How can I set boundaries for MIL - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 06-27-2011, 11:16 AM - Thread Starter
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I want to begin by apologizing because this is going to be long winded but i really need help.  I have no where else to go for advice.

Where to begin with my MIL drama.  I am happily married and had my first child in march of this year.  In the beginning (when i was dating her only son), i had a great relationship with my MIL.  Once we were engaged I started to see her for who she really was.  I have always been very respectful of my MIL which is why when she invited herself to visit (we live in two different states) for the first week of my sons life I didn't say no. Even though I knew form the wedding drama she caused me that the baby drama was probably going to be much worse. She had taken it upon herself to tell my mother that she will be coming to visit first (since this is her first grandchild, my mothers second), and that my mother can visit after her.  My mother reluctantly but respectfully agreed.  However, when I found out that i was going to be induced i got scared and asked my mother to come anyway. After having a C-section my mother went into help mode and did everything that i needed her to do.  She cooked, cleaned, helped me with the most personal of issue that one deals with after giving birth and was supportive of mine and my husbands need to bond with our new baby. She only took the baby when I gave him to her and needed her help.  My MIL was the complete opposite. She had the our son in hand every opportunity that she could and never gave him to anyone else, not even her son, to hold except to me when he needed to be breastfed.  Being a new mom I was battling my breasts with a lot of difficulty, trying to build up my milk supply and get my newborn to latch on. This task was made even more difficult by my MIL who did not breastfeed my husband and tried to convince me that it wasn't necessary for my son. Whenever my son was hungry she would promptly come and ask "can i give him a bottle"  to which i would reply "no, i'm going to try and breastfeed".  My response was always followed by her rolling her eyes in disapproval or she would say "make sure you bring him right back to me when you've finished feeding him".  This frustrated me to the point where i couldn't relax enough to feed my son which made the whole experience that much more difficult.  In fact, the only time that she wasn't holding my son was when I was trying to feed him.  On a separate occasion I had fallen asleep with my son after feeding him and awoke to my husband taking him away from me.  When I got up to see where he took him I see her holding him.  She even drank out of my mug that has "NEW MOMMY" in big writing on it before i did, then was pissed off when my husband jokingly scolded her for it. I was so annoyed but never said a word and just reminded myself that she was only here for a week and would eventually go away, and she did but to my dismay now she's back.   

She's currently visiting for three weeks, to which i did not agree but my husband did.  She planned her trip at this time because she wanted to make sure that she would have uninterrupted alone time with our son since i am now back at work. I am ready to pull my hair out.  She acts as if she gave birth to our son.  She is over helpful and way too aggressive.  Now that i'm back at work i miss my son terribly so when i get home i want nothing more than to just spend every moment with him.  My MIL, not in front of my husband, will still try to do everything for him despite the fact that i am home.  When i'm playing with him she butts in and trys to play too or when im holding him she always comes over and competes for his attention.  At bath time she will say "I'll bathe him".  Or when he's not in her view she says "where's my baby". She always refers to our son as her baby. We went out to a friends BBQ and she came along, she told our friend "I'll let you have him now but only because he's mine during the week", like we needed her permission. Then when i was being asked questions about his sleeping and eating habits she jumped in and answered the questions for me.  She is driving me crazy and i'm reluctant to tell my husband because when i have tried previously he became very defensive.  He even through me under the bus by relaying my conversation with him to his mom.  I am at a loss.  I have to deal with her for two more weeks and i'm doing everything in my power not to blow up at her.  I need to know how to set boundaries for her in a way that wont hurt her or my husband.  My frustration with her is affecting my relationship with my husband, I'm at a loss.  Please help............. 


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#2 of 10 Old 06-29-2011, 05:24 AM
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Moving this to Life with a Babe...

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#3 of 10 Old 06-29-2011, 07:47 AM
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So if she says "I'll bathe him."  can't you just say, "No, thank you!  I'm happy doing it!"  You just need to say no.  If she goes to grab the baby, just say "I'm fine holding him, thank you!"  I often hole up in the bedroom when we have visitors that I don't want messing with the baby.  I go in to nurse and then just stay in there.


It sounds like maybe you are also a non-confrontational person and your MIL has a very strong personality.  I hope the time goes by really quickly.  Maybe when she's gone you can have the conversation with your husband and tell him how it makes you feel.  My MIL came after my first was born and she was not really helpful at all.  It made more work for me.  I told my husband when my second was born that I really didn't want her coming for an extended time.  I didn't mind if they came for a weekend or whatever, but I didn't need her help at home for a week or more.  Maybe you can help your husband understand?  His first loyalty really needs to be to you.

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#4 of 10 Old 06-29-2011, 11:35 AM
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I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. Reminds me a lot of my grandma when she first met my son. I was afraid she'd dominate his time and he wouldn't get to enjoy his grandparents (my mom & dad) or us..


My only advice is to start asserting yourself. IMO, she had her turn, now it's yours. Kill her with kindness but don't give in, as the PP mentioned: "Thanks for the offer, but I'll take care of it." Closing the door might help too.


If she gets to see your LO all day, try not to feel bad about pushing her away in the evening. Maybe quietly take your son for a walk when you get home, that way you get time alone with him and she gets her alone time with your husband without the babe distracting their conversations (after all, that's why she's visiting, right?). I don't know if presenting it like that will work, but it's worth a shot if they ask why you don't want adult company on your walk. shrug.gif


Good luck!


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#5 of 10 Old 06-29-2011, 05:56 PM
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That sucks! As others have said, you need to start saying a cheery 'no thanks, I'm fine!' whenever she pushes herself into your relationship with your son.

But even more - I don't think you have a MIL problem as much as you have a husband problem. It is his mother, and that means it is his relationship to manage. I can't believe he told his mother the details of a private conversation between the two of you! I would be livid if my DH did that. He needs to support you! Can you try having a conversation about this with him? You won't get anywhere long term with MIL, IMO. The boundary setting needs to come from him.

Hugs to you - I know how difficult it is dealing with MIL problems, especially when you have a new baby!

Lindsay, mama to Owen (06.08) and Sadie (05.11) wool.gifpartner to the amazing J. 
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#6 of 10 Old 06-29-2011, 05:59 PM
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So sorry to hear you are having such a struggle! It does sound like she is a very dominant personality type. I always have trouble dealing with people like that, its so hard not to feel overpowered and stand up for yourself.  Your dh really really needs to step up and set the boundaries, as its his mother. Although I have no idea how to get him to see that!

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#7 of 10 Old 06-29-2011, 11:54 PM
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Mama, I could have written your post. My MIL just can't seem to grasp the concept of boundaries when it comes to DD. Like your MIL she also lives out-of-state and every time she visits I find myself competing for time with my own child (I'm a working mama too and don't have anywhere near the time I'd like with my little one). All I can tell you mama, is put your foot down and put it down hard because if your MIL is anything like mine, things will only get worse. My DD is 13 months now and my MIL's behavior has only gotten more aggressive and disrespectful. At a recent dinner she attempted to feed my daughter bright green ice cream, after I specifically told her that I didn't want my child eating refined sugars, artificial food coloring or cow dairy. Later on, while I was wearing DD, she kept remarking, "Poor baby, I can tell she really wants out of that thing!" and other rude remarks that apparently I wasn't supposed to hear despite her standing less than 3 feet away from me. She also tries to guilt trip me into leaving her with DD by saying things like I'm "damaging" her and making her too "clingy" and that I'm driving my husband crazy with my "over protective behavior" (absolutely not true according to DH). 


I wish I had said something sooner, rather than let things get to the place they're at. Now, I've got so much built up anger and resentment I'm afraid to sit down and try to discuss things with her for fear I'll release a tirade of pent up bad feelings on the poor woman. I know in my heart of hearts she's lonely, her other grandchildren are in their teens and she's estranged from all her children save my husband (I wonder why!), I know she just wants a close, loving relationship with DD but she needs to respect me as a mama, just as your MIL needs to respect you. We are more than just "grandbaby delivery systems"! I urge you, before things get worse, to talk to your MIL in a kind and loving way. Acknowledge her place in your child's life, express to her your appreciation and gratitude for her love and interest in your little one and then gently lay down the law. Tell her what you find acceptable and unacceptable about her behavior and most importantly, follow up and stick to your guns. If she tries to take your baby from you, take him right back, if she tries to butt in when she's not wanted, tell her "No thank you!" and go about your business, if she insists, leave the room. Do what you need to do now, to build the kind of relationship you want in the future! Good luck and best wishes!!!

Working mama to a wonderful baby girl. Married to a really sweet guy. Just trying to do my best.
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#8 of 10 Old 06-30-2011, 06:06 AM
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Regarding your MIL, its possible to very assertive while maintaining a civil tone, even a smile. 


Regarding your husband it sounds like he has some boundary issues himself that he may not realize. You guys are a new family and it takes time to settle into that. Nothing stays exactly the same though either and I think you will find that the issues change with time.


When my husband and I were "new" I definitely had to define boundaries with his family. Otherwise his mother would have been on our doorstep every day (ever see Everybody Loves Raymond? Think Marie, that's my MIL.) In fact I felt so smothered by her in the beginning that I couldn't believe how jealous I became when my SIL started having kids of her own and my MIL started spending all her time with them instead. She babysits them while SIL works which is legit, but I really miss the support and there's bad feelings on my part because of that. The point is

that if you would have told me in the beginning that I would desperately miss the overbearing attention that she gave, I would have said you are crazy. But here we are lol.gif


If you have more kids some day and find yourself stressed out to the max, your MIL may be just what the doctor ordered! I guess that's my long winded way of saying, "This too shall pass". The baby stage is so short too.   hug2.gif






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#9 of 10 Old 06-30-2011, 07:41 AM
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I have always been very respectful of my MIL which is why when she invited herself to visit (we live in two different states) for the first week of my sons life I didn't say no. Even though I knew form the wedding drama she caused me that the baby drama was probably going to be much worse.

I wouldn't call this being respectful; I would call this people pleasing. Respectfulness would be stating your needs and preferences in a kind, assertive way. It does not mean making other people happy by doing what they want at the expense of your happiness or needs.

I empathize with you. After the birth of my son, a whole lot of emotional issues came up for me and slapped me in the face. They said: work on this NOW! I have been into therapy and personal development for years but only now am I getting to the root of where my behaviors come from. Example: what would happen if I said no to mil? Why is this so bad? Her getting angry, upset, etc is her issue to deal with, not yours. As long as your delivery is kind, you have no further responsibility to tend to her emotional reactions. She's an adult and this may be an opportunity for her to learn and grow as a person if she chooses to accept it (or not, it doesn't matter).

Anyways, therapy helps me alot with self esteem stuff, assertiveness, my false belief system (ie other people's needs are more important than mine, it is my responsibility to make sure everyone is ok, etc) that all come from childhood and the past.

~Mama of a sweet baby boy 8/26/2010~


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#10 of 10 Old 06-30-2011, 09:48 AM
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Oh, mama, that is a lot!

It is completely unacceptable for her to have held him unless you were breastfeeding that first week. She is invading your personal space and obviously causing you a lot of stress.

I would set the boundaries NOW, not wait another time she visits. If you don't feel good talking face to face, write it down and send it to her. Some of the thongs you mentioned sound ridiculously over the top and they have got to stop. I would thank her for her help and say I want to do more bonding with my son, that I know what things are important for him and that I want to salvage our relationship before it deteriorates due to my having been keeping it all in.

Good luck whatever you decide to do!

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