Thursday, November 29, 2012

Venting of a Disgruntled Daughter in Law

Photo Credit: Johanna Goodyear |
Now that the holidays are upon us, I'm feeling extremely stressed, annoyed, overwhelmed and anxious. I don't like all the craziness of it, but I also want to make the season memorable and enjoyable for the kids. I don't have much extra time for shopping and decorating and cooking, so that doesn't make me happy either.

The in-laws came to visit us during the Thanksgiving break and I pretty much mentally checked out the entire time. I was trying to be tolerant and kind and relatively hospitable, but I increasingly became irate; mostly with my step mother in law. She always had contrary things to say and I grew weary of her mannerisms and presence. Parenting itself exhausts me; having guests makes it even worse.

At one point, my l'il chickadee (5), said on the car ride from a restaurant, "Get out of our way!", which is what I often say when I'm driving, and one of our Lightning McQueen Car toy says, so it was perfectly acceptable to me. 'Granny' chastised her, "That's not polite to say. We can't just say whatever we want." Me: "Self expression is so liberating though. It's healthy." Granny: "That's the downfall of civilization - people just saying whatever they want all over the internet." I wish I had said something clever about Freedom of Speech and empowering people, but instead I said something lame like, "The internet is not the downfall of civilization, and the world isn't a perfect place anyway. Earth is only temporary, it's always been filled with evil and it will only be perfect when we reach heaven." (She's not spiritual or religious.)

Of course I say it while looking away from her and in a mumble since I don't like confrontation. She retorted, "I'll remember that when I'm drifting off to sleep at night". Not sure what she meant by that, but whatever. Not only does her words annoy me to the core, but the way Daddy-O and my father in law stay mute the entire time she and I are shooting verbal bullets to each other. I wish either 'man' would speak up and say something even just to diffuse the situation or change the subject. But they don't. They remain silent and pretend not to hear.

Then I pulled out my phone and wrote down what happened in my notetaking app for blog ideas. She was sitting next to me and asked what I was writing. Me: "Making notes of what to write about." Granny: "Are you still writing?" Me: "Yes. Not fiction. Creative writing on my website for self expression, publicity and reviews, etc." I don't want to delve into my blog and what I really write about for fear of her scrutiny. I've tried to tell her various things about myself in the past and my interests, but she doesn't seem to get it, care or find it of any value. Unless I was writing for the New Yorker, it is of no consequence.

The next morning at breakfast I was trying again to be pleasant, but keeping my emotional distance. When my oldest chickadee (7) asks me for another English muffin, I handed it to her. Granny said something about being careful about eating too much bread or else she might get chubby. My anger skyrocketed and I snapped, "We DON'T talk like that." But I didn't speak directly to her; I was saying it while looking at my son in his highchair. My l'il chickadee asked granny what she meant by that and then she tried to define the meaning of her words and the consequence of eating too much bread without enough protein to balance it out.

I hate that she did that. I was and still am pissed off about it. We don't talk about fat, chubby or overweight with the girls. We talk about being healthy and active and we don't make eating certain foods a big deal. They are extremely fit, slim and muscular. I try not to even use negative words when describing my physique. I don't want my daughters to have low self esteem or body image or an eating disorder. Granny certainly has some issues with her eating as it always seems to be about food restriction for her. But she sure makes up her calories in drinking wine.

I also seethed at Daddy-O for not speaking up then either and just ignoring the family table discussion altogether. I wrack my brain in trying to figure out how to best cope with this family stress. I want to avoid any more holidays with them and I don't want them staying with us ever again. I want to move far far away from them to make it even harder for them to visit, but the kids love spending time with them. I just don't. So maybe I should just go away when they visit? Why can't they stay in a damn hotel?

I wish I was better at coping in stressful situations. I wish I was better at confronting authority and elders assertively without fear. I'm brave in other areas of my life, but I'm so uncomfortable when I think about talking honestly and directly to people. What am I scared of? Their approval, acceptance, judgement?

Granny was an only child and never had any children of her own. She tends to like high society and polite conversation. She doesn't like competitive games, playing sports, teasing, etc. I'm the opposite. I like low brow humor, rowdy activities, competition, athletic activities and dirty jokes. She is becoming increasingly crotchety in her age. Perhaps this is the normal course for women? Even so, it can be intolerable.

Luckily I survived their visit and now it's back to normal with them at a safe distance a state away. Christmas vacation will be spent with my crazy family in Washington, but on our own terms. We'll take a leisurely road trip with plenty of stops along the way for adventure: Northern California, Redwoods, Portland, Seattle and the surrounding areas. It's going to take a long time, but we have two weeks off of work. I can't wait!! (Even though spending that much time in cramped space with all of us together might get overwhelming.)

So in the mean time, I'm dealing with all my emotions at work and at home: mild depression, melancholy, anger, impatience, restlessness, anxiety, low self esteem, doubt, worry... I'm just trying to survive and get through each day of chores, tasks, responsibility and humdrum. Needless to say, I'm not very enthusiastic lately. But it's nothing new to me really.

I told my one of my colleagues (who is a therapist) about my Thanksgiving and how I needed therapy after it. He recommended I read the book, Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life. I've certainly read my fair share of books on healing from my dysfunctional family upbringing, but I'm willing to read a new one.


  1. I feel your pain. My "Granny" happens to be my SIL - my husband's sister. It's always the women who don't have children who feel like they are the end-all be-all of parenting advice. I try to ignore, but it really does take everything I have in me. I've snapped at the SIL before. She really has no idea how to talk to my kids.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Carolyn! It's extremely difficult to write about, but I'm happier when I get it out. I don't care for censoring myself all the time like a Pollyanna.
      I appreciate your support. :)

  2. I can also relate - however it would be my Jewish MIL who is 5 minutes away. Sometimes she can be a blessing to have so close, but a lot of the time, she just inserts herself in everything!

  3. I have the opposite problem.... my MIL wants NOTHING to do with my child and never comes around unless he is a t school or somewhere else. It is so sad to see because he wants her attention and she could care less about him. She is just so selfish and hates kids.... He is her blood not mine... but I just wish he never had to see her again.