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Live-in MIL says hurtful things to my children

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I'm not sure I'm posting this in the right place. I'm at home with dd (just 3) and ds (9 mo), my husband works 2 (right now 3) jobs and is gone a lot. We live with his mother. It's long and complicated why we do, but basically we moved into a house that she owns last year to help her on various levels with my father-in-law who died a month later from Alzheimer's (this was last summer). My mil doesn't like me -- that's fine. But, she says things to my dd that I find upsetting. Today we hadn't changed out of our church clothes yet (we don't go to the same church) and she told dd that she "looked like a tablecloth". DD didn't really say anything, and I know it's not super mean, but if my daughter were ever to repeat that to someone my mil would be all over her about how we don't talk like that to people. Mil is the type of person who says it with a smile on her face so she's not being "mean". Ok, this one incident in itself is nothing, but she does stuff like this a lot. Last fall, we went to our neighbors for dinner and she told them that dd "looked like a refugee" because she was wearing Little Missmatched socks that my mother had brought for her. She's starting in on me about ds "manipulating" me when he cries if I put him down for a minute. A few weeks ago I was holding ds in the kitchen and he was wearing just a diaper. She was trying to poke him in the stomach with a popsicle and got mad when I told her not to do that. Her daughter has told me that mil doesn't believe that children matter -- she's also told me many other nasty things she's said/done, including once when she watched dd for me and apparently wouldn't turn a light on in the room and dd got upset because it was dark and mil had a good laugh about how she didn't let a child tell her what to do.

I know I'm rambling and thanks if you're still reading. DD loves playing with mil's toys in her room and mil can be good with her, but I'm increasingly leary of letting dd be alone with her. We don't see eye to eye on most child rearing issues and she's not interested in why I do what I do. Am I overreacting? I know that mil did a number on my husband and his sister as far as "tearing them down" so they wouldn't be cocky as children (appearances are everything!) Should I trust my instincts and not let her be alone with dc anymore? Help!
post #2 of 15
I wouldn't let a person like that be alone with my children, and would want them out of my house ASAP. It sounds like your MIL is passive-aggressive, disrespectful, and toxic, and the longer she lives with you, the more she is going to harm you.
post #3 of 15
yes, always trust your instincts! She sounds mean. I am so sorry.
post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bokonon View Post
I wouldn't let a person like that be alone with my children, and would want them out of my house ASAP. It sounds like your MIL is passive-aggressive, disrespectful, and toxic, and the longer she lives with you, the more she is going to harm you.

I totally agree. I am so sorry that you guys are dealing with this, but I would try as much as possible to avoid any alone time for DD with MIL.

Will your living situation likely change any time soon?
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bokonon View Post
I wouldn't let a person like that be alone with my children, and would want them out of my house ASAP. It sounds like your MIL is passive-aggressive, disrespectful, and toxic, and the longer she lives with you, the more she is going to harm you.

I totally agree. I am so sorry that you guys are dealing with this, but I would try as much as possible to avoid any alone time for DD with MIL.

Will your living situation likely change any time soon?
post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by foolishpony View Post
I'm not sure I'm posting this in the right place. I'm at home with dd (just 3) and ds (9 mo), my husband works 2 (right now 3) jobs and is gone a lot. We live with his mother. It's long and complicated why we do, but basically we moved into a house that she owns last year to help her on various levels with my father-in-law who died a month later from Alzheimer's (this was last summer). My mil doesn't like me -- that's fine. But, she says things to my dd that I find upsetting. Today we hadn't changed out of our church clothes yet (we don't go to the same church) and she told dd that she "looked like a tablecloth". DD didn't really say anything, and I know it's not super mean, but if my daughter were ever to repeat that to someone my mil would be all over her about how we don't talk like that to people. Mil is the type of person who says it with a smile on her face so she's not being "mean". Ok, this one incident in itself is nothing, but she does stuff like this a lot. Last fall, we went to our neighbors for dinner and she told them that dd "looked like a refugee" because she was wearing Little Missmatched socks that my mother had brought for her. She's starting in on me about ds "manipulating" me when he cries if I put him down for a minute. A few weeks ago I was holding ds in the kitchen and he was wearing just a diaper. She was trying to poke him in the stomach with a popsicle and got mad when I told her not to do that. Her daughter has told me that mil doesn't believe that children matter -- she's also told me many other nasty things she's said/done, including once when she watched dd for me and apparently wouldn't turn a light on in the room and dd got upset because it was dark and mil had a good laugh about how she didn't let a child tell her what to do.

I know I'm rambling and thanks if you're still reading. DD loves playing with mil's toys in her room and mil can be good with her, but I'm increasingly leary of letting dd be alone with her. We don't see eye to eye on most child rearing issues and she's not interested in why I do what I do. Am I overreacting? I know that mil did a number on my husband and his sister as far as "tearing them down" so they wouldn't be cocky as children (appearances are everything!) Should I trust my instincts and not let her be alone with dc anymore? Help!
YES, always trust your instincts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by foolishpony View Post
Should I trust my instincts and not let her be alone with dc anymore?
Yes, of course.
post #8 of 15
Yes, you should trust your instincts, and you should also get out of there ASAP.

You live with someone who emotionally abused your husband and his sister (from what the sister says, it sounds like it was DELIBERATE abuse with a specific agenda of making them feel badly about themselves) and that person is around your kids on a daily basis doing, or attempting to do, the same to them. The dark incident alone would be enough for me to stop leaving my kids alone with this person.
post #9 of 15
I better not say what I want.....Just keep in mind that words hurt.
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
OP here. I should clarify a few things. What I should have asked is, HOW do I explain to dd that she can't go play in mil's room by herself? MIL's room is right off the kitchen on the first floor. DD runs in there constantly to play. I definitely don't want dc alone with her. But the living situation is already strained at best and I know dd is picking up on that. And we will likely be stuck in this living situation for the short term at least. While we are live with mil here, I can possibly continue to stay home with dc. If we could move out I would very likely have to work. And we'd have to rent an apartment (we still own a home out of state that's been on the market for over 2 yrs), so I'm afraid that would limit doing something like watching other children for additional income. DH and I obviously didn't make a good choice in agreeing to this situation (he even has said that he feels like we made a deal with the devil), but here we are. Thank you all for responding!
post #11 of 15
You could say to DD, "Mommy doesn't want you to go alone into Grandma's room anymore. I don't feel that it's safe."

When she asks why, just say, "I like to be with you so that I know you're safe, so if you want to go in Grandma's room, please come get me.".

As far as your MIL's "playful" comments about tablecloths and refugees and jabs with popsicles, you're going to need to call her out every. single. time.

You don't have to go ballistic. Just calmly point out to her, "That wasn't a nice thing to say." "Don't poke Johnny with a popsicle." "Please turn the light on for Susie."

When she argues with you that she was "Just joking around!", simply repeat what you said. Don't go down a twisty road of trying to explain your thoughts and feelings. It's pointless. Just repeat "That wasn't a nice thing to say.".

Your husband and his sister had no one to defend them. Your MIL is counting on you not wanting to make a scene so that she can continue her passive/aggressive crap. Show her that from now on, you will be pointing out every nasty thing she says and does. Good luck!
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by foolishpony View Post
While we are here, I can possibly continue to stay home with dc. If we could move out I would very likely have to work. And we'd have to rent an apartment (we still own a home out of state that's been on the market for over 2 yrs), so I'm afraid that would limit doing something like watching other children for additional income. DH and I obviously didn't make a good choice in agreeing to this situation (he even has said that he feels like we made a deal with the devil), but here we are. Thank you all for responding!
Like everyone in an abusive situation, you must weigh the pros and cons of being independent from the abusive person. I have to say I don't know anyone who moved from a house to an apartment, went back to work, etc. to get themselves and/or their kids out of a bad situation who regretted it later. It seems really scary and challenging at the time, but once you're out, you will feel so much better.

As far as DD going in MIL's room, if you're not willing to sit MIL down and explain to her what you have decided and why, I would just follow DD whenever she goes in there and hang out with both of them, or distract DD and have her hang out with me.
post #13 of 15
Perhaps you could lower the asking price on the house ... just get it sold any way you can. It sounds like that house is trapping you, and the sooner it is gone, the sooner you can get our of your "deal with the devil".

I agree on following your little one. Saying it isn't safe in granny's room would cause too much extra drama.
post #14 of 15
Emotional abuse is perhaps the most insidious kind, because the scars it leaves are all internal and it's almost impossible to prove. Someone who is really adept at emotionally abusing children--and your MIL has had decades of practice--does it in such a way that the victim is unsure the abuse is even occurring. That's what she's doing to you and your children right now. You listed a few things that are clearly abusive, and then asked, "Am I overreacting?" No, you're not overreacting. Your MIL is dangerous and a clear and present threat to your children's mental health, safety, and well being.

I would do whatever it takes to get out of there. No amount of money saved is worth subjecting your children to an abuser. They would be better off even if you had to go to work and leave them with caregivers (not your MIL!) during the day. And you would be better off because you would know that she can't hurt your family anymore.

If (when) you do decide to leave, get your ducks in a row quietly and without fanfare. Don't let her know about your plans until they're set in stone and can't be sabotaged. Don't give her identifying details of your new location or residence; keep it vague, pretend you don't have clear answers, do whatever it takes. Don't give her anything she can use against you.

This may entail keeping your goals secret from pretty much everyone else in the family besides your DH, including your children, so bear in mind that it may be a lonely row to hoe until you can get away. A determined abuser will fight to keep the targets of her abuse within easy reach, so be discreet and just get away as soon as possible.

post #15 of 15
Oh and in the meantime, I agree that saying it isn't safe is a bad idea. Don't give your MIL the idea that you're onto her--just start following your DD every time she goes anywhere alone with her. Words are unnecessary and they won't make a difference anyway--in fact, they may just cause your MIL to escalate the abuse or find new and creative ways to be alone with your children.

No need for a talk about it; just don't let them out of your sight if your MIL is around. She'll probably notice but what can she really do about it?
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