Dear Mouthy Housewives,
I have always loved my sister-in-law, even though she’s always been outspoken and bossy and I’m not. But as we’ve gotten older, when she comes to visit she makes comments about my house and the way we serve dinner etc. She says we have too much “stuff” in our house.
My house isn’t bad at all, but not the showplace that hers is — she has no life other than keeping house and babysitting her grandkids — I’m working, performing, doing community work etc. I hate to cook and hubby and I always invite her & her boyfriend out to eat when they come to visit, but she insists on eating in and having me cook, and the table has to be set a certain way etc. So after I rearrange things and get out all the proper dishes etc., as soon as we eat dinner, she then goes to bed as she’s an early to bed/early to rise type, while I’m a night owl and would love to stay up and talk.
I find myself getting really angry at her in my head even when she’s not around, wondering whether I should tell her to stop ‘bossing’ me around in my own home next time she visits. She has even gone through some of my kitchen drawers and tossed things out that she felt I didn’t need anymore. I’m a person who likes to keep the peace no matter what, but she’s getting to me. Fortunately they don’t visit that often as they live a couple of hours away. Would love to see your opinion on this one.
Tired of Keeping the Peace
Dear Tired Peace-Keeper,
She goes through your kitchen drawers and throws out things she feels you don’t need anymore? What the WHAAAAT??!!!
Girl, you are way too nice. There is keeping the peace, and then there’s being a doormat. Your sister-in-law sounds incredibly rude and demanding, but it also sounds like you — and your husband — have let her get away with this behavior for years.
The problem is, if you called her up right now and said, “I hate how bossy you are when you come to my house!” she would have no clue what you’re talking about because you have never once called her on any of her bad behavior. And now, you’ve let your frustration with her build so much that as soon as she walks in the door on her next visit and says, “Hello,” you’ll scream, “Stop bossing me around!”
Look, I get it. I hate confrontation. Hate it, hate it, hate it. But having imaginary fights saps your energy, and doesn’t solve the problem. So, you have a few choices:
1. The next time you invite them for a visit, insist on going out for the meal. If the sister-in-law pushes back, do NOT back down. Don’t bring up the past, just tell her you really don’t feel like having people over, and if she won’t go out, maybe they should plan a visit for another time when they are willing to go out.
2. I’ve actually given this advice before. If you cave, and have them over to your house, every time your SIL does one of her bossy/inappropriate/rude things, turn to your husband and shout “Drink!” When she asks what that’s about, laugh it off and tell her it cracks you guys up how bossy she is all the time.
3. Go to her house! Give her a taste of her own medicine. Maybe move something from the downstairs bathroom to the upstairs bathroom and tell her you think it looks better that way. Two wrongs may not make a right, but sometimes they sure to feel good.
You sound like a good person. You deserve to have people treat you nicely in return.
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
Recently, my fiancé and I moved to an incredibly small town (population less that 2,000) so we could be closer to his family. Not only is his sister hateful to me, but she has been spreading horribly untrue rumors around town to the point where it has begun to affect my job. I work in a manual labor job, and considering that’s all there really is to do here, I’m stuck with it. On top of that, she has begun to forbid my fiancé (her brother) from seeing his niece and nephew despite his niece’s frequent requests to see us. She is generally an all around hostile person behind your back, but incredibly nice and fake-smiley to your face. I’m fed up. I’m debating whether to pack my bags and take off or smile and bear it. Any suggestions?
Fed Up in a Small Town
Dear Fed Up,
Well, your future sister-in-law sounds like a real peach. And by peach, I mean rhymes-with-witch. And by rhymes-with-witch I mean C U Next Tuesday. What’s up with this chick? And why did your fiancé make you move to this teeny tiny town where his beyotch of a sister spreads her evil all over town? I’ll get back to him in a minute…
First, let’s deal with the rumor-mongering. You can’t control what the sister-in-law-to-be tells other people, but you can prove her wrong. You say that the rumors are affecting your job. I’m not sure what you mean by that exactly, but I’m assuming that co-workers are believing her poison, and treating you differently. I say kill them with kindness. Bring treats for everyone to share in the break room (or your workplace’s equivalent). Offer to do an extra shift for someone, or trade shifts if someone needs it. Compliment another woman’s outfit. Make an effort to get to know people, and to let them really get to know you.
Now, back to your fiancé, where does he stand in all of this? It’s hard to tell from your note if he even cares that his sister is keeping her kids from seeing their uncle. If he is upset by it, is he doing anything to deal with it? Honestly, he brought you to this far-away place, he should be doing everything he can to make you feel at home and welcome. What is the point of being near his family if his family is treating you both like crap? I think your first step is having a serious sit-down with the fiancé, where you tell him how unhappy you are with this situation. Maybe there’s a compromise, where you could move a couple of hours away, so his family is still driving distance away, but you don’t have to be in each other’s daily lives. For the most part, when it comes to problems with in-laws, I firmly believe that if it’s your mother/sister/brother causing the problem, then you need to be the one to stand up for your spouse, so tell your guy to man up!
If you’re really feeling ballsy, you could call the sister up and attempt to declare a truce. Let her know that you don’t need to like each other, but for the family’s sake, you’d like to try and make it work. Maybe do it on speaker phone from the break room at work.
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
Am I crazy or is this inappropriate behavior? We visit my mother-in-law at an ocean-side community where she spends her summers. We have 3 kids, ages 9, 7, and 3. Her camper is not in any way child proofed. She feels the children should just not touch things. This is a woman who once set her table with beautiful china for a special occasion and put a china place setting where my then-2-year old was sitting.
The kids (being kids) are curious about everything in her camper. But all they hear is “Don’t touch. Don’t put your feet on the couch. Don’t play with that.” Since we’ve had kids old enough to walk, visits have been uncomfortable as we have such extreme differences in parenting. Luckily, my husband and I are on the same page. And we have great kids (polite and well-behaved) who on occasion, make noise and touch things.
Most visits end up with me walking the kids in the yard while she asks my husband to fix her computer. Last night after supper she pulled out her last will and testament and asked my husband to read it over carefully in case he had questions. Read it over carefully? In a small enclosed space with 3 kids, 2 cats and a dog? Huh? Is there not a better, more appropriate time for such a thing? If my husband says anything, her standard response is, “I’m sorry I’m so awful and that your childhood was so terrible.”
During the school year she is 4 hours away and we do not visit, but now she is spending summers less than 45 minutes from our house and expects us to visit often. I know she is a lonely old lady who loves her grandchildren, but what can we do to make visits easier and less stressful for everyone?
I’d Rather Take My Kids to a China Shop Than My Mother-in-Law’s
Dear I’d Rather Take My Kids to a China Shop,
I was thinking about your problem while my 2-year-old twins sipped apple juice from their Tiffany English fine bone china flora teacups. And frankly, the situation sounds miserable.
Relationships with in-laws can get complicated. You mention that you and your husband are on the same page but isn’t it time for him to stand up to his mother? I understand she’s old and means well but what exactly does she expect your kids to do at her house? Play mah jongg?! (Although I think that’s what Marinka’s kids do.)
I’ve noticed that as people get older, they sort of forget what children are like. Who can blame them? They are probably blocking out some traumatic event like the time their toddler pooped in her pants during the middle of dinner at a restaurant and they had no spare clothes. (This may or may not have happened to me in the past week.)
But your husband needs to refresh your mother-in-law’s memory because children – even well behaved ones – need some leeway. He should say to him mom, “We love you and we enjoy seeing you but it’s unrealistic to expect young kids to sit in your camper and not touch anything. So until they are a little older, why don’t we meet at a playground or at the beach so they can run around while we visit together.” Or maybe you can take her out to dinner when you visit. Anything to avoid that camper!
If she’s not able to get around, then bring a bag of stuff for the kids to do (drawing, board games, books, etc) and then grab ice cream for them afterwards for suffering through another visit to grandma’s where the only thing they are apparently allowed to do is look at her adoringly.
Remember – you are not required to visit her constantly and if she has any documents for your husband to look over, he should take them home and do it there.
Good luck and remember the summer usually flies by!
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
I am attending college and still living with my parents. After my sister and her husband had a child, they decided to move back home while saving for a house. It’s totally ridiculous because there is no room here. Anyways, my father and I finished the basement so they could move in, and now pretty much the entire house is theirs.
Their child, my nephew who I love, cute as a button, if not cuter, makes absurd amounts of noise and throws his toys on the hard wood all the time, and this behavior is encouraged. They also play movies like they are at the theater, so i can hear every word through the floors. Ive asked my mother to regulate this as I cannot study, however that seems to have fallen on deaf ears..
My BIL has yet to wash a single dish in this house and my sister finds it very difficult to clean up after herself, throwing passive aggressive tantrums, or flat out tantrums. (My BIL is 37–yes 3-7–and my sister is 22.)
My mother wont say anything to either one of them because they are both so “sensitive” and she fears my sister will be a vindictive bitch once she leaves and wont let my mother see her grandchild.
What do I do, as to not hurt their poor little feelings, and actually get some piece and quiet?
This House is Not a Home
Okay, let’s start with some positives here:
1. Good for you for going to college and not getting pregnant by a twice-your-age man and moving back home with your parents!
2. Double good-for-you for helping your dad refinish the basement! I couldn’t bring myself to paint my own nails in college!
You sound like a super sweet girl, and I love that you’re trying to figure out a way to “fix” this problem without hurting anyone. But, that said, here comes the negative:
1. What’s happening in your parents’ house sounds pretty dysfunctional, and you alone cannot undo that mess.
2. It’s your parents’ home–not yours–so you don’t have the authority or right to affect any change, especially since your mother cannot bring herself to stand up to your sister and her son-in-law.
Buzzkill, I know. But wait, it gets worse, because when you add this mess together, I see only one or two bleak solutions.
1. Spend more time at the library.
2. Move out.
I realize moving out may not be practical or possible while you’re in school, but I’d encourage you to get out of that stressful environment as soon as you possibly can. And while you can’t control what your mother or sister will do to fix things, you can control yourself. Fighting this fight will be a waste of your time and energy. Maybe you and your dad can do a little reno work on the side and just get your own damn place.
Best of luck!
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
To make a long story short, my mother-in-law has long history of ignoring personal boundaries. On multiple occasions she has tried to convert her son and me to her religion, told us to lose weight, and “diagnosed” us with new diseases. (Note: she has no formal medical training and our family doctors say we’re healthy.)
Due to this, we are understandably limiting contact with her. When we do see her, she will sometimes take hugs and kisses by cornering us and not taking no for an answer. I’ve literally been kissed (on the cheek) by this woman while backing away and saying, “no.”
Would it be okay for me to refuse to visit her? Is there any way to get a creepy person like this to *listen* to us?
Dear Kissed Off ,
Ah, the joys of the in-law relationship! I know very few people who find it easy to navigate, and I firmly believe that daughters-in-law get it *way* worse than sons-in-law. It’s like we are conditioned to be polite and take whatever our husbands’ mothers dish out. Fuck that noise! Your MIL sounds like a real peach. But, still, she raised your husband and you loved him enough to marry him, so she had to have done something right.
From your letter, it sounds like you and the hubs are on the same page, and that she’s driving you both nuts with her intrusions. So, why hasn’t he stepped up and dealt with it? The first line of defense is having your husband talk to her and lay down the law. He needs to tell her to mind her own business about your religion and keep her fat yap shut about your weight. Those two boundary-busters are the major offenses in my book. If he says he won’t do that, then you will need to do it yourself. As for the “diagnoses,” I would let that go. Make it something you and your husband laugh about. Or, make a game of it, and before visits, research obscure diseases, tell her you have the symptoms, and then see if she gets it right! Alternatively, anytime she starts telling you have this disease or the other, look at your husband, raise your glass, and say, “Drink!” I’m not sure I understand what is so awful about getting a hug and kiss on the cheek from her. If she was slipping you the tongue and copping a feel, it would be a different story, but if you are really bothered by her show of affection, the next time she comes in for the kill, tell her you have a cold.