Need advice on dealing with mother-in-law - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 02-28-2013, 07:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Help! My mother-in-law verbally attacked me and my 3-yr old son after a visit 1yr ago. We travelled about 4,000 miles to visit them and all of us were exhausted from the trip (me, hubby and son). We stayed with the in-laws for two weeks in their home on a remote property. My son had some temper tantrums while we were there and they were doozies but nothing out of the ordinary for traveling so far at such a young age and then being plunged into a new environment and routine (not to mention the jet lag). I could sense the tension building in my mil as the length of our progressed and I'd try to stay out of her hair with my son but was difficult because we were so remote and it as winter, so we couldn't stay outside for long. We didn't get a rental car so we were trapped. Finally, it all came to a head when the rest of the local extended family came for a reunion at in-law's house. My mil had been snapping at me and my son as the time progressed but she had an explosion at the family dinner when my son got squirmy after finishing his dinner. All he did was squirm in his chair a little. It was not a big deal-really! But my mil whirled around, stood up, pointed and screamed at my husband to do something about our son. our son got scared and started crying, my husband reacted to his mom, abruptly scooped up our son, and angrily rushed downstairs with him. I instinctively chased them and saw the panic and bewilderment on both of their faces-both not knowing whatnot do. I took our son into the bedroom and tried to calm him down-he was terrified and confused by the actions of his grandma and father. Later my husband apologized and said he reacted to her anger. Two days later, his parents called him upstairs for a drink to have a serious talk about me and our son and how we're terrible parents and in particular how I was a terrible mother. And how are son was a ruined spoiled child. My husband was so distraught by this conversation that he did not sleep that night and did not tell me about the conversation. His parents wanted to tell me this also but he told them no, that it was our business and his place to talk to me. He was devastated. We were to fly home in two days but the next morning he told me to pack and that we were leaving to drive to the closest city and fly out that day. I was bewildered by this abrupt change of plans with no explanation but began packing. As soon as high mom found out we were leaving she verbally attacked me and my son, even after my husband told her to hold her tongue. The diatribe went on for 45 min in front of my son. It outlined in great detail how we were awful parents, I was a terrible mother and that our son was ruined (her word), a whiny monster who should be spanked and put in his place, that it would take years to fix him and he'd likely be beaten up on the playground and have no friends, that I ruined him by being a working mom (I do the majority of the a parenting as my husband's job has long, unusual hours) so this was targeted at me. I was not expecting this as my husband did not mention anything so it was particularly discombobulating. When it was over she hugged me and said she felt sorry for me. We packed up and left immediately after that, holding hands and feeling like we all escaped a prison camp. Our son was a perfect angel on the trip and I suspect some of his outbursts during our stay (which really were not out of the ordinary for a traveling 3 yr old) were from him sensing the tension coming from grandma and as a result from me.

It's been a year and I haven't really known how to handle this. My husband has been back twice to visit without us. I have made it clear that we will not visit without having a rental car and a motel to retreat to but the nearest is 60 miles away. Everyone in the family is talking about it except not to me. I've been civil over email and send cards and photos but have not done more than that. I want my son to know that side of the family but will not allow him to be abused. My husband a in the middle and stressed. He tells me his mom has confirmed she stands on her position. Thoughts?
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#2 of 8 Old 02-28-2013, 08:40 AM
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I would not visit again unless firm boundaries were set. MIL can think whatever she likes, you can't stop that, but if she tries yells at you/DS/DH again, I would leave immediately if she won't stop. She's said her piece on it and you are the parents and will parent how it works for you, so no more discussion on that subject is permitted. Sounds like her expectations are way out of line for toddler! If she needs to set some limits for what kind of behavior is acceptable from children at her place, that's one thing, where if they are doing X, Y or Z, they are taken to another room by their parents and/or disciplined (my guess is you were doing this already anyway to try and reduce tension), but expecting a toddler to act perfectly all the time is silly.

And I guess I figured this goes without saying, but your MIL was WAY, WAY out of line. Don't doubt that for a second!

Personally, I would not be visiting again anytime soon, sounds like it is not worth it, unless MIL apologizes and agrees to some boundaries going forward. Are there other members of DH's family that could come visit you or you could go visit so DS would have an opportunity to connect. I think your DH going to visit is fine. What does DH want to do? Does he want you and DS to visit too or is he just upset because he knows you shouldn't visit in these circumstances but it shouldn't have to be that way?

So sorry your family is having to deal with this hug.gif

Katie trekkie.gif - Married to Mike 06/02/01, Mom to Sydney Anne born 11/21/09 and Alice Maeryn & Oliver Thomas born 04/24/13  hug.gif 



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#3 of 8 Old 02-28-2013, 09:13 AM
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She sounds off her rocker!  I wonder if there are some other underlying issues you aren't aware of?


I would expect some extra meltdowns from a toddler or preschooler on a big trip in an unfamiliar place too.  Even *if* your son was "spoiled" or having horrible behavior that still doesn't give her any excuse to treat you so badly, or to be incredibly rude.  It sounds like she is the one with discipline problems, not your son. wink1.gif


I think it's definitely your DH's place to stand up for you and your son and to let his mom know it's not ok for her to behave that way toward his wife and child for any reason.  Anything you say or do will just be twisted by MIL.  I wouldn't ever go back and visit.  (Not to mention the fact that trying another visit would probably be incredibly anxiety inducing if I were you!)  


So sorry you're having to deal with this.  hug.gif

Momma to Sweet Rosie 7/06, Lost Baby J 1/09 at 12 weeks pregnant, Spitfire Ada born 4/21/10, and Baby Boy due July/August 2013!
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#4 of 8 Old 02-28-2013, 12:35 PM
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Under the circumstances you described, I wouldn't go back without an apology from MIL, and a conversation between husband and I regarding expectations, behaviors, and his family. When there is conflict between inlaws, the person who's birth family is involved is mediator, if one is needed.


Are the two of you on the same page regarding parenting?


As for future visits: The road goes both ways. Let them come to you next time.

Twin boys (2/05) and little sister (10/07)
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#5 of 8 Old 02-28-2013, 12:48 PM
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Stay away. His mother is controlling, and your husband is having difficulties dealing with her. She should not be visited by any of you. And *never* have her stay in your home! Good luck with this difficult situation.
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#6 of 8 Old 02-28-2013, 12:56 PM
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I personally would never go back to visit, and in that case,I don't think my husband would either. If my parents had done that to my husband and child, I wouldn't visit them again either.


At the very least, stay at a hotel and have a rental car and constant escape plan.


What a horrible situation. :( I know your husband is in a very bad position but I think he has to make it very clear to his parents that he stands with you on this 100%.

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#7 of 8 Old 02-28-2013, 01:07 PM
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So, your MIL has confirmed that she still thinks that you're a terrible parent, and that your son is ruined and will be beat up on the playground because you have a job and don't spank him.


It sounds like your husband chose to try and protect you and his parents from each other by not being the messenger for vitriolic irrationality, and it backfired.  Poor guy.  And poor you! 


Don't go visit.  Other people can visit if they want.  You don't want, and you don't have to.  You shouldn't have her to your place either.  It's a shame that your MIL's behavior has led to this rift, but I see no way around it, especially if she's confirmed the opinion.  If she were to say something like, oh, I don't know, "Darling DIL, I am appalled by the way I behaved last time you visited.  My doctor has since confirmed that I was experiencing a mini-stroke at the time.  I was literally out of my mind, or I would never have held such a wrong opinion of you and my sweet grandson.  I assure you that I am now on medication which makes another such event highly unlikely, and I hope you will once again feel welcome in our home."  But that's about what it would take.

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#8 of 8 Old 02-28-2013, 01:28 PM
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I have that MIL, by the way.  And it went on with her publicly and viciously picking at me for a few years.  She was so bad that others in the family engaged in it to.  My BIL's ex-girlfriend of 10 years called me about a year after they broke up to apologize for her behavior--saying that she did it because I was the enemy and you were somewhat forced to take sides.


I really won't put on the internet the things that went on.  I honestly have no clue how or why I stayed married through it (especially since we didn't have kids).  My husband going there for dinner without me was not completely unheard of, either.  But I got sucked into the bigger stuff.  He'd often say that he wouldn't go if I didn't go and I knew that was manipulation but it was what it was.  He knew I wouldn't start that war given the way things were; and he'd have been upset if we missed it.  He didn't say it in terms of "It's okay--I don't want to go anyway" where he'd stand up for that decision to his family.  He wanted to go and he was the consummate subservient child--he wouldn't stand up to them for anything.  And during all of this, we lived a 20-minute ride away.  


Even when it got back to being civil, they wouldn't come to our house.  I'd invite them for dinner and they'd never come.  My MIL would buy her produce at a store LITERALLY UP THE BLOCK from my house and when DH noted that she's there at least once/week and never stops by, she started shopping elsewhere... after nearly 15 years (at that point) of shopping at this place.


Oh yeah--they really do NOT like me.  


Fourteen years later, it is WAY different.  But as some people in this thread alluded to, this is about your DH's relationship with your MIL.  My dh got to a point where he realized that his family lived under his roof and everyone else were relatives.  To that end, he was okay cutting them off if they weren't respectful.  And that's actually what it took.  They missed most of the first 2 years of my son's life as a result.


They will never truly accept me as one of theirs, but we moved halfway across the country 2-1/2 years ago and by then, things had gotten good enough that they actually came and stayed in our home for a long weekend our first New Years--because I privately e-mailed my FIL and requested that they come because my then-7yo was sad seeing the family together for holidays (during skype at Thanksgiving).  We have gone back each year and stayed with them, but this last fall was the end of it.  Inasmuch as they are nothing like they were in how they talk to us or treat us (we're still definitely outsiders, but not enemies) they have a hard time with how we live and accommodating it for our kids.  They try, but we live much too differently (this really becomes a TV problem--they are A. DDIC. TED. and my oldest gets aggressive with too much screen time).  This last trip saw a pretty big blow out about it, but it was more my FIL freaking about how to manage it all rather than berating us or my child.


So there is HOPE, but it will have nothing to do with an apology from MIL as much as it has to do with your DH really coming to terms with who the priorities are in his life and how far he will go to protect them.  Why does he need to go back without you?  To be with people who would do something like that to you and your child?  I mean, is he seeing your MIL or is he seeing the other extended relatives?  And who is he staying with?  This would all be really telling.  If he's going back, staying with someone else, visiting with the extended family (where I'm thinking you'd be welcome?) and just stopping by to visit MIL once while there... okay, I get that.  But if he's going back and staying with your inlaws and they're not having significant discussions about how things need to be (trying to make progress to having them in your life but with respect and boundaries)... that would be a problem for me.


Although we went to therapy, I honestly don't know how much that contributed to it getting better.  But that's where I'd start.

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