Question: Dear Luise: I’m having a baby shower for my DIL. But she wants to run the whole thing. Mind you I’m paying for everything. Should I allow her and her SIL to decide everything? When she doesn’t get her way she punishes me by not answering her phone, then calls my husband when I’m not home to talk about the problem rather then discussing it with me directly. That makes me angry sometimes. And she constantly says bad things about her SIL to me. That’s why I’m so surprised that now I’m out of the loop and she’s now in the loop. I’m starting to see a pattern here almost like what you’d see with young grade school girls. She is 35. Am I wrong? Should I let her do what she wants? Thanks. D.
Answer: Dear D.: My DIL just gave me a birthday party. I planned everything; the location, guest list and menu with her blessing. I’m afraid some of us are like that.
On a more serious note, I think you are right about the problem that seems to be emerging. When the dynamics of a family change and new people are added, there is often an undefined and unacknowledged struggle for supremacy among the women. Both MIL and DIL may want to take over or one might want that while the other doesn’t see the necessity for one-upmanship at all. Grade school girls can be very cliquish and cruel…a very useful analogy. (I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t help but wonder what your DIL has said to her SIL about you.)
I would back off and I would think twice before I made such an offer again. I would also clue my husband in on what is going on, asking him not to get into the “triangulation”, (he said/she said gossip), with her. Ask him to just tell her that he doesn’t have a clue. That would need to be followed up with a firm refusal to continue on the subject. If he could include some humor about “girl-stuff, that might help. (My husband actually used to revert to the “There’s someone at the door and I have to go now.” ruse.)
When grandchildren arrive, the whole situation can get more complex. I am in the process of having a Web Forum designed to address these very issues, since so many questions come into my site on the subject.
Your son picked this woman. That’s the bottom line. They are now a new and separate family unit. It may not be easy for you to watch that develop. Still it’s their business, just as establishing your home was your business. If you did it with kindness and wisdom…and she is lacking those qualities, you will soon be able to see the difference in the result, if you don’t already. That’s if your own MIL worked with you instead of against you. Sometimes it becomes necessary to terminate family all ties in the name of peace. Lets pray it doesn’t come to that.
Your DIL with probably define your participation or lack thereof in her new family.
And for political reasons, your son will probably back her. Presently that involves your being limited to writing checks and attending an event where you are the hostess.
You can try being heard but that often is ineffective and adds to the conflict. Becoming invisible, not matter how hard that is to achieve, is usually the best policy. That’s not what you want or deserve but that’s what will work. Blessings, Luise