B*tch Board: To My MIL: Being a Grandparent Isn’t A Competitive Sport

Dear Mother-in-Law,

Let me start by saying I absolutely love how much you love my kids. You are incredibly important to them, and knowing how impactful my own grandparents were on my childhood, your relationship with them gives me such joy. But despite the good intentions that fuel your actions, I’m beginning to lose my cool.

From the moment we announced I was pregnant with baby #1, I’ve found it impossible to make you happy. You didn’t want to host a shower, but were angry when my mom was given the “honor” of doing so. (Believe me, she would have happily passed that baton to you rather than clean up after more than 50 guests and one very pregnant daughter, but I digress.)

Once the children arrived, I figured we would visit when able and keep in touch by phone and text when we couldn’t see each other. In fact, knowing that you’ve always had a grudge against my mom, I worked overtime to make sure we were seeing and contacting you enough. For my kids’ sake, but mostly for yours. And yet, it’s not enough. Nothing’s ever enough.

If my mom comes for an overnight, cleans my house, stocks my fridge, and looks after the kids so I can bang out a couple doctor’s appointments and get my hair done, I can only revel in the joy of her visit for about an hour after she’s gone.

Because I know that, immediately upon her departure, you’ll lecture me about how it isn’t fair that she spent time with the kids, even though visits from you are never like this. They’re spent catering to your every need. Also, don’t our weekly dinners with you count as time spent together? My mom doesn’t get those.

When holidays roll around, the kids inevitably churn out cute crafty stuff, but I don’t have time to make three sets for all the grandparents, so I send them only to you. I do it because I know you need a little extra attention. If only you knew how many times I’ve had to bite my tongue when you’re barking into the phone that we “don’t do anything” for you.

My mom buys the kids pajamas, you bristle about spoiling. My dad posts a photo on Facebook, you snub us for a week. On and on it goes, and yet, I persevere. I smile. I continue to call, send photos, and set up dinners.

I am not doing this for me, MIL. I gave up any hope that we’d have a relationship long ago. I do it for you and for my children. I do it because I know you’re needy, and my nature is to provide what the people in my life need. I do it because when I hear the kids asking for Nana, I don’t ever want to feel like I’m keeping you from them.

But the constant nagging, aggressive phone calls, and silent treatment are pushing me away. I’m still making plans with you, but I’m doing it with daggers coming out of my eyes.

Aren’t you tired, Mother-in-Law? Aren’t you over keeping such close tabs on my parents? Making notes of when they see the kids and for how many hours and which visits were during the day versus in the evening, and so on? Isn’t it draining? Because it sure is for me. If you knew that your competitive attitude was doing nothing but limiting my trust in you, would you stop?

I feel robbed every single time I do see my parents—which, for the record, is not even half as much as we see you—because the excitement I feel around them is always followed by the dread that you’ll learn of the visit and demand we “make it even.”

Life is hard. Family shouldn’t be. Your son married a woman with endless space in her heart. I tried for so many years before we had kids to forge a lasting bond with you, only to realize it’s just never going to happen. You used to compete with me for my husband’s time and attention, and now it’s passed down to a new generation.

Doesn’t it suck that we can’t do holidays together because you’ll be stewing in a corner? Wouldn’t you rather see the kids even more often because you’re pleasant and everyone wants you around, rather than out of obligation?

There’s a lot in this world to be stressed out and angry over. The fact that your grandkids have relationships with my parents shouldn’t be on that list. For your sake, I wish you’d open up your eyes and see us all as a family. Because adults who argue over children’s affections reveal themselves in time.

My kids are still young and blissfully unaware of the needless drama haunting our relationship. But one day they’ll get it, and they’ll start to resent your guilt trips, too. Because being a grandparent isn’t a competitive sport. If it were, believe me, you’d be losing.


Your Very Exhausted Daughter-in-Law

Photo: Getty