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keobooks's avatar

Is there a polite way to ask my mother in law to stop asking me insultingly stupid questions?

Asked by keobooks (12466 points ) June 16th, 2011

I am THIS close to furious right now. My mother in law and I are going to the funeral of a distant relative together. She just called to ask me if I knew that I shouldn’t wear shorts and a T shirt, but instead wear “something nice” and “appropriate” to the funeral.

Yesterday, I mentioned that the neighbor kids came over to ask if my almost 9 month old daughter could come out and play. So I took her out and we played with the neighbor kid. She asked if I supervised my daughter while she played with the preschoolers, or if I just let her outside to go play by herself. A NINE MONTH OLD BABY.. did I let her outside to play and then stay indoors while she played with preschoolers all by herself?

What in god’s name? Does she think that I am a total drooling idiot? She is CONSTANTLY asking me questions that show that she must have an insanely low opinion of my intellect or common sense.

Is there any way to give her a polite STFU? I’m thinking of asking her annoying questions all the way down to the funeral like “Are we supposed to wear shoes to the funeral? I didn’t bring any.” Or “I ordered spaghetti. Is it OK if I eat it with my hands instead of a fork?” “I’m going to let my daughter crawl around on top of the casket when we get there, just so you know..”

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84 Answers

rebbel's avatar

I think she actually loves you very much and want to take care of you and wants to be sure you are well.
With that in mind you can tell her that you are happy with such a sweet and caring mother in law but that there really is no need to be (over)protective since you are a responsible person.
Or she’s just a nag.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Tell her that you have noticed some changes in her, and tell her you are very worried—cite those examples, and tell her that you think she needs to be checked by her doctor for early dementia.

jonsblond's avatar

Just kill her with kindness. I have a sister like this. She’s been a flight attendant for over 20 years and she can let family members fly for free. She asked if I’d like to visit her in Los Angeles, but I would need to wear something other than jeans when I flew, you know, something more appropriate for 1st class. Just because I wear jeans here in the Midwest on almost a daily basis doesn’t mean I don’t know how to dress appropriately when needed. ugh! I feel your pain

Anyway, I just smile and agree, or politely state my case. Arguing or being rude will just make things worse.

jca's avatar

@jonsblond: We can’t wear jeans in first class?

As for the mother-in-law, I would ask her insanely silly questions in response to her questions, like the example you gave. “Should I wear shoes to the funeral or just go barefoot?” Then I would laugh and make it like it’s so funny, and then maybe add that “you don’t have to ask me silly questions like that.” If it’s made to sound like all in fun, she might take the hint.

creative1's avatar

I would turn things around and ask the mother in-law same types of stupid questions she asks you. Like if she is going to watch your 9mth old, say to her you know you can’t let her play with knives and things like that. This may give her a glimpse of what she is doing to you.

augustlan's avatar

I would probably reply to her inane questions with equally inane answers (with a touch of sarcasm), just to get her to see how ridiculous they are.

Q: “Do you know what to wear to a funeral?” A: Well, I had been planning on wearing my daisy dukes and a cut off tank. Why?”

Q: “Did you let the baby out alone?” A: “Of course! A nine-month-old infant can certainly fend for herself in the wild.”

Or, I might just answer with, “Seriously?”

If you’re really looking for a polite way, I’d calmly say “It upsets me that you feel the need to ask me such questions. Do you really think I don’t know these things?”

*Just thought of another, not-so-polite solution: Call her, several times a day, to ask for ridiculous advice: “The baby wants to play with matches. Should I let her?” “The baby is hungry. Should I feed her?” “Someone just knocked on the door, and I’m naked. Should I get dressed before I open it?”

obvek's avatar

My mom is like this. It drives me fucking insane.

You’re likely incorrect in your supposition that she thinks you’re stupid. Probably this has nothing to do with your intelligence or degree of common sense. Probably she is offsetting some degree of insecurity about herself with the compulsion to constantly control her environment and the people it.

I don’t have a great answer off the top of my head, but getting across some degree of assurance relative to her feelings of insecurity is likely to defuse the dynamic. For example, “Are you worried about how the services will go?” And then saying that you want them to be done nicely as well. You sort of have to figure out what is really behind the comment that has to do with her worries and position yourself as an ally to staging them off.

WestRiverrat's avatar

She may resent you for ‘stealing’ her darling son from her. This is her way of putting you in your place so to speak. Being nice in this case won’t do any good.

Next time she asks if you are wearing something appropriate, tell her you just went out and bought a new string bikini specially for the event.

Aster's avatar

I think she was really worried that you’d wear shorts to the funeral. She was so worried that, against her better judgement, she just had to ask. I remember my MIL telling her grown grandson that “you don’t wear a plaid flannel shirt to a funeral.” It was the guy’s grandfather. Her grandson was insulted but knowing her, she really was concerned he’d embarrass her. The only thing I can think of to say to her is, “seriously?? You really think I’d do that? You’re kidding, right?”

josie's avatar

Not much you can do. Let it go.

jonsblond's avatar

@jca I know! My sister is very concerned with first impressions and looks. Very judgmental. She was worried I wouldn’t represent her well, I guess. :/

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It sounds like it is time to have some one-on-one time with her. Using the “When you say this, it makes me feel like this” often works. It is less likely to put the offender on the defense. Let the MIL respond and then discuss it before moving on to the next example on the list. It might be enlightening for both of you.

If this fails or you aren’t willing to do it, I would go with @BarnacleBill‘s advice.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

When she calls, excuse yourself as quickly as possible, tell her you know she’ll understand you don’t like to be distracted from the baby but for mere moments and then HANG UP and don’t pick up the phone again. If your MIL goes whining to your husband then tell him his mother seems to be calling out of sheer boredom and/or neurotic bent which you’ve no interest in.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

My mother is like this. As far as I can tell, she’s just blown away when I manage to wipe my own ass without her assistance. A few times, I’d say something like “When you tell me I really can’t get a speeding ticket now, are you under the impression that I’m trying to get one normally?” or “I’m pretty sure there’s no really good time to have my apartment catch on fire, so I always take precautions with my space heater, not just in January”. The rest of the time, I do some version of what you suggested doing on the unsolicited advice thread – I just change the subject and don’t answer. I try to remember that her insistence that I’m actually this stupid and incompetent is her issue, not mine, and there’s nothing I can do to change her view of me, so it’s best to just ignore it. Having said that, I’m getting pretty close to @BarnacleBill‘s suggestion, especially when I have to tell her things (big things like where I go to college, not like what I had for dinner) over 5 times.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Do you have her number entered with her name so you can see who’s calling? You don’t have to answer the phone, she can always leave a message or text you if she’s got some real urgency. It’ll be easy enough to tell her at a later time you weren’t able to get to the phone in time and since there was no message then you knew there was nothing pressing. You’re not required to be her friend, to call her back for unknown reasons or to respond to silly criticisms disguised as questions. You run a household now and are home with the baby, right? Have that woman book an appointment.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I vote for the “Seriously?? Is this a serious question?” response. Really. Confront her a little. Make her accountable, make her explain why she would think these things, before you explode.

Seriously. “Why would you ask me this?’” Make her explain her thought process.

Good luck.

@MyNewtBoobs You finally learned how to do that? Not according to your mother!

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I am sitting here laughing about your questions back to her.I say try it out! I doubt you’ll change her so why not have alittle fun with it? XD

keobooks's avatar

I love all these responses. Sorry I don’t have time to reply. I have to pack up all the stuff. (Re-pack, because I had shorts and flip flops laid out for everyone in the family.. rats) but thanks for these posts. They have helped me keep my temper and gave some perspective—and some a few laughs. I appreciate it.

Cruiser's avatar

Just my opinion and based on a similar overbearing MIL is to simply let her in and let her participate in the care and observation of you taking care of this child. The more she sees you acting responsibly and appropriately with “her” grandchild the less she will interfere with your efforts. Do this first and once you establish solid credentials as this child’s primary care taker you can then tell here to STFU without ruffling too many feathers.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I know. You need a break, right? So call your MIL and tell her you’re going shopping for a while (few hours…few days, whatever) and you left your baby on the front porch. Ask if she’ll check in on the baby now and again! Then you’ll have a few hours (or days) to yourself, no worries!

OK. You can’t do that. But really…turn it back on her. Ask her, calmly, “Why would you ask me that?” Oh, don’t we wish we could be in someone else’s shoes so we could do what we suggest!

Bellatrix's avatar

I would probably get sarcastic and take @augustlan‘s approach. “Oh, you mean my jeans and tee shirt aren’t okay?” and “No, the baby was fine with the neighbourhood kids”. Probably wouldn’t endear you to her though :-)

Jeruba's avatar

This might be one of those times when nothing is more eloquent than silence. How about a long pause after one of those, giving her plenty of time to hear her own words echo in her head and wonder how you are taking them?

As a matter of fact, you could let the pause go on forever, or until she summons the nerve to repeat the question. Maybe you’ll even get to hear her backpedal.

I think I’d be considering this eventual response: “What must you think of me to ask me a question like that?” But the best response of all might just be to play deaf.

Stinley's avatar

I like @obvek and @Jeruba‘s suggestions and maybe you could try to meet these questions with a silence then say briskly ‘I know you don’t actually think that I would wear shorts to a funeral/leave the baby outside so I get the feeling something else is stressing you or worrying you. Do you want to tell me about it?’

Hope you manage to sort it out to your satisfaction.

cookieman's avatar

My MIL is the same. She’s massively insecure, old fashioned and afraid of almost everything. The stupid questions are her way of trying to control something (me, my wife). She understands very little and almost everything overwhelms her – so she assumes we must feel the same way.

Thing is, she’s also a sweet little old Italian lady who’d give you the shirt off her back.

So whatareyagonnado? I try to have a sense of humor about it, and on days I can’t muster that…I avoid her.

Some of her classics:
“Careful. If it rains, you’ll get wet.”

“Have you washed your clothes?”

“Leaving a fan on will give you pneumonia.”

“Are you home?” After she called me…at home.

ucme's avatar

Just stick a rolled up rugby sock in her gob & sod the consequences!
It’ll be worth it just to see the expression on her muzzled/puzzled face ;¬}

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

You could also ask her every time “Oh, did you learn that the hard way?”

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL! Yeah! “Oh! Yes! I heard you did that once! Set your baby on the front porch to play and then went and took a bath!”

Hey, you need to keep a record of the screwy things she asks you because they’re so funny! Plus we can all role play and make you feel better. : )

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I have done what @Jeruba has suggested with the lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnng pause and it works. My own mother is a lot like this and it doesn’t cause problems for me to slow her down. Plenty of times she’s asked if I was still on the phone and I’ve answered that yes I’m there but doing things/errands/whatever at the same time. She huffs and hangs up on me but I’m fine with that.

jca's avatar

I am remembering a response that Miss Manners recommended once for what someone described as a similar situation. Her recommendation was somewhat like @Jeruba.‘s She said when you are asked anything inappropriate, your response should be “Why would you ask me that?” It would work in a variety of situations, if you think about it.

Jeruba's avatar

@jca, I was actually thinking of that too. In my memory her phrase was “Why do you want to know?” or “Why do you need to know that?” She was advising people how to handle questions such as “When are you two going to have kids?” and “Is that your baby, or is she adopted?” and “What race are you?” and so on—nosy questions that are not anyone else’s business. It would do every bit as well for intrusive questions about your behavior.

I was also recalling how detectives in novels often say that their favorite trick is just to let silence work for them because people get uncomfortable and keep talking. I thought maybe if MIL kept talking after one of these things, she’d work herself into a corner without @keobooks’ having to say a word. So much more satisfying if she does it to herself.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Why would you ask me that…” That’s very good! I can’t wait to hear her response…if there is one.

keobooks's avatar

Sorry I didn’t reply sooner. I was at that funeral and just came back. Perhaps I should have asked “How can I be less of a spineless wimp around my mother in law?” I totally wussed out and it was like I didn’t even have time to THINK. My body just went on autopilot. Here is my confessional.

1. My husband had to work late (since this funeral was VERY short notice. Relative died on wednesday and we had to be in town by Friday afternoon or evening to get to the morning funeral.) I asked my mother in law if I could ride up with her so that I could get my daughter in town early so she could get to sleep. I said that if we came in very late in the evening, she would be too revved up to go to bed and I’d be up all night with her. She said “No. She will sleep the entire way up and then when you get to Aunt’s house, you will take her out of the car seat and put her in the crib she will sleep all night.” I KNEW this wouldn’t happen but she looked so condescendingly at me that I complied. And I ended up staying up until 5 AM because she did exactly what I said she’d do.

2. Because my daughter was exhausted from being up all night and skipping a nap for the funeral and wake, she took a three and a half hour nap in the middle of the day. MIL wanted us to go out to dinner that night and I said it may be too late because it was an hour past baby’s bedtime. She said “You are wrong. She had a 3 hour nap. She will be just fine.” Instead of fighting I took her to the restaurant. She eventually ended up in “three seconds to meltdown” mode and we had to leave the place in a hurry.

3. Before the meltdown, I was letting my daughter play with some paper napkins. Of course, she started to chew on it. It’s not like I let her eat it ALL the time. But she does occasionally chew on it. She mostly just rips it up with her new teeth. My MIL had a fit and said “She’s eating the paper! Take it AWAY! Get it away! NOW! Take it! NOW! Do it! NOW!” I was in shock at her strong reaction and without even thinking, I just started pulling the paper away. My husband stopped me and said “Let her have the paper. It’s not a big deal.” She insisted that I give my daughter a fried corn tortilla chip and that was the only time that I stood up and said “NO! Those are sharp and she will choke!”

4. Finally, the food came and a few relatives at the table were surprised because my daughter is only 9 months, but she ate white rice, guacamole and a soft flour tortilla for supper instead of a jar of baby food. My MIL KNOWS that we don’t use jar food. But when the relative said “My goodness, she’s eating ‘people food’ already?” My MIL said “I guess Keo forgot to pack baby food… AGAIN” And I started apologizing as if I had anything to apologize for. My husband thankfully piped up and said, “Our daughter eats table food. Nobody forgot anything.”

After that, my mother in law just sat and fumed, refusing to look or speak in my direction until we had to leave because of the meltdown. I’m just really sick of her right now. But I’m more sick of myself for wussing out and not taking a stand.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@keobooks Omg! Your baby is a person! Ready, set, panic! Well, just keep trying – it takes a lot, lot, LOT of work to get it down.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Good for your husband to speak up. In your position I’d feel pressure not to snap and tear my MIL’s head off in front of others. Tell your husband you are angry holding your tongue when your MIL’s around, not to tell her off out of your business. He should have a talk with his mother about how you two want to raise baby, what it eats and all else. Does she live far away? You guys see any moves in your future?~

jca's avatar

I don’t like telling people “you should say” or “you should have said” but let’s just say I would have said (to the comments about what the baby will do, how baby will sleep, etc) I would have said “No, I know her and I think she will ___” I would not apologize for the way the baby eats. I would try not to let the MIL’s hysteria and anxiety about the baby eating whatever make me flustered. I would try my best to stay deliberately calm which may piss her off even more but good – she probably needs that.

keobooks's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I think my husband is doing an OK job, especially since he held my ground when I wussed out! He did this because I told him ahead of time that I’m tired of my caving in instinct.

My husband has offered to speak on my behalf several times, but I’ve turned those times down.

This is because once I mentioned to my husband that I didn’t like the way my mother in law fed my daughter when she looked after her. I wasn’t going to mention it, because I figure my daughter only has one meal a week with her, so it isn’t a big deal how she eats. I just found it annoying that she always uses a baby food jar and spoon and stuffs her full of food. I know it won’t kill my daughter to eat like this once a week so I’ve never said anything.

My husband decided that his mom needed to know that it annoyed me. So he told her. She hounded me for MONTHS about this and demanded to know why I didn’t tell her myself and how insulted she felt that I didn’t think she knew how to feed a baby. I told her that I didn’t mention it because while I didn’t like her style of feeding my daughter, I didn’t think it was a big deal. And she said “But it was a big enough deal to send my own son after me about it!’

Somehow it kept coming into conversations for weeks and months afterwards. I had to endlessly apologize for criticizing her and insulting her and using her own son as a proxy. So I’ve told my husband to back off until I can handle the aftermath of her drama bombs and sulk fests of speaking my mind to her.

keobooks's avatar

@jca I don’t want to get flustered and apologize, It’s like a kneejerk reaction. She says something and before I can even think, I’m apologizing all over the place or following her orders. It’s like I go into a trance or something. A few seconds later I’m thinking WTF am I DOING?

jca's avatar

@keobooks: another thing you can try is to just ignore her. If you’re on phone with her and she starts with the ranting and the demands, say you have to get off the phone now. You have to develop some strategy for dealing with her or you’ll continually be pissed every time you encounter her.

keobooks's avatar

I think you are right. Thanks. I will try to come up with a pre-game. My husband is a therapist. While I don’t like to treat him like he’s my therapist, nor do I like him to act like one to me, I know he has some good techniques in his bag of tricks that he uses with his clients when they want to un-learn knee jerk reactions. But ignoring will help for a while.

jca's avatar

Also, as a therapist, he has techniques for dealing with clients’ misplaced anger. I’m sure he has had clients yell at him or be angry with him for whatever reason, and he can tell you how you can diffuse or direct that anger elsewhere. This way, you’re not on the defensive, nor might you offend your MIL, but you will have some solid techniques for how to put her off, and maybe how to get her to back off in the future, if she sees you’re not going to be a wimp any more. You are not the first person I have heard of that had an overbearing MIL, and I am convinced that if the MIL were told off or put in their place, then they would think twice next time.

Jeruba's avatar

@keobooks, how great that your husband defends you to his mother. Let him! So many men won’t do this. He has also been working longer at handling her, so he probably has a good idea of what it takes, therapist or not. You are so fortunate to have a husband who’s loyal to you even in the face of a scary mom and won’t back down.

Please don’t let me ever be like this mother-in-law when my sons marry.

augustlan's avatar

Oh, goodness. What an awful MIL you’re dealing with! I, too, would let your husband handle her. She’s his mother, and he should tell her to back the f off. That includes telling her that he’s talking to her of his own free will, and that she’s not to take it out on you. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stand up for yourself, too, of course. But he should set the tone, in advance.

jca's avatar

I think the ultimate would be to have him confront her in front of you, so she sees you are united.

keobooks's avatar

I keep feeling like I’m being too one sided because other people constantly tell me how delightful she is.

She’s generous and given us large sums of money. She watches my daughter once a week. She is dainty and delicate and sweet and seems to gets the vapors at such minor things. My father in law calls us up to tell us that she was up all night crying about this or that—so worried and upset. It’s always some minor thing. Sometimes my husband makes an offhand comment and she’s convinced he’s living in squalor—sometimes I make an offhand comment and she’s convinced I think she’s evil.

She has this sweet little breathy voice and is always “exhausted, both mentally and physically” (if you ask how she is, this is what she always says.) Her feelings are always hurt by someone and she’s always worrying about something. My father in law is constantly telling us to be more gentle and understanding with her because she is such a gentle sweet delicate soul that can’t take much,

And when she says all the nasty things she says, its always with a smile and with a sweet little simpering voice. I think this is why I cave every time. If she actually yelled at me or used a harsh voice, I wouldn’t mind popping her one. But she always uses this sugary little flower voice and a sad little smile. I feel like if I did anything in retaliation, she’d burst into tears and I’d look like the mean one.

jca's avatar

It seems like her voice and demeanor are manipulative – like she is a sweet flower but has an evil side. Remember your feelings next time she says something rude or nasty, and utilize that memory to stick to your guns as far as confronting her.

Jeruba's avatar

@keobooks, I had a MIL who would nice you to death. Sometimes I think I was the only one who saw through that. It made me feel guilty to have unkind thoughts about her. She practiced passive aggressive behavior as exquisitely and delicately as a Japanese flower arranger, and I felt the sting of the thorn that no one else seemed to know was there.

You’re not going to beat her at it, not if she is such a master of the form. And getting angry will indeed put you in the wrong (that’s the point, of course). Staunch ignoring does seem like the best course.

My son, in a weak moment, once explained to me a lesson that he said he had learned from his friend Jim. Jim (whose parents are both lawyers) had made the interesting discovery that if he just acted as if he didn’t hear a parental question or complaint, just played utterly deaf and didn’t react or even flinch, most of the time they were too civilized to pursue it and would just go away. And if they did lose their temper, well, then, they were the ones out of control, weren’t they? My son explained that he had been trying out Jim’s technique and found that it worked very well. (Not so much so after he let me in on it, though.) I recommend it in the present case because I’ve seen how well it works. Most of us are well trained to be polite and answer, but in fact you don’t have to.

I wish I’d had this trick in my toolkit when I was dealing with MIL.

My husband never saw the mechanism of her behavior and did not support me, although he did try to spare me long exposure and help me escape when I had to. Again I say, you are lucky.

One further thought: as your little one gets older, she will sense the tension between Grandma and you even though she doesn’t understand it. Do what you can to reduce it now, before Grandma trains your daughter to think of you as the angry, aggressive one.

jca's avatar

Re: What @Jeruba said – if I were you and I even thought for a minute she would be poisoning my child’s mind against me, I would cease to have her babysit. Also, if she is feeding the child too much, like you say, that warrants talking to her, but she probably is going to feed the child how she wants anyway. I don’t know if I would want this woman babysitting for my child.

jca's avatar

If you’d like to post an update as to how things turn out between you and her, if you have a confrontation or whatever, please do.

JCA
The Update Lady

Jeruba's avatar

@jca, do you go back to people later and PM them to find out how their stories turned out? I do that sometimes. I like things to wrap up neatly.

keobooks's avatar

Nothing so neat so far. I think she’s having some sort of anxiety attack/breakdown. She called me up last night at like 10PM to tell me that the would be thunderstorms tomorrow, so perhaps it would be too dangerous for me to drive to her house or go outside at all.

I said it would be fine and I was going to the pediatrician anyway for my daughter’s 9 month checkup. She started going on about the “concerning discoloration” on my daughter’s pinky finger. My daughter has a TINY cafe au lait birthmark on her pinky and she said I needed to ask the doctor to make sure it wasn’t dangerous and perhaps they’d do a biopsy on it.

After the doctor, I got to her house and I had a surprise present of a shopping cart cover to protect her from the germs that are in shopping carts and high chairs. She went on uabout how filthy the high chair was in the restaunt we ate in. She also got these plastic disposable place mats so that she never had to touch the tray on the high chair. I said I didn’t want the shopping cart cover, and she tried to get me to pawn it off on my cousin. Instead I tried to return it for store credit. I’ll have to give it back to her or ask for a receipt. The store wouldn’t take it but the silly cover was like 30 bucks!

I haven’t confronted her yet, but I think she’s just headed off her rocker and I’m not taking anything personally any more. She went through a bout of this a few years ago. I remember it started when she called us up one morning, saying she was up all night crying because my husband had switched from drinking Coke to store brand generic cola to save a little money. She was convinced he was deprived and half starved. It ended when she called my mother to demand that she and my mother needed to cancel our wedding because I was a poor housekeeper and my husband and I (aged 35) were too young to get married.

I tried to look back to see when this latest anxiety stuff started happening and I recall at Easter, she flipped out because someone said the bunny cake’s face had droopy whiskers and she announced that she was NEVER going to make a bunny cake EVER AGAIN since nobody appreciated it and all we could do was mock her efforts.

She’ll get over it, but I think we are in for Mister Toad’s wild ride. I’ll do what I can, but she kind of goes nuts all over the place on everyone every few years. I’m wondering if we should just ride it out. Confronting her is kind of scary when she gets like this. In the last crazy time, my sister in law made a complaint about a birthday party thing, and she cancelled all birthday parties for all of her adult children at her house. There hasn’t been one since. I don’t want to be the one who got Christmas or Thanksgiving cancelled for everyone or whatever will happen.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

What do her immediate family members have to say about this behavior? Are they brushing it off?

Jeruba's avatar

With that chilling account, @keobooks, I have to say it’s obvious that she’s not singling you out. She must be suffering a lot. But none of it is about you personally, as you can see. She’s lost her grip, and that’s a shame. Do what you can to support her without prostrating yourself as a human sacrifice.

Does a sympathetic but dismissive “Now, now, mother, you know that’s absurd” kind of thing work with her?

keobooks's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I think I’ll ask. I’ve kind of isolated myself from my sisters-in-law over the years, but maybe it’s time to just break the ice and ask.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Tread lightly dear Fluther friend, and leave it to your husband to discuss this delicate matter with his siblings and father. Our brother’s new wife shared her concerns about our mother with us, and it generated some ill will. It would have been better hearing it from our brother who didn’t vocalize any support of her opinion. For the amount of interaction you have with MIL, your input should count, but it doesn’t always get taken as the best interest in which it is offered.

jca's avatar

It sounds like she has serious anxiety issues and I would steer clear of her if I were you. It sounds like she’s not going to change her attitude, so I suggest avoiding her and seriously, if she’s so off the wall, do you want that babysitting for your kid? Don’t you think the kid is going to pick up on that anxiety?

@Jeruba: sometimes, if I come across a question in my “new activity for you” it will remind me and I may pm the person to ask if they broke up with that guy or if they still have the living situation issue or whatever. I always think it’s good when people remember to post an update, as we get quite involved in the answering of the question and the problem solving, so it’s nice to have an update to see what suggestions worked in the end.

Jeruba's avatar

Exactly. I feel the same. And often it’s a happy ending—so we like to share it.

augustlan's avatar

Wow, that’s nuts @keobooks. Doesn’t sound like any rational talking points will do much good. Maybe best to just distance yourself (and your child, IMO) from her as much as possible. I definitely agree with @Pied_Pfeffer… ask your husband to talk to his sibs about her state of mind.

Thanks for keeping us up to date on this. We’re wishing you all the best in this situation. <3

Dutchess_III's avatar

@keobooks Bite the inside of your lip before you respond. Let that urge to apologize pass in pain…hopefully that urge WILL pass, and quickly. Then just stay silent. (Wish I had time to read all of this…)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, wow. I just read your post. Nevermind my comments…..something much more serious than foolishly snippy is going on with her….I have to ask, according to your husband, has she always been like this?

jca's avatar

I have been going back to “why would you want this woman babysitting for your child?”

Dutchess_III's avatar

She’s been babysitting? I agree @jca…..

jca's avatar

@Dutchess_III: She said the MIL babysits one day a week, and she’s “unhinged” so this sounds like an accident waiting to happen!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah….she’s liable to wrap the baby head to toe in Saran wrap to ward off germs. Seriously…don’t leave the baby alone with her any more.

keobooks's avatar

I don’t think that she’ll harm my daughter. I think while it’s over the top, I think her anxiety may be more for “show and noise” than actual anxiety. I don’t want to take my daughter away from her, as that would cause SERIOUS drama, not just with her, but with my husband and the family. She frequently watches all of the grandchildren. Well, the older ones come over and play video games while she rests. She plays with my daughter for a few hours, feeds her, puts her down for a nap and when she wakes up, she calls me. It’s not a big deal.

She drives me nuts, but I think even though she doesn’t know it, a lot of her anxiety is for show and attention. She’s a more than a bit of a drama queen, but I think she’s mostly harmless.

The food thing: I should mention that I just am weird about that. I don’t like the way we feed babies in the US. I think if a baby can’t feed themselves, they are too young to eat. So instead of taking a spoon and stuffing food into her mouth, I put food on her tray and let her play with it until she figured out that she could eat it. I think its more important that she explores food at her own pace rather than being force fed. That’s just my way. It’s called baby led weaning and here is an article that explains it.

I think MOST people in America feed their kids the way my mother in law feeds her. So it isn’t dangerous. It’s just not my way. I admit that the way I do it is very time consuming—we take about an hour to eat instead of the 10 – 15 minutes my mother can get the food into her. It’s VERY messy because she has both hands and sometimes her whole face into whatever she’s eating. My mother in law’s way is very tidy. It’s probably also very wasteful. I put out a few things and she eats maybe ¼th of what I give her on a good day. She “cleans her plate” at grandma’s house. While there are some debates that the mainstream way of feeding babies is going to be on the way out soon, I don’t think it will hurt her to eat that way once a week. Also, she’s now getting old enough that she’s letting the baby hold the less messy foods. So it’s really not a huge deal.

I think that I need to learn some coping skills. I do think she’s a very anxious and probably sick person, but I think forbidding her to see my daughter and fearing for her safety is OVERKILL advice. I think her intentions are good and even though she’s a loon, she would never hurt anyone physically and she’s not with her long enough to hurt her psychologically.

I had a looney grandma and I survived. My daughter will survive just fine.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I totally agree with you on the feeding thing! Totally!

jca's avatar

I think not to forbid her to see the baby, but not to let her babysit. I also think that now your daughter is a baby and maybe unaware of crazy behavior, but babies do pick up on anxiety, and as she gets older and understands more, she will pick up more craziness from your MIL. But it’s your child and only you can make such decisions.

suzanna28's avatar

just tell her she is annoying.

keobooks's avatar

Her babysitting days are just about numbered. She’s going nuts with how much time she can handle with Maddie. It’s down to 2 hours. Considering that the drive to her house is half an hour, that’s not enough time to get anything done.

My father in law retired and she is explaining that everything is too stressful and there is so much to do now. He’s been slowly weaning off work for a year, so basically he’s home 2 more days a week than he was a few weeks ago.

I’m trying not to be cynical or uncaring, but once she told me she was mentally and physically exhausted from helping her sister plan a pizza party. I asked her what sort of things she did to make her so exhausted. She said she had to select the pizza place and figure out what pizzas to order based on the number of people attending. That caused her to need to rest up for a few days. I think my father in law confusing her with being home two extra days a week may send her into a coma after a month.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Huh. She sounds over stressed for no reason to me. My mom used to do that, but she was also suffering from dementia. For example, one year, three weeks before Thanksgiving I called and asked if she’d already been invited to my sister’s house for TG. She started off normally enough, with a “No…” but then launched into “Nobody has asked me anything!!! Nobody has invited me anywhere! Thanksgiving is coming up and no one has invited me!!”
I calmly said, “I’m asking you now, Mom. Would you like to come to our house for Thanksgiving?”
She said, “Thanksgiving? That is SO much work! So much work and so much hassle. I’d rather not.”
Is said, “Mom. We’ll be doing all of the cooking. All you have to do is visit or do whatever you want.”
Her “No. Visiting, cooking, all of that is just too much hassle. All of that hustle and bustle. No.”
So she didn’t come. And then, after Thanksgiving yelled at me because she hadn’t been invited.
How old is your MIL @keobooks?

Jeruba's avatar

Under the circumstances, you can relieve her of the babysitting duty as an act of kindness. Hiring a sitter of your choice and paying her will restore much more control of the situation to you. Then grandmother can just enjoy visiting with the baby without any pressure—better for everybody.

I used to have babysitters come in even when I wasn’t going anywhere. I often worked at home then. The babysitter was in charge of child care while she was here, but if there was a crisis I was right here, and I also had the opportunity to keep an eye on things at first and make sure she was treating the children as I expected. It actually worked out very well for letting me get things done at home when the children were small.

keobooks's avatar

New MIL story: She got worried because there wasn’t room in the garage for my husband to park his car. She was afraid that people would rip off the exhaust system and steal the catalytic converter for the platinum inside.

Oh and an edit, she’s only 69.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Is your FIL receptive to you? If so then I’d ask him to come talk with you and your husband privately about your MIL’s obsessing about your family. Tell the truth. Tell him you and your husband feel your MIL is bored, meddlesome and dramatic to the point of be disruptive. Ask if he can think of some things that would re focus your MIL on their own home, hobbies and group of friends rather than yours.

keobooks's avatar

He is somewhat receptive, but stonewalls about his wife. I think I’ll have a talk with him though after today’s incident.

My husband did a bit of a doofus thing and told his family a “funny” story about our daughter breaking past a baby lock and getting into the cat’s litter box a month ago. My mother in law has been stewing and obsessed with cat litter but we had no idea until tonight when she was convinced that when the baby was up all night with teething pain and wouldn’t sleep it was actually pain from eating the cat litter. I have no idea if she meant the cat litter from a month ago (which she did NOT eat) or that my daughter’s been chowing down on it daily for the last month.

Somehow, my daughter put her hand in a litter box a month ago and a month later, she is up all night crying. There HAS to be a connection.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m guessing the onset of dementia.

Jeruba's avatar

I hope your husband has now registered the notion that it is best not to give his mother any ammunition of any kind.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@keobooks My mom was about 70 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Paranoia is a big part of the disease.

keobooks's avatar

I am starting to wonder the same thing @Dutchess_III . This is starting to remind me of how it started with my grandmother.

jca's avatar

@keobooks: How has it been going? Did you discuss this issue with your FIL or your hubby?

JCA
The Update Lady

keobooks's avatar

She is getting a test on her thyroid next week—well it’s weird because she has no thyroid left, but they are still finding tissue or something. It’s odd. She hasn’t been able to take her medication and now she just sleeps all the time.

Sorry it’s not much.

Plummage's avatar

Don’t play her game of passive aggressiveness. Semi-sensible (the majority actually) people know when they are being unnecessarily rude, but do so out of some either desire (to prove superiority) or wrong belief that others are somewhat inferior…both of these reasons are still offensive and by choosing to behave towards her the same way you become unnecessarily rude as well (something she may use against you skillfully to prove to other people you are just as bad as her or else). So instead display your disdain towards her behavior by ignoring her and/or through facial expressions (by all means avoid smiling ‘politely’ and express your anger through intense eye contact when she throws a jab at you)...

…if she still doesn’t get it that you’re not the type of person that entertains the kind of relationship she seems to be into, then be ready to call her out on her crap preferably when you are alone with her or in front of an audience if she leaves you no choice.

Remember, you are not a toy or her baby…you’re an adult person who deserves to be respected as such.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@keobooks Would you mind providing another update?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hear, hear!

keobooks's avatar

Thanks for asking. And thank @jca for pming me. I accidentally wiped this off my activity long ago. Things are much better with her. I think it’s something between the both of us. She has been taking a lot more effective medications to treat her own anxiety, depression and thyroid disease. I have also been visiting more often and that makes her more comfortable with me and I think she’s the type who says inappropriate things when she gets uncomfortable.

Also, I’ve gotten a thicker skin. She can make suggestions and semi catty comments, and I can just ignore them. She’s the most reliable babysitter we have so I didn’t want to kick her to the curb. I don’t even notice most of the stuff she says because it doesn’t bother me. Sometimes she’ll say something about my daughter’s hair being messy and I’ll even say “Yeah.. you’re right.. go fix it up.” and she does! Maybe I should take offense but ehh.. I figure it’s one less task I have to do. If she wants to fix my daughter’s hair – who cares?

One thing that has been tough is that I didn’t realize the role my father in law was playing in the whole thing. There were many offensive things that she said that really hurt – and I realized that it was my father in law who would call up my husband, who would tell me. I told my husband to stop sending me the news from dad if it was crazy stuff. And my husband told his dad to stop relaying that.

I realized that if my husband called up everybody that I snarked about in private at home, and told them what I said, they would be really pissed off too. But what she says in the privacy of her own home to her husband should remain private. I have no idea why my father in law thinks we need to know every snarky thing she says when she may not know that it will come back to us. I am very grateful my husband never says stuff like that.

augustlan's avatar

Great to hear, @keobooks! Thanks for the update. :)

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