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This is a sensitive issue for me and I would appreciate any gentle guidance you have to offer. Cross-posted in personal growth forum.

I received some eye-opening responses about dynamics in the child/grandchild relationship and DIL/MIL relationship. In a nutshell, I have known MIL for over ten years, our relationship has been somewhat strained but polite. I think this might be common with DIL/MIL relationships? However, I have just really stopped trying to understand her anymore, especially after her behavior during my pregnancy. DH and I are in counseling to deal relationship/roles/responsibility and communication issues, and his MIL is one of the things we are working on.

However, it doesn't appear that I can just turn her off anymore, and I do want MIL and DS to have a good, healthy relationship. So how can I increase my empathy for her and her grandmotherly wants/needs? Most of the mamas who've BTDT believe it is important to take her wants/needs into consideration. And as I will be lucky to be a MIL one day, that's good advice, however, I hope that I would be the kind of MIL who remembers what it's like to be a new mama.

So I'm trying to stretch myself here and figure this out. It just seems really hard sometimes to balance someone's wants/needs that I don't particularly care for with my own wants/needs when I feel them SO intensely right now. I imagine the intensity will fade over time as the hormones go down and I just get more experience, but it's been really difficult the last few months doing this balancing act. When DS is old enough to communicate his preferences maybe this won't be as difficult? But throw his needs in the mix of being surrounded by loving positive adults and relationships and things can get really complicated.

Of course DS is worth the internal struggle that I now find myself in and I want to be the best mama I am capable of and lay the foundation in his life for healthy relationships with all of his grandparents.

Any insight you can provide on how to increase empathy, as well as improving strained relationships with family members, and balancing others' needs with your own would be appreciated.

It is tough to figure out the changing relationships that new motherhood throws you into.
 

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I thought AverysMomma's post from your other thread said it better than anyone could say it here. Just trying to remember with compassion how wonderful it must be for her to have a grandbaby to dote on, and how happy you'll be about that one day when you're a grandma.

It will get easier. I felt very similar to how you do when my 1st baby was your son's age. Everything my MIL said got under my skin, and no matter what she did I felt like she was being intrusive, invasive, patronizing, etc. Somehow that feeling just dissipated over time, and was gone by the time DS was 2. Just give it time -- these first months of motherhood have an intensity that can hardly be described, and it's so hard to keep your emotions in check. I can almost guarantee you that a year from now you'll look back through these posts and realize that you don't feel this way anymore.

This is all assuming that she's not a truly toxic or damaging person -- there are a few statements in your post that make me wonder whether that's true (references to her behavior during your pregnancy, etc.).
 

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For some reason when my girls were under 2 I always wanted to chastize my mil to my dh about everything.. I think i had some deep set jealousy issues, because she would always carry them around and keep them in her arms, of course I would also, but the worst is when we would leave they would hold out there arms and cry for grandma and that hurt me. I really did pick on her not to her face but to my dh, and get him to tell his mom not to do certain things, that i know now are not a big deal.

Now that they are 3 and 4 and they go for a visit or get babysat, and come home with nail polish, gel in there hair and a lollypop I'm just happy that they had a good time and were safe and that i had some relaxing time, I kinda think it's good for them to do different and fun things, that i dont think to do with them.
 

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I guess I really wouldn't consider it your responsibility to accomodate her wants and needs beyond the bounds of basic politeness.

Your OP was pretty vague as to what this is about, but if it's a matter of raising your child the way you want, you're in charge, not her. You have no obligations to let her have any say in that. Your needs and those of your child should be your top priority right now. MIL is a grown woman who can take care of herself.
 

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I think it's great that your trying to find a better path wrt your relationship with MIL. It's hard sometimes to step back from everything that may have happened in the past and just let it go. Therapy for you and your husband is definitely a step in the right direction, hopefully it will give you the neutral ground you need to put all of this stuff into perspective and find ways to change the dynamic for the positive.

As I mentioned over in the other thread, I think that also keeping in mind your own child's feelings about his relationship with your MIL is really important here. I have a really negative history with my FIL and his wife, before my kids were born and even when they were babies we had a lot of issues with them basically being UAVs towards me and them trying to interfere in my marriage, so I do understand how difficult it can be to step back from bad blood and bad history. But I did it finally when I resolved a few years ago to not try and stand in the way of my kids relationship with him simply because I may happen to dislike him intensely. Because it's no longer about ME, or even about FIL, it's about my kids and their happiness. Despite all of their character flaws, my kids really love FIL and step-MIL, and I truly fear that eventually those boys could grow to resent me for standing between them and their grandparents because of our own personal issues.

Now that doesn't mean that there aren't some specific rules for their interactions with the boys, but keeping the rules simple and few in number has definitely made it easier for FIL to be willing to accept them (it probably also helps that FIL only sees them every few months or so.)

I also wanted to mention that keeping your relationship as controversy free with MIL is important too. You can keep her at arms length just fine by doing so politely and without confrontation (if indeed that's what makes you feel most comfortable.) She doesn't need to know what you may think of her or your relationship with her. Honestly, I know how hard it may be to keep that stuff under wraps but I really just think this may be one of those times when the less said may be for the better. I also think that it's your husband's job to lay down the law with her should that ever become necessary. It's so easy to become demonized by an in-law, because they may choose to interpret your actions as you trying to come between her and your husband. If the message comes from your husband it's a whole lot harder for her to make that argument.

Hope that helps!
 

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Were you close to your own grandparents? Both your maternal and paternal ones?

I ask this because there's two other viewpoints in this as well as yours. I think Averysmom covered the "MIL viewpoint" wonderfully in her post in the other thread, and its a must-read, especially for those women who have a "My mom is teh awsum but his mom sux" attitude about an MIL who is just -- a MIL.

there's thinking about your MIL's POV, but there's also thinking about your child's POV, and what a relationship with grandparents means to him.

I grew up 3 blocks from my dad's parents and about 3 miles from my mom's mom. I was incredibly close to all my grandparents. I did overnights at one house or the other several times a month once I was old enough (preschool, I think).

Things were done differently in the different houses, but I got that. There were different routines, different ways of doing the same stuff. That didn't matter to me, and I understood it was a factor of different histories and different people.

Those relationships with my grandparents were incredibly, awesomely rewarding. I cannot stress that enough. Yes, there were downsides someimes. My maternal grandma was a bit ADHD (undiagnosed) so things weren't orderly and we ate funny foods in a funny order sometimes. My paternal grandmother had a hard time letting go of guilt as a childrearing tool, and tended towards guiltmongering. I am not permanently damaged by either experience, and what I gained from these relationships is worth SO MUCH MORE than that.

I know my mother had huge issues with her MIL. I know that they butted heads, and mom came away from many, many events at that house gritting her teeth and muttering.

But mom did not stand in between me and my grandparents in any way. She encouraged a relationship between us, and she let us build it on our own terms, by letting me spend time with my grandparents that was entirely theirs (ours - I was involved when I was old enough) to decide what to do with. She did not insert her own feelings about my grandmother into the relationship.

Having my own very difficult MIL (seriously difficult, not just 'overbearing or mainstream' difficult, we're talking alcoholism and self-neglect to the point of self-harm), I now realize what an amazing gift this was from my mother to me.

If my mother had let her issues with her MIL come between us, my childhood would have been the less for it.

If my mother had been so jealous of time spent with her MIL, or if she had tried to keep a hold of all the fun things for herself, my childhood would have been the less for it.

If my mother had even been too nervous about her own mother's ADHD and tendency to get lost to let me go places with her, my childhood would have been the less for it.

And with all those, my *life* would have been the less for it. I would not be the adult I am today, either.

If I hadn't been allowed free access to my grandparents, I would never have gotten to see a flock of swans taking off around me. I would never have been able to visit grandma's ancestral farm in Virginia and see up close the paintings of my ancestors. I wouldn't have heard the story of how she got the Christmas bread recipe from my great-grandmother while learning to make the bread. I wouldn't have learned to read a map for a *reason*, or about Victory Gardens from someone who grew one, or the best way to eat broccoli straight from the plant, or about using 'Horse's fesses" as an insult in muskrat french. This list could go on, and on, and on, and on......

I wish my own kids could have that and more. I hate that we live 400 miles away from all their grandparents. Frankly, I'm jealous of people with MIL's who see their babies and love on their babies weekly or daily. And I remember that when I deal with my difficult MIL or my less-difficult, but still "not *my* father" FIL. And I make sure my kids are safe, and then I let them be.
 

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In your other post, you didn't really talk about the other issues in the relationship. You only posted about the bathing and changing clothes, which is not a big deal and something that grandmothers love to do and can be really fun for babies too. If there are other issues, then those are completely different. If you feel that she doesn't respect you in general, then you have to think about this from another angle from just a doting grandma.

You said "how she acted during my pregnancy." What did she do? If you and your husband are in counseling for these issues, then they must be fairly serious. I don't think that anyone in the other thread would ask you to sacrifice yourself in order to have a good relationship with her, KWIM?

It's apparent that the bathing was just the straw that broke the proverbial "camel's back."

Now for your questions. I have strained relationships with my MIL. I've recently found a new technique....ignoring!LOL When I'm around her, I pretend that she's not there and do whatever I would do without her around. She's from another culture though and I've always tried to respect the cultural differences, but at my own discomfort. Now, I do my own thing and pretend I dont' hear the criticism. With this, I also don't ask for advice or talk about my parenting. If I'm given unwanted "advice" I usually have a good reason why I don't do it that way and may or may not give a quick explanation. For example, she was upset that my 3yo wanted to wear shorts. I let her complain about it while I continued getting us ready to leave the house...didn't argue, just said "yeah, I know." and left, with my son in shorts and happy. Before, I would have tried to change his mind just to please her or allowed her to try to change his mind. (they live in another country and visit for weeks at a time in our home.)

I don't think it's necessarily empathy that you need. You just need to figure out how to navigate the relationship without feeling like the sacrificial lamb
 

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I have times when I feel pretty empathetic and positive towards my MIL. Then dh will come home with some more comments about things I thought we were done discussing. I figured she'd just gotten used to the way we do things and might realize our kids aren't scarred because of it, but, nope. So, then I will get irritated and realize I just need to keep my distance for awhile.

Fortunately, dh takes the kids over to his mom's house so I can have a break. So they get grandparent time and I don't have to see the ILs. Not that I dislike them... I just don't have a lot in common with them, and we've never really seemed to be able to get close. But, I can see how much they love my kids and how much my kids love hanging out with them. That is really all it takes to become more empathetic towards MIL... time. Once your kids start clamoring for nana and papa, you'll be happy to let them go for a few hours so you can take a breather. (Assuming non-toxic, normal people here.)
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by zinemama View Post
I guess I really wouldn't consider it your responsibility to accomodate her wants and needs beyond the bounds of basic politeness.

Your OP was pretty vague as to what this is about, but if it's a matter of raising your child the way you want, you're in charge, not her. You have no obligations to let her have any say in that. Your needs and those of your child should be your top priority right now. MIL is a grown woman who can take care of herself.
:
 

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Hugs. I read your other post about bath time and new clothes. I also agree with AverysMomma. I don't think bath time and changing clothes is crossing a line. Bath and water play are a great distraction and fun time for kids. I would hope that she was safe. If you are concerned about lotions/soaps, etc. just take her a bottle or two of whatever you use at home and let her have at it. If you give her gentle guidance she'll respond.

My mom watched my son from 3 months until 18 months of age full time for us. Just being my mom and not my MIL there were plenty of times I would bite my tongue and give myself time to think something over before saying anything. Watching their relationship grow was incredible. My son loves his grandparents and I cherish that he has a close relationship with them. I would sometimes get my feelings hurt when he would want her instead of me. But, I also know that no one will replace me and the times that he wants her to comfort him - well, that's his choice. There are times when he wants daddy over me and there are plenty of times when no one but me will do. I'm glad he has so many to choose from.

One thing I did learn was that if I provided snacks and changes of clothes and diapers and diaper creams and soaps and lunch and all of the other things I wanted him to have my mom was really good about using them. Of course I don't always like how much candy she lets him have now but we're working on that one. He has his own relationship with her and he gets so much out of it that I've learned to let the little things slide off my back. If something does happen that bothers me after I've thought about it for a day or two I'll talk to her about it but usually I look at the big picture and it doesn't seem so bad anymore.

Give yourself time to get used to being a mom. As many others have posted you'll get to the point where you like the break. Having someone who you know will take care of your son, even if they aren't your favorite person, but they are someone you can trust is a gift.

As far as the wanting to hold him when you see her why does that bother you? Do you spend a lot of time over there or is it just every now and then? If it's cutting into your own mommy time I understand but if it is just occasionally let it go. Smile that they are building a special relationship. Just as she can never replace you as the momma you can never replace her as the grandma. Grandparents are special and, as one other momma posted if they are sane, they are really important for kids to have.

It's a hard balancing act. I'm glad you and DH are in counseling and I hope you are finding a new perspective - it's not worth having marriage troubles over.

Best wishes!
 

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I am a grandmother. This to my daughters son so not really the same, but a grandmother just the same. I think your mil should have respect for your position as your baby's mother. Does she?

I know I have trouble perceiving somebody's actions as something totally not what they were intending so you may want to look at that. On the other hand some people really don't know how to respect boundaries. My daughter's boyfriend has a mother who has overstepped hers. She fed my grandson his first food without dd's consent or knowledge! Who does that?

Grand parenting is hard. You know things that you want to share. You want young parents to be in control of their own parenthood. You want your grandchild to be safe and happy. And babies are so yummy. It's been especially hard for me because these kids were 16 and 18 when dgs was born.

I never had a grandparent, I saw the loving relationship my mother had with my kids and it filled my heart with joy. I wanted them to be close, but I wanted mom to know that it was my game now, and that was hard. But I did it by letting her know that my decisions were intentional and I put a lot of thought and effort into them. Sometimes it was insulting to her because it was different from how she did things. And I tried to be compassionate about that, you know share that there is new research and bla bla bla.

It's a tricky road to navigate and only you know what is right for you and your family. But if there is no mal-intent on your mil's part then try to put yourself in her shoes, and your son is with a woman whose values may differ from yours. How would you like her to treat you?
 

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can you picture her as a mom?

someone who will take care of your child the best way SHE can?

can you trust her with that? that no matter what she does she really thinks that is the best for him.

http://www.cnvc.org/en/nvc-conflict-coaching
i found this online for you. when you have a chunk of time it might be worth it to wrap your mind around it. i have used NVC in my life and it has really helped me a lot.

my dd has no gparents close by. no one to spoil her to sneak her candy or soda. it makes me sooo sad. because we had that once.

till my dd was 2 we had a next door neighbour 82 year old who served as surrogate gma to my dd. she spoilt my dd rotten and i learnt to overlook her slipping my dd soda at 18 months old. i gave up the battle because the relationship was much more precious. and i felt good giving up the battle. she left an indelible mark on my dd. she was japanese. today my dd's fav. food is sushi, her fav. game is sumo wrestling, her imaginary languages sounds v. japanese, her fav. cartoons are japanese anime, her fav. music is japanese opera. we never saw her after she moved to an alzheimer home but to date my dd still talks about her and we were lucky to be at her funeral last year.

dd is 6 1/2 and to date she still remembers her gma v. clearly.

we need to adopt a gma and gpa.

bottom line : imho the fact that you are even wanting this is the beginning towards healing.
 

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I think it is very normal to feel this protective about your ds at this age. I have some similar issues with my mil and I think that as far as the kids go it has gotten soooo much better with time.
My oldest ds is 5 and very spirited. People can be very judgmental towards him. MIL shows nothing but unconditional love towards him and it makes me actually feel like I can love her. It gets so much easier to let go and let your children have different relationships with people as they grow. I think it's wonderful that you are trying to feel more empathic towards your mil and know too that it will probably get easier. You are in a tough spot because you already feel like you don't get enough time with your ds. It is wonderful that your ds has other loving family members to watch him while you work.
The best advice I can give is just to let your ds and mil develop their own bond, seeing how much she loves him will probably help you warm up to her.
 

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I just wanted to throw some major
s your way, for even thinking of this. You are trying to grow as a person and you are working on your empathy for a person you do not get along with well naturally. That is awesome, GO YOU!
:
 

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The amount of time your child will spend with his grandparent compared to the amount of time he spends with you is so small I would (and do) make a major effort to allow grandma to have her fun. Unless she is putting your child in physical danger then it's probable not a big deal. When we are at the IL's I let them do pretty much everything for and with the grandkids, it makes them happy. Yes, grandparent will buy clothes and toys you don't like. They will want to be the ones to hold and feed them. They will give your child candy and soda when you wish they didn't. They will let them watch to much TV and stay up to late on sleepovers and these are the things your children will love about them and remember for ever. I think in general we mom's her at MDC have very specific ideas of how we want to raise our children and it's hard to let go of total control but it's worth doing sometimes.
 
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