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Old January 23rd, 2008, 10:37 AM
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Question A Couple ?'s for the DILs Out There

I'm a new MIL, my son got married 8 weeks ago. There has already been a small problem that I didn't see coming. In retrospect, I should have come here and asked these questions before becoming a MIL, but I didn't.

1. What do you think the specific role(s) of a MIL are?

2. What are the specific boundaries that you feel a MIL should adhere to?

I would appreciate thoughtful answers as I want to use the advice to curb anything that might happen later.

Thanx!
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 10:50 AM
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Re: A Couple ?'s for the DILs Out There

Well, I find it hard to answer question #1 with a definite list of specifics. The trouble I have with my MIL (who is not a bad or mean person, but she is needy and clingy) is that she doesn't realize that people are different, so everyone's idea of the ideal family is different. I'm an independent minded introvert, she's a communally minded extrovert. She drives me crazy, DH too. She doesn't want to drive us crazy, and it's not that she doesn't care whether she drives us crazy. She just can't get it into her head that everyone's idea of pure bliss isn't constantly being in a large group with everyone and lots of bustle and commotion all the time.

So, as for question #2, I think the most important boundary is remembering that personalities are different and families are different, and now you're trying to blend two different sets of expectations. So, first, pay attention and try and see what you can figure out about your new DIL. Try not to have assumptions about one personal style being "better", about one being "cold vs. warm" or one "intrusive vs. independent." Banish all thoughts that start "Family always does...xyz."

They're just preferences, like having a favorite color. It's not "best" to like red. It just is. What's bad is if you like red so much that you try to make everyone else wear it and decorate with it.

And if paying attention is not enough to help you figure it out (people do tend to put on a bit of a false face with ILs), ask.

I'll probably have to be careful not to seem cold and distant to a future DIL (when my intention is to respect independence and self-sufficiency). So hopefully I'll be following my own advice when the day comes!
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 10:57 AM
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Re: A Couple ?'s for the DILs Out There

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
I'm a new MIL, my son got married 8 weeks ago. There has already been a small problem that I didn't see coming. In retrospect, I should have come here and asked these questions before becoming a MIL, but I didn't.

1. What do you think the specific role(s) of a MIL are?

2. What are the specific boundaries that you feel a MIL should adhere to?

I would appreciate thoughtful answers as I want to use the advice to curb anything that might happen later.

Thanx!
Do you mind us asking what the small problem was? Or is it now irrelevant?

It's difficult to answer your questions with SPECIFIC answers because they would be specific to an individual. The way I answer the questions you pose may not necessarily be that of your own DIL.

As for boundaries, though, I say treat them the way you would any other adult friend couple that you have. Examples: call before going over, don't criticize their parenting or taste in decor, be flexible, and keep the lines of communication open with BOTH of them. Don't make assumptions that they will want to celebrate holidays the way you did it in your home. When in doubt, just ask.

I recently read a book that I think you might find interesting and educational. The author is Jane Isay and the name of the book is Walking on Eggshells-- Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents It's written from a parent's perspective and does give several examples and stories of what adult children (and their spouses) wish from and/or expect from their parents as they start their own life.

Good luck to you and I applaud you for making the effort to have a good relationship with your son and his new wife.
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 10:57 AM
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Re: A Couple ?'s for the DILs Out There

Quote:
And if paying attention is not enough to help you figure it out (people do tend to put on a bit of a false face with ILs), ask.
Good one!

I didn't think that a "false face with the ILs" was something that was going on or would happen. I thought when I met her that thats exactily how she was. Things are alittle different now. I, honestly, was not presenting a false anything when I met her. I feel confused and I'm actually losing alittle sleep over this.
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 11:01 AM
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Re: A Couple ?'s for the DILs Out There

I am not sure what issues have already arisen but I would suggest:

1. Just because you are a parent to one person in the couple - do not assume you have the same level of a relationship with the new spouse. Relationships take time to build. Your DIL may want to do things with her mother and not you as your level of relationship is different.

2. Don't forget the spouse has a family of origin too - and that family has traditions and does things differently - different does not mean wrong. (Gah, if I could only have gotten my ILs to get this one.)

3. Remember - the couple's house is THEIR house - it is not the H's or the W's house - it is their house - my ILs assumed the house was only H's and proceeded to treat me as a hired hand - and felt they had the right to do whatever they wanted to and in our house since they were H's family. Please consider yourself an invited guest in their home - not the matriarch.

4. You, your husband and your children are now your son's extended family - his wife and their subsequent children are his immediate family.

5. Please remember that any decisions on how the couple spends their time and who they visit etc, are done as a couple - do not make your DIL the scapegoat for misunderstandings or lack of attention from your son. IE This year will be their first year as a married couple on Valentine's day. They will be spending that time together - and you may or may not be acknowledged - it is not that they don't love you -they are building their relationship.

That's all I can think of for now... I am sure I'll have a brainstorm later.

Disclaimer - these are things that would have helped my DH and I in our relationship. It was specifically these things that drove a wedge between the ILs and DH & I. Right now they are all frustrated that we won't move closer, but they laid the foundation for our current relationship in the first 5 years we were married.
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 11:12 AM
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Re: A Couple ?'s for the DILs Out There

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Originally Posted by elaine View Post
Do you mind us asking what the small problem was? Or is it now irrelevant?
They are supposedly moving here, which is several states away. My son and I have always been extremely close, there hasn't ever been a subject that was off limits. A couple weeks ago, he was discussing eventually buying a house with me and asked me questions about the cost of our mortgage and other financial information. I replied without further thought then went on to ask him about his financial situation with regard to saving money to be able to move here. He told his wife that I asked about their savings and she got upset. She didn't blow a gasket or anything though. She texted me, and in a nutshell, told me that there were things that I wasn't to discuss with my son, that certain things weren't my business. She related that she wanted to clear this all up because she didn't want to have any problems with me. My son told me that she made the comment after that "whats next, is she going to tell us how to raise our kids?"

I am very hurt by all of this. I didn't see anything wrong with what I asked and I didn't think my son was out of line asking me personal financial questions. I understand, after reading a lot of forums on MIL/DIL relationships, that asking financial questions is well, out of the question. I guess the scope of my relationship with my son now has to exclude being able to answering his questions too? I don't know.

I do NOT know if this is true or not and I don't even want to know if he's right but my husband thinks that since my son and I haven't lived near each other for several years, and since his wife has been the only woman in his life for the past 3 years, that after meeting me and seeing how close my son and I are, she's alittle jealous of him having a close emotional connection with another woman.

I'm putting that idea of my head for right now as it seems unreasonable, I'm his mother for heavens sake! The scope of our relationship can never be like he has with his wife and I would never want that.




Quote:
As for boundaries, though, I say treat them the way you would any other adult friend couple that you have. Examples: call before going over, don't criticize their parenting or taste in decor, be flexible, and keep the lines of communication open with BOTH of them. Don't make assumptions that they will want to celebrate holidays the way you did it in your home. When in doubt, just ask.
Oh yeah, thats never been a problem with my thinking. I want those curtesies afforded to myself and my husband as well.

Quote:
I recently read a book that I think you might find interesting and educational. The author is Jane Isay and the name of the book is Walking on Eggshells-- Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents It's written from a parent's perspective and does give several examples and stories of what adult children (and their spouses) wish from and/or expect from their parents as they start their own life.
Good idea! I'll be ordering that book this week.
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 11:16 AM
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Re: A Couple ?'s for the DILs Out There

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Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
Good one!

I didn't think that a "false face with the ILs" was something that was going on or would happen. I thought when I met her that thats exactily how she was. Things are alittle different now. I, honestly, was not presenting a false anything when I met her. I feel confused and I'm actually losing alittle sleep over this.

Well, and she may not have been exactly pretending either. Misunderstandings can arise without anyone deliberately being misleading, but because people use the same concepts but actually have different definitions for them. For example, "close family." Most people say family is important, but the details are different to everyone. To some people close is over at each other's houses several times a week, to some people that's a nightmare. To some "close" is sending each other emails a lot and managing to juggle your crazy schedules to actually get together in the flesh once every month or even less frequently. There's a whole range, but you don't meet people and say "my idea of the right amount of family time is XYZ hours per month."

I guess what I was trying to get at is, assumptions are a source of a lot of strife in IL relationships especially when people are not even aware that they have assumptions, they just think of that being the way things are.

My MIL has had a lot of unhappiness because her DH is not very into family. He didn't like to visit his own family ever and didn't want to visit hers too much either. But she lives for her extended family. And never thought to ask him before they married whether he "valued family." It clearly never occurred to her to do so. Asking whether he thought family was important would be like asking if he breathed oxygen like she does. She didn't think of a highly-involved family style as a trait or a style, she just thought of it as the way people naturally are. She still does.

Of course I don't know your circumstances, I don't know how much this appllies to you. But I figured my persoective might help, so what the heck.
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 11:24 AM
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Re: A Couple ?'s for the DILs Out There

It does help, absolutely! Any insight into MIL/DIL relationships will help.

I'm the mother of 4 sons and one daughter so this is all new to me.

This whole thing is confusing....it's like trying to play a game when no one has told you the rules of engagement first.
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 11:26 AM
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Re: A Couple ?'s for the DILs Out There

OK, just read your explanation. And it seems very much like a clash of expectations. Sounds like your DIL has a different set of assumptions about the privacy of financial information, very much based on the new shift in roles.

This sounds like an issue between your son and her, frankly, but you got caught up in it. HE brought the finances up, not you. And to me it seems like the bottom line is, he shared more about "them/her" than she is comfortable with, and it freaked her out. That's a tricky one. Just because he told you everything always, doesn't entitle him to tell everything involving her, and now that he is married, a lot of stuff that used to be just about him is now about her as well. There is no way for him to share without sharing her private information as well. And you aren't her trusted mother, but some woman she recently met. However much she likes you, she's just ot going to be comfortable with you having intimate details about her.

Sounds to me like she overreacted a bit, but also I understand her feeling sensitive. I'm a very private person myself. Being married and having your spouse know so much about you and be so able to violate your confidence is a weird issue to negotiate at first. I hope she isn't given to reacting like that but I would be respectful of her feeling invaded. She probably should have said to her husband, "honey, I don't feel comfortable with you sharing personal info that is partly MY personal info with your mom," rather than blaming you for, frankly, what was his screwup. (An understandable screwup. He had some different assumptions too, and did not think about it from her perspective--sharing her financial info with some lady she had only recently met.)

ETA: I am running out of time here so sorry if this ends abruptly. I would say that you need to give her time to come to trust you, and be careful about discussing things with your son that will tread into this new area of their shared personal info. Some topics may now be more in the area of things you would not discuss with a colleague or something like that. And that may change over time as she gets more comfortable with you and trusts you not to give controlling advice.

I have to go, wish you luck!

Last edited by HisHeathenHoney; January 23rd, 2008 at 11:29 AM.
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 11:30 AM
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Re: A Couple ?'s for the DILs Out There

Please note - I am looking at your post through MY eyes and my experiences.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
[b]They are supposedly moving here, which is several states away. My son and I have always been extremely close, there hasn't ever been a subject that was off limits. A couple weeks ago, he was discussing eventually buying a house with me and asked me questions about the cost of our mortgage and other financial information. I replied without further thought then went on to ask him about his financial situation with regard to saving money to be able to move here.
Their finances are NONE of your business. They are adults - and discussion of their finances is strictly off-topic. Though BEFORE he had a spouse no topics were off limits - now that he does - there are areas that are not for your ears or your input.

If no topic were off limits - do you think your DIL may be uncomfortable that her new husband may be taking things to you and not to her?

I am sure you would not ask about your son's sex life - it is a private matter between him and his wife.

Money
Child Bearing and Raising

They too are private matters between a husband and a wife.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
I am very hurt by all of this. I didn't see anything wrong with what I asked and I didn't think my son was out of line asking me personal financial questions. I guess the scope of my relationship with my son now has to exclude being able to answering his questions too?
Son - you really should be discussing this with your wife.

Unless you are a licensed financial planner - DO NOT give financial advise to the couple - you are only asking for trouble and your DIL has given you fair warning that this is not a topic SHE is comfortable with you being privy to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
I do NOT know if this is true or not and I don't even want to know if he's right but my husband thinks that since my son and I haven't lived near each other for several years, and since his wife has been the only woman in his life for the past 3 years, that after meeting me and seeing how close my son and I are, she's a little jealous of him having a close emotional connection with another woman.
She may be - she is a new wife - they as a couple are considering moving to an area that is "your" domain. You are now giving advice to her husband. In the move - is she having to leave her family behind? They have been married less than 3 mos - they as a couple are still growing.

Also - you and your DH should not Monday morning quarterback your DIL - but you should be asking yourself:
Why do you feel it is necessary for you to give your input on their finances, how much information would you be comfortable sharing with essentially strangers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
I'm his mother for heavens sake!
This statement screams "I AM HIS MOTHER - OUR RELATIONSHIP AS MOTHER SON SHOULDN'T HAVE TO CHANGE - JUST BECAUSE SHE IS HERE."
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Last edited by 1DH+4Kids=Happyus; January 23rd, 2008 at 11:40 AM.
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