In-laws or out-laws

Today’s problem comes from a mum who’s feeling a bit bogged down by the views and opinions of a family member – have you any advice?

I’m sure the mother in law is a frequent source of frustration for all parents.

I’ve encountered problems with my mother in law ever since my daughter was placed. She had opinions on *everything*. You name it, she knew about it.

A Problem Shared1Except back in those days, there was no appreciation day, and our parents learnt what they did through us. We passed on as much information as we could but, without the preparation courses, materials, social workers, and chats with other adopters, there was really only so much they could take in. We bought that BAAF book, the one about adoption for family and friends, and passed it around our immediate family – the one’s who’d have an active part in our daughter’s life.

Right from the word go, they didn’t understand the need for it to just be the three of us. But we did quite a good job at deflecting their requests for visits.

After a few months it all began getting worse. She wasn’t physically interfering – she didn’t try to feed little one, or take over doing her nappy. But she had an opinion on everything, and she wasn’t afraid to tell us when she thought we were doing the wrong thing, which was most of the time! I held the bottle wrong, I winded her wrong, I dressed her in clothes that mother in law didn’t like, I gave her the wrong food, I expected her to do too much, oh the list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased she wants to be involved – I lost my own mum some years ago, so of course I want my daughter to have a relationship with her granny but…over the years I’ve felt so unsure of what I’m doing anyway, so unconfident, that hearing those negative opinions just knocked me down. It’s hard enough being under the scrutiny of a social worker, let alone those around you too.

The thing is, she’s not a bad person. She’s just insensitive, and truth be told, so set in her ways that she just can’t comprehend WHY we do things the way we do.

I’m not sure what more we can do to get things across to her, without sitting down and having a really full on frank discussion. But because of the person she is, with the temperament she has, sitting her down would result in her walking away and feeling blamed. I can’t see a good way out of this, so should we just grin and bear it for now?

If you have had a similar experience or have any helpful advice for this parent, please comment below. 

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3 thoughts on “In-laws or out-laws

  1. Pickle's Mummy

    Oh my goodness, you have my empathy. I have had nothing but difficulties where my in-laws are concerned and it makes having to deal with all the other issues of adoption so much harder. Even if things are going “really well” it still has to be just the 3 of you in the beginning. The thing I’ve learned is that you can only beat a subtle drum for so long and then you realise nothing is going in.
    What happened for us is that it came to a head where we both ended up having words with her separately. Me first (tactfully but pointedly) and then my husband that evening to reinforce that what I was saying was important and valid. It’s caused friction and it’s resulted in them maybe walking on egg shells a bit (good!) but I feel better for it….so far.
    Your MIL needs to listen otherwise she will end up breaking you down so much that you will have no confidence left and you’re probably feeling anxious whenever you’re going to see her. You’ll even get anxious when you’re not seeing her, like I did and you’ll not trust her.
    You need to talk thoroughly with your husband about how you feel. It’s hard for him but, at the end of the day, he needs to support you 100%. You need to be taken care of so that you can care for your daughter without the anxiety which others are placing on you.
    Depending on where she lives and how often you see her (I imagine a fair bit from what you’re saying?) I would actually pull away for a bit. Take control and say you’re busy and have other things planned. Don’t see her at home. If possible go our for walks or to the park where you are more in control. Make her visits short but sweet. If she’s coming over to you, or you to her, set a time limit by saying you’re going out at a certain time. Make a plan, be in control.
    If she continues to criticise after a chat then you can only go one more way and that’s blunt. Say things like “I’m fine with doing it this way thank you”
    Finally; YOU are the parent. YOU know what’s best for your child. She doesn’t. You are doing an incredible job and you need to never forget that.
    And yes, the more I talk to people the more I realise that this is an age old problem! Good luck and stay strong. Don’t let the MIL grind you down 🙂

  2. Sally

    Great advice from Pickle’s mum.
    I’d say that you can either continue to live like this, or you can tell her to butt out (politely). If she chooses to flounce off, then that’s her choice.
    It is tempting to feel responsible for everyone else’s feelings and reactions but we are not.
    The most important measure is what’s best for our children and you feeling ground down by criticism definitely is not. Adoptive parenting needs strength and courage.
    It is a horrible situation to be in. Good luck xx

  3. Laura

    Your post could have been written by us! We have had a similar experience with my Mum. She kept trying to feed and change our daughter, would give her treats when we asked her not to and worst of all was (still is) far too overbearing and hands on. She can’t hug the little one without cradling her and babying her. We gave her the BAAF grandparents book and “before I arrive”, we talked to her a lot about attachment and loss etc. Unfortunately she chose not to listen. It came to a head last year when, after Gran visited the little one was inconsolable as she expressed to us the worry that Gran would “take her away”. Serious stuff. I tried to talk with my Mum about it in a way that was constructive, but unfortunately she got very defensive and it was clear that she was unable to put the little one’s needs before her own.

    Truth be told I think it may have irreparably damaged our relationship. It’s not that we are estranged, but we now limit the occasions on which we see her and manage the activities to give her less chance of being overbearing. It is sad for me because it is a loss of what should have been reliable support. But my daughter’s emotional wellbeing is too important to jeopardise.

    I hope you are able to bring your MIL round, and that she can be a grown up about it. I would say the direct approach is the only way, although it isn’t easy. Wishing you all the best.


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