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Mother In Law causing problems

Community Member

Hi Everyone,

I am having kind of a nervous breakdown because of my MIL. For about 3 years now she has been causing problems within our family and its even affecting my daughter so badly that she is chewing the insides of her mouth to the point where they bleed she is 3. Basically my main issue right now is we have tried to limit the amount of times we see her due to the affect her instability has on my daughter and my marriage. But when she hasn't seen us for two weeks she will start crying and getting upset and when we do things without her and put pictures on Facebook we get passive aggressive comments about how she would've like to have been there too. She has my father in law and brother in laws calling us and suggesting we buy her framed pictures of the kids and let her babysit them for us which we don't want to do because she never does what we ask we ant trust her.

It's got to the point that now every time my doorbell rings or the phone rings I freak out and suffer panic attacks worrying she is going to start some argument or say something to upset me. We had an argument a few weeks ago and we tried to get her to admit that her tears were all about wanting to see her grandchildren more but she wouldn't admit that it was about them, she just said it was about my husband not texting once a month even though we see them 2+ times a month.

Its my sons 1st birthday soon and I don't think I can handle it. Last time she came over (my daughters birthday) I was so nervous I had a terrible time, I felt sick my eyes kept blinking, couldn't make eye contact. Is it weak to say Im not up to it and make an excuse to cancel? I don't know how to handle all of this I am overwhelmed. I wonder if Im being brave accepting my limits or being weak by trying to skirt my responsibilities?

They live 5 minutes away from us and we keep seeing them everywhere we go there is no escape. I don't feel like I can relax anywhere. 

Thanks for listening anyway, any advice would be appreciated.

29 Replies 29

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Reyna,

I am 51yo father of five and grandfather to a beautiful 1yo girl.

Your absolute responsibility as a parent is to your children and I hope your husband feels the same way. Forgetting she is the MIL, would you allow another person that caused you or your kids such distress to be around you or them?

Listen to your instinct. You said that "we can't trust her", so I imagine that includes your husband? He is her son and your children's father. He should do what he has to do to protect you and them.

Passive aggressive and manipulative behaviour is wrong and abusive. Children soak up their environment and yours are far too young to withstand that sort of manipulation.

I wonder if it is possible for your husband to take responsibility for drawing boundaries around what is permissible with your children? After all, it is his mother. You should not need to manufacture excuses, I would advocate the truth. There isn't a reasonable person that would criticise a parent for doing what is best for their child/ren.

I am sorry if I sound harsh but anything that is detrimental to you will impact on your children and anything that puts your children at risk is unacceptable. I would be mortified if my daughter or son in law felt that the couldn't trust me around their baby or that I was causing them grief!

As to your own health, have you discussed this with your GP? You may need some professional support to get you through this to where you need to be.

Again, I urge you to put the welfare of your very young children ahead of everything else and at all costs.

Kind regards, John.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Dear Reyna

So pleased you are able to write in here. Welcome to the forum. I agree with everything John has written. Care of your children is paramount.

I have 8 grandchildren. My 18yo grandson lives with me because it is too far for him to travel to work from his home. Like John I would be horrified and mortified if to feel I was not trustworthy. My younger grandchildren stay with me from time to time as well.

John has suggested talking to your GP and I think this is a great idea. Getting additional support from psychologist could be a tremendous help to you and your husband, especially in working out boundaries.

In the meantime, have you considered options such as blocking her phone calls? You can still phone MIL on occasions when you feel up to it. Perhaps she can visit but only with her husband so that he can see the effect she has on your family and will agree to monitor her behaviour. It's easy for someone to say, let MIL babysit if they have not seen her in action. However, giving her photographs is a good idea. It shows you are willing to share your family, but only in a controlled manner. You will also have more support from the other in-laws.

Are your childre MIL only grandchildren?  If not, how does she behave with the others? Are there any other babies due in the extended family? This could take the pressure off you.

Concentrate on what behaviour you want from MIL and explain this to her in as gentle a manner as possible. Preferably by your husband. Give reasons. Perhaps FIL could also be present to understand the difficulties. I don't know how this would work. Good topic to talk about to your doctor or psych.

I do hope my comments are useful. Would love hear from you again.

Warm regards


Community Member

Thanks Mary and John,

I have seen my doctor today and she has given me a referral for a Phycologist. Hopefully I can get some help with this.

I know she would be mortified to know the affect she is having on my daughter (she prob wouldn't care about me or my marriage) but up until recently I haven't told her that its HER in particular, just told her that my girl gets overstimulated and tantrums if we do too much at once.

I am really interested in your perspectives since you are both grandparents. What amount of contact between Grandparents and Grandchildren is considered fair?

On a Babycenter forum I posted something similar and they all accused me of being mean and that I should just let her see my daughter and let her babysit alone if thats what she wants, let her have it. The brief reasons why we aren't comfortable doing that are she just doesn't respect our boundaries, when we tell her not to do something like kiss the kids on the mouth (she gets coldsores constantly) she will say yes but do it anyway or let them play with coins and drink out of her water bottle. Plus my husband and I are attachment parents, we want to be with our kids we love spending time just us! My husband works long hours and only gets a little amount of time with them during the week so the weekends are our time.

I am just tired and fed up of dealing with this. I like her as a person but I don't like being manipulated and emotionally abused. She just doesn't see that the more she tries to control us the further we back away. We wont be pushed around anymore and thats why all of this started, because we stood up for ourselves.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Wow this woman sounds like a right a piece of work. If your husband agrees with you and is prepared to stand beside you, Id be syahding together as a team and saying "you will not treat our family this way".


she had no right!!! She does not own your husband nor does she own your children- so if she stands there saying "she has a right". No she does NOT. You are not possessions that she can treat how she wants- you are PEOPLE. You are suffering, your hubby is suffering, your marriage is suffering, your poor little children are suffering all because this TYRANT of a woman thinks she has the right to *emotionally abuse* you. That is what this is- emotional abuse.


you ask how much time should grandparents see their kids? Well.., as much as they deserve. If they are wonderful grandparents who treat their family (even the inlaws) with love, if the grandkids enjoy seeing them, if you as parents trust their care and judgement, then as often as you like.

If she causes this much damage, causing yourself and your hubby distress, but most of all those innocent little children, then NONE. She has no right to subject children to such trauma.

tge worst part is I bet she won't even admit what she's doing. I bet she'll say it's your fault, that you've turned your hubby and kids against her. She'll say she feels blamed, like everyone is being ridiculous or unfair against her.

*those are the tactics of emotionally abusive, manipulative, destructive people*. That is what they do. They are incapable of seeing themselves as the ones at fault- it is always everyone else's problem and everyone else's fault.

sje isn't capable of asking the right questions. she blames your husband for not calling or visiting enough. The real question is: why doesn't my son want to visit me? What is it about me that makes my son and his family not eaht to visit?

hey, I drive over an hour each way to see my mum, and an hour the other way to see my gran. I'd go out of my way to make sure they would see any future kids I have as often as they want because they are good kind people who Id trust with my Childrens lives AND my children's emotional wellbeing. Don't get me wrong, my mum and I disagree all the time- but we do it respectfully and lovingly, we show nothing but love whether we are in disagreement or in agreement. THAT is a healthy relationship- this thing with your MIL is just... She needs to get her act together.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Reyna,

I am sure the psychologist will be very helpful in all this. White Rose and Beltane have raised some good talking points, too.

You asked how much time is reasonable for her to see your children. The answer is, whatever you decide. I see my granddaughter about once a week. I take my daughter and her to lunch somewhere and get to see them both for a couple of hours or maybe less if my daughter is busy or bubba is tired. I'd like more but my daughter is busy and has her own life to live. She has a job, a husband, a house and a new baby. I did my job when she became an adult and no longer depended on me. I think that is the hard thing for older people to accept.

When our children are young they need us for survival. As they grow they need us for support and even now, my 13yo son will often ask basic questions like, "Can I have a drink of water?" Of course he can but he is too young to be confident enough to do everything without seeking permission and I think it becomes a habit. By the time they are adults, they will do things like buy a whole house without your input (maybe). That is where I think some parents have trouble letting go.

I often want to give my daughter "advice" but it is important that she parents her own way. Unless the baby was to be in imminent danger, it is important for my daughter to find her own way through parenting. I think she is doing an excellent job. I grew up with my mum over-riding me (like you've described) and it really irked me. Sure, my mum raised me, but she only did the best she could. I wanted to do better and I want my daughter to do better than me. Times change and I need to recognise that the treatments, medical advice, nutritional advice, educational advice and myriad of other options my daughter and her husband must choose from is more than I ever did and I need to respect their basic intelligence and desire to do their best. I must trust them.

Finally, I am not responsible for my grand daughter. They are. I cannot step in and run the show as I am not the one that will answer for her development. Sure, I wish sometimes I could see her more. I wish sometimes I could tell my daughter the "right" way to do something. I wish I had the time and experience as a new dad that I have now. After all, though, I am not entitled to raise my grand daughter or enjoy the beautiful moments that only parents get to know. It is not my right and I would not rob my daughter or her hubby of that.

Kind regards, John.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

dear Reyna, another grandfather here to, but I live a couple of hours away from them, but speak to the oldest who is almost 3 once a week, the other grand daughter is growing but 7 months old.

My son and his Mum, my ex, don't see eye to eye all the time, she's loving to the children and the oldest loves seeing her, but she has to give a couple days notice before she can see them, so this causes a problem for her, and wonders why she has to do this, but that's their rules, only because my son /wife might have other plans, but my ex won't accept this.

With your situation all what has been said above has been done by experience, and I couldn't agree any more, your children are your greatest concern, their your children, and there has to be rules that need to be abided by, and if your MIL choices to ignore them, then the restrictions become greater.

You have to remember that your 3 year old obviously gets very nervous around your MIL, and kids can pick up if they like someone or not, and by hurting her mouth is a true indication, and soon your son will be growing, and how fast they grow, so protect your lovely children, that's first and foremost. L Geoff. x

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Reyna,

I was thinking about you today and I wonder how you are going.

Kind regards, John.

Community Member

Hi Reyna,

 I understand where you are a bit as I've experienced the manipulation you are talking about from your MIL from my own mother.  The "poor me" syndrome but not caring that their behaviour is not acceptable and sometimes just plain ugly in their selfishness and the costs to others personally.

 Your daughter is chewing the inside of her mouth because it is a form of release for her.  A bit like self-harm.  I do it myself and have been doing it from a young age because of family issues.  Your daughter is probably feeling caught up in all of it and not the least your MIL's behaviour.  Kids are very good at observing without us knowing most of the time.

I hope you don't mind if I make some suggestions that helped me to distance myself from the toxicity and selfishness I was being put through.

Sit down with your husband and perhaps the best way is to hash out what is reasonable behaviour and not and what she is allowed for you to be able to accept for you and your children.  You deserve a life better than being made to feel ill from her behaviour and intimidated.

Okay, then stand your ground with your MIL on those things.  It will be awful and guilt inducing at first I think as she's been putting the manipulation on you for quite some time yes?  After that it will start to feel better.  I realised after a while it was not that I was feeling guilty but actually it was that I thought there would be a backlash from them over me cutting them off.  I felt better.

Anyway also when she rings or talks just continually change the subject when she brings up anything negative.  It will take time but she will get the message you are not going to tolerate it.  She will probably be annoyed.

The kids shouldn't have to spend time with her if she is awful to them.  Explain to family - FIL that kids are feeling uncomfortable and the behaviour specifically that is not tolerated.  He can explain to her himself if he likes.  I'm sure if you say xyz is reasonable but abc is not it will get through.  At the end of the day you are in a hard position but stick to your guns.  She probably has nothing better to do and has invested no time in her own life so this is why she has time to behave like this.

Best of luck.  I found talking to a psychologist who can talk you through how to be strong and set clear boundaries and strategies a way forward.

I disagree john , the children are a secondary concern. the most important relationship is the one between husband and wife