Sunday, November 26, 2006


As is my way, i read a post over at lu's blog, and that started me thinking.

When i got married, i somehow became responsible for the milestone celebrations in not only my family, but in the Mister's too. It was me who stressed over getting his parents and sister a Christmas present, and sending them birthday cards. It was me who reminded the Mister to call his mother on Mother's Day and her birthday. I wasn't very good at it though, and over the years i know that his mother blamed me for the fact that the Mister didn't contact her very often.

It's an older fashioned view of the family responsibilities, that it's the woman's responsibility to take on that job. I don't blame the Mister or his mother, because it was me who accepted that role in the first place.

Skip to several years later, the Mister and i are in couple's counseling and this issue comes up, that his mother resents me for the lack of contact. The counselor asked the Mister if he wanted to take on the responsibility for taking care of his family. He said that yes, he would do that.

It was a huge relief for me. And as i predicted to myself, what happened is that he never contacted his mother after that, ever, unless she called him first. I still remembered when it was her birthday, but i didn't say anything or remind him to call her.

As you might have guessed, there are issues between the mister and his mother. At this time, they have spoken twice in the past year, and they got into a fight last time and she pretty much hung up on him.

I know she still blames me, at least in part, for this. I know because the Mister once told me that his mother wondered why i hated her. I don't hate her, he does. What i do blame the Mister for, is he let me take the rap for his lack of interest.

She's getting very old now, and it's sad that they have no contact. Every so often the Mister will sigh, and say "I should call my mother." "Yep," i reply, and then nothing happens. He doesn't want to contact her. I have learned to stay the hell out of it, because it's not about me, whatever his mother may think. It's probably easier for her to blame me than to think about what really might be going on. That's ok, i can take it.


Anonymous said...

You can take it, but it's not fair.

At all.

And all too common. I bet you'll have 20 women post after me that they are in the same situation.

Finger on the pulse, I'm telling you.

urban-urchin said...

Er, yes I guess I'm 1 of the list of 20 that nancy mentioned.

I am social secretary and I too am blamed for the lack of communication b/w husband and MIL. She, and her clan(with the exception of husband) despise me and to be truthful, I could give a crap. I don't exactly get the warm fuzzies from them either. But what irks me is somehow it's still up to me to send pics of the kids to Monster in law.

Anonymous said...

It amazes the number of posts your write that echo my own thoughts. I hope to continue learning from you. You are very generous with your thoughts.

I wish that you (and me) and all the others who confront by this problem didn't inherent such a burden. I've often been disappointed that our society tends to delegate certain responsibilities based on sex.

Mignon said...

I'll be the first of the 20, I guess. My husband doesn't hate his mom, but he is terribly insensitive to her because he doesn't get her martyr schtick. He thinks she truly doesn't care if he calls her on her birthday and her little passive aggressive jabs just go over his head. They don't go over my head, so I have no problem staying out of his filial responsibilities. I'm glad you were glad to let go of your husband's, Meno. It's liberating.

Girlplustwo said...

wow. i admire you for being able to remove yourself from the equation and stay out of it - even IF it means she tosses blame your way.

hat's off, sister.

amusing said...

My ex and his mother? A bit creepy. ANd I was competition from the get go. I can play you the tape of her toast at our wedding -- her son is so wonderful and...let's see, did she work my name in at the very end? I think maybe. It was always their show. I was the scapegoat from the get go. I sometimes wonder how the new wife is doing. If she plays the game well, she might survive. I refused to play.

Anonymous said...

My sister-in-law wanted me to give my oldest brother some "ribbing" about not calling my dad on his birthday. Hell, no! I don't know what happened there (I'm a lot younger), but I do know it's not mine to jump into.

My husband? He's great about his mother - to the point of frustrating me, sometimes - but once she's gone? I wonder if we'll see his siblings more than once or twice a year.

karmic said...

We have managed to avoid issues like these and the credit goes to my mom and *A*, who are bothe very sensible women.
And credit to you for removing yourself from the situation.

Josephine said...

I feel like I should say something intelligent, such as "We all have to give an take in a relationship. It's more about feeling equal in the end."

But, what I really want to say is, "Boys are stupid".

Bob said...

my wife never took on the social secretary role, nor did I expect her to. (We live near my parents) it is up to me to arrange visits. I call my folks, I am in charge of getting their gifts, cards, etc. My wife is in charge of her family. If I don't call my mom, she blames me, not my wife.

Tracy Helgeson said...

This has been an ongoing issue in both of our families as well. My husband doesn't keep up with his friends and some family members unless I prod him (I don't do the contact directly anymore either) and somehow it''s my fault - according to them, not my husband, he knows it's his responsibility.

On the opposite side, I have an uncle who has NEVER contacted me (or any other family member) personally. His wife does all of that and while I appreciate her, I have to say that it really bothers me that she has to do it. I don't even want to talk to him anymore.

Maybe in another generation or so this particular assumption (where the women are expected to handle all correspondence) will have disappeared.

QT said...

I did this same thing for my ex, and my MIL at the time always thanked me for her cards on Mother's Day and her Christmas gifts. But I would always get stressed out about what to get, etc.

Now, the BF's family is very central to my life and luckily good communicators with each other so I can stay out of the loop.

You carry a pretty big load, woman.

Lynnea said...

You know, this is so the hell smart! Why would you have to be the responsible one? As long as you discuss it and he agrees to take that on, which in thought he ought to after all. My husband never stresses. He thinks of their birthdays, about three days too late and then asks me if 'we' bought them a present yet, and yes, 'we' did. I love the we. Anyhow, I havent particularly stressed except when my SIL didn't like her gift and made a point of saying that and telling the specific reasons why. I suppose this is good to be honest, but I was really hurt. So I told hubby he would take care of her gifts from now on. Heh.

Lisa @ The Plain-Spoken Pen said...

K was the same way. Of course, his mother and I talked all the time (still do) because we like each other. But it bugged me that he'd expect me to plan ahead and get a card and get a gift and get it sent out for everyone in my family and his, too. Now that we've split up, I can probably count on one hand the number of times he's actually called his mom. She calls him.

Frustrating as all get out, that's what it is. Kudos to you for letting the mister fall on his face on this one - hard to do, I know, and even harder to keep doing if MIL is blaming you for their lack of contact.

thailandchani said...

Never had to deal with this one since my ex and I were very much the wanderers. My ex called his father occasionally (his mother was deceased) but I didn't have anything to do with those choices. It does seem logical that every person would be responsible for communicating with those they choose on their own.



Bobealia... said...

Mr. Bobealia just missed his niece's birthday. I knew it was coming... but I did not feel like worrying. He remembered the day after. Ah well...

meno said...

nancy, so i hit a nerve for you huh?

u-u, there often seems to be tension inherent in the MIL-DIL relationship. I wish i had been older and wiser sooner (don't we all!) and that MIL had had some kind of clue. She was always pretty cold. And look where that got her. So, talk w/the husband, make it his responsibility, and then STOP. Of course, she'll still blame you, but so what?

patches, I took on that burden thoughtlessly and willingly. I wanted them to like me. Ha ha ha hahahahahaha. It didn't work.

mignon, You know, i sometimes wonder if that insensitive to the martyr crap is a survival technique for these men.

jen, since she viewed it as a contest, looks like i won. Neener neener. (Yes, i can be 6 years old!) Thanks for the compliment.

amusing, something to look out for before the wedding huh? The man's relationship to his mama i mean. And good for you for refusing to play. I wasn't that bright.

de, stay far far away from that shit! That's too bad that he's not closer to his sibs, i adore mine.

sanjay, i wish we had been that sensible, oh those many years ago. But i was young, and she's stupid and mean.

josephine, and sometimes so are their mothers.

bob, right on for you and your wife. The Mister's mom is from the era where all that is the woman's business. Yuck!

tracy, don't you just love getting blamed for this stuff. Maybe if my MIL had been nicer to the Mister growing up, he would want to call her. Just a thought that i'm sure she doesn't want to think.

qt, looks like you have upgraded with BF. Good job! And i don't carry that load anymore.

maggie, it's just something that you can't win at, at least i couldn't. So now your SIL is going to be pissed at you when he forgets. Give him all the responsibility, he can take it!

lisa, that's cool that you still talk to him mom. That's the kind of friendship that was totally missing between the MIL and i. And it had nothing to do with ME, it was going to happen to any woman who took up with the Mister. Like a trap!

chani, you would think so wouldn't you. You are smarter than i was.

bo, not your problem huh? Smart girl!

Platypus said...

Great post, Meno. I'm glad you managed to step back from that situation. Many thanks for visiting earlier. I'll be back too - any advice you can give on the whole teenage thing would be great: it's like herding cats!

Anonymous said...

I feel very lucky. Had I been given the opportunity to hand select my future mother-in-law, lo those 25 years ago, I am quite sure I wouldn't have ended up with anyone as wonderful as the one I got, sight unseen. We have our moments - heat of family moments - but I have such admiration and love for her, you can't imagine.

And yes, I am the glue. I just figured it was because I'm good at it. Although my husband calls his mother every Sunday night, without fail, and without my interference.

Mother of Invention said...

Kudos to you for taking a back seat in this and letting him choose/control whether he relates to his mom or not.

Deep down she probably knows the reality. It's too bad when there are unresolved issues, especially when people are getting older and time for resolution is running out.

I hope he somehow rectifies things.

meno said...

mombat, i'll have to get you a guilt bag. You take a small paper bag, twist the top into a small opening and exhale all the guilt into it. Seal and discard. I have one brother who likes to say that. It's never worked, but it does make me smile.

hi platypus, and welcome. It can be like heading cats! I just try to keep perspective on how much worse it could be.

jennifer, i remember the lovely story you told about your in-laws when you told them you were pregnant and getting married. It made me cry. Partly because it was such a sweet story and partly because i wish i had that. So go give your in-laws a hug from me. I also like to think that i have learned from her how not to be. As the older woman, it would have been great if she could have tried to ease the tension instead of defending her turf so doggedly.

MOI, i don't think this relationship can be healed. It is sad, but it is so broken and all she does is cause pain for the Mister.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes. You hit a nerve all right. :-)

SUEB0B said...

Yep, a nerve. I abdicated these responsibilities to the shock of my ex.

Mr Stapler is brilliant at remembering and planning for bdays etc - far better than me. But what his fam and friends did not anticipate is my dislike of chitchatting on the phone. Apparently his friend's wife assumed I was to take her on as an automatic friend - but she was vile and stupid to me. Utter shock when I hung up after 2 minutes of blather.