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Mother-In-Law No Longer Sending Birthday Gifts as a Message

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  • #844771 Reply
    avatarConfused Daughter In Law

    A few ago my In-Laws arrived a week early for the birth of our second daughter. When she was a week late they decided to leave before she was born, upset that I hadn’t scheduled to be induced early. Long story short the delivery was rough and the doctor thought she may have to have surgery at 6 months old to correct torn ligaments that could leave her arm permanently disfigured. When we got home from the hospital my husband Skyped with his parents to introduce them to his daughter. He was worried and he really wanted his mother to tell him everything was going to be OK, but she was cold and uncaring. She thought she had hung up and turned to her husband and said “Well, I thought I handled that very well.” She was still to angry about my induction to be there for her son. When a few months later she came back for a visit I confronted her. I told her as a mother she should always be there for her children and she wasn’t. I was still pretty hormonal and was in tears the entire time. She took it hard, though her reaction was a bit over the top. She did say she had never thought of it that way and would try to be better. Then comes my birthday, for the first time in 10 years of marriage she didn’t send a gift, but instead just a card. I send her a gift for her birthday, then for my husbands no gift. Mine, no gift. At this point I didn’t send her a gift. Husbands birthday no gift. Then today they are here for a visit. A friend brought me a small birthday cake. My Mother in law says she wants to celebrate my birthday. They make a big deal about gathering my kids and husband around the table, taking the small cake my friend brought out. They sing me happy birthday and then present me with a card that has nothing in it. When I walked into the kitchen I could here my Father in law asking why she didn’t put a gift card in it. And she said it was because I didn’t send her a gift last year.
    So I know it was petty not to send her a gift last year and I plan on resuming gifts this year. But at this point I’m wondering do I say something to her or just let it go. To me a conversation I had about her being less selfish and more caring to her children resulted in her punishing her son and me by not giving gifts for years. It’s not even about the silly $25- check she used to send. I could brush it off when it was just a card I got in the mail and then threw away. But to sit me down gather a crowd to watch her snub me and then insist on eating a gift a friend had given me really pushed me over the edge. Need advice please.

    #844779 Reply

    First and foremost stop managing your husband’s family for him. It’s his family of origin. He should be responsible for remembering their birthdays and buying their gifts. Just because you have a vagina does not make you responsible for that shit. He’s responsible for sending them pictures and invitations too (invitations to stay cleared with you – just as you would do the same if your family visits).

    Second, your mother in law is a selfish bitch. Pissed off because you didn’t induce labor? Is she your doctor? What did your doctor advise? But, attacking her, even in the emotional postpartum soup you were swimming in, wasn’t in your best interests. Not getting her a gift was tit for tat and you’re better than that.

    So turn the task back to your husband. His siblings, his parents, his aunts and uncles… all on him. If you want to help put the dates into his contacts and leave it. And let this go. Your MIL used the only power she has to keep this fight going. You have all the power. You have their son, and their grandchild. Let. This. Go.

    #844784 Reply
    Dear WendyDear Wendy

    Yeah, you need to let this shit go. It’s really petty. On the part of both of you (well, and the husbands, too, who are just as responsible in maintaining harmony). Why is it your job to send your husband’s mother a birthday gift? Tell your husband to take care of that from now on. You can give input, but he needs to take on the emotional labor of actually acquiring and sending the gift, signing the card (which you can sign too), maybe getting the kids to draw a picture – stuff like that. This idea that these are women’s tasks or that family relationships are on the women to maintain is bullshit and what leads to resentment and to occasional breakdowns like what you’re describing. More gender equity with emotional labor is going to solve everything, but it will improve things A LOT.

    #844786 Reply

    She isn’t stressed about the emotional burden of sending gifts. She wants to intentionally withhold the gift as retribution.

    #844790 Reply

    You’re both being petty. I realize you believe she was cold and uncaring, but your husband should have talked to her if he felt he needed to. You blew up at her and she had an over the top reaction you don’t describe, other than the gift thing.

    I think you need to rethink your expectations for gifts. Sure, she’s probably thinking that she’s making a point, but you’re responding to it and are withholding gifts yourself to make a point! Just stop. Kill her with kindness and stop taking her behavior so personally. She’s immature, but you don’t have to meet her at her level and participate in the shenanigans. And yes, you hold the power. You have her son and her grandchild.

    #844794 Reply

    I will also add that you’re a parent now and everything you do forms your kid’s model of appropriate behavior. If act in a petty retributive manner, then you are teaching your kid to do so. If you deal with difficult people maturely, you teach that to your kid.

    #844799 Reply

    I do understand the letter writer’s point of view. Her mother in law behaved like a cold bitch in light of her brand new grandchild potentially needing surgery and/or having permanent scars and then stopped giving a gift she customarily gave to her daughter in law. All as punishment for the letter writer NOT HAVING HER BABY OM DEMAND to this woman’s personal preference. What the actual fuck? MIL sounds fucking bananas. I don’t blame the LW for pulling back her own efforts. Was it petty? Yeah probably. But what the fuck. I second that your husband deals with his side from now on. He buys the gifts, he gets the cards, he goes to FedEx to send them. That way mother in law gets the gifts and daughter in law doesn’t have to spend time and effort stressing about accommodating her batshit crazy mother in law.

    Also, LW, it may help to reframe this. You now have valuable information about your mother in law (she’s selfish and petty), use it going forward. Don’t expect her to handle situations well. Give less of a shit what she thinks or does. You know she cannot be relied upon to give support when needed, so put another plan in place of where to get that support in the future. Be cordial but distant with her. Don’t get emotionally invested.

    #844803 Reply

    I didn’t mean to negate how terrible her MIL is, but I assumed it’s not news considering the series of events and that they’ve been married for ten years.

    #844806 Reply

    So I’m confused. Are we dwelling on a few years of anger or did this recently happen? It sounds like at least a year has gone by. I feel like there is more to it than in laws visiting and being upset over no baby birth during their visit. She isnt just upset with you it sounds like she is upset with her son too. You guys are going to have to find common ground with each other and learn to get along. On a positive note she gave you a card that acknowledged your birthday. She did the same with your husband.

    #844808 Reply

    I think you are expecting way too much out of the relationship you have with your MIL. My guess is that you just don’t like her very much, and/or that she’s somewhat narcissistic and you have spent 10+ years trying to please a person you do not like, who cannot be pleased. You need to drop your end of the rope in this tug-of-war. She can’t play tug-of-war by herself – hard to yank on a chain that’s not attached to anything! Stop letting her take up space in your head. I love my MIL and think she’s great, and I literally would not notice or care whether she sent me a birthday card (although she usually sends me one, with a check! She’s really the best.) My mom can be difficult, but she and my husband get along pretty well, and I am pretty sure that she maybe sometimes sends him a birthday card or text? But neither of us really expects her to do that. You are investing way too much emotional energy into this petty scorekeeping with your MIL, a person you don’t really like that much. And moms with young kids don’t have that kind of energy to spare! Drop the rope, let it go, let your husband deal with his own people. Smile and nod. Treat her like you would an annoying co-worker – as a person you have to deal with regularly on a surface level, but who doesn’t affect your core sense of well-being.

    #844809 Reply

    Eh, honestly, LW. You both sound like a fucking nightmare. Two vacuous drama queens locked in a vicious battle over who can be the most petty. PS — NEWSFLASH: You’re winning. Sigh… Your poor fucking husband.

    #844811 Reply

    LW, you definitely need to get over not receiving a $25 check. You’re an adult and you don’t need to receive gifts, you should appreciate the card. The tit for tat when she didn’t send you a gift was petty.

    Regarding what started this whole mess. His parents arrived for your induction but apparently were misinformed on the date? So they went home. Your husband called his mother about the birth of your daughter and the probable need for surgeries and at the end she told her husband she thought she handled it well…i’m not sure why that was a terrible thing to say.

    You then (post partum and full of hormones) blew up on her crying the whole time, and you think her reaction (which you didn’t describe) was over the top?! Your whole deal was over the top (but understandable) how else would she respond by being attacked?

    Ugh, just let it all go and grow the hell up. Let your husband handle gifts to his family and stop expecting them to gift you anything but a card. You don’t mention Christmas so i’m assuming you’re still getting gifts for that.

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