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#1 of 6 Old 06-04-2011, 09:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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SO and I are not legally married, but I'll call his mom my mother-in-law.  She has unhealthy boundaries regarding my SD, who's 7.  And it really gets on my nerves sometimes.  See, she favors her over her half-siblings and cousins.  A lot of it has to do with SD's mother dying when SD was 1.  Since then, SD has been given a lot of attention over the years because of that tragedy.  To the extent that, to an "outsider", it could be seen as more of a detriment to SD than a benefit.  SO and SD moved into his parent's house after SD's mom, SO's wife, passed away.  So his mom helped take care of her.  Lots of grandparents, for various reasons, do this.  I do not see it as being a "mother" but rather a grandparent stepping in and helping raise their grandchild.  But SO's mom sees herself as a "mother-figure" who stepped into that role.  I came into the picture about 3 months in, and pretty quickly I was over every night after work and on weekends, and a big part of SD's life.  They lived with his parents for about 2 1/2 years before moving out to an apartment we got together.  That was 4 years ago.  In that time, SO's mom has trained SD to call her EVERY night to say goodnight, which maybe wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't representative of her unhealthy ideas about her relationship to SD and her need to satisfy her own desires to fulfill that fantasy.  She has even said things like "I always wanted a little girl" (she had SO and his younger brother and then had to have a hysterectomy).  She often would call to check to see what we were dressing SD in for a holiday or family party because SD is so pretty and should be in dresses and have her hair done up. According to SD's ex, she does similar things with their daughter, SD's older half-sister, too, wanting her hair a certain way and stuff, when she wanted to do a funky color or style.  But with SD, her level of involvement has always been over-the-top.  I do not want to deny anyone a special relationship with their grandchild, or a child a special relationship with a grandparent.  That's not what this is about.  It's about the relationship being based upon the adults unhealthy ideas about the relationship, and them manipulating a child.  This past Mother's Day SD had called her grandmother the night before (per usual *insert eye roll*) and grandmother asked if she was coming over the next day to wish her a happy Mother's Day.  SO replied "But you're not my mother" giggling like "silly" (we heard that part from the living room).  Found out the next day from SD that her grandmother had said "But I was like your mother when you lived with me, before you and daddy met Liz".  I was really pissed off.  I think I may have said "But now you have me" or something.  She does tell people I'm her mom and step-mom.  Anyway, so I'm still sort of simmering over that one, when today SO tells me that yesterday in the car on the way to school SD said "Mammy (- I'll get to that in a minute -) told me she'd be my mommy for as long as I want".  WTF?!  So SO told her "You only have two moms - your "mommy" who died and your mom Liz".  I guess he was pretty upset too.  I asked him tonight where he thought the statement came from, and he said probably from the day before when SD spent time at his parent's.  That SD probably said something about her "mommy".  Thing is, I don't think he's said anything to his mom yet, and maybe won't.  They have a lot going on with his son's high school graduation (tomorrow) and drama concerning that (his mom favors him a lot too because he is disabled, and got putt off by the fact that he only got 4 tickets to graduation and chose his mom's parents to go in addition to his mom - SO's ex - and SO but now they got extra tickets so she can go) so maybe he didn't want to add to it.  I probably shouldn't start anything by saying something - but then again, maybe I need to.  SD's innocent and too young to understand her grandmother's manipulation, and since her mommy did die, and everyone's always making a big deal of it and has for all these years, she probably feels special and loved when her grandmother, Mammy, says these things to her, but I fear it is also confusing or just plain unhealthy for her.  Even if I weren't here, even if there were no step-mom, it would not be healthy.  But I AM here, and have been for 6 years, living with SD as her step-mom for 4 years, and I get so fucking pissed when she pulls this shit, because it is so disrespectful of me, and frankly, it's disrespectful of SD and simply selfish of her.

 

Oh, and there are conflicting reports of why she calls SO' mom "Mammy".  SO's mother says that it's a combination of "Mommy" and "Grammy" and I think she remembers it as SD trying to call her "Mommy" after her real mother died.  Remember, she was only a year old, and her mother had been sick for 7 months of that.  According to SO, and his ex, she simply had trouble saying "Grammy" and SO's mother latched onto the "Mammy" and the idea of it being close to "Mommy" and re-enforced the term, training her to keep saying it.

 

Sorry I rambled.  It's very complicated and emotional, and I thank you for reading this far, and thank anyone in advance for any advice they can offer.

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#2 of 6 Old 06-05-2011, 01:50 PM
 
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It sounds like you and your MIL both have a bit of insecurity and competition over what exactly your roles are, with regard to SD, exacerbated by the fact that she has no living biological mother.  I am not saying that to criticize you!  Who wouldn't feel just as you do, in your position?

 

Your MIL is right, that SD ought to have some mother-daughterly feelings for her, since she filled the maternal role in her life, for a while.  However, a confident, secure grandmother would realize:

 

a) She shouldn't TELL your SD that she was like a mother to her.  SD either feels that way and it doesn't need to be said; or she doesn't feel that way and your MIL telling her she should can only make SD feel unnecessarily guilty!

 

b) Sons are supposed to leave their mothers and take wives.  Sure, that makes mothers sad, but our role is to step aside and let it happen; and to see that our son's ability to make a family and be independent of us is the evidence that we did our job well, raising him.  Letting him move back home and helping him raise his child is a kindness in hard times, but it is healthier and better if he eventually finds a new wife and makes a new family with her, instead his mother becoming his permanent partner.

 

c) A hard as it is for anyone to separate from a child they've been raising, it is good and healthy for your SD to develop a maternal relationship with you; and your MIL hurts the child, by saying anything divisive, or by trying to compete with you for SD's allegiance.

 

But clearly, she is not confident and secure.  Try to see that this is not directed at, nor meant to hurt you.  She cannot become a different person than she is, no matter how splendid a wife, SM and DIL you are.  There is a weakness inside herself that was there long before you came along.  She should be working to accept and embrace her new - more appropriate - grandmotherly role in SD's life.  Instead, she cannot let go of her wish to be recognized for all she did after your SO's wife died; and her need to be comforted and reassured that she's still important to her son and granddaughter.

 

I think your position is more difficult and less straightforward.  Your MIL is doing something natural that women have done since the beginning of time (transitioning to being a grandmother, while her son's wife assumes her former role of mother to the young children).  But every time a woman does what YOU'RE doing (stepping in to raise another woman's child), it is terra incognito.  And it's hard enough for you to navigate a comfortable, functional relationship with your SD, with the ghost of her Mom in the background, without ALSO feeling like you're competing with your MIL for the role.

 

The best thing you can do is to focus on feeling secure in your own role.  It will enable you to feel more compassionate for the hard time your MIL is having and not take it so personally.  For example, sometimes people don't get married because they just don't think it matters.  Other times, it's because one partner is not sure or not ready.  If you're not rock-solid on whether you and SO will stay together forever, explore that.  If there is uncertainty in your relationship with SO, his mother's eagerness to replace you would obviously make you feel insecure.  If you know you're here to stay, you can let it roll off your back.

 

And as you grow more secure in your relationship with your SD, you will be able to laugh off any suggestion that Grandma is "really" the one raising her.

 

Meanwhile, remember that your MIL is important to your SD.  So you don't want to let your (understandable) frustrations with your MIL make your SD feel caught in the middle, like she has to take sides between you two.  


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#3 of 6 Old 06-05-2011, 08:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It sounds like you and your MIL both have a bit of insecurity and competition over what exactly your roles are, with regard to SD, exacerbated by the fact that she has no living biological mother.

 

True.  And most of why I feel insecure and competitive is because of this stuff with his mother.

 

She shouldn't TELL your SD that she was like a mother to her.  SD either feels that way and it doesn't need to be said; or she doesn't feel that way and your MIL telling her she should can only make SD feel unnecessarily guilty!

 

Exactly.  Which is why it bothers me so much.  It would be easy to ignore her or let it roll off my back if she wasn't manipulating SD in this way and saying things to a child that should not be said.  And I just remembered this now, that during that Mother's Day conversation with SD, SO's mother told SD that she made a promise after her mother died that she would take care of her as if she were her own child.  WTF woman?!  I am so upset that she said that to her.  You know, I made promises myself.  To SD's dead mother.  In private.  Alone.  To myself and to her.  But I NEVER told anyone, not even SO, and I certainly would NEVER tell SD those things because she does not need to know it and unlike her grandmother, I wouldn't use it to manipulate her or to try to make myself look better in anyone's eyes.

 

Sons are supposed to leave their mothers and take wives.  Sure, that makes mothers sad, but our role is to step aside and let it happen; and to see that our son's ability to make a family and be independent of us is the evidence that we did our job well, raising him.  Letting him move back home and helping him raise his child is a kindness in hard times, but it is healthier and better if he eventually finds a new wife and makes a new family with her, instead his mother becoming his permanent partner.

 

Thing is, it's not like this is her first grandchild (his son, who graduated HS today is), and he left home before, with his ex and with SD's mother before she died.  True he only lived outside his parent's house for a couple of years before us, but he left.  He and I are 38 years old, about to be 39.  Her other son is 35.  He left home, and he has two kids of his own, 4 and 1.  This is her not wanting, for whatever reason, to let go of SD.

 

But clearly, she is not confident and secure.  Try to see that this is not directed at, nor meant to hurt you.  She cannot become a different person than she is, no matter how splendid a wife, SM and DIL you are.  There is a weakness inside herself that was there long before you came along.  She should be working to accept and embrace her new - more appropriate - grandmotherly role in SD's life.  Instead, she cannot let go of her wish to be recognized for all she did after your SO's wife died; and her need to be comforted and reassured that she's still important to her son and granddaughter.

 

I think you hit that nail on the head.  She is like this not only with SD but with the other kids (SO's kids with his ex and with his brother's kids) but it's just worse with SD because she did take on the maternal role when SD's mother died and they lived with her, but I stand by my thoughts that she, in her mind, became the mother and not grandmother helping out her son.  I'm not minimizing what she did, but it is my opinion that she thought of herself as a type of mother to SD and still to this day does not want to give up something that never was or should have been.

 

But every time a woman does what YOU'RE doing (stepping in to raise another woman's child), it is terra incognito.

 

Got that right too!

 

And it's hard enough for you to navigate a comfortable, functional relationship with your SD, with the ghost of her Mom in the background, without ALSO feeling like you're competing with your MIL for the role.

 

Yes, exactly, I have enough on my plate with SD's mother's ghost, or at least other people's memories, to compete with.  The woman SD has no memory of, yet she has had everyone else's grief forced upon her and made her own.  That isn't fair to her either.  But people were so afraid she'd forget (she would have to have her own memories first in order to forget), and so they made sure she always remembered she had a mom who died, since she was a baby it's been reinforced.

 

Meanwhile, remember that your MIL is important to your SD.  So you don't want to let your (understandable) frustrations with your MIL make your SD feel caught in the middle, like she has to take sides between you two.

 

You are right.  I am in no way trying to take away the special relationship that they have with each other.  I'm just trying to make my own without the b-s of her competing with me.  And no, I do not want SD to feel she needs to take sides.  I have pretty much not said much to her because she's the child and she (a) can't understand the drama and (b) is innocent in it and doesn't need to have that worry on her.  It's not her problem.

 

 

 

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#4 of 6 Old 06-06-2011, 04:19 PM
 
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I think that Jeanine hit the nail on the head with her comments. I am just writing because I am wondering what relationship you want to have with your SD and for how long. My concern in this situation is that if something happened to your SO you would have no legal rights to even see your SD and no legal basis to fight to continue your relationship. I don't know if is on the horizon but I would as soon as possible at least get a will where your SO has you appointed as the legal guardian although I would be more inclined to get married and legally adopt your SD so that if something were to happen to SO you would not have to do anything else in order to establish what would happen to SD. I don't know what the reasons for the non-marriage not adopting SD are but it seems like you are a significant enough presence in SD role that this is appropriate.

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#5 of 6 Old 06-06-2011, 04:51 PM
 
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I think its perfectly natural to feel insecure when there is someone whose motive is to make you feel that way. I think MIL has some serious issues regarding letting go. Does she still treat your SO like a child? Does she still expect things of him that most grown women dont expect of their children?

Here is what I think the real issue could be: You and her son are not married, so in her mind you are not permanent. You could leave at any time, but she will always be there for SD and SO. In her mind it may be that she is trying to protect SD from another loss.

or

She is crazy. That whole "but I was your mommy before your daddy met liz" thing is ridiculous. 3 months? Thats not a long time to be a mommy. But seriously, her mom has been dead since she was one and you've been with her dad for almost 7 years? At what point to you get to stop saying SD and just call her your daughter without this woman interfering (if that is what you want, not saying you should if you dont want to. Its just, youve been there for more than 75% of her life.)

My father lived with his mother after he and my mother split (dad had custody). My Mimi was always my Mimi. She was very important to me, but she never pushed boundaries like that and we lived with her for 4 years.

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#6 of 6 Old 06-06-2011, 05:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
My concern in this situation is that if something happened to your SO you would have no legal rights to even see your SD and no legal basis to fight to continue your relationship.

 

You're right.  And he keeps talking about changing his will, especially since the current guardian listed is a friend who moved out of state years ago and we haven't heard from since!

 

 

Quote:
I don't know what the reasons for the non-marriage not adopting SD are but it seems like you are a significant enough presence in SD role that this is appropriate.

 

 

It's financial.  If it weren't for that, specifics I won't go into, we would be married and I would have adopted SD.  Sometimes I question the parenting thing, sometimes I get frustrated and say nasty things to myself in my head, but I don't say them to her, and frankly, I'm still here and I know that at this point, even if he and I split up, and we almost have a couple times, I would want to have contact with her, for her sake, because I didn't get into this parenting thing on a trial basis.  Neither SO or I intend for me to be in her life for all these years and then have me *poof!* go away.  I realize that no matter what his mother says, I've been the mom figure for so long now that I would never take myself away from her because I'm not with her dad anymore.  In fact, at this point I wouldn't even take myself away because it was too difficult to be a mom.  That ship sailed a long time ago.

 

Quote:
You and her son are not married, so in her mind you are not permanent. You could leave at any time, but she will always be there for SD and SO. In her mind it may be that she is trying to protect SD from another loss.

 

While that could be part of it, I think that's probably being overly optimistic about her intentions and mental state.  And frankly, I don't think that's an excuse for what she's telling her about herself being like a mommy.

 

 

Quote:
She is crazy. That whole "but I was your mommy before your daddy met liz" thing is ridiculous. 3 months? Thats not a long time to be a mommy. But seriously, her mom has been dead since she was one and you've been with her dad for almost 7 years? At what point to you get to stop saying SD and just call her your daughter without this woman interfering (if that is what you want, not saying you should if you dont want to. Its just, youve been there for more than 75% of her life.)

 

They lived with her (SO's parents) for about 2 1/2 years after BM died.  I came on the scene about 3 months after she died.  But still, just because you helped take care of your granddaughter for 2 years doesn't mean you're replacing the deceased BM - you are a grandmother helping take care of her granddaughter.  And yes, I've been here 6 years, living with them for 4.  Not for nothing, not taking away from her BM because she didn't leave, she died, but yes, I've been here for the last 85% of her life.  And yes, I should just call her my daughter - other ppl are always saying to me "She IS your daughter."

 

 

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