Hostile Mother-in-Law won't talk to me, but wants my son... boundaries?

Sarah - posted on 04/10/2012 ( 7 moms have responded )

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There has been a misunderstanding between us (my husband and I) and my mother-in-law which occurred almost a year and a half ago. (For the sake of understanding, my Father-in-Law got mad at me for a political post on Facebook, an argument ensued, he informed me he would not speak to me until further notice and tell everyone he had no relationship with me, but they still expected to have full access to my son. Instead of calling me as usual, MIL called my husband and asked to take my son for a day. The situation made us uncomfortable, as it felt like I was being shoved out of the picture, so we asked MIL to wait for another time or come visit at our house. She refused, accused us of wanting to supervise her, and started corresponding with us through postal mail.) Though we've made every attempt to reconcile, she remains extremely passive-aggressive, makes excuses to exclude us from all family events (we haven't been to a holiday since Christmas 2010. Initially, we'd told her that we wanted to feel part of the family again, so if she wanted to spend time with our son, we wanted to be included, or she could visit at our house. She refused to see him for a year.

After some convincing by my father-in-law, and being invited to their house, we started letting MIL take my son for a few hours every so-often. This started this past January, but she is very cold to me still, we do not get invited to family functions, and she refuses to even text or call me when she's bringing my son home (even when she's said she will). Finally last night, she said she will NEVER call me, and accused me of having control issues because I want her to call, and because I want my son home at specific times for sleep.



Thoughts? I am losing my mind. What are appropriate boundaries here?

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Krista - posted on 04/10/2012

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It is not at all unreasonable for you to want your son home at a particular time. That has nothing to do with control issues -- that is called 'being a good parent".



Personally, I'd be very reluctant to let her have access to your son, if she's that petty and vengeful. Right now she has absolutely no motivation to reconcile with you -- she's still getting everything she wants, even though she's acting like a total bitch.



This will need to come from your husband, though. Not from you. If you bring it up, it'll just make things worse. He basically needs to say to them, "Look, we understand that you were hurt. We've done our best to mend our relationship with you, but no matter what we've done, you've refused to meet us even halfway, and you're not respecting the fact that we want our son home at a certain time. We've done everything you asked, and you're still punishing us. So it's time for you to decide: are we family, or are we not? Because you can't have it both ways anymore -- it's just not working."

Kaitlin - posted on 04/10/2012

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You are the mother. Tell her yes, your son does need to be home at specific times for sleep, yes, you do expect her to call, and yes, you are the mother, not her. I would expect my husband to stand up to his mother in this situation and back those rules up. If she refuses to do so, she is not welcome. Unfortunately, this can have some sad consequneces, but it's up to her. If she wants to be petty, then she won't be able to see her grandchild. If she wants to be civil and polite, then by all means, encourage lots of contact. Continue to invite her over for holidays and birthdays. If she declines, it is her own fault for not being involved in her grandchild's life. I hope it gets better.

Melissa - posted on 07/26/2012

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Advice from Dr. Dan is some of the best I have seen in response to the anticipated responses to passive aggressive in-laws (http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapis...).
There are three strategies that tend to work in these situations, and they come in varying degrees of leverage. All three have one thing in common, and that is to leave the discomfort with her rather than with you. This is not antagonistic, but rather leaving the problem at its origin, with her/yhem. In his classic book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, Robert M. Pirsig referred to the fact that the Japanese have a notice at the beginning of their instructions on how to assemble a new purchase. The notice says (I am paraphrasing): “To begin, the assembler must be in the right frame of mind.” This is where you begin with your encounter with her. Begin in the right frame of mind, which is: This is her issue — do not let it become yours.
When she says an unkind comment or criticism offer back a simple descriptive statement of what she said: “It sounds like you’re unhappy with how I keep my home.” Or: “You seem disappointed in what was served for dinner.” In other words, let her criticisms and persecutions be hers. Again, don’t take the bait and feel the need to defend yourself. A descriptive statement allows you to stay present but not become overwhelmed by her taunts.
The second coping method is to respond with a statement that directly identifies the fact that the issue is hers. “It must be hard for you to feel so disappointed so often.” Or: “It seems like you are unhappy when you are here.”
The third encounter has uniqueness to it because it is twofold. It uses a question as a way of undoing the hurtfulness behind her condescending or persecuting manner. After she has said something hurtful, ask a question: “When you say things like that, do you ever wonder what it might be like for me to hear?” Or: “Are you aware how often you say things like that?” Or: “Are you this unhappy when you are at home?”
The second part of this depends on you, and what you feel is appropriate. The stance is the same: This is her issue; do not let it become yours. After she answers the question you may use the other strategies to stay engaged without becoming defensive.
Typically someone like your mother-in-law is skilled in not taking responsibility for her passive-aggressive hurtfulness, so a direct confrontation is usually unproductive. But offering some feedback in this second part might be helpful, as long as you keep your expectations low. After asking one of the questions in the previous paragraph, you might try adding something like: “…because when you say things like that it makes it hard for me to be around you.”
Don’t feel the need to explain or defend yourself. Doing so will get you nowhere but more frustrated. Just say what you feel is factual, and then go back to the other strategies without trying to defend or criticize. Your job here is to protect yourself from feeling overwhelmed. With some practice your mother-in-law will learn that she isn’t upsetting you, but that her insults land back on her doorstep.
If your husband is agreeable you might ask him to help role-play with you to build up your skill. This may help the two of you bond over the issue as well. Good luck with this. It will take you a while to get good at responding but in the words of the great Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
I have compiled a "personal journal of stories and experiences. If you want to read it contact me at mnmharnly@hotmail.com Good Luck!

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Carrie - posted on 08/14/2013

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I have a better situation, possibly not better. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, am up front about it, and got pregnant unexpectedly. My boyfriend and I were separated as he cheated on me, while pregnant with a married "swinger"...and his family started total warfare to shove me out of the picture where my son is concerned. They treat him like he can do no wrong, when he’s caused 99.9 percent of the problems here.
They post pictures of themselves with my son on Facebook, and only tag the father. They get on Facebook and make passive aggressive comments about how much mental health help I need, knowing that I have GAD, am medicated for it, and have sought counseling. I've tried to invite them to functions with my son, and they treat me with disrespect as his mother. I was told to quit harassing them. I’ve just ceased all communication, I’ve quit caring. Here’s how it goes, the Father’s mother gets my son without having to have me in the picture, or without speaking to me in any way shape or form when he’s under her care.
I’ve tried to be nice and inclusive, but they treat me with so little care and respect. They don’t tell me where they have my son, or whose care he’s under, and tell me I’m blowing it out of proportion when I wish to know.
The Grandmother says I’m not welcome at her home with my son because she doesn't like me. I'd take your situation any day; at least there is some communication. I've just ignored them all and gone about my life. And here is my beautiful son caught in the middle of their family dysfunction! This family knows NO boundaries, I'd trade.

Carrie - posted on 08/14/2013

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I have a better situation, possibly not better. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, am up front about it, and got pregnant unexpectedly. My boyfriend and I were separated as he cheated on me, while pregnant with a married "swinger"...and his family started total warfare to shove me out of the picture where my son is concerned. They treat him like he can do no wrong, when he’s caused 99.9 percent of the problems here.
They post pictures of themselves with my son on Facebook, and only tag the father. They get on Facebook and make passive aggressive comments about how much mental health help I need, knowing that I have GAD, am medicated for it, and have sought counseling. I've tried to invite them to functions with my son, and they treat me with disrespect as his mother. I was told to quit harassing them. I’ve just ceased all communication, I’ve quit caring. Here’s how it goes, the Father’s mother gets my son without having to have me in the picture, or without speaking to me in any way shape or form when he’s under her care.
I’ve tried to be nice and respectful of them, but they treat me with so little care and respect. They don’t tell me where they have my son, or whose care he’s under, and tell me I’m blowing it out of proportion when I wish to know.
The Grandmother says I’m not welcome at her home with my son because she doesn't like me. I'd take your situation any day; at least there is some communication. I've just ignored them all and gone about my life. And here is my beautiful son caught in the middle of their family dysfunction! This family knows NO boundaries, I'd trade.

Carrie - posted on 08/14/2013

7

0

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I have a better situation, possibly not better. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, am up front about it, and got pregnant unexpectedly. My boyfriend and I were separated as he cheated on me, while pregnant with a married "swinger"...and his family started total warfare to shove me out of the picture where my son is concerned. They treat him like he can do no wrong, when he’s caused 99.9 percent of the problems here.
They post pictures of themselves with my son on Facebook, and only tag the father. They get on Facebook and make passive aggressive comments about how much mental health help I need, knowing that I have GAD, am medicated for it, and have sought counseling. I've tried to invite them to functions with my son, and they treat me with disrespect as his mother. I was told to quit harassing them. I’ve just ceased all communication, I’ve quit caring. Here’s how it goes, the Father’s mother gets my son without having to have me in the picture, or without speaking to me in any way shape or form when he’s under her care.
I’ve tried to be nice and inclusive, but they treat me with so little care and respect. They don’t tell me where they have my son, or whose care he’s under, and tell me I’m blowing it out of proportion when I wish to know.
The Grandmother says I’m not welcome at her home with my son because she doesn't like me. I'd take your situation any day; at least there is some communication. I've just ignored them all and gone about my life. And here is my beautiful son caught in the middle of their family dysfunction! This family knows NO boundaries, I'd trade.

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