Max is napping, I have a lot of cleaning to do, and I’m hyped up on caffeine right now. But I refuse to spend the little bit of free time I have cleaning. So here I am sitting at the computer.
I have a lot of animosity towards my mother-in-law (MIL). I don’t want it that way but through the years of silence on my behalf about her negativity towards me (mostly behind my back and passively/aggressively to my face) it has built up.
It’s not just about my silence but also about my inability to change her behavior. AKA: my inability to influence or control her. I also think part of the problem is that I haven’t taken the time to really examine why she gets to me so much.
I try hard not to let it interfere with my daily life or how I interact with the in laws while around them. It’s challenging. And sometimes I pop in unexpected pointless ways… in ways that make me examine my feelings.
For instance, she likes to dote on and on about my BIL’s (figure that one out for yourself) girlfriend. Her favorite thing to talk about is how family oriented BIL’s girlfriend, O, is (until she officially becomes my SIL, I’ll refer to her as “O”). But, she does it in such a way that it is obvious she is attacking me. She say’s things like, “O is so family oriented and I love that about her. She is from a culture of people like the Philippines who are taught to be family oriented and to always put family first. Family is important to her and she will do everything for her husband.” She means she’ll wait on my BIL hand and foot while taking care of their four kids and keeping the house in order. But she doesn’t stop there. She has also said that my BIL would never let a woman take him away from his family. These are all direct attacks on me because she doesn’t think American women are family oriented – yes, she has actually told me this, too. I called her out on all of this one day by asking her, “Do you think that I would prevent Hal from seeing you or his family? I’m asking because the way you are talking about being family oriented sounds as if you don’t consider me to be family oriented. What does it mean to you to be family oriented? What would I have to do before you understood that I am very family oriented” Her response was, “well, you aren’t close to your family and you are raised American.”
She, Hal, and I had a long conversation about her misconceptions about me. It was a serious but light-hearted talk about what she thinks about me, how she is wrong, and how she should love me because I’m an awesome DIL. Did it help? The answer to that question is a big fat NOPE. The following weekend when she “got in trouble” for putting Max in the car without his car seat she started up again with the “family oriented” bullshit. Hal warned me that our conversation with her would not make a difference in how she behaved. MIL is the type of person who is happier when she is putting someone down. I recognize the trait because like all flaws in other people that are glaring to my eyes, I carry it as well.
I was talking with Liz the other day about O, and I found myself saying negative things about her. I mean really negative and unfounded judgments. Like, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I said she probably got pregnant on purpose to keep my BIL around. I justified my judgment by saying, you don’t have three kids one right after another and not know how easy it is to get pregnant when having unprotected sex. Liz actually defended O by reminding me that my BIL is just as responsible for the pregnancy as O is. Well, my response to that was, “SHE is responsible for her body and what happens to it so SHE should have protected herself from pregnancy.” I feel dirty and like a big fat looser admitting all this.
I called Liz today to apologize for my terribly misogynistic and judgmental comments. I hate that I can be that way and feel horrible when my shadow self gets the better of me (the “shadow self” is a Jungian Theory). It’s difficult to admit that saying what I said is misogynistic – especially since I have such a deep love and respect for women.
This is what I think was going on inside me: I think I was doing the same exact thing in my speech about O as MIL does to me but I flipped it. Instead of raising O up to put someone down I was knocking O down in order to raise myself back up. I was attacking O while trying to simultaneously disprove MIL theories about her and prove my loyalty to family.
Fact of the matter is… MIL hurts my feelings almost every time I go over to her house. She never acknowledges anything good about me. And at the same time I have a difficult time seeing how far I’ve come in life in with learning how to be family oriented. MIL is right, my family is not close and I’m only so-so close with my mom. I’m also an only child which according to MIL, automatically puts my mom and me in the category of “selfish.”
When she attacks me I’m internalizing it and on some level because of my own struggles with low self esteem (not because she is speaking the truth), I believe her. It also hurts me that MIL never gives Hal credit for his life accomplishments. She is always criticizing and I haven’t found a way to see it for what it is and not take it personally.
What is it in her that makes her this way? Well, I imagine it is the same thing that can make me the same way, low self-esteem. Each interaction with her has become a practice in compassion and self awareness.
With the introduction of O into my BIL’s life, my family is growing and I’m extremely happy about this. If Hal and I could afford it, I would love to have more than two children. I really do like O a lot and am excited to get to know her. At my BIL’s birthday party last night O and I got to talk shop about parenting, breast feeding (I offered to help her do it successfully with her new baby if she would like me too), the death of her husband, and even a little about her and my BIL’s relationship. She is a very warm woman and I enjoy being around her.
Universe and Self, please forgive me for thinking and speaking so ill about another. I truly am sorry. And, pleeeease, help me with MIL.
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