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Sharing Happy News With Unhappy People

Sep30

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So I am currently 6 weeks pregnant with our first (SURPRISE!) baby and we have already hit a big of a snag.  Though my parents will be ecstatic when we tell them (after the first ultrasound in a week), the same cannot be said for my in-laws.  Whenever we’ve discussed our desire to have kids, my MIL has been not so quiet about her displeasure.  She thinks that we should wait at least 5 more years to have kids (we’re pushing 30) and she has never been especially quiet about the fact that she does not care for me.  She once told my husband that he should’ve slept around more in medical school so he could’ve settled down with a trophy wife.  Seriously.  And if you had been present for the lecture she gave, in a restaurant, when her 32 year old daughter announced she was pregnant with her second child, you’d understand.  She is no typical MIL.

My husband and I have agreed to not tell them until 12 or 13 weeks, or a few weeks after the baby is born if at all possible, but I’m struggling with how to do it.  I’d really like my husband to tell them without me because I know that hormones + the lecture we’re going to get about how we don’t have the money and it’s going to ruin our lives is going to push me right over that edge right there.  But he says that he can’t do it without me because the only way that my MIL will temper her crazy rant is if I’m there.  Not that my presence has ever stopped her rants before….

I’m just not sure what to do.  Do I force him to take one for the team and refuse to attend all of his family events until he tells them, or do I just prepare for the impending train wreck and dream about all the alcohol that it would take to cushion the blow?  I’m assuming sending an email and turning off our phones and locking our doors isn’t the best way to do it.

Help please.

So I’m kind of laughing right now — not at all at your predicament, for which you have nothing but my utmost sympathy, but at MYSELF, because I’d come up with a solution before I even finished reading your letter. And my brilliant solution was to send an email and be done with it. And then I read your final sentence. Whoops. I am a bad, cowardly person, I guess.

Look, I’m all for keeping peace and respect in families — especially when we’re talking about grandparents and grandparents-to-be, but there comes a breaking point when you have a person who is not giving you one IOTA of respect in return. Then they simply don’t deserve the amount of mental headspace you’re devoting to them, in a futile effort to get them to behave ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE to how grandparents are “supposed” to act. Your mother-in-law isn’t even aware her grandchild exists and yet it seems pretty safe to say that she has already crossed that point, with you, with her daughter, etc.

Thus, you would TOTALLY have my support to simply send a dang email, or have her find out via Facebook with everyone else, and if she dared get bent out of shape and ranty and joy-stealing, to hold up your hand and tell her that she’s made her opinion known loud and clear, and you don’t expect her to agree with your decision to have children, you DO expect her to not be completely awful and loathsome about it. Or…something to that effect. And replace “your hand” with “your husband’s hand,” who does kinda sounds like he needs to sack up a little around his mother.

If you want him to do it without you because you don’t want to hear the rant, that’s PERFECTLY FINE. I just wonder why HE needs to hear the rant either, instead of telling her to shut up the second she revs up. “Mom, these things you are saying about my life, my choices, and especially my wife and my unborn child are completely unacceptable, and I need you to keep these kinds of opinions to yourself, because I’m done listening to you disrespect us like this. DONE.”

And then LEAVE if she starts disparaging you again, either at that moment or at a family function two months from now or whenever. Obviously, you can’t make her not think all these things about you and your choices, but you should absolutely be able to not listen to them. Screw that. I’m guessing she isn’t the warmest or fuzziest grandma to your sister-in-law’s kids, so I fail to see much point in bending over backwards to avoid in hopes that she won’t make you cry at the Thanksgiving dinner table by insulting your pregnancy. (Unless she improves once actual children are involved? In that case, feel free to feign morning sickness for nine months and stay the hell home until you think you’re out of the Crazy Talk danger zone.)

You’re in a tough spot, since it’s not YOUR mother, and it can be difficult to convince a significant other to have it out with THEIR parent. But it sounds like your MIL is saying all this stuff with no real repercussions from anyone, and it’s time for SOMEONE to put their foot down and tell her she’s not allowed to disrespect them that way, then follow through with leaving or disinviting her to functions if she can’t manage to stay civil. If my mother or mother-in-law let loose with some humiliating, public rant in a restaurant right after I announced a pregnancy, I would have GOTTEN UP AND LEFT. What a bully, man.

The whole “oh, that’s just how she always is, just ignore her” approach can be fine for minor in-law/grandparent/adorably-dotty-aunt peacekeeping missions, but the fact that you and your husband seem prepared to spend your entire pregnancy in fear of this woman’s mouth suggests that is a situation that’s going way beyond what anyone should have to deal with. Map out some hard boundaries now, before she’s bullying you in front of your child.

 

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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25 Responses to “Sharing Happy News With Unhappy People”

  1. JenVegas Sep 30 at 12:46 pm Reply Reply

    Man, that’s…ridiculous. My total sympathies. If you can’t find a way out of telling your MIL in person then I vote for bringing along your bestest friend/cheerleader for moral support and then letting THEM get all indignant on your behalf. Perhaps if your MIL is confronted by a total stranger about what a dill-hole she is being she’ll….I dunno? Melt like a wicked witch with a glass full of water?
    And also, if this lady cannot STFU then she totally doesn’t get to see her grandchild if you ask me. Who needs to put up with that kind of crap? Not you.
    Gah Mean People suck.

  2. Cam Sep 30 at 1:03 pm Reply Reply

    My MIL is a raving loony too, so you have my complete sympathies.  She LOVES getting to be a grandma (she has grandbaby #3 on the way now) but in every other way she’s nuts!  She has made it perfectly clear she does not care for me in the least, doesn’t think I’ll ever be good enough for her son, and generally makes my life a living hell.  She lives in a small town a couple hours from us and she has talked crap about me to the point that total strangers have somehow found my phone number to call and say “Do you know what she’s saying about you?  Can you make her stop?  It’s pretty bad!”  She THRIVES on drama and her kids pull the “That’s just how she is/that’s how she treats everyone she loves” line on me and I can’t stand that.  No, she’s an adult, she should know better!  After 12 years of sheer hell I finally put my foot down after a blow up about a month ago and told my husband in no uncertain manner I was DONE with her.  I’ll be civil to her when need be (like at family functions and holidays) but other than that I’m not going to try to invest any more time, energy, or care in to her.  The worst thing to do to her is to ignore her, because that takes away her drama and the resulting attention she is apparently starved for.  So, I’ve stopped calling, answering my phone when she calls me, I don’t answer any facbeook messages or comments, and I don’t answer text messages.  When I get any I tell my husband “your mother called/texted/facebooked….call her”.  I can tell it’s already driving her crazy and quite frankly I don’t care.  My life and my kids lives are much more peaceful now.  If hubby won’t step up and take one for the team, send the email, don’t read her reply, and don’t answer your phone.  Remember you don’t need any additional stress right now, it’s not good for you or baby.

    And by the way, congratulations!  Babies are wonderful and they might make money tight from time to time, but that happens with or without kids.  Any children you have will NOT ruin your life! :)  

  3. Sarah Sep 30 at 1:10 pm Reply Reply

    Part of me feels like saying you should video tape it and put it on youtube… but thats probably not the right thing to do either…

    I have no advice – but good luck! yikes!

  4. Eden Sep 30 at 1:19 pm Reply Reply

    Right as I gave birth, my MIL entered menopause. We used to be really close, but then when she cried every time she held my son, paired with us not being successful at breastfeeding for 8 weeks, emotions were running sky high. We ended up just taking a break from each other, and now that my son is 4 1/2 months old, we only visit when my husband is there to back me up/establish boundaries. 

  5. Frenchie Sep 30 at 1:23 pm Reply Reply

    This sounds like a terrible situation, and I agree with Amalah. If her attitude is what it is and there’s nothing you can do about it, just walk out when she starts. Or better, have your husband say “We’re happy about this and that’s that”. Also, please do update us on how this turns out, both Amalah and Crazy Mother in Law Lady.

  6. Rachel Sep 30 at 1:23 pm Reply Reply

    Um…call her on the phone to tell her so you can hang up on her when she starts ranting? Hi! I’m mature.

  7. Olivia Sep 30 at 1:49 pm Reply Reply

    I like the email idea, and I think it should be your husband who emails her. He should say this is a happy event, that both you and he are very excited and will only tolerate positive comments. You’ve already considered all the possible downsides like money and age (though shit you’re almost 30) and are nevertheless thrilled to be pregnant.

  8. Lawren Sep 30 at 2:33 pm Reply Reply

    Do you have to tell her? Given the bad reaction you’re bound to get, I wouldn’t want her to rain on my parade and would just not tell her.

    I’m also very mature. 

  9. Julie Sep 30 at 3:15 pm Reply Reply

    Can you ask your FIL for advice? (I’m assuming they are still married to each other, so I might be making an ass out of myself with that assumption.) But if he’s lived with her for any period of time, he might have some great suggestion about how to “hit” her with the news.

    Otherwise, I’d e-mail her the news… right before you two head out of town.

  10. Susan Sep 30 at 3:30 pm Reply Reply

    Amen, Amy! Your MIL’s reaction has nothing to do with you and nothing to do with your pregnancy. You informing her is about your integrity and her (crappy) reaction is about hers. And that’s it. I agree that you get to set the boundary for what you’ll accept and walk away or end the conversation when she reacts with anything other than appropriate happiness.
    BTW, this doesn’t end with telling her about the pregnancy, you will need to find a way to deal with her sooner or later because you will soon have a CHILD who will need you to guide him/her.

  11. Lydia Sep 30 at 3:55 pm Reply Reply

    Wow, yikes! But yes Amy is right. She gave up her right to be told things like this in person a long time ago. Email sounds great, or if you do it in person, be prepared to leave as soon as she gets nasty. Just tell her firmly she’s made her views quite clear and that you simply don’t have the energy to devote to such negativity (you are growing a child!). Then walk away and do.not.go.back. Be civil when needed, but otherwise let hubby deal with her. If he can’t or won’t deal, time for some counseling before wee one comes.
    And congratulations!

  12. Lydia Sep 30 at 3:58 pm Reply Reply

    Also…don’t engage her! Don’t argue with her about why having a child is a good idea and why you’re happy about it. You’re just giving her more ammo if you do that. Good luck!

  13. Danielle Sep 30 at 4:49 pm Reply Reply

    http://community.babycenter.com/groups/a4725/dealing_with_the_inlaws_and_foo_family_of_origin

    A board for Dealing with the In Laws and FOO (Family of Origin)

    Sounds like you’re going to need it.

    And I agree with don’t engage her. Your family’s reproductive choices, as well as your finances, are none of her business anyway!

  14. Margie Sep 30 at 10:57 pm Reply Reply

    Family stuff can be so hard. I haven’t figured anything out myself yet, but I want to say that I’m really sorry you have to deal with your MIL. I’m so glad your parents will be ecstatic so you can at least get that from one side! Many congratulations on your pregnancy and the wild fun ride you have ahead!

  15. Robin Oct 01 at 8:47 am Reply Reply

    I’m sure this isn’t that funny when you’re dealing with it, but it somewhat seems so to read about it. When people are being ridiculous without measure, you only have two choices. You can completely ignore them like Cam suggests. Or, if you’re in the mood, you can out-ridiculous her. For every nonsense thing that comes out of her mouth, you not only agree with her, but you outdo her with a completely serious face. It’s a game. “Oh, you’re right we think this child is a terrible idea. Can you help us figure out how to sell her on the black market? We just have no idea of pricing in this economy.” It’ll either just piss her off or make people around her laugh at her which will really piss her off. And that will be totally funny. If you have to deal with it, you might as well enjoy yourself. Good luck.

  16. Natalie Oct 01 at 12:50 pm Reply Reply

    I know it might be totally immature but i like Robin’s idea. I would take it one further and be completely awful with it though and say something (won’t share here though because I am pretty sure it would piss everone here off too!) that would probably get me disinvited to all family functions…which really how bad could that be?

  17. Marlo Oct 01 at 3:59 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with Robin and Natalie; either walk out or out-ridiculous her. If she thinks having children is such a bad idea, why did she have any? Not only that, speaking as a 35+ year old with a brand new baby, 5 years later is not the greatest idea because the incidence of birth defects and pregnancy problems goes WAY up! I agree with Amy that if she can’t respect the choices that her own son and you have made as a couple, then she doesn’t deserve to be around you. It’s very sad when people can’t agree to disagree and feel like they must convert everyone to their point of view.

  18. Genevieve Oct 03 at 7:23 pm Reply Reply

    My Mother went through something much like this with her own parents. (I know!) When she was pregnant with her third child, my Grandparents were still pulling this nonsense and it nearly broke the relationship completely. When my Mother was pregnant with her fourth child, a good family friend gave her some good advice. My Mother sent her parents a letter a few weeks before she was due to give birth telling them, “hey I am having a baby. You can either be a part of your grandkids’ lives or you can not. I don’t want to hear any your negative opinions.” (yes my Mother essentially hid her pregnancy from her parents) They flipped out a bit and then showed up after the birth of my youngest brother and acted like civilized people. As our family friend said, “They don’t deserve the good news if they act like this.”

  19. Babs Oct 03 at 7:36 pm Reply Reply

    My mom told her MIL, ” Well we argued over who had to tell you this and I lost, so…” my grandma was duly chastised and was a peach about the pregnancy. Heh.

  20. Gina Oct 03 at 8:13 pm Reply Reply

    Wow. That is a special kind of crazy.

    My mother-in-law and I used to be very close (closer than I was with my own mother) but have had several issues the past couple of years. It forever changed our relationship when being informed that I was pregnant with our third child her response was “What were you thinking?” I don’t know that I can ever forgive her for that.

    In your situation I would definitely go with email – you don’t need to go through an in-person rant. And although it sucks for your husband – he is going to have to choose a “side” in this situation and take one for the team.

  21. Erica Douglas Oct 04 at 1:00 pm Reply Reply

    My MIL is a little on the strange side (I once got a call, while I was in the middle of cooking dinner so my husband and I could eat dinner together before he left for a night of evening classes at college, from my MIL about how I needed to send my husband, her son, to a psych ward and have him locked up for four days. She was very specific about the four days. This was five years ago and I still do not understand.) but in a happy coincidence, I was 15 weeks pregnant at her birthday, so we just waited until then to tell her. We gave her a card that said, “Happy birthday, Grandma!” and she asked if it was supposed to be from our cats. We said, no, from our baby. She was like, “Oh.”

    Then she spent the next six months harassing us for not giving out a due date (we gave a due month instead, to everyone, even my work, because average pregnancy lasts 38-42 weeks!) and for not finding out the sex. She sat my husband down about six weeks before the baby was born to explain to him that he had the legal right to know about his child and I can’t keep that information from him. We told her that we made the decision together to not find out the baby’s sex and that the ultrasound tech is the only human being in the world who knows and MIL asked if she could call the doctor and find out for herself.
    So, the baby is born, I call them to invite them to the hospital and her first question isn’t the gender or weight or how we’re doing, but “When did you get to the hospital? What time?” Really, that’s what matters now? Really?
    I feel bad about it, but I’m also pretty amused that the baby starts crying whenever MIL holds her or even looks at her. Baby loves most people, just not MIL.

  22. VG Oct 05 at 9:44 am Reply Reply

    I’d probably slap her in the face if she started to rant, but that’s just me… I wouldn’t advise doing that, unless you’re like me ;)

  23. Rachel Oct 05 at 1:14 pm Reply Reply

    One trick that I have learned to de-fuse my MIL is just to say,”Well, we’re all praying for you.” Shuts her up every time.

  24. Morgan Oct 11 at 2:12 pm Reply Reply

    Oh, man, I can relate. Except that it was my mother that we were terrifed to tell. She’s a little … emotional random. A year plus before we got pregnant, she told me that me having a baby would heal all of her emotional wounds. Six months before, every second time we’d talk, she’d tell me not to have a baby because she wasn’t ready yet. (She’s 60, I’m 30.) I stressed for MONTHS about it. My dad, who used to balance out her crazy, is dead, so no help there. In the end, we told her at 14 weeks and she acted normal and happy and such. (But we went in to that dinner with a pile of backup plans in case she didn’t.) Good luck. I empathize with how much this sucks.

  25. Ashley Apr 19 at 10:43 am Reply Reply

    I can relate- I’m 32 years old married and I’m a lawyer and 7 weeks pregnant. When I told my own mother she screamed at me because she thinks I should have waited longer and was angry that I didn’t tell her I was thinking about having a child. My husband and I tried to but she always said oh you can wait until you’re 40 or 45 these days. Even though she gave me the bad reaction u tried to contact her but she won’t respond to calls or texts. It’s very hurtful but it is what it is I suppose. We are completely responsible people and we made our decision to have a baby. Despite that being said irs very hard to not let this ruin our special time. She is stubborn so this could last through my shower, the birth or perhaps forever.

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