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RE: For those whose adult children are estranged.... (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: forms on 04.23.2008 at 10:16 pm in Parents Forum

I think dangling an inheritance before his nose and using it to make him dance to your tune is really counter productive.

Chances are he'll end up with it any ways. Fast forward thirty years. Your mother is dead, your husband is dead, you are old and disabled and most of your friends are dead or taken away by their families for more immediate care, and your days are consumed by doctors' visits, medication, therapy, and the difficulties of just feeding yourself, dressing, bathing and getting about.

You are going to want your son in your life very much. You'll want your grandchildren in your life. Do you want to hear: "Yeah, mom, I'll come by on Christmas day, but not if I'm out of the will. Contact my lawyer before Thanksgiving."

So many old people are so lonely and fragile, you're likely to do it. And do you want him in your life only because you pay him for it? And if he's in your life only because you pay for it, and if you jerk him around by exploiting his greed, how long will it be before he's lying to you, making you think he's listening to you, while he's really doing what he wants? And finally how long after that will he be wishing you dead, so he can get his hands on the money and doesn't have to be your dancing bear anymore?

Pleasant thought that? Your son wishing you an early death so he can get the money and his freedom? But it would be you who taught him to be so shallow and greedy, you who conditioned him to think of money before relationships, and you'd have no room for complaint.

Don't use money to control your adult children. Share with them or not as you see fit and are willing and able, but don't try to control them with it. It will always backfire.

You asked for advice, lostmama, so I'll bite. I think you are too involved and too controlling. You told him his GF was online seeing other men (not that it was your business), so now he knows. If he doesn't care, you need to drop it. You are now doing nothing but nag.

//...Especially when it relates to her cleaning a house, getting a job or not surfing the net seeking other men while engaged to my son...///

You are completely out of line to discuss with her or anyone else about cleaning her own home or getting a job. It's offensive, insulting, and not your business. Your son is aware that she is unemployed, and still chose her. He knows the condition of her house, and still chose her. This is not your business.

//...I would also say please do not send me any gifts, cards, letters or be in contact as your contacts only hurt me more than please me...//

Is that what you really want? Him not to contact you again? Well, you say that to him, and that's what you are likely to get. Or do you really want him to rush to reassure you. "No, mom, please don't send me away, I'll be a good boy." That's not likely to happen. It's more likely he will find your pronouncement to be melodramatic and manipulative--and he'll call your bluff. And now instead of an occasional card, and flowers now and then, and a few texts and phone'll get nothing. And at your own request. You've already lost out on the wedding, do you want to lose more and more? This tactic will ensure you end up with very little from him, if anything at all.

And if it's true contact with him is too painful--then why are you contacting him? WHy write a letter? Why read the texts? Why accept the flowers and cards? Why not just stop all contact and refuse his attempts?

//...I feel I have nothing to lose by being honest as I have nothing to begin with. He seems to think sending me flowers on my birthday, a gift card at Xmas and ignoring us all year is acceptable....//

I think you have a lot more to lose than a few cards and flowers. You can lose it all. All contact for the rest of your life. All chances of knowing your grandchildren.

//...As he is our only child it truly hurts to be excluded like this//

Then why oh way would you contemplate asking him to exclude you forever? Don't you see the illogic of this and how you are working against your own best interest. He does a little bit for you; you pout because it's not enough and tell him you want no more contact because it pains you; and then you are hurt that he excludes you. This is a set up, and it's not going to work out the way you want.

//...Finally, he came around a little and admitted he may have been a "little wrong." He even said he feels bad at how he has been acting. I started to yell in the background as I was so ticked that he does not even see the full extent of what he has done to us...//

Again--you are working against your own best interests here. He's meeting you halfway, admitting his fault, and what do you do? You yell at him because it's not enough. DOn't be surprised if it's a very long time before he does that again.

Don't give him the idea that whatever he does will not be 'enough' to please you. I'm guessing he's never going to be able to do enough for you. It will NEVER be the way it was, with or without this girl. I sense you have unrealistic expectations of what he 'owes' you, and wouldn't be surprised if most of these things are really owed to you by your husband. A good therapist can help you adjust your expectations. And you asked for advice, and I'm going to give it to you: see a therapist, because you are sabotaging yourself.

///...We dislike her becasue she is lazy, has no job, has no HS diploma but pretends to be getting a degree on line, uses his credit cared to bankroll her life as well as that of her family and in fact has no real love for him as she was on the internet seeking other men 5 months into their engagement wearing a $10K ring...///

He knows all these things, sees it differently, or doesn't care. He knows her better than you do. And whether you like it or not, she meets some needs in him, she 'matches' something in him, or else he wouldn't find her attractive. You've said your piece (in fact, have probably said too much), most of this is not your business, and you need to let him lead his own life. If you raised him right, he doesn't need his mommy. If you didn't raise him right, it's now too late.

If you chase this girl away, he'll find another just like her. And resent you for chasing her away. Butt out.

//... It seems to me that if I have to censor everything I say to my son that I might as well not talk...//

Exactly. Maybe it's time to stop talking and start listening. One thing I ask my sons when they talk about their girlfriends is, "What do you like about her?" There's something big and important your son likes about this girl. Do you know what it is? If not, why not?

In any case, you will have to censor what you say if when someone is apologizing to you, you start yelling at him. Or if you start criticizing other people job and educational choices and housekeeping habits. You don't have to live with her, you aren't marrying her, you can keep your house the way that best suits you, you can pursue the career and education you want; none of this has anythig to do with you.

//...Things I have in the past tried to impart as good knowledge about life, ways to save money, ways to avoid problems with the IRS, etc. have been taken as meddling advice and created friction...//

As Dr. Phil has said, "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" If what you are saying falls on deaf ears and causes problems, why say them--you are going to pay a penalty without obtaining your goal. I know you are thinking, "I want to be right AND happy. The two choices aren't excludable." But remember, you can be wrong and unhappy too. You have to understand that you will never again have the influence you once had over your son (with or without money), and that he has to learn about life himself. What's the worst that can happen: she takes him for everything he's worth and breaks his heart. Guess what, he'll recover. It happened to me, and made me stronger and I came back richer and happier. It happens to lots of people.

Your job is now different. You aren't the boss anymore that he has to listen to. You are now support staff; not boss, not partner--support. Some mothers find liberation and freedom in that; others find humiliation and demotion. It ends up being your choice how you accept this change in your relationship with your son. And the choice you make will determine the richness of the rest of your life.

///...well that is good, means I do not have to buy a dress, be subjected to having to listen to things about the girl I wish I did not know and also not subjected to learning about her real mother shacking up with my son's college buddies like she did after the engagement party. Actually, I am glad I am not invited as it means I will not have to decline as I am too honest of a person to be a witness- I might just want to raise my hand, show the picture of the girl advertising for other men while engaged to my son and saying that there are real doubts as to her intentions. Now that would for sure crack some eggshells!..///

This is appalling. You should be ashamed of yourself. Your son knows you better than you might think, and fantasies like this play a big part in why you haven't been invited to the wedding. If you can't sincerely wish the couple happiness, you don't belong at the wedding. That you would even think of sabotaging it, even in fantasy, is appalling. THis type of thing is why you weren't invited to the wedding.

And why you may not be invited to be a big part of his life. You are wrestling for control--and he WILL win.

It's better to let go gracefully, than to make your son push you away so hard, you fall off the edge of his life.

I know you don't want to hear this any more than he wants to hear your opinion of his girlfriend. But it won't kill you to consider what I've written.


clipped on: 05.14.2008 at 05:58 pm    last updated on: 05.14.2008 at 05:59 pm

RE: Why I Cut My MIL Off (Follow-Up #41)

posted by: cindylouwhoonlytwo on 05.01.2008 at 11:03 pm in Parents Forum

"...cindylou, imagine if you can what it would be like after all you and your husband have experienced with your MIL if your own children grew up and estranged you..."

If I had a child who estranged me, I would not think it had anything to do or not to do with my MIL. I would not think that they owed me a relationship because I tolerated my MIL (maybe I misunderstood what you meant by connecting my MIL into that idea).

If my child estranged me suddenly and with no warning and if I asked and they said, "You know", and I truly didn't, I would make the assumption they didn't quite didn't know themselves. That they have feelings and upsets they don't quite understand themselves and that they needed time away from me to work them out.

(This is assuming there's no mental illness or addiction. If there is mental illness or addiction, then I do know and frankly, maybe I'm just getting too old, but I've seen the hopelessness and heartache of addiction and mental illness, and I think I'd just be grateful for being cut out).

More likely, I would have been told the answer. And I'd accept it, even if it didn't make sense. "Because you wore blue to my kindergaren graduation." Huh? Ok. I don't think I'd argue. I can't imagine arguing with an adult child. They are an adult. I barely argue with them now. My parents didn't argue with me, I never saw them argue with their parents. My aunts and uncles on both sides didn't argue with either their adult children or their parents. It's just not done. I can't imagine it.

There are differences of opinion and hurt feelings and misunderstandings and on rare occasions, conflict between adult members of my extended family. Of course there is. But everyone seems to understand a basic rule. I live my life and you live yours, and I can offer my opinion and it's fair if you don't follow it. The person who's business it is, gets the final say. The person who has the most responsibility gets to decide. The person who takes the biggest risk chooses.

We are none of us perfect people; but we don't squabble and manipulate and gang up on each other and form one alliance and then another to force family members to do what we want. And we don't stab each other in the back. That's such a bizarre concept to me. And we are very close--without melodrama. There's not a lot of conflict.

So if a child told me, "I don't want contact from you because you wouldn't let me go to Aruba on spring break." I'd respect that. I'd figure sooner or later they'd understand. Or if not, sooner or later it wouldn't matter any more. I would absolutely believe that eventually they'd come back. Not the way they were, it wouldn't be the same relationship, but had we stayed close, it wouldn't be the same relationship at 30 as it was at 20 or 10.

Would I miss them and be hurt. You bet. But I'd be comforted that I would see them again and focus on the other blessings of my life while I waited. I truly believe that if you love something you let it go, and if it loves you, it will come back. And if it doesn't come back, you never had it to begin with.

If after 10 or 20 years there was still no contact, I'd have to face the fact that it's probably for the best. We didn't have the relationship I thought we had; I didn't know them, and we obviously weren't a match even if they have half my DNA.

Do I hope to have close, intimate relationships with the families of my adult children? Of course. But I will be happy with any non exploitive relationship my children feel comfortable with. I may want more contact or less, depending on the personalities, but perfection doesn't happen in relationships; it's like tension between togetherness and individuality that has to be worked out in a marriage. When your children are adults with families, you renegotiate your relationship, and if it REALLY doesn't work for someone, you might have to walk away. Sad, painful, but realistic.

I have a coworker who is retiring and moving to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. They are delighted to have her. On a recent house hunting trip she was dismayed that her daughter seemed to expect/demand a lot of babysitting from her. She's not moving there to take on the responsibility of babysitting her grandchildren, altho she does hope to see a lot of them and participate in their lives. Things were tense as she attempted to come to understanding with her daughter. She came back and asked if things don't work out in the other state, can she have her job back. I sometimes in the past had wondered if she's a meddling MIL so much does she talk about her grandchildren. But I see now she's got a life outside them and is not exploiting her daughter's family to fill the emptiness (if any) in her own life. And she's not going to allow herself to be exploited by her daughter however much she loves her family. She sees her standing up for herself may result in a cut off; and I respect her handling of this delicate situation. I'm sure it will all work out, but I can see myself in her place; in any relationship, there's always the possibility that you or the other person will walk away for whatever reason.

You may think, oh yeah, you are so philosophical, just wait until it happens to you. Well, like anything, what choices do you have: you either accept with grace or you don't. How does not accepting with grace help anything? The ends don't justify the means. Bullying, manipulating, harassing, yelling...none of that is going to help. If you accept with grace, while you are waiting for the problem to resolve itself enough so the child talks to you again with a willingness to compromise, at least you can still have meaning and pleasure in your life.

It also gives you time to reflect as well. It might not be that you did something WRONG, it's just that you don't mesh well. And you can measure in the absence how you and your adult child's family don't mesh and what you are willing to compromise to make the relationship more pleasant for EVERYONE.

"Mom, you can never be unsupervised with my kids." "Why?" "Because you are a taurus". Huh? Well, that makes no sense to me. But why jeopardize my supervised visits with my grandchildren which can be wonderful by arguing if being a taurus prevents one from being a good grandma or not. Why fill that time with strife and anger and posturing and demands and righteousness and counter accusations when I can be on the floor playing Candyland and angling for the chocolate swamp or coloring in Barbie coloring books or stacking Lincoln logs as high as the sky. Who cares if DIL is glaring at me when my darling grandson and I are holding our breathes to see if we can make a Pixie Stix teepee?

I believe letting them go gracefully gets them back eventually, and if it doesn't, the relationship would have just caused heartache all around anyway, estranged or not.


clipped on: 05.14.2008 at 05:45 pm    last updated on: 05.14.2008 at 05:56 pm

RE: Why I Cut My MIL Off (Follow-Up #17)

posted by: magicgran on 04.01.2008 at 03:12 pm in Parents Forum

I do not write to criticize. I think you are right to limit contact with your children. Your MIL is very wrong to interfere with how you raise them. It is wrong to give them money when you say not to, it is wrong to encourage them to sneak or lie to you, it is wrong for her to answer for them when you speak for them and all the things you wrote.

I think it's also wrong for her to stand in your own house and threaten to ruin your relationship with your husband. Interfering with your husband and children are more than enough severely limit her interaction with your family. In the new Testament, in Titus, it says to warn a divisive person twice, then turn your back on them. And you are not following the commandment to honor your parents by allowing her to behave basely to you. Christ warned that He was coming as a sword to severe unhealthy relationships. And this sounds like an unhealthy relationship.

I do not want to preach to you. You may not be christian and did not ask for spiritual guidance or insight, but did mention she was a christian, so I added that.

I do not want to justify or excuse your MIL's behavior, but perhaps I can explain it some. You asked why she does it. Maybe I know a little bit why. She's still wrong though.

The world is very different than it was when some of us were born. It's hard for young people to know how different. I was born in 1916, am 92 years old and have seen the changes myself. People have always cut off family members. This is nothing new. What is new is who gets cut off now. Before it was homosexual children, children who married outside their faiths, women who drank, men who smoked, anyone who committed adultery, children who did not follow the careers their parents chose or marry the partners their parents wanted, and daughters who were not virgins at marriage or had out of wedlock children. I had a friend who's aunt was cut off because she voted.

Before it was parents who cut off children, and now it's children who cut off parents. The greatest value was family and individuals did not matter. Even in not cut off families there was a lot of secret anguish and misery. People felt more trapped. So you got cut off for not conforming. Today the value is on individuals and not so much family. People are no longer trapped. If you are not happy, you have choices, you can't blame being trapped, you are responsible for your own life and happiness. If anyone hinders those choices or impign on that happiness, no pity for you to allow it. You are expected to stand up for yourself. Before there was no way for women to be independent so they were taught, taught, taught to stick with the family. The alternative was the poorhouse or the workhouse. So you had to please your family at all costs.

I think this way is better. People are so different, different things make them happy. They should follow their own paths and take responsibility for themselves. There is actually a lot in my opinion fewer unhappy families. Less violence in family, less sexual abuse, less tyranny, and I think more love. People are only together because they love or maybe because they are weak and scared. But for whatever reason, today it's a choice and not a trap.

But women born in the 10s, 20s, and 30s, grew up very different from women today. Maybe this is not your MIL, maybe she was born in the 50s, or 60s, but older women were raised so different back when I was young. It's closer to how women in muslim countries are raised.

So because they were raised differently, they think differently and believe different things. When some of your parents were raised they were not allowed to go to college. No matter how rich or smart. Most colleges would not let women go. There were only a couple jobs women could have, nurse, teacher, shopgirl librarians, secretary, maybe telephone girl. That is all. ANd when you got married, you had to quit your job. Except during the war, and then after the war women had to quit. You could be a servant or a wash woman, but that was shameful, some women worked in a factory, but that was shameful too.

I can't explain why that was, it just was. So once you were married you only had two choices of being supported: your husband or your family. You were taught to please your husband so he wouldn't leave you. Him leaving was disasterous. You would have to be a washerwoman or go to the workhouse. Or you'd have to go back to your family. So you put up a lot from your husband and you put up alot from your family because you were scared not to. Men were scared not to because they had to get their beginnings from their father's. You got a piece of land from your father, you got an apprenticeship through your father, you got the starting of a store or business from your father. Man or woman, it was desperate for you to alienate your parents, even if they were bad people.

And there was a lot of brainwashing on this score. You heard it from your family, from the community, from the church, from literature. You couldn't help but believe you didn't count much and the family did.

And that's something else. In today's world you have to find a place for yourself. The world is more generous about moving over and making room for you. All you need is is talent or interest or the willingness to work hard and improve yourself and today you can make a life for yourself. A couple generations ago, you were assigned a place, you were a daughter, wife, grandmother, widow. If you left your place, people would be so outraged, they would NOT make room for you to make a life for yourself. That was bad in it's way, but good in another way. As long as you followed the rules and kept to your place, you would always belong.

I think a lot of older women still take this very seriously. Followed the rules and kept to your place and you know what to expect. They worried a lot about what the rules were and to follow them. I know I worried a lot about it. Maybe you would not believe how restrictive the rules were, things like not wearing purple, not putting your hair in a certain style, not using certain words even like 'darn' (but you could say 'drat'). Women talked all the time about who did what and whether it was okay or not, and this was how you learned the rules that made your place in the community secure. There's no real reason why someone can say 'drat' but not 'darn', but it was important to know and the only way to find out was to talk to other women and come to a concensus.

Some of the complaining younger people do about how much older women talk, may be because older women are still using very detailed talk about each other with each other as a way to establish that concensus of what's right and wrong. Perhaps not your MIL, but maybe others.

I think also women, particularly older women use talking about people as a way to bond. Your MIL by insisting on talking to you even when you don't wish to talk may simply be trying to bond. "Here's something we both have in common", and she gives her viewpoints on your husband, her son, or how she raised her babies--not so much to tell you what to do, but to share and bond.

It used to be that you never bragged about people in your family. You'd never say, "My son won first place in the spelling bee". It would be rude and bragging and obnoxious. Fifty or a hundred years ago the only things you were allowed to say about your immediate family were gently disparaging. "Oh George, he's always late." That was extremely acceptable. It showed you weren't partial and signalled that you weren't blind to your husband's or your children's faults.

To you this might seem like backstabbing and appalling, but to her, she's just demonstrating a willingness to share common experiences in an attempt to bond with you and to demonstrate that she's not one of these foolish doting, my-son-can't-do-anything-wrong type of mothers, she wants you to know it's safe for you to talk to her.

I understand you are uncomfortable with her criticizing people you know mutually, particularly family members. It's a different ethic, to you perhaps that shows loyalty and integrity. Never say anything about someone that wouldn't be said to their faces. You aren't wrong. And perhaps it's better. I think more people these days agree with you, than agree that the way to bond with another person is to gossip about them behind their backs. But it's possible your MIL was taught differently.

I understand also you asked her not to do it in front of you any more. That's fair. It makes you uncomfortable. You said she continues to do so. This does make her wrong. It's as true now as it was 100 years ago, a good person tries to make the other person comfortable in a relationship. I agree with you that she is wrong to continue bashing your loved ones to you, but please consider she may not know what to say if she can't do what she's been raised to do and has been doing for 60 years.

We used to be taught that a positive female characteristic was to be vivacious. Now that's considered to be 'babbling'. Women were taught to keep the conversation going. To be a good conversationalist was a wonderful compliment. Today that's considered to be a 'motor mouth'. Your MIL may think she's being friendly and when you rebuff her, she doesn't think she's being pushy and obtuse, she thinks she's turning the other cheek and trying again. You may see her constant talking as assaultive and rude. She thinks she's reaching out. Neither are wrong, it's a misunderstanding.

She also might talk a lot because she's nervous. It's scary trying to win your DIL's favor.

Also about complimenting. It used to be you never said anything nice about your immediate family or YOURSELF, instead you waited for other people to do it. It was understood that everyone must compliment everyone else extravagantly, or else no one would ever feel good about themselves. People were taught NOT to think well of themselves, but to have humiliting and be humble and modest. If you were complimented, you secretly loved it of course, but would deny it. "You like this dress, oh it's just an old rag. But thank you." You were never allowed to say. "Oh thank you, it's my favorite dress too." You got all your 'esteem' from outsiders. THEY told you you were smart, funny, nice, a good cook, etc... You never told yourself. It would have been embarassingly conceited. So people complimented each other all the time, over and over.

People don't do that anymore. They get 'self' esteem. They evaluate what they do and measure their accomplishments against their values. I think over all it's better. It's good to have a firm inner compass, calibrated by social expectations (without the social calibrations, though, you can get yourself in trouble by becoming that conceited person my parents warned about). In life ultimately you have to depend upon your own good sense and judgment. It's wise to teach children how to do this from childhood.

However, remember, there are a lot, an awful lot of women who were not taught this. They were taught to ignore their own estimation of themselves and to rely only on what other thought of them. In other words to rely on those compliments that used to be given so freely--and aren't any more.

This is a horrible social change for so many women. Suddenly no one is affirming them, complimenting them, or making them feel valued. And for a lot of women this social change came at the same time a predictable life change occurred, they got older and their children left home.

It might be hard for younger women to understand how lonely older women are, and how invisible. Once you are about 50 you just don't exist. Sometimes in a retirement add you see a white haired woman with her husband, but other than that, society gives women a clear signal that they are to vanish. But we don't. If you don't have a husband, don't have children living in your house, and don't have a job, it is very easy to become invisible, unwanted, unnecessary, forgotten, abandonned, hidden, unreal, obliterated, and unappreciated. You feel like you don't count for anything. YOu feel worthless. PARTICULARLY WOMEN WHO WERE TAUGHT TO GET ALL THEIR VALUE FROM OUTSIDE THEMSELVES.

Women who were extroverted have it the hardest, because as you get older there is so much loss, loss of health, mobility family members thru death (and nowadays thru estrangement), loss of friends. You find you can't go up and down stairs any more, so you lose your house and have to move to an apartment. You can't drive any more, so you lose your freedom. Your kids become self sufficient, so you lose your place in their lives.

Smart older women join groups, make friends, get out and about, whatever the bother. I remember after my husband died assessing my life and feeling the horrible sick feeling that my life was over too, I was unnecessary, unneeded, unimportant, and worthless. I got lucky though, something in me said, that means I can do whatever I want and no one will care, and I did join groups. I learned about gardening, cooking, genealogy. And it was through genealogy that I learned about computers and the next thing I know, I'm having more fun than I ever had in my life.

But a lot of women don't make that leap. They become depressed and then it becomes impossible to join any groups or make new friends or take an interest in travel. Everyone needs to be loved and recognized and appreciated and wanted. ANd the truth is that a lot of older women are not getting any feedback that they have any value. They are lonely. And feel useless. And they watch tv all day and obsess about their health. And they remember how when they were young, older people had a place in the world. And they feel that someone should make a place for them, they should have to do it themselves, that their place is there, like a reserved seat at the opera, and somehow they are being excluded unfairly from their place.

They don't realize that in today's world you have to make a place for yourself. So they turn to their children and demand 'their place back'. Usually the place that their grandparents had. And God made us social creatures, hungry for recognition and love. So when it becomes clear to them that they no longer have a rightful place in the center of their children's lives, they feel desperate and do stupid, desparate things.

It used to be there was so much work and so little entertainment, that an extra pair of hands and another sociable body was always welcome. Grandma could cook, sew, wash, dust, mind the baby, shop, knit, help out in the family shop, etc... there was ALWAYS something for her to do.

Young people today don't realize how easy their lives are work-wise. Women cooked everything from scratch. Three full meals a day. Bread from scratch. Everything you ate or drank was homemade from raw ingredients. All the laundry, including sheets and towels and diapers had to be washed. It was a monumental job. Endless dishes to wash too. Diapers for babies. There used to be more babies. ANd sewing. You sewed everything. ANd if you wanted something pretty, you learned to embroider. And when socks got holes in them you knitted more or darned them. And there were usually more babies. Today's women have one or two, maybe three. Of course, they want to spend those sweet years with their babies and not drop them into grandma's lap.

Years ago, their were five, six, seven babies, and they came close together; mother's were grateful to drop a baby in grandma's lap. There was always another one coming along, an unlimited supply of babies. When you were done having them, your children started. The wonderful lovely baby time was not a limited commodity back then as it is now. There were enough babies for everyone.

There was enough 'expertise' for everyone too. If DIL was an expert cook, grandma could be the expert sewer. If DIL was expert cook and sewer, grandma could be the expert storyteller or vegetable gardener. There was enough room and enough work for everyone for everyone to get their share of recognition.

Now, houses and families are small, notions of privacy are bigger, and there's less 'women's work'. If you are an expert seamstress today, you are obsolete. Daughters and DILs can work and run their houses without help--in fact, it's easier to run a house without help--unless it's the anonymous cleaning service that comes in while you are at work. It used to be you got points for folding your sheets correctly. Today no one cares. Older women feel so useless, lonely and obsolete.

Please younger ladies, have pity on them. You will probably fill your golden years with projects and hobbies and entertainment. Many, many older women got stuck between two worlds; they don't know what to do with themselves if they can't be in charge of a family.

And there's nothing like being desperately lonely and frighteningly obsolete. All the reasons they were beloved and got praise for for fifty years of their lives are gone. They feel driven to make things better for themselves, and perhaps foolish, mean, frantic tactics.

Remember, a couple generations ago, women were taught NEVER to have 'needs' and especially never to get 'angry'. That was for selfish women, or for unlovable women. The social pressure preventing women from being angry has been particularly intense, probably up to the 1970's. There are a lot of women, many, many women, perhaps even most women who were born before then who learned that if they expressed anger, they would be unloved, ostracized, and abandoned. Many many women are intensively afraid to be angry.

And yet, many older women are angry. Why? Because life changed and left them behind. Because they weren't prepared for today's world. Because they thought they were married for life and it was enough to put supper on the table and keep the house clean and got divorced because they didn't make their husbands happy (not that they tried to make them happy either). They are angry because life stomps on everyone eventually, and stomped on them too and so many things they wanted out of life didn't happen and they know now never will. They are angry for all the reasons everyone else gets angry, and more.

And yet, they fear admitting to being angry, even to themselves. Anger equal rejection and unlovability. It's a horrible conundrum. And it makes some women downright neurotic.

I'm supposing your MIL can't admit she's done anything wrong because it would make her too vulnerable; she would be validating your reason to reject her and for her son and grandchildren not to love her. So she denies it, or lies about it, and tries to pretend it didn't happen. Fifty years ago, when people thought family was more important than individuals this is how they handle mistakes one family member made to another. Now individual relationships are more important and an adult child usually wants to 'come to an agreement' with the parent, one which include self-recrimination to the older parent and demands for change on behalf of the children.

Your MIL could be frightened by your anger and desperately lying and denying to get you to lapse into a resolution she feels most comfortable with: just sweeping it under the rug. Your anger may remind her of her own anger and create in her a need to get your acquiesence, so she can quell her own scary anger. Remember when I wrote about how women would talk about what was acceptable and not acceptable. Pretty much the only socially sanctioned anger a woman was allowed, was against women who did not follow the concensual social mores. So your MIL talks to her friends, who believe the same truths as her, and then they decide you as a DIL aren't following their rules of behavior, and she gets self-righteously angry.

I agree your MIL is wrong and behaving probably in ways even she knows is wrong. It was never right to simply invite onself to another person's house. But possibly she is so lonely and desperate to belong to your nuclear family, she bends the rules and assures herself that's it's her right because he's her son and family doesn't wait for invitations. When her son tells her otherwise, she ignores him, because the alternative is to be alone in her apartment, with the tv and radio and nothing to do all day, feeling the walls pressing on her and convinced that she's been forgotten and shelved and is useless and invisible. I've had that feeling, and it's a panicky feeling.

Your MIL knows that you don't go to someone else's house and criticize the food and entertainment they provide. But she might actually not be criticizing the accommodations but hungering for compliments. She knows not to give the kids things you've banned. That was not permitted a hundred years ago, of course it's not permitted now. It's never been the right thing to do. But she's desperately trying to buy their love and attention. It's the shortcut to getting grandchild approval.

I am appalled that she would encourage the kids to lie or sneak, but that's the same thing. She wants the kids to rely upon her. She wants to form bonds with them based on disliking their parents. It's a cheap and immoral and selfish thing for her to do. But I believe it's done out of desperation to find some place to fit in. I do not think God will be lenient with her at the Day of Judgment, but perhaps you can understand why she's driven. Is she number one in anyone's life? Is there anyone who puts her first? Probably not. It's a bad feeling to know that you are not on the top of anyone's list and a salve if you be first with your grandchild.

I'm not excusing her. That you've spoken to her and your husband has as well, and she will not listen and change her behavior to make her presence more welcome in your lives is unexcusable. It shows pride and arrogance on her part. I don't blame your for limiting her influence and contact; but for your own sake try to imagine what it's like to be her.

Sorry this is so long. I wrote it over three days.


clipped on: 05.14.2008 at 05:49 pm    last updated on: 05.14.2008 at 05:54 pm