts are which doesn't change what's most important here. These people can not be trusted to do what you wish while watching your child, they will do what ever they please.

Now I'm going to talk about the cultural aspects in ways that are frank. Obviously not every single Chinese IL will act this way (my FIL really isn't like this, but he choose to break from tradition in some ways.) From what you have said so far though, this will fit.
  • First off, unless you ILs are wealthier than you, them pushing for you going back to work is likely in part b/c they want more financial support from you and your DH.
  • Your DHs opinion doesn't matter. They feel he should just do as he's told by them, and it sounds like he has been well conditioned and is indeed just going along with them.
  • They will verbally agree to things then do whatever they want anyway. If they agree to give you child the pumped milk, they will almost certainly dump it and tell you she drank it while they actually feed her white rice and broth.
You need to just say no. Moving across the country will make it easier, but of course that might be impractical. You are an adult, this is your child, just say no. You DH is not going to go against the familly. He has been taught from a very young age that he is less important than they are and will always go along.

You are the only person here who is going to protect your baby. Be strong and say "no."
I agree a lot with what eepster said. My parents are Taiwanese, my in laws are Korean. Much of what you have mentioned is common in East Asian cultures. Basically, they think that since they are the elders, that you should just do what THEY want you to do, if you are a, "dutiful" DIL, no questions asked. However, just b/c THEY believe that is what you should do, does not mean that they are right or that you should follow it.

I do not know if your in laws are from mainland China, HK or Taiwan and if your in laws even live in the US or not. If they live out of the country, I would just blow them off. You are your child's mother, know what is best for your child, if you suspect that they would not abide by your parenting style/rules if they care for your child, then I would say that is a good enough reason not to trust them. My own parents do NOT abide by my parenting style, so they rarely ever care for my children. They are very bitter about this and instead of taking responsibility for the fact that THEY are the ones who are being unreasonable, they place the blame on ME and try to guilt me about it. My in laws are somewhat similar, although recently they are a little bit more respectful of our parenting style, b/c my DH NOW STANDS UP FOR ME. Your DH needs to stand up to his parents, instead of letting them try to push you around.

If your in laws live close to you, I would move farther away from them if possible. They sound meddlesome and controlling and much of it has to do with the feeling that they are entitled to push you around, b/c you should respect them, unfortunately, respect is often a one way street with Asian parents, they do NOT respect their adult children. Basically, don't feel bad about offending them by standing up to them. I know that you want to, "make nice" with them, but ppl like this only want things THEIR way, they don't really care how you feel or what YOU want. You are your dd's mom, YOU decide how your child will be cared for. If you and your DH can afford for you to SAHM, then stick with that decision. My parents keep pushing for me to return to work as well, they think that we should have more $ saved (and we do own a house and two cars), and disagree with our decision for me to SAHM. I just basically blow them off. They are not happy with it, but oh well. I'm an adult, and I am a parent to my own children, they already had a chance to be parents, so I just basically tell them to butt out. Don't be afraid to say what you need to say, once you set your limits AND your DH stands behind you, they will back off. Your in laws won't be happy about it, but basically it sounds to me that if they get their way, then you will be a miserable person.
post #10 of 38
Thread Starter 
Things came to blow last night. I printed out some information for my DH's to share with his parents when they started complaining that I'm not feeding the baby enough solids and not weening her yet my husband confronted them. It was only the second time my adult husband (we are in our 30's) has done this in his life and he did a pretty good job considering. Well, his mom kept walking away from him and coming to talk to "her baby" -- my daughter. I told mother-in-law that my DH was trying to talk to her and I locked myself and our daughter in a bedroom. Well, inspite of the medical evidence, our pediatrician's advice and much, much information, my mother-in-law is not listening and is standing strong against us. So I'm putting my foot down and our daughter will not be going to the grandparents' home with out us, even when I return to work. It is going to be difficult for my husband but I know he will do what is best for our daughter. As for the issue that she might "dump the milk", my DH says non-sense but I really believe this is true and I'm not going to take the chance. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your honesty and encouragement. I feel like I have a friend in you (all). It means a lot to me. So thanks so very much.
post #11 of 38
Saw this from new posts - stick to your guns mama!

I'm not in a multicultural family, but my ILs were much the same way.

They are only now allowed to be unsupervised with my six year old because they have refused to follow rules on health and safety issues.

It did cause some strain, and they are forceful people - but when they saw we weren't backing down, they laid off.
post #12 of 38
My IL's are Chinese, and I feel your pain.

My dh made joke about his parents taking care of our baby (I'm only 11 weeks pregnant), and I laughed out loud. He got quiet, and I said, "Are you serious?? After you told me how you were raised?"

My dh is horrible at standing up to them, if you even want to call it that. He tends to ignore the situation and hope it just goes away. I've been accused of being "disrespectful", etc. But, since my dh won't stick up for me, I need to stick up for myself. After all, my IL's can't divorce me. DH could, but he loves me more than he loves his parents (right or wrong, just saying), so I think I'm ok there.

I agree w/pp that respect between my dh and his parents is NOT a 2 way street. I also think that it can happen between any family, although I wonder if it's more prevalent in Chinese families. His parents treat him like a 3 YO, and then they treat me that way by extension, and are obsessed w/ how much we make, how much we have saved, etc. It's like never ending. She'll even try to lecture me about my dh's spending habits. I told her, "you have to talk to him." And it's worse now that I'm pregnant, and alot of his parent's money is tied up in investments, so I guess they are feeling the pinch. And after traveling to China and Brazil for a couple of years, now they are worried about $ I guess.
post #13 of 38
My ILs are from Russia and we have similar issues. DH and I have been together for about 9 years and our children are 3.5 and 15 months. The ILs would like to move in and take care of the children full time, and have me go back to work. That is the way most Russian families do it.

My DH has a hard time saying no to them, so I am the one to say no. I always smile and act as nice as I can, but I am very firm. Early in our marriage this would lead to fights with them, because they expected me to be the "docile DIL" and just do as they said without having my own opinion. They yelled at us many times, "We are the parents and you are the children! You must respect us and do as we say!" Eventually they learned that was not going to work.

They have adjusted now, and have a lot of respect for me and the way I do things. In fact, they are very proud of me and DH and how we are raising our children! They do still lecture DH and try to push him around when I am not there, but they don't dare do that when I am there. I think we have a pretty good relationship but it has not been easy!
post #14 of 38
My mom is from Ukraine and we had similiar issues. While she did not really expect me to do things "her way" (after 30 years she know I'm doing what I think is best)-but she was "nagging" me toward insanity when she first came over to meet her Grandson.

She came over for a 4 week visit and it nearly escalated. All I wanted to do is get her a ticket for the next plane home, was awful. I had one big blowout, she was non stop nagging about things like chair covers, that I should "sew more fitting" and other stuff around the house- meanwhile I had a harcore screaming colicky 4 months old that was the embodyment of a 24 hour baby- and she is getting on my case for stuff like that.

First of all I would never ever let somebody with those kind of tendencies stay that long ever again. And secondly I just keep some personal info to myself. Our bank accounts (and what's in them) is our business and nobody else's. PERIOD. I don't debate what our loans are, interest rates of our mortgage or even how much our car costs. NADA. I love my parets dearly, but we all live better if don't feel obligated to share stuff like that- the more you share, the more some parents feel they are entitled to an opinion.

I also gently "refused" a very generous offer to help us out financially- because it is stuff like this that creates dependencies and obligations- and the sense of entitlement of behalf of the "giver" to tell you what to do.

Sometimes it's hard, because there is definitely some stuff that I do not talk about- finances, medical decisions (VACCINATIONS!) and some other personal stuff. Sometimes I need to zip it- I had to learn that.

I just try to enjoy the good parts-which there are plenty. But I also needed to learn how to stand up for myself. It's simply not okay when my mom wants to "make my DH better"- I'm his wife, not his mother and I ignore stuff like that. She loves my DH because he is a sweet, sweet guy- but I am not about to nag my husband about stuff, thanks a lot.

We are not our parents and it's simply not okay to manipulate our own children into obedience, just so we can get our "way".

So, my Son won't be flying to spend time with my parents by himslef anytime soon. (just because that's what our parents did with my grandparents)
That's it. End of story.

But OP- I hear ya. That's rough. Just do wha you need to do- what gives? Your MIL will have meltdowns regardless- so it's not like you making things "worse." Don't ever feel obligated to hand over your child when you're not comfortable with that idea. They are the adults- THEY can handle their own feelings- you are they to care for and protect your child- not an adult.

Your Husband might want to read Susan Forward's "Toxic parents" to get an idea what these feelings of obligation are, where they stem from etc-it's a good book.
post #15 of 38
I second "mags" post. I don't have Chinese in-laws, but I have Chinese parents. And yes, they'll treat their adult children like 3 yr olds because respect is a one-way street in Asian cultures. Period.

to you, as you are going through conflicts on many levels. Get your DH to stand strong, as you and the kiddies come first now.

Good luck!
post #16 of 38
I have Asian IL, and I am European raised. My DH stood for us, which is I believe the most important step. His mom wanted to watch my son but we got out of that graceful. I told her Grandma is for special occasions reserved. I still struggle with disrespect but now that have found my place as a mom I don't really waste my time anymore. It's our son, period. We make the rules. If I feel that the rules are broken, time will be limited. Sounds harsh, but it took me tears to get to that point. It works for me.
post #17 of 38
I think this is very much a cultural issue. It's not so much a matter of right/wrong, it is a matter of conflicting cultural values.

Chinese culture values filial piety and obedience to parents, even from adult children. American values individual autonomy for adults. These values are in conflict in your case.

It sounds like you are doing everything right in this extremely difficult situation. You are helping your hubby stand up to his parents and draw boundaries for them. He is doing so, which must be fantastically hard for him.

I guess the only thing I'd like to say is that, if possible, try to take a compassionate rather than judgmental approach to your in-laws. Not saying you are being judgmental, I haven't got that from your posts, but some of the responses very much are. The inlaws are only being "pushy" and "toxic" from the American cultural perspective; from their Chinese perspective, they are doing the right thing and it is you and your husband that are being disobedient. See what I mean? Your post says that they are wonderful people whom you love, so it is possible they are not mean toxic people but rather just people acting in accordance to their cultural values.

Fortunately you have more power in this conflict, because the pivotal person (your husband) agrees with you and the American cultural perspective. This must be very painful for his parents and for him as well. So your role is to support him and sympathize with him, and to be as gracious as possible to your inlaws while at the same time remaining firm on your boundaries. Like, when they push to watch your child alone, rather than taking an approach along the lines of "you have no right, you are being too pushy, I am the parent!" you could approach it as "I know this is different than the way you were raised, but we believe that parents have the right to make these decisions, we love you and would like you to be involved but if you won't respect our decisions we will have to limit contact" blah blah.

Hopefully they will eventually accept those boundaries, and you can get back to having the warm, loving relationship you described at the beginning of your post .
post #18 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by FelixMom View Post
I second "mags" post. I don't have Chinese in-laws, but I have Chinese parents. And yes, they'll treat their adult children like 3 yr olds because respect is a one-way street in Asian cultures. Period.

to you, as you are going through conflicts on many levels. Get your DH to stand strong, as you and the kiddies come first now.

Good luck!

Gah!! Me Three in agreement with Mags and Eepsters posts.

Unfortunately in Chinese culture respect is a one way street. You always respect an elder, no matter what and it's all based on where you sit in the hierarchy.

To give you an idea on how ingrained it is in society. In the ancient time you were not even allowed to cut your hair or mark your body out of respect to your parents because it was what your parents gave you. (Blame it on Confucious) It's all about respect and they'll always know best.

Everyone's role in a chinese family is clearly outlined in what we call each other and it's the basis of how and who you show respect to. In the chinese language there is no single term for your grandfather, brother, sister, aunt, uncle etc. They specify every family relationship, for example my one Aunt I call her "san goo ma" (sorry bad phonetic spelling here) which means she's my father's 3rd oldest sister. And there is different word for an aunt who is married to my father's older brother or younger brother and a whole different set of titles for my mother's side.

In the Korean culture they even have a different more deferential way of speaking to elders where the younger set will add "yo" to the end of words. I believe it's like that in Japanese culture as well, I can't remember.

So blithespirit trust, trust, trust your instincts about your MIL dumping your milk. She will totally do it because she'll just do what she thinks is best and what you think or say isn't going to matter. And who is going to be any wiser?

Always leave it to your DH to deal with his parents, if you do it and it offends them it could be almost unforgivable and you basically become an outlaw. Your DH just has to learn to stand up to them and only as a last resort do you stand up to them if he doesn't do it for you. It'll be hard for him, we've been raised this way. It took me 30 years to stand up to my family, and it wasn't just my parents it was my aunts and uncles too. But I will say not all are like that and there are tons of wonderful, reasonable and respectful family out there.

The way we've found to deal with these types of family members is to:

A. Move far, far away like my cousin did from his mother (my san goo ma).

B. Just nod your head and act like you are listening to their unsolicited advice but don't comment and then do what you want.

C. Never volunteer information about your financial/personal/family situation where you don't want their opinion as it can turn into an invitation for them to give you advice which is basically them telling you what to do.
post #19 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by pokeyrin View Post
Always leave it to your DH to deal with his parents, if you do it and it offends them it could be almost unforgivable and you basically become an outlaw.
Um, well, there are worse things in life than no longer being on speaking terms with your MIL :. At least I didn't actually have her arrested, she left willingly when the police showed up.
post #20 of 38
I think part of the problem is cultural, part of it is personality. My in-laws are from Taiwan, and they love that I stay home with their grandsons...to them, it's like a status symbol! (I think they're also relieved that they don't have to raise their grandchildren -- they thought that was a real possibility because that's how they handled child care.) But my DH really had to stand up for our parenting choices, and he gets into shouting matches over the phone with his parents every week over their meddling...that part is most definitely a control issue and it is most definitely cultural. DH only calls his parents after I've taken the kids out of the house. It does help that they live in another state. DH's "bad cop" attitude allows me to play "good cop" with my in-laws and to showcase my maternal skills. His parents are finding fewer things to argue about as our little family thrives.
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