My MIL has helped us out many times with babysitting. My older child is clearly her favorite grandchild (everyone notices), and she has commented that she is willing to babysit for us in the summer when my older son is home but that she can’t handle looking after two children and that my younger son will have to go to daycare. I said that it isn’t fair to keep one boy and not both, and we haven’t had her look after my older one anymore unless it is periodically and it is with his brother. She has also commented that my younger son looks like me (maybe that’s why she isn’t so “attached” to him) but everyone else sees my husband in him too and thinks that both of my boys look alike. She will often ask to take my older son out with her and will buy him toys without ever bringing anything back for my younger one. I made a comment that she has two grandchildren and that it isn’t fair to only buy for one of them and not both.
Here are some other things that she does that really get my blood boiling:
1. She stops by unannounced and walks in our front door without knocking and then stays until I have to ask her to leave.
2. She will often show up at my son’s hockey practice unannounced, and then he acts up and I have to tell her to leave. If my son hears me tell his grandmother to leave, I look like the bad guy.
3. She has commented that the kids have too many toys and then she brings more toys over for my son. She brought something over for my older boy one day and I said, “I thought you said they had too many toys and now you are bringing more. I don’t want you to do that anymore.” She said, “Fine. Sorry, Justin, but Mommy doesn’t want you to have this, so I guess I will have to keep it at Nana’s house.” Makes me look mean in front of my son!
4. She has also commented that my first-born was so good when she was babysitting him, and then after he has started acting up when I came home, she has implied that I don’t know how to raise him right, saying: “If he were mine, he wouldn’t act like that.”
5. In the past she has offered to come over and babysit for us but then asked if my mother would come over too so that my mother could look after the younger grandchild while my mother-in-law played with the older. I told my mom that, and she said, “I don’t want to go there when she is there — she is too controlling”.
My MIL asked me whom I would get to look after my kids if something happened to us, and I told her that I hadn’t thought of that yet. She told me that she wouldn’t let them go to anyone else. I told my dad that, and he stated that he hoped that I wouldn’t have her be their legal guardian as she would never let my parents see the children. I told my SIL, too, and she agreed that her mother would keep the kids all to herself. Then my SIL said, “I would take them!” I thought about this and, since she has never been in a stable relationship with anyone and she cannot stand up to her mother, I decided that that would not be a good idea either.
Recently, my MIL showed up at my son’s hockey practice again. I asked what she was doing there and she swung open the door very hard and stormed out, so I sent her a text saying that she didn’t need to leave mad but that I get angry when she shows up unannounced. She didn’t respond. Later on, I sent another text to explain how I didn’t want to deal with any negative behavior from my son because of her being there and then I asked her why she always gets mad when she doesn’t get her way with my kids. I told her that she needs to respect my rules with them. I told her that it frustrates me when she just shows up to our place or other places where we are at and that I have to get rude so that my point gets across. I also explained to her that I don’t like to be made to look like the bad guy in front of my son when she does the things she does. Later, my husband got mad at me and said, “You started shit with my mom and now I am gonna hear about it. Thanks!”
So…what do you think of all of this? I try as much as I can to stay away from her and to not have her around. Is that a good thing to do in this situation? — Sick and Tired of My MIL
Well, I’ve got a list for you, too:
1. All y’all need to grow the eff up. Through your long narrative (from which I edited out over 1400 words–someone give me a damn raise), it’s hard to distinguish who the kids are and who the adults are. Start acting like a freaking grown-up. Below are some helpful tips.
2. Stop asking your MIL to babysit. The free babysitting comes with big, long, huge strings. If you can’t pay for a non-relative to babysit, stick with your own mother or your SIL if she ever offers, but STOP asking your MIL to babysit. It’s not worth the price you end up paying.
3. Change the locks on your door and then lock your front door so your MIL can’t come strolling in whenever she pleases.
4. Every time your MIL shows up at hockey practice or wherever else you are that you don’t want her to be, continue telling her you want her to leave. She won’t like it, but so what? You’ve made it clear you don’t want to be friends with her anyway.
5. Create designated times for her to see her grandchildren — like a weekly visit to her place or your place that you husband supervises while you go do something for and by yourself. Continue limiting your contact with your MIL while creating regular visits she can look forward to with her grandchildren.
6. When you DO come in contact with her and feel tempted to criticize or reprimand her, don’t. At least, don’t do it in front of your children. You don’t like looking like the bad guy? Then, for God’s sake, don’t tell her in front of your children that you don’t want her buying them toys. I mean, how is she supposed to respond to that? OF COURSE she turns to your son and says, “Mommy doesn’t want you to have that.” BECAUSE THAT’S ESSENTIALLY WHAT YOU JUST SAID! Do you think your son didn’t hear you say that? Do you think he, at 5 years old, understands the back story and the dynamic between you and your MIL? No! He just hears you tell his grandmother not to give him toys.
7. When your MIL criticizes your parenting, ignore her. When she says things like, “If he were my son, he wouldn’t act like that,” simply smile and remind her that he isn’t her son. She’s a crazy old lady. Who cares what she thinks and says? Just tune her out.
8. When you do need to express yourself and your concerns, do so either in person or in a phone conversation rather than in a text message. Better yet, get your damn husband to speak up and start setting some boundaries with his mother. He needs liquid courage to do so? Well, get out the Jack Daniels, ’cause the lines in the sand need to be drawn, my friend.
9. Appoint guardians for your kids should something happen to you and your husband. This is what grown-ups do. You plan for the long-term care of your children. You think about their well-being. You make sure they’re taken care of. How is this, after five years of parenting, not something you’ve even thought about yet?
10. Stop letting your MIL babysit. Oh, I already said that? I don’t care — I’m saying it again! Half of your long letter involves your MIL babysitting, which makes me think that at least half the problems you have with her would be avoided if you stopped relying on her for free babysitting. She thinks she can tell you what’s what because you owe her — because she has saved you so much money in babysitting fees. Change the power dynamic by changing your dependence on her. And you know what else you should change? The damn locks on your door! And I know I already said that, but I’m saying it again because the other half of your problems would probably be avoided if your Mil couldn’t stroll through your front door whenever she wanted.
11. I need a drink.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.