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Improving accommodation of inlaws for the sake of a grandchild

post #1 of 103
Thread Starter 
I wanted to clarify my relationship with my MIL (and FIL) and answer a question about what I do for them. What do you do for your inlaws to foster the relationship with their grandchild(ren)? Please, before posting, please do not say you do not believe grandparents don't have to treat grandchildren fairly or that you leave it up to your DH/partner. I need to foster the relationship and improve the connection between my inlaws for my child's sake. Thanks. I am not looking for them to lavish attention on my child. I'm simply seeking some level of fairness in how they treat all of their grandchildren and an improvement in the relationship/connection/bond.

What I do for MIL (and FIL):

- I do have a very nice place for MIL to sleep and I have always put out fresh sheets, blankets and pillows for her. Yes, it is an air mattress, but it is quite comfortable (more comfortable than where we sleep, actually) and it is clean and fresh and in a quiet area of the house.

- I go to the grocery store before her visit and get good things (just not meat) and usually I order pizza or other take-out for her and she chooses what she wants from the menu. More often than not, DH and I pay for it.

- I send them pictures of their grandchild, and lots of information on what is going on in their grandchild's life. Frequently.

- I used to send lots of cards (for things like Father's Day/Mother's Day, etc). For years. I send them art projects from school, drawings, special hand-made messages and cards from my child, etc.

- I invite them for field trips, for birthday parties, for playgroups. For holidays. For visits in general. I always extend the invitation to them both (both FIL and MIL).

- I try to engage FIL in conversation about things that interest him. His yard. His hobbies. The weather. What's going on in his home town.

- I try to engage MIL in conversation about things that interest her and I listen to what she says.

- I always offer to pay for things like take-out, pizza we order, the admission to places we go. More often than not, DH and I do pay. We never free load off of them and we always, always offer, which both MIL and FIL have remarked about and have said they really respect us for.

- I take MIL out for lunch, and pay. I take MIL out for coffee, and pay. I take MIL out for ice cream, and pay. I take MIL to movies, and pay.

- I ask what they would like to do first. I ask for their ideas about agendas for the day. I try to elicit ideas from them. What would you like to do? What do you enjoy? Oh, I don't know. Whatever is fine is always the reply. But they always say it's a problem or snipe about it after the fact. This has happened so many times. They don't speak up and I think they are fine with things, then learn later they didn't like it.

- I used to buy them gifts, special ones, from their grandchild - keepsakes, personalized things, special and meaningful books, framed photos, grandparent journals, etc. I made a real effort on that kind of stuff for about 4 years (my child is only 4.5).

- I have gone to visit them when they've requested over the years: holidays, Mother's Day, if they have relatives in town, family reunions.

- I've not complained and agreed it was necessary when DH had to go to their house, use his very limited vacation from work, and help them when they've had a few emergencies and other episodes. We're the only relatives close, and we do that for them and have for years. Granted, they don't ask for help often but when they have, we've been the family to do it. I feel that is what family does.

- I reached out to MIL and helped in every way DH asked me to and which I felt was appropriate without overstepping my bounds when MIL's mother passed away. We stayed with them, sent cards, called on the phone. That's what family does.

- When I go to MIL's house, I put up with their smoking and their lack of a guest room, and the tv being on loud into the night in the same room they set up the air mattress for me, DH, and DS. The last time the tv blared all night and other family members were watching it and DS (3 at the time) stayed up until 1 a.m. crying. I try to overlook things when at their house, within reason.

- I've tried to give MIL and FIL as much information to make things they don't understand as easy on them as possible, such as things about how we are parenting and choices we make.

I don't know - there's probably more, but this is a good attempt at a list of what I do for MIL and FIL.

In return, I am asking that they be fair and spend an equivalent amount of time and money on DS as they do on their other two grandchildren the same age who happen to live much further away.

I hope that answers your questions. And provides some food for thought. I'd be happy to read what you do for your MIL and FIL.

Thanks so much.
post #2 of 103
We live pretty near my folks, but my MIL isn't really interested. She's about six hours away and she's visited once. She's never even met DD. It's how she is.

If you want them to stay over, you do need a place for them to stay. A real guest bed, in a room with a door that shuts. These are older people - getting down to and up from an air mattress on the floor can be difficult. Two people on an air mattress is never as comfortable as one. Don't just put out sheets and pillows and blankets, make up the bed.

I know, you camped on an air mattress in the living room at their place. You hated it. And in the year or so since that happened, you haven't gone back to do it again.

There are people I love very much who I seldom visit because it involves physical discomfort, no privacy and unfamiliar food. That list, by the way, is what you are offering your in-laws. That's a lot to psych myself up for. I certainly wouldn't plan to stay a whole week with those people - it would be as hard for them as it would be for me. We email instead, and talk on the phone.

You say:
Quote:
In return, I am asking that they be fair and spend an equivalent amount of time and money on DS as they do on their other two grandchildren the same age who happen to live much further away.
You will never get this.

First, it is none of your business how they spend their money. It's offensive to many people even to quantify their interactions with their grandkids in monetary terms.

Second, even assuming that they were as interested in this kind of fairness as you are, there is simply no way to count up every moment and every dollar and compare them and have everyone agree that it has been "fair."
post #3 of 103
A great deal of what made my relationship better with my MIL had to do with my mental attitude. I stopped expecting her to behave in a certain way and started to concentrate on enjoying her for her strengths, not what I wanted her strengths to be.

We now live in the same town as they do, so visiting isn't an issue so much. But for many years we did not. When we lived in a high population density area, I accepted that they would not visit. The traffic and associated stuff was too much for them and they hated it. I did too, actually, but that's another story. So, we came to them from time to time.

Then we moved to a different, pretty rural place. We bought a guest bed at auction and set up a guest room. Our house had two full baths. When they came to visit, we would use one bathroom exclusively and leave the other one for them. MIL is big on having her own bathroom. They visited us there periodically, not terribly often, but twice a year maybe, and we had fun on their visits.

I buy and cook food they like when they visited, or now when I have them for dinner. I buy the beverages they drink. I talk to the kids ahead of time and explain why they need to behave in a certain way.

I've been married for almost 30 years. We followed a rocky path. For a long time, MIL and I did not get along at all, but now I adore her. She's quirky, but she's lived through a lot and has a lot of insight about certain things. She's also become pretty funky about things that used to meet with her disapproval. I'm not a SAHM, I kept my own name and dh and I have a very equal partnership. All of that horrified her at the beginning, but she's totally cool with it.

She's 85, and it terrifies me to think she may not get to see my kids all grown up.
post #4 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post
I know, you camped on an air mattress in the living room at their place. You hated it. And in the year or so since that happened, you haven't gone back to do it again.
That's not the reason we don't visit them at this time.
post #5 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by EFmom View Post
I buy and cook food they like when they visited, or now when I have them for dinner. I buy the beverages they drink.
FIL is a recovering alcoholic. They want beer and mixed drinks to make them feel at ease. I don't like when FIL is drunk and DH doesn't like when FIL is drunk either. We don't buy beer.

They usually bring their own beer, however.

As for food, I usually order pizza or get take-out. Sometimes they pay, but we always offer, and we pay upwards of 50% of the time. I have cooked for MIL in the past, and she will say it's good, but cooking and the food we have has come up after the fact. I don't cook or buy meat. When I've cooked I have made them pasta, and it's fine until surprising comments later. That's why we often get take out and pizza. They can choose off the menu what they want and select the place.
post #6 of 103
We spend a great deal of money flying to two different continents to see the two grandmothers. We stay in hotels when we visit so that they will not be inconvenienced.

They are both too old to be expected to travel to see us. When they were younger and better able to travel, we paid for their flightsand put them up in a hotel when they visited every couple of years.

In both our families, it's expected that the money flows from the working to the retired, not the other way around.
post #7 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post
Two people on an air mattress is never as comfortable as one. Don't just put out sheets and pillows and blankets, make up the bed.
I have nowhere to put a bed, unless I put it in the basement (unfinished).

DH and I have a full size bed. FIL and MIL have slept on it in years past, but they made a few comments about the size (too small). Granted, that was year's ago.

The air mattress is queen sized. Bigger.

I'm thinking about how I would set up a guest room at this point. One, I don't want the expense of the bed and two, we have our room (well, my bedroom), my child's room (small), and DH's man cave full of all his crap and collections. There is no where for a bed.

I've thought about buying a pull-out couch. I need to save up for that.
post #8 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by That Is Nice View Post
I have nowhere to put a bed, unless I put it in the basement (unfinished).

DH and I have a full size bed. FIL and MIL have slept on it in years past, but they made a few comments about the size (too small). Granted, that was year's ago.

The air mattress is queen sized. Bigger.

I'm thinking about how I would set up a guest room at this point. One, I don't want the expense of the bed and two, we have our room (well, my bedroom), my child's room (small), and DH's man cave full of all his crap and collections. There is no where for a bed.

I've thought about buying a pull-out couch. I need to save up for that.
Obviously your DH should move his crap to the unfinished basement and allow that room to be made over into a guest room, but I am guessing that is not going to happen. They are, after all, HIS parents.
post #9 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by choli View Post
We spend a great deal of money flying to two different continents to see the two grandmothers. We stay in hotels when we visit so that they will not be inconvenienced.

They are both too old to be expected to travel to see us. When they were younger and better able to travel, we paid for their flightsand put them up in a hotel when they visited every couple of years.

In both our families, it's expected that the money flows from the working to the retired, not the other way around.
OK. I see where you are coming from. In our family, my inlaws are newly retired and have more money than us. They spend a great deal of money flying to see the other family with their other grandchildren. They stay in hotels sometimes.

There are hotels where we live, too.

They are not too old to travel. They travel all the time, far and wide.

In my family, I pay a lot of things for my parents (groceries, transportation, health costs, rent sometimes, clothing, etc - thousands and thousands over the years, less now that I can't afford it as much). They don't have money. They needed help.

MIL and FIL have money. They don't need help. They are newly retired and young for grandparents. They are healthy. They are not too old or frail to travel. They book flights all the time to visit their other granchildren.
post #10 of 103
Quote:
I ask what they would like to do first. I ask for their ideas about agendas for the day. I try to elicit ideas from them. What would you like to do? What do you enjoy? Oh, I don't know. Whatever is fine is always the reply. But they always say it's a problem or snipe about it after the fact. This has happened so many times. They don't speak up and I think they are fine with things, then learn later they didn't like it.
Could it be that there are too many activities planned and your house feels too busy to them? Some people like a lot of down time, especially if the rest of the time is being spent with small children.

I know my parents are this way. They stay in a hotel when they come - though we would gladly make up son's room all comfy for them, and have offered. I think it's because they like the break from the "craziness" of our household, in their perception. (though I have a nice atmosphere here, pretty calm children, no TV) They go back to take naps at the hotel, take walks in nature on their own, go shopping or whatever and then visit us for a couple 2-3 hour times during the day.

I'm not sure how you'd accommodate them on this -- if they don't have their own room at your place. but this could be part of the prob!
post #11 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by choli View Post
Obviously your DH should move his crap to the unfinished basement and allow that room to be made over into a guest room, but I am guessing that is not going to happen. They are, after all, HIS parents.




Yes! He should move his crap out, not necessarily to the basement. He should have done that years ago. It's a major point of contention. I would love to make that space into an office, a playroom, or a guest bedroom. Something for the family, not just DH.

DH will never give up his self-proclaimed "man cave." Where would he play x-box? Keep all his dvds and cds and other things? He loves to collect and hang out and, frankly, while I'd love the space, I need a place to send DH so that he's not playing x-box and watching tv in the family space unless it's a family oriented show.
post #12 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by That Is Nice View Post
FIL is a recovering alcoholic. They want beer and mixed drinks to make them feel at ease. I don't like when FIL is drunk and DH doesn't like when FIL is drunk either. We don't buy beer.

They usually bring their own beer, however.
Okay, so this here? This is the elephant in the room.

Your FIL is not a recovering alcoholic. He's still drinking. He's an alcoholic, full stop.

Alcoholism can seriously warp family relationships. And while I don't think the blame lies entirely on either side here, I do think you need to re-examine your expectations concerning these people in light of this illness.
post #13 of 103
I have to agree with MeepyCat's point that you can't control their behavior. You should do the things you are comfortable doing to foster a relationship between your inlaws and your DC but you *really* have to come to grips with the fact that nothing *you* do is going to make them be fair. They are responsible for their behavior. Period. You have to give up this control. Grieve that your DC don't have the relationship with the inlaws that you would dream for them. Then move on. If it is important to you for them to have the intergenerational connections maybe start visiting a retirement community or church where a lovely older couple could dote on them. But really, just let the inlaws go. Do what you want- send cards or don't, make phone calls or don't...do only that which you can do without resentment or bitterness.

I wish you and your DC all the best.

Jenne
post #14 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by traceface View Post
Could it be that there are too many activities planned and your house feels too busy to them? Some people like a lot of down time, especially if the rest of the time is being spent with small children.

I know my parents are this way. They stay in a hotel when they come - though we would gladly make up son's room all comfy for them, and have offered. I think it's because they like the break from the "craziness" of our household, in their perception. (though I have a nice atmosphere here, pretty calm children, no TV) They go back to take naps at the hotel, take walks in nature on their own, go shopping or whatever and then visit us for a couple 2-3 hour times during the day.

I'm not sure how you'd accommodate them on this -- if they don't have their own room at your place. but this could be part of the prob!
Oh, yeah! I would LOVE if my inlaws did this. If they came and stayed in a hotel, and came over, we did something for a while, they returned to the hotel for a nap or some downtime, then they returned later or the next day. Heaven. I've invited them to do this. They have said no. They don't want to do that.

We have hotels within 5 minutes of our house. Affordable ones, too.

I've also asked them what they want to do and they never say anything and FIL gets antsy just sitting and won't take off his coat and paces around the room.
post #15 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post
Okay, so this here? This is the elephant in the room.

Your FIL is not a recovering alcoholic. He's still drinking. He's an alcoholic, full stop.

Alcoholism can seriously warp family relationships. And while I don't think the blame lies entirely on either side here, I do think you need to re-examine your expectations concerning these people in light of this illness.
Yeah, that's true.

He's not a recovered alcoholic. He lapses, but it's been better in recent years. But he still drinks. And then falls off the wagon. It's so much better compared to years ago when he'd land in detox and rehab. That hasn't happened in a long time. But he does drink still.

I feel bad for him. I have a lot of compassion for alcoholics. My own parent is an alcoholic which is why I will not buy beer and keep a fully stocked cooler of beer for FIL like my BIL and SIL do.

That is one elephant in the room.

When MIL and FIL visit the other family, there are mixed drinks, which they enjoy and there are coolers of beer stocked for them. They love it.

I have never done any such thing, and most likely never will. My feeling - having my own parent as an alcoholic - is you don't buy alcohol like that for an alcoholic. I'm not judging. I just wouldn't do that given my experience with my dad and with my FIL. What they do in their home is their right, but not in my house.

Plus, mixed drinks? Really expensive!! A cooler full of beer? That's not cheap either!

And those two combined? Um, not so good or necessary for grandparent-grandchild time.



It's a big elephant in the room.
post #16 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by EFmom View Post
When we lived in a high population density area, I accepted that they would not visit. The traffic and associated stuff was too much for them and they hated it.

She's 85, and it terrifies me to think she may not get to see my kids all grown up.
On that last part. I hope that she does.

My inlaws are not that old. They are like 25-30 years younger than that. Like I said, they retired early and they are quite youthful for grandparents.

BIL and SIL live in a city maybe 5 to 10 times the size of our city. Much, much more urban with much, much worse traffic and associated stuff. MIL and FIL do drive out there, though sparingly since they fly out there multiple times a year. But they love the big city. That's not a deterrent to them at all.
post #17 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by That Is Nice View Post
I have nowhere to put a bed, unless I put it in the basement (unfinished).

DH and I have a full size bed. FIL and MIL have slept on it in years past, but they made a few comments about the size (too small). Granted, that was year's ago.

The air mattress is queen sized. Bigger.

I'm thinking about how I would set up a guest room at this point. One, I don't want the expense of the bed and two, we have our room (well, my bedroom), my child's room (small), and DH's man cave full of all his crap and collections. There is no where for a bed.

I've thought about buying a pull-out couch. I need to save up for that.
This is a big part of the problem, at least how they've expressed it. Now, it could just be an excuse. I'm not sure.

MIL and FIL like BIL and SIL's house better. BIL makes a lot more money than my husband (always has) and SIL is a SAHM. They have a very nice home, although it's not large. They have features that MIL and FIL truly enjoy: an inground pool and patio with a BBQ/grill. MIL and FIL love that. They have one of the large tvs on the wall...I don't 50 inches or something. MIL and FIL love that. They have a large sectional that MIL and FIL really like. On and on. I mean, thousands and thousands of dollars for comfort things in their home that I just can't really compete with nor want to have in my home.

That's not us. I don't want those things, but if I had a bunch of extra cash and it could make a big enough difference to MIL and FIL that they would then visit, I might (big emphasis on might) go ahead and buy some of those things.

It just makes me incredibly sad that this could be the reason MIL and FIL visit the other kids so much (4 weeks every year) and my child so little (less than 4 days).

I'm not jealous. I don't want what they have. I'm fine not having those sorts of things and if I had a windfall of say $5,000 or $10,000 I for sure would not buy the above list.

I know I can't control MIL and FIL but I have real trouble accepting that if I just had a pool, a grill, a sectional, a guest bedroom, and large flatscreen tv, then they'd treat my son better.

That is the part that gets me. OK? Because then maybe it is my values (frugality, simplicity), my finances (not having the money for or better uses for such things), and my lifestyle (not wanting such things) that is causing this.

Yes, I still think they should look past not having these things, but they don't and so what? do I change? Do I go in to debt and spend money on silly things we don't need to basically "lure" the grandparents into having interest??

Look, I know my house isn't the most accommodating, but we live here. Yeah, there are improvements I'd like to make for us, but we don't because of lack of time and money. I'm not choosing to NOT do these things for inlaws just because. There are real reasons, and, mostly, they are financial and to a lesser extent philosophical.

I'm not even that radical. I mean we're not tv free. We do have a tv and cable! We don't have a couch at the moment, but we have chairs! We don't have a bed, but we have an air mattress. We don't have a grill, but I do get them take-out. We don't have an inground pool, but we have a city pool we could go to...
post #18 of 103
We give the IL's the master bedroom when they come b/c it has a large bathroom with a jacuzzi tub, a king size bed, and a 300 sq ft balcony. We did have a guest bedroom set up, but I felt like with only a full size bed in it it wasn't fair to have 2 adults sleep in it (though, DH and I co-slept with two kids in a full for years - how, I dunno!).

As for activities - we don't really plan anything, usually, but go with the flow and decide what fun things to do when they are here day by day. They do tend to pay, but I almost always offer - and then I thank them so they know how grateful and unexpected I feel.

In turn, I honestly don't ask that they do anything WRG to their grandchildren. I mean, they do - they'll often take them shopping or to the movies or chuck e cheese, etc., but I would be perfectly happy if they just sat and visited with our family. That's what they are there for, IMO, and they don't owe my kids the same things they do for or buy for their other grandchildren (they have 15, BTW, from 4 different families). Not trying to say what you don't want to hear - I did read your OP - so don't be mad, but that's just my thoughts for my particular IL's. When they don't send gifts for b-days, I don't think twice - I know they love my kids, and as long as they have a positive relationship with them, I'm happy.

I agree that it would ideal if your H would move his crap out of the spare room, at least when his parents come to visit, but I know from experience how stubborn men can be about their stuff and what they feel is their personal space.

I do try to treat their trip like a vacation - they do, b/c it is a vacation since they have to take time off from work (they both work - MIL was working two full-time jobs). We've never asked them to babysit or help around the house - when they are here, they are our guests and I'm just happy they drove 7+ hours to visit.
post #19 of 103
I currently have the best setup for a guest that my dh and I have ever had out of all the places we've lived. We have a large house w/ 5 bedrooms, one of which is a very comfy guest room (w/ a tempurpedic(sp?) mattress) and a large tv. Downstairs is a super comfy wrap-a-round couch w/ a another tv and we also have a media room with a HUGE tv. We have cable, netflix - the works.

My mom hasn't stayed here during either of her two visits (we've lived her almost 4 years, btw) despite the accomodations. She doesn't stay here because she doesn't enjoy spending time with me. We've never been close and likely never will be. She doesn't like coming over to the house from her hotel room because she has to go outside to smoke and she's a chain smoker. She likes my kids alright but to see them she has to see me so that limits interactions greatly.

I only have one sister who happens to be childfree by choice but if she were to ever have kids, I have little doubt that my mom would favor them over mine. Because she likes and gets along with my sister much better than me. She already visits and stays with her more often, even though I live 6 hours aways and my sister lives 8 hours away. My sister's guest room has a rather uncomfortable bed and her house is next to an Army airfield where helicopters often land.

I think my sister could live in a sod house and my mom would stay there over my place. My mom has a much higher comfort level with my sister and that is why time and resources go to her over me.

Just thought I'd share my story with you.
post #20 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by That Is Nice View Post
When MIL and FIL visit the other family, there are mixed drinks, which they enjoy and there are coolers of beer stocked for them. They love it.

I have never done any such thing, and most likely never will. My feeling - having my own parent as an alcoholic - is you don't buy alcohol like that for an alcoholic. I'm not judging. I just wouldn't do that given my experience with my dad and with my FIL. What they do in their home is their right, but not in my house.
Okay, so let's reframe this a little and see if it changes how you think about these people.

Your MIL and FIL enjoy visits to their other son, who enables their addiction.

You won't enable that addiction, because you know that it's a disease that harms your in-laws and has the potential to harm your family. (Go ahead and judge, btw. Buying drinks for an alcoholic is a *horrible* thing to do.)

For an alcoholic, drinking is the most important thing. It's more important their job, their family, or the function of their own liver. Your FIL may be miserable about what his disease is doing to his life, or he may be in total denial about it. Until and unless he decides to change, your family is never going to be more important to him than his next drink.

For what it's worth, your BIL's family isn't more important to him than that next drink either. At the moment, that family is enabling the disease, which is comfortable for your in-laws and helps them deny that they have a problem.

You know better. They have a problem. They've decided not to face up to it, even if it means that they lose out on the loving relationships they could have. This loss is the result of their choice and their action, but they would probably prefer for you to believe otherwise, to believe them when they try to tell you that grandparental love could be your child's if only you would pony up for a few six packs. At a guess, if you watched your in-laws with their other son's family, the situation wouldn't look as rosy as you are hearing it is. There's a big difference between loving someone and being just as happy to drink near them as you are to drink elsewhere.
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