Posted by: Kate | June 16, 2005

Fresh new mother-in-law rant

Argh, she really is a wonder.

My mother-in-law is the classic passive-aggressive. Never SAYS what she wants or doesn’t want or whatever, and absolutely REFUSES to commit to a plan, ever, just in case she can find a better way to muck things up last-minute. (To be fair, I do have a fair amount of insight into the psychological underpinnings of this sort of behavior, but she’s my mother-in-law, not my client, so I don’t need to be all warm-and-fuzzy when I’m on the receiving end of her phenomenal stream of BS.) And – this may come as a shock – I tend to be very direct and outspoken, albeit tactfully, so she and I don’t communicate very successfully.

By which I mean, I keep my sentences short and hard to misunderstand, and she has a string of voodoo dolls with my name on them.

Anyway, so, she has been telling all of her friends – or, more specifically, she told my husband that she tells her friends, so who knows what the truth is?? – that she comes to visit us at least once a month. This is a blatant lie. Because I would go insane. She comes out about once every three months – about every 6 months she gets an individual, all-by-herself weekend visit, and the other visits are for family events like birthdays or holidays. But she’s been telling her friends she comes out once a month, so she decided recently that she needs to come out and visit. And, just to be fun and different and make my ears bleed, she announced her intention of coming out for TWO WEEKS in July.

Do you have any idea how flat my forehead would be, from the nightly head-pounding, if she were to visit for two weeks? Seriously. Flat, flat, flat.

On top of this, we’re moving two hours farther away from her. You’d think this would be good for me, in the “MIL Visiting Less Often” Department, right? Wrong. Right now we’re about 6 1/2 hours away, we will be over 8 – so now she’s planning to fly instead. “It’ll be so good for my frequent flyer account!” says the woman who flew to Holland and Italy last year. And her flying in means that we have to go get her – “we” being “my husband” because “I” would “leave her there to rot.”

So she was in the midst of making some insanely complex plans involving her flying out to the nearest airport (an hour away), staying with us for a while, joining us on the 4-hour drive to Long Island for HER family reunion, and then having “someone” (see above) drop her off at an airport there to get home again. Enough logistics to give Patton a migraine.

And then things got complicated.

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law’s best friend’s husband died very suddenly and unexpectedly. We all did the expected things – C (mother-in-law) immediately went to NJ for the funeral and such, we sent flowers and a card, and – silly me! – I sort of expected *my* life to go on as usual. I met said husband once at my wedding and once at a Christmas party, for a grand total of 20 minutes. So while I do have total sympathy for the loss, I’m not close enough for it to be appropriate for me to get any more involved. Or so I thought. Apparently I’m – yes, ME, the stay-home mom who COULD pack up and go anywhere if I wanted to – in trouble for not “letting” my family go down to the funeral. Wait, what? I’m sorry, what? I’m confused. You think that my husband should take at least two days off of work during finals (he’s a HS teacher), pack up and drive 5 hours with a 5-year-old and a 10-month-old, to attend the wake and funeral of a bare acquaintance, so that YOU look better??

No. But, thanks for the offer.

Once she figured out that it really would look weird for us to be there, she switched tactics. In her nightly phone call updates – let me tell you, we were on the edge of our seats waiting for those puppies – she told us about how she made sure that OUR flowers got put at the front of the display and OUR card (which included a nice note that 5-year-old Emily wrote herself, on a separate sheet) went on their fridge, etc. Basically we got totally, embarrassingly overplayed for showing common decency. Lovely.

On top of this, she has the delight in stepping into center stage but not actually having a whole lot of emotional investment in the loss itself. See, my mother-in-law never actually LIKED her friend’s husband, but her friend and she are “closer than sisters” (I’ll save the sisters thing for another rant someday – remind me if you’re ever bored!). So she felt that she was very much in the totally-crucial-Mighty-Mouse-save-the-day role for that family. She announced to one and all that she was going to be staying in the friend’s house “for the duration, until she kicks me out, because she needs me so much.”

Great. So now she gets to play the martyr and the passive-agressive mother-in-law all at the same time, what fun!

So, to skip to the end, after two weeks, apparently her friend decided that The Time Had Come. C called us from her own home last night, letting us know that she was no longer in NJ – “But I’m ready to fly back there on a moment’s notice just as soon as I think I’m needed!” She still is planning to come visit us next month, but it looks like we MIGHT get lucky and have her visit curtailed to one week instead of two. Which is fabulous – I can maintain a good solid buzz for that week and survive it untraumatized. Well, no, not while I’m nursing… but I can dream.

And, wait, I’m sorry, did I say she “called us”? Because what I meant was, I had the audacity to answer the phone in my own house. Can you IMAGINE? I mean, seriously, was I raised by wolves? Every time I get her on the phone, our conversation goes exactly, EXACTLY, like this:
ME: Hello?
HER: Oh, hi, Kate, it’s C.
ME: Uh huh. I mean, um, hi!
HER: How are the kids?
ME: They’re great. Jacob just started crawling, and Emily is doing nuclear physics in her spare time.
HER: Huh. Uh huh. Can I talk to my son?
ME: No. It’s two in the afternoon, he’s at work.
HER: Oh. Well, sometime, maybe, you could let him know that his mother called and she would love to talk to her own son once in a while.
ME: Didn’t you talk to him last night?
HER: Well, I guess. Not for very long. Can I talk to my granddaughter?
ME: No, she’s down for a nap right now.
HER: Oh. She still takes naps?
ME: Sometimes. Only on days you call. Ha ha.
HER: Hmm. Well. That’s funny. Hmm. How are the kids?
ME: Great. Jacob is speaking in complete sentences, in French, and Emily has her pilot’s license.
HER: Huh. Uh huh. Well, I guess I’ll go. If you get the chance, can you ask my son to call me?
ME: Happily.

Lovely, isn’t it? She actually found a Christmas card for us that read “To My Son and His Wife.” That’s me, accessory extraordinaire!

This has gone on long enough. Just needed to vent. She’ll probably be coming out before we get Internet connection at the new house, so it’s possible that I may disappear and never be heard from again due to incarceration – watch the NH news!



  1. that is fantastic! I have the same problem, except its with my future in laws and I have no after 5 years Ive finally got him to cut the apron strings a little, she no longer calls us every 5 hours, and we only see her a couple of times a month..good luck 🙂

  2. well…my future mother and brother in law make fun of me…if that makes you feel any
    my boyfriend works 5 hours away and has to fly.. he has his own jet… well.. i asked him to call me before he leaves and when he arrives to the place….
    he didnt do it… time went by and there was no sign of him.. to make story short i thought something bad happened to him… i kept calling him the entire day…until surprise! he finally answered the phone: “honey, im at a meeting”… URGH! while i was suffering in town the entire day,,,
    he came back and my MIL and BIL were making fun of me and laughing like: “you called him 50 times hahahaha we counted the calls ahaha you were so mad at him”
    and i answered my MIL: i wasnt mad,,, i was really worried… and i do not find funny your son’s lack of communication and irresponsibility
    she makes fun that i get jealus… they make horrible jokes about my boyfriend doing prostitutes….she calls him the entire day as if he was a baby…etc
    ………hope this doesnt make you hate your MIL that much anymore… LOL

  3. I had so many problems with my MIL. Her holiday traditions were set in stone. We HAD to be at her house for every major and minor holiday, even Father’s Day and FIL was dead! MIL liked to give “gag gifts” designed to be insulting. She gave my SIL a book on diet and exercise. I got a bucket filled with cleaning products because my house was supposedly filthy. When my grandmother died, MIL didn’t express one word of sympathy to me. She was surprised that DH took off work for the funeral.

    I gave birth to my son via c-section. MIL was on vacation, but she called her best friend and asked her to visit me. I barely knew the woman, and I was queasy from the anesthesia. (DH had gone home to sleep after being up all night.) She talked and talked, until I finally asked her to leave because I wasn’t feeling well. Next day, MIL called me in my hospital room and screamed at me for “throwing her closest friend out of my room.” I hung up on her, and asked the nurse to take the phone away.

    I could go on and on. So glad I am no longer her DIL.

  4. my MIL puts me down so my SIL (husband’s brother’s wife) feels better about herself…. if i buy a designer handbag she goes the same day i bought it to the store and gets it for my SIL…grrrr! she does it knowing i work hard for months and months to save enough money to go shop for designer things,,,
    she is constantly on top of my husband…that is because BIL has his own company and is a multimillionaire…and my husband works for his other brother and his fathe. ….in other words to them: they are rich and my husband is JUST an employee….. because he is their employee and i work from monday to friday as an employee too in another store she thinks we have all the time in the world to be with her, entertain her sad life and put up with her BS
    now when i buy something and she asks where did i get it i tell her in a playful voice: wont tell youuuu hahaha
    plus my SIL married my husband’s millionaire brother…so my MIL just does that to piss me off!
    she always wants us to go to her house for dinner and never spend time with my family because she says she NEEDS us around her so she has FUN in her life…..
    urgh! she is 50 something, hope she dies soon

  5. My MIL has, miraculously, gotten better about the whole passive-aggressive thing (after writing my husband a long letter last year about how hurt she is that we dared visit my family for longer during the holiday season than we did her, to which my husband bluntly replied, “Well, they aren’t always snapping at each other, so we enjoy going there more and think it’s healthier for the kids,” which, oddly enough, seemed to shut her up), but my SIL … Well, suffice to say I prefer her in small doses. Like, five minutes every six months. She’s 22 going on 15. And don’t get me wrong, I like 15 yr. olds, but not when they have been 15 for seven years, with no signs of ever growing up.

  6. You are all so lucky to even have in laws or extended family.
    Someday they’ll all be gone and you may wish you had not gossiped publicly about them online (makes you look bad) & been perhaps nicer to their faces.
    What goes around comes around and when your little darlings are grown up you too will become –shhhh — Mother In Laws.
    Very tacky to rant like you’ve done in public, Dears.

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