My German Mother-in-law

I am afraid that my feelings toward her are becoming borderline psychotic! The woman drives me insane and I never seem to find the space to let my shoulders drop down.

The last 4 days have been lovely because she has been away, but I swear the woman was home 3 minutes before she was on the phone… “well if you have nothing to do, come over here (now why would I want to spend the afternoon entertaining you!)… ” So I say that we have just come home and have a few things planned… how would it be if we catch up tomorrow? “hmmm well I suppose – then we are going to church at 6pm tonight – we will come past earlier and pick up Miss Eight to take her with us (earlier meaning she is planning to arrive at 4 and expects the table set and a fresh cake baked)”

I say that MIss Eight has just started a project and we will give church a miss today…. I notice how badly I want to tell a lie – like we are going out or that I have already taken her this morning (bit hard considering I was still in bed at 10:30am)… She is not happy…

Then I get the “what have you been doing all weekend?” question. It is inconceivable to that woman, the idea that we could have a lazy Sunday doing pretty much nothing. I have come to dread Sunday evenings because she so often ‘pops in, just passing…’ No more feet up on the sofa watching a DVD with the family in our tracky daks – sipping a slow glass of chardonnay… feeling a little tipsy… sleepy. Without fail, every time I have been in that state she has caught me out.

After 20 years of a 3 minute phone call to where ever we were living around the world – I am now feeling smothered! Lately, she has taken to asking my husband to ‘drop in’ on his way from the station on Friday evenings. He did, thinking this would keep her happy and give us some space on the weekends. Then she started preparing his meals (never mind that I had already cooked) and last week he finally made it home at 11pm, because she dragged him into being their 4th at cards… all the while plying him with liquor so that he was quite a mess. And she still arrived on Sunday afternoon…. even though we had told her we were having some old friends for lunch.

For the past 2 weeks – she has invited Miss Eight to lunch everyday – she no longer invites me because I have been on a diet since May (lost 12kilo) and won’t eat her cooking… Actually had the nerve to say to me that I shouldn’t get too thin because then my face will get really wrinkled and ‘you will never get rid of those!’. She is wearing me down… I feel like I am constantly in a state where I am holding her at bay with a whip and a chair. Lately I have started looking at positions for DH that are located in faraway countries… just because I want my sanity back.

Of course โ€“ after saying all that, I have to admit they are the most fantastic grandparents… couldn’t ask for more – but I can’t cope with the smothering thing. If longer than 24 hours goes by without a phone call or a visit she says things like ‘just called because I thought your phone might not be working. Or I will drop by and she will hug MIss Eight and say ‘Ooooh I haven’t seen you for SOOOO long…” (who be it for me to point out that we were at her house for lunch the day before???) But more than anything, I am struggling with the concept that for the first time since I was about 15, I feel like I need to ‘check in’. Constantly have to tell her what our plans are, where we are going, when we will be back… who we will be with… how long, how much we spent… aaaggghhh… I hate it! And it is pushing me into becoming a passive aggressive personality (just like my DH) If I let any of our plans slip – she has an opinion about everything –ย  The woman has lived in the same house since the day she was born… she has not worked a day out side the home since the day she got married.

When she gives me parenting advice I hear a voice in my head screaming “Shut the f**k up… everything you know happened 45 years ago!!!!” If I get one more lecture on how my child plays ‘too many computer games, watches too much television, doesn’t eat enough vegetables, needs a hair cut, is wearing trashy clothes…” I am likely to go Stephen King style โ€˜Carrie’ on her arse!

I know, I know… I hear you… I will never be able to change her… I can only change my own reaction to her. I have a friend that gave me this advice. When I get stressed, I am to chant in my head “there goes my MIL being the best MIL she can be…there goes my MIL being the best MIL she can be…” So far it has just made me want to hit someone over the head with a piece of 4×2.

So there you have it… my mother in law. Can’t live with her, can’t bury her in the cellar.

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30 responses to “My German Mother-in-law

  1. OMG, so sorry for this and I have no advice either.
    Well may be your DH should nicely talk to her, and when she asks about your plans try to stay vague.
    What a mess, fortunately I don’t have these problems, but I totally understand you, imagine, when someone arrives unexpectedly, I tend not to answer at all.
    Oh, and kudos for the kilos ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thanks Al – Not sure why it got on top of me today – I feel sort of disloyal in even saying anything… but sometimes the dam bursts.

  2. Well, no… you can’t change her, but you could say that it’s quite awkward her coming round on Sunday evenings because that’s when you and your husband are busy having sex on the living room floor.

    Is your husband any good at dealing with his mother? If so, tell him that you are this close (finger and thumb a mm apart) from telling her to fuck right off and perhaps he should sort her out before you create irreperable damage to the family relationship.

    God I wish you luck. It’s a tough one. And great to see your blog again, and well done on the weight loss – that’s pretty terrific!

    • In Mr Dear Husbands defence – he knows this is stressing me out and if there was anyway he could make it go away, he would. Have pretty much tried EVERYTHING that anyone has suggested… she is like a brick wall – and I swear the problem is that the woman never had a MIL herself and her own mother died around the time my husband was born… so she has been a law unto herself for over 50 years!

  3. you poor dear, I moved to Germany & my MIL is safely back in Blighty thank god. My friend’s MIL rings 3+ times a day and is already planning to move into her spare room the moment the FIL kicks the bucket…chin up, it could be worse, not sure how, but I’m sure it could be!

    • I live in mortal fear that something might happen to my FIL because then life would be unbearable – she has him running off his feet 24/7… she doesn’t drive, so that would become a BIG problem… as for living with us… NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!

      • When my father passed away, my mother was in a difficult state… dementia difficult. There was NO way I would have her in my home with my then very young children (or even now, for that matter) nor would I allow my sister, or even my aunt (mom’s sister) to take her in. I knew she’d ruin their lives. I was the ‘bad guy’ for a bit for putting her in an assisted living facility, but the others very quickly accepted that it was the right place – for us, and even as importantly, for her. Your MIL may be fine mentally, but you’re entitled to your own family life, and you’d be absolutely right to put your foot down regarding taking her in. It’d ruin your lives… and in return, she’d be miserable too. It hasn’t been all that long since you’ve moved back there… hopefully, although it’s obviously taking its own sweet time(!), you’ll find a ‘balance’ of some sort, and very soon!

  4. And that is why I told my husband we have a “5 Hour Rule.” If my MIL lived within 5 hours of where we lived, it could lead to divorce. (This after she repeatedly asked us if she could move with us!)

    I’ve heard Valium can be effective. Just slip some in her coffee when she drops by at 4! She’ll still be there, but it will mellow out the criticisms.

    • I like the 5 hour rule. And I do believe that all would be well if she would just back off a little – I feel like I have become her personal project and she is workin it for all she is worth… No idea where I can lay my hands on valium…

  5. Can you be passively passive when she comes over or calls. Lots of bored mm-hmms instead of answers. Only take one iPod earphone out. Get your laptop/PC put and play Farmville or StarCraft the whole time she’s there, acting thoroughly distracted? Channel your inner teen? I used to signal my husband to ring the other phone or doorbell when I got stuck on the phone with someone I didn’t want to talk to, but couldn’t get rid of nicely. How about develop a severe case of convenient migraines where you must turn off all phones? I feel for you. Sounds like you guys might need to set some rules, but realize that has probably already been considered. Sigh… good luck.

    • Hey Connie – I have tried the teenage path… didn’t work. And whenever I act a little cool (read – she doesn’t get her own way) then I swear I can feel the woman sulking from her house (12 minutes walk away) – I made my own bed to a certain degree – I played the dutiful DIL… it was easy when all we ever did was fly in fly out for a couple weeks once a year!! Now I am drowning and find I am putting so much energy into avoiding her that I have nothing left over for me!

  6. Yikes, Lulu, my sympathies. I lived in the same town with my MIL for four months and then we got a job offer in Germany. That was 14 years ago and I’m not going back!

    She needs to back off, but the problem is how to set those boundaries without being personal. Can you guys be a little less available? Not answer the phone? Hubby stop doing the Friday evening visit? Or answer the door on Sunday night in your nighty and tell her you’re ‘busy’?

    • Hey Charlotte – not sure there really is any answer to this problem other than moving – anytime I say anything that she doesn’t like she takes it personally. Hubby did the last couple of Friday visits alone, with the hope that she would leave us be on the weekend… but sure enough the phone rings at 9:01 every sat morning (just after she has finished her breakfast) and either we are ordered to lunch/dinner/afternoon tea/walking on the Rhein… or whatever other idea she has decided we need to do. I find myself filling my time with appointments just so I can say we are not available – even when we actually want time to ourselves. The one time I actually said “we want to spend the Sunday just *unter uns’* you would have thought I had committed murder!

  7. The MIL situation does sound crazy-making. It seems that you’ve tried several solutions and they haven’t worked.
    I hope you don’t have to move back out of the country to escape her!!

    I’d also like to say “Well done!” to you for your weigh tloss! What you’re doing is NOT easy- I am currently losing myself, so I know very well what a challenge it is.

    • Yeah.. she is back from her trip away – 9:07am this morning the phone went… “I was just thinking, you are probably still in bed asleep!” Ummm yes.. if you thought that , then why did you call?? Seriously it is school holidays – during term we are up at 6:15 in pitch black and freezing cold… is it a crime to enjoy a lie in!

      Actually, it was time to lose the spare tyre.. But I feel much better without it. Also gave me a weird control over myself that my MIL seems to have taken away (oops, am I justifying anaorexia..) No I am heading to middle age at a rapid pace and need to take better care of myself.

  8. Um, why can’t you do the cellar thing? Don’t you have a shovel? Is she bigger than you? Is she a biter?

  9. I used to whip out a book and read when I felt my in-laws were being too non-inclusive. In your case, I’d say” We want our Sundays alone, except for special occassions. Kiss kiss” and deal with the hurt feelings. Reminds me of a Mad cartoon I have never forgotten: the Nixons hiding behind a sofa at the White House with the Agnews knocking and the word balloons saying they were sure there had been a light on/ they could hear someone moving.
    Good lick- sorry your family feeling is gettig you pulled into pieces. But congrats on shaping up- after my 4 week vacation, I need to deal or turn into a round ball without limbs.

  10. Oh goodness me! I don’t know how you survived. Just so you know, when I got the the paragraph starting, “I know, I know, I know..” I was in TOTAL disagreement. Well, technically I wasn’t, I know it’s true, however I was ready to come over and go “Carrie” on her for you!

  11. i turn into an ass when the in-laws start calling and demanding too much of our time, and if i really dont feel like explaining myself, i just dont answer the phone ๐Ÿ™‚ I moved away from home over 20 years ago, so i dont have to put up with that crap from my family, and i certainly wont do it for his ๐Ÿ™‚ (thats probably why my sisters call me the bitch of the family…but i know they are just jealous ๐Ÿ™‚ heheheh
    Of course, my family isnt that bad, and his arent too bad either, but they do try to book every weekend during the holidays.
    As for Sunday, stink eye or not, i would tell her that Sundays is your family time at home alone…and if she drops by, dont answer the door! People like that love the guilt trip, and must be stopped in their tracks or it will turn you and everyone in your home into a psycho!

  12. I really should not go here… Mothers-in-Law!

    I reckon @ least 85% of the fights my Ger-Man and I have ever had (or rather – I have had at him while he just battens down and waits for the storm to pass) are about his mother…

    She’s known as the “Frau Cow” by my family (I call her the “Schwierige Mutter”) and there is no aspect of our lives she doesn’t have an opinion on!
    And there is no end to the ways I am damaging her son and grandchild…

    It is ALL about control.

    We’ve had to develop very clear boundaries. (Or I would’ve had to top her.) What’s amazing is that she refused to have any contact with her own MIL. (For over 30 years! Til the woman died… and they only lived 10kms from each other) When she says or does something unbelievably offensive (once every fortnight or so) I always ask her what she’d have done if her MIL had said/done that. Sometimes it makes her reflect … but, not often! Because she is “ALWAYS RIGHT!”

    I often wish she’d had more children so that her attentions could be dispersed! Or that I’d least have someone to bitch with…

    • How interesting… my mil also had nothing to do with HER mother in law – and she lived 10 minutes away. One of our biggest areas of contention has become family gatherings like Easter or Christmas – which she insists will be celebrated at her house by her and the way she thinks is correct…leaving no space for the (non) traditions of this little Aussie bunny. My Xmas posts from last year might have been light… but there was a background story going on that was incredible.

  13. I have been reading your post and reliving my past. Most of our controversies were over my MIL who only lived a couple of blocks away. After I divorced and remaried (an Aussie, I’m American) I got an even bossier/know-it-all MIL. But she was in another continent and I could “deal” with her when our visits were so limited. Now, I’m a MIL and word to the wise, most of us will become MIL’s in our lifetimes so we too need to learn where to draw the line. Just reading your heartfelt emotions make me wonder, am I too involved in their lives? Are their wives frustrated by my interference in any way (note: we live in Munich, they live in the U.S.). I think you have opened your heart, but also have give everyone of us a wake-up call to be the kind of MIL we wished we had. Thank you.

  14. My british working journalist daugher has a german MIL living in deutchsland who has told her she is chaotic and constantly uses passive-aggressive criticism ‘huh, the nanny is the only person who can find anything in this house’ (why would a normal person care?) and numerous spurious complaints about how she takes care of, feeds, medicates when ill etc, her son; cooks; cleans; shops; and even organises her own drawers in her own bedroom!

    My own father spoke of his pride that his Medical Doctor wife – unusual in those days – did not have to wash the floor because the cleaner would do it – he was proud that he could provide that for her, and proud of her for her professional expertise and success. I was brought up to believe that women should have equal support at home and that husbands take pride in their success and my daughter was brought up in that culture.

    This woman arrived last weekend bringing all kinds of German kitch Christmas decorations which she proceeded to place around the house while my daugher was at work. In this country, Christmas decorations do not appear in homes (except in housing projects) until mid-December or later. When the MIL left my DD took them down and explained she did not like them, had not chosen them and resented the intrusion. A mega row ensued. my DSIL told my DD that if she chose to be liberated then she had abandoned the role of woman of the house and he wanted his DM to take over the role. Frankly, he is not clever enough to have thought that one out and I am certain that was his DM’s justification. Is this normal for German son’s?

    I have held off in terms of getting involved but I get daily phone calls from my DD who feels that she is being suppressed by her DH who is doing it on behalf of his DM and would like to understand what is going on?

    Please help!

    Confused Mother

    • Hello! Oh dear… I can feel the frustration just pouring out. Most of the time, I consider myself quite capable and pretty cluey – but it is amazing how feeble-minded I can come across when confronted by ‘German HouseFrau’ mentality. I am not sure there is any way around the issue – without causing some sort of dreadful damage to all the relationships involved. I have watched my own husband struggle with the tug-of-war that seems to have grown since we moved here… and often I am quite resentful when I feel like I am not #1 in his life. There are no easy solutions – other than your SIL to support his wife. I guess I have learnt to stand my ground over the past year, and my MIL would never even consider bringing decorations into my home. She will, however, often pass comment “Oh, of course you are going to dig up that old garden bed and plant xyz”, where upon, I have learnt to just nod and smile – and then do whatever the hell I want.

      There is no changing a German MIL – so don’t even try. Just find away to live your life without going nuts. I wish I could help more, but every situation is different and needs to be handled with care. As much as I have ranted in the past, I do, still, hold my MIL with the utmost respect. Now that we have a few ground rules in place, things have become easier. My youngest goes to her house once per week for lunch – a set day… both are happy with this arrangement. Often, it only takes being direct: “No thank you, your offer of (insert whatever OAP trip she wants to take with us) is very kind, but we are going to have family-time/Pyjama-Day/already have something planned. Full stop – be direct. I seem to have learned all this the hard way – I even took on more study and a part-time job just so that I would have a legitimite excuse NOT to have to be at her beck and call… insanity looking back, but necessary at the time.

      Rest assured, telling other people how to run their homes is not confined to MIL’s in Germany. Complete strangers will tell you if they think you haven’t dressed your child warmly enough. My neighbour recently told me that I need to ‘decorate the windows of my house’ (it was just repainted)/…. it was on the tip of my tongue to say something sassy – as I looked at his plastic flowers poking out of their ugly pots. In the end it is best just to nod,smile and again… just do what you want.

      I guess your role might just be that of being a kind ear. Listen and try not to push – your daughter will find her way with both husband and MIL – She sounds like she was raised with a healthy dose of self-esteem.

      Glad you found my post interesting – hope this helps a little. Take Care LuLu

  15. Thank you for your sensible and considered reply. You’re right, of course, there is nothing I can do in this situation except try and support my daughter and allow her to vent her frustrations in my ear and not her husband’s – but I have never come across anyone more ruthless in pursuit of her goals than this woman!

    And thankyou, I will take care, care that I do nothing to make the situation worse and not ‘push’ as you say.

    Confused Mother

  16. Not my blog, but for U- if I read you correctly your daughter is in Britain, her MIL visits from DE? Then she only needs to put up with it for visits. The real issue is with her husband, who is unsupportive and appears to be mean. Is he inviting his mom to live with them? If daughter (and SIL) are busy, hire a help to clean the house for a few hours a week. The only issue I see is a husband who appears to want a SAHM and is unhappy to have a WOHM: I’d be pretty unhappy with him- who cares whether decorations are up early and who cares if they are kitschy if they are a warm memory of home.I say this as someone with a mom who is a mil to my husband.

  17. omigod that was how my German Mil is i,m aussie as well and lived in germany for 2years had a break down because of my german MIL ! i will never be good for her son because i am not a german and australains are lazy and eat lunch not cake etc she hates me , wants me and my hubby to break up and with my childrens she tell then to not listen to me not to speak english because they are german not australians in her mind its just really bad so much so that i made my hubby move back with me to australia we are happy now but i am scared that she will make my husband take the kids back to germany behind my back . no one in my husband family ever say NO to this women and my husband is the same . i hate her , so i understand how it is for you living in germany and to have a mean Mil.

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