Dear Captain Awkward,
My husband and I (cis-woman), are adopting our first child. We came to this decision after we learned that I have a medical condition which will make it difficult, if not impossible, for me to have biological children. We were very excited to tell our families about this decision. And, for the most part, the response has been positive.
However, my husband’s parents have not been as enthusiastic as I had hoped. The week after we announced our plans, they gave me a ton of brochures about in-vitro and fertility treatments, as well as information about embryo adoption. I politely explained that the same condition which makes it difficult for me to conceive makes it more likely that I’ll have a miscarriage. I also explained that we had already submitted the first part of our application, and were committed to adoption.
Explaining all of this seemed to put the issue to rest, until the holidays. While we were visiting them, I accidentally overheard my husband’s mother say some pretty unkind things about me and my body (the same condition which limits my fertility also makes it harder for me to manage my weight), as well as suggesting that my husband should divorce me and find someone who can give him children. She doesn’t know I heard her say this.
In the months since then, my inlaws have insinuated that they don’t (and won’t) consider adopted children to be “real” grandchildren, even asking me point blank why I would want to take care of “someone else’s child”. My mother-in-law also seems particularly concerned that the child that is placed with us will be disabled in some way, going on about how adopted children are often “emotionally damaged” (after which I pointed out that no child comes with any guarantees, and mental, emotional, and/or physical disability are not limited to adopted children).
I’ve asked my husband to talk to them, but he has social anxiety, and confrontation (especially with his parents) is really hard for him. And his family is close-knit. We’re over his parents house for dinner about twice a month. I don’t want to ruin his relationship with his family, but I also don’t want to hear the constant stream of criticism, and, more importantly, I don’t want to subject any potential future child(ren) of mine to that kind of talk. Lately, I’ve started using work as an excuse to skip dinner with them, but that can’t work forever. And I just don’t know what to do anymore.
I hope everything goes wonderfully for you with adopting your first child! That is a big step, and a very exciting one!
Your In-Laws are behaving appallingly and I suggest keeping them out of the loop of any more of your adoption process or decision-making until such time there is an actual human kid in the picture. You have enough on your plate without being the receptacle of all their feelings and anxieties while things are in process. You are not “ruining” their close-knit family in any way. Someone who thinks your husband should divorce you is not your friend and not the source of anything particularly close-knit, right? Your Mother-In-Law has choices about how she deals with all of this, and she’s choosing the jerk path. That’s not on you to fix!
If they ask how things are going with the adoption, you and your husband should come up with a pat answer of “We’ll let you know when there is something to tell. In the meantime, wherever did you find the recipe for this Potato Salad of Changing The Subject?” and repeat it like a broken record.
I also suggest responding to anything rude they along the lines of “Your adopted child won’t be our ‘real’ grandchild” with “Well, that’s pretty sad to hear” or “If that’s how you feel, we’re not gonna force you” or simply “Okay.”
“The child might be emotionally disturbed!!!!” “Okay.”
“We won’t consider it our real grandchild!!!!!” “Okay.”
Don’t waste your energy trying to convince them or giving them a point-by-point argument. It’s actually pretty powerful to let someone know that their displeasure doesn’t affect your course. Their anxieties about adoption are not yours to fix or soothe away. Pivot your attention toward the family members who are supportive and lovely. If people make the choice to treat you poorly, try seeing it as giving you permission to stop worrying about what they think, to stop trying to please them, and to stop spending your precious free time in their company.
In other words, keep skipping those “family” dinners for now, and let your husband deal with his folks. If they bug him or you about why you aren’t around, he can tell them whatever he wants to. “Work” sometimes, but maybe “Well, Ma, she overheard you discussing her like she was defective breeding stock and maybe she’ll come back when you apologize to her.”
“But Husband has anxiety!” you say. Well, I would have anxiety about hanging around people who behave like that too. Anxiety seems like a perfectly reasonable response to their behavior. (Anxiety about what unkind thing is gonna come out of their mouths next. Anxiety about whether they’ll ever get it and stop behaving like jerks who think they are entitled to a certain build and model of grandchild.) He’s gotta figure out some kind of adult relationship with them that he can stand and you can’t really do it for him. Becoming a parent in his own right is a very good time to think about family dynamics, and maybe it’s Therapy Time for him! That doesn’t mean it’s Do More Emotional Labor To Mollify People Who Treat You Badly time for you!
I know that my Yia-Yia was a giant asshole to my mom all through the process of figuring out she was infertile and deciding to adopt, but once there was an actual baby in the picture, I was worshipped like a tiny god and fed like a baby bird from her doting, grandmotherly hands. That may happen with your child, too – babies have a way of disarming people and bringing their shields down. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll be there to shield your child from them, and you’ll learn to be the Mom s/he needs as you go. For now, flex your “Not today, Satan/Mother-in-Law!” muscles on your own behalf and think of it as practice.
212 thoughts on “#851: We’re adopting a child and my husband’s family has many crap opinions (crapinions) about that. How to keep the peace?”
I hate that people treat adoption like it’s the result of a failing at some point (usually at the mother’s expense) or that adopted children are secondhand, and not as valuable as ‘real’ children. Adoption is a perfectly legitimate choice, whether reproductive issues are part of the equation or not.
I would say screw those guys, you and your husband don’t have to take their bull, and definitely don’t let them infect your child with their hatred and bile. The last thing any child needs is to be told they’re not a ‘real’ part of the family, or anything of that nature. They are being assholes and should be disregarded as such.
I definitely support Captain’s suggestion of Husband telling his parents to fuck off in some way, and letting them know that that kind of talk against you or the child will not be tolerated, and that if they want to be part of your life or his, they should shut up and learn to be decent people.
I honestly think this comes from the “you can always adopt” nonsense they tell people with fertility issues, as if adoption was really only a ‘cure’ for infertility and not a completely acceptable course of action for any potential parent.
You’re so right. The “you can always adopt!” chirping also makes adoption sound trivially easy, and probably contributes to folks underestimating the time and thought and everything else that goes into deciding to pursue adoption.
What people like that don’t realize is that it is much, much harder to become an adoptive parent than a biological one. If biological parents had to jump through the same hoops, the world’s population would drop dramatically over time.
Um let’s just not compare the two. They’re both hard, ok? But growing and delivering a child with your body is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it really bothers me when people downplay it.
Nesting died; responding to yrbest:
No one is “downplaying” pregnancy and childbirth. Come on. It’s clear that RSVP is referring to the huge amount of paperwork and legal red-tape you need to go through to adopt, which can take years before an adoption is finalized (i.e. the kid can be taken away from you after entering your life), which biological parents simply Do Not Deal With, Period.
For yrbest, since threading only goes so far —
I suspect it’s not that being pregnant and having a child is easy, not by far. But for people without fertility problems, getting pregnant doesn’t typically involve social-worker visits and paperwork and financial burdens in addition to those you’d expect from bringing a tiny person home. In no way does that mean that carrying and delivering a kid is easy!
What RSVP said is that it is “much, much harder.” Which is not ok. The two are different struggles which are not comparable. Some people have easy pregnancies that, yes, are probably easier than years of paperwork and disappointment. Other people struggle for years and years (dealing with PLENTY of red tape not to mention physical pain and heartache along the way) to conceive, and I wouldn’t call that “easier”. Lots and lots of those pesky hoops. Other people die during pregnancy or childbirth. Dying or losing a partner is actually harder than adopting a child, in my opinion.
It also amuses me a little that fertility treatments are treated as a way to have kids biologically related to both parents. Yes, a lot of the time that’s true, but not always – I’m thinking of conditions where egg and sperm donors may be involved. But because fertility treatment is associated with traditional ways to build a family (like pregnancy and birth), grandparents and everyone else don’t think of a child conceived that way as non-biological. Parents and grandparents can get stuck on thinking of children as either bio- or step, or bio- and adopted, but there other variations too.
Yes, it struck me that a donor egg would be an acceptable option (for the MIL), but I expect a sperm donor would be out of the question. Ugh!
Husband will have to set a firm boundary with his parents at some point, so it may as well be sooner rather than later.
My mom had to do that with her mother. My grandma was very emotionally abusive to my mom her whole life (she “never wanted a girl”), and my mom did not want her child (me) to endure the same. One day she flat-out told her mom that if she ever treated her child (me) the way she treated her, then my grandmother would no longer be a part of her family. I have no doubt that my grandma pushed back, but my mom held her ground. My grandma decided that she wanted to see her grandchildren (I was the first and my sister was the second) more than she wanted to be a jerk, so she curbed her behavior. We grew up having a great relationship with my grandma and grandpa and I don’t remember any strife at all. (I learned about it all after she passed away.)
It is in everyone’s best interest, including your MIL, for your Husband to set a firm boundary that requires her to behave appropriately. If she behaves, then she can try to heal the damage she has done to her relationship with you and have a chance of having a relationship with your future child. If she doesn’t, then the damage will be minimized by her not being around anymore and you will protect your child.
So I know that it is hard (I have anxiety about confronting my parents too), but no one but your Husband can confront his parents about their behavior. You simply cannot do it – first, it’s not your job, and second, they will disregard anything you say so why waste your breath. If he really wants his parents to be a part of his family (aka, you and your future child), then he needs to confront them and make it clear that they need to improve their behavior drastically – and if they don’t, he needs to cut them off until/unless they realize the error of their ways.
Agreed. While I never had to deal with any childbearing issues, there were plenty of other problems. I also have issues with anxiety, and dealing with my parents was particularly difficult because they were both very opinionated and vrry authoritarian.
But no matter how much it terrifies you, there comes a point where you have to deal with them, regardless. So I learned a few tricks that made things a bit easier. First, use a communication method that gives you a bit of distance, rather than discussing things face to face. Even just a phone call can give you some breathing room.
Second, state things clearly and definitively, i. e. make factual statements that cut off potential responses. For example, don’t say, “I don’t like what you’ve been saying about me.” Instead, try something more like, “I will not put up with you talking about me like that, and if you keep doing it, I will leave.” Not the best example, but you get the idea. The first leaves the door wide open for discussion and borderline gaslighting. The second makes that much harder.
Finally, stick to your guns. It will be unpleasant and uncomfortable, and you’ll probably feel like you’re being incredibly rude. And you may well have to be rude, but usually at this point, being polite has failed, so your options are limited. And a little rudeness from someone who is typically polite can be enough of a shock that they actually pay attention.
I loved my Mom, and she was a good mom, but I was the baby of the family, 7 years younger than my sister. As I got older, she didn’t always treat me as such. Also, both parents were very strict and very big on good manners. So, when I hit my early 30s and Mom wad still treating me like she called the shots in my life, I eventually hit my breaking point. After the umpteenth phone call where she did nothing but tell me where I was screwing up and what I should be doing instead, I blew up. I told her that I was a well-educated thirty-something year old adult and that I didn’t let my enemies talk to me like that, much less my friends, and family certainly didn’t get to do it. And then I did something I had *never* done to *anyone*.
I hung up on her. Cut her off mid-defense and ignored any return calls that night.
I was terrified I just ruined everything, and scared to death she’d never forgive me.
But about 4 days later, she left me a message apologizing. I called her back, and we had a long, fairly difficult talk. But like I said, Mom was a good person, and we worked it out. She realized I was right, but also explained that changing the habits of 30 years was going to take a bit. I understood, and agreed to try and give her a little leeway. And it worked. She was still overprotective, but instead of basically issuing orders, she’d say something like, “I know you’re an adult, but could you maybe humor your old mother on this?” Huge difference.
LW, unfortunately it sounds like your in-laws aren’t nearly that nice, reasonable, or understanding, which makes it all the more important to stick to your guns. Also, put a bit more metaphorical distance between you and them. Skip some dinners. Don’t immediately return phone calls, texts, whatever. It’s hard, but just because they’re family does not obligate you to spend time with them when they treat you like dirt. Last I checked, the point of family was to provide love and support to its members. They’re doing the exact opposite. If you wouldn’t let people you don’t know treat you that badly, you shouldn’t let people you do know do so. And you want to just back away for a bit, do so. You’re adding a child to your family, which is a stressful endeavor no matter how it happens. You need to be taking care of yourself (and your spouse) first, second, third and then some. The in-laws will just have to wait until you’re ready to deal with them.
I think part of this belief is rooted in the idea that a woman should have a child if she is able. To my knowledge I am fertile and my body is capable of carrying babies but I really do not want to. I’m too vain and scared to put my body through that and I want to adopt cute little foreign babies and give their cute toes tons of kisses when the time comes. Just because I can doesn’t mean I have to.
If you do adopt outside your home country, make sure that those kids were legitimately in need of homing – unfortunately, a lot of ‘adoption’ programs are outright stealing kids from their families to basically sell them to people who want to adopt them and save them from the horror that would be growing up in their home country. It’s a very sad truth, but honestly you’d probably be better off – and much more likely to be actually helping – if you adopt inside your own country. Trust me, as a kid that never got adopted myself (no one wanted to deal with my health issues, apparently) there are LOTS of kids here who desperately need homes.
This is sadly true, but this is not a thread about all of the potential pitfalls of adoption, so perhaps is best left for a side discussion in the forums.
NGL, that comment about “adopt[ing] little foreign babies” made my stomach lurch. Too many issues to begin to deconstruct it all here.
The link above features an interview with them author of the book ‘The Child Catchers’ (Kathryn Joyce) relays the awful reality of a large segment of the international adoption industry.
As someone who comes from a country where adopting surrendered newborns almost never happens (free contraception and abortion, financial assistance for low income parents), abortion is almost all state run and doesnt involve money changing hands, and where people adopting foreign-born or surrogate babies are vetted as if they were adopting from within the system, the book horrified me. It was especially odd to do further reading, and see people (from the US) stating that they didn’t want to “adopt from within the system because [not very well-coded racism and ableism]”, who would then go to Uganda and adopt half a dozen kids with Down’s Syndrome.
I have nothing against adoption (we intend to adopt or foster older children at some point) , just the type that involves agencies who source kids by luring young people to ” Crisis Pregnancy Centres” and Jesusing them into surrendering their eventual baby, or deceives desperately poor foreign families into handing children over, then charging potential parents fees of up to $50k.
“I want to adopt cute little foreign babies ”
Wow. I’ve never actual seen/heard anyone say this seriously, like outside of a parody. It’s an excellent example of western objectification of “foreign babies”. This is a modern face of colonialism: the idea that the children of “foreign” countries are a commodity for you.
“or that adopted children are secondhand, and not as valuable as ‘real’ children.”
I wonder if some part of this has to do with the extreme degree to which so many people buy into biological essentialism. In fact, nearly all behaviors and attitudes have at least some social component, and a majority result from socialization more than biology. If more people recognized the degree to which environment shapes us all, they may be less inclined to think of adopted children as “somebody else’s” by virtue of genetics and instead think of them as belonging to their chosen families by virtue of memetics.
“jerks who think they are entitled to a certain build and model of grandchild”
That was said so perfectly I had to repeat it!
Only tangentially related, but I’ve been reading blogs and comments from people who want biological grandchildren, and it surprised me a little that nearly all of them truly believe that all their biological grandkids would resemble them in some obvious way – it was as though pregnancy and child development was like a Build-A-Bear workshop of each grandparent’s physical features. Of course resemblance can happen, but to them “biological” entitles them to a guaranteed resemblance, not to mention that of course the kids would inherit their grandparents’ values (that’s…debatable, at best). It’s not at all wrong to fantasize about how children might look, but this one particular woman talked about how sad she was looking at her stepgrandson because she only saw someone else’s face in his. It’s hard to think about how sad she would be looking at all her theoretical biological grandchildren who might look like a different grandparent/cousin/uncle/whoever and not her. It’s not like we truly understand how genetics work, anyway.
I will say, biology is powerful. I was raised apart from most of biological family. I never understood why some people were so determined to have their biological kids, rather than adopt, until I met my biological family, including siblings and nieces and nephews and then I *got it*. There’s something really compelling about that connection, maybe because I didn’t have it when I was a kid, but maybe not.
For me, it’s all about protecting the child/ren. If someone in the family tree is any kind of creep, cretin, or jerk, keep them away from the kids.
I had to do that with my father and my children. I tolerated his verbal abuse and related BS for years, to a small extent, but when he started on my children? Woohoo, that did not fly. He didn’t get to see them anymore. And I probably should have cut him out of my own life 30 years earlier.
I think you’ve made a really important point, particularly in relation to your children. If he’s afraid of confrontation now, just wait until he’s a dad.The husband needs to work out now how to stand up to his parents because when the child arrives he may well have to do it to them on his child’s behalf. Learning to be your child’s advocate is all part of being a parent.
“Learning to be your child’s advocate is all part of being a parent.”
My youngest sister used to be embarrassed when I would tell strangers things like “Please don’t touch my baby” or “Can you please move your smoking over to the designated smoking section?” or whatever when my kids were little. My response was “My kids don’t have a voice yet and until they do, it’s my job to be that voice even when it’s uncomfortable.”
One millions time this.
ugh ugh ugh. Not a mom, never gonna be, but the whole phenomenon of random people touching pregnant women and babies is SO CREEPY, WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS. Thank you for shutting it down.
“WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS”
Because we* live in a rape culture, where violating the bodily autonomy of others is normalized. Sexual violence is actually only a very small part of that, though it is arguably (one of) the very worst part(s); as we know from so many letters here, lack of respect for consent in social interactions and boundary violations occur in many, many types of relationships and contexts. Exploitation is the basis of our economic system, authoritarianism is the basis of our legal system, and an overwhelming majority of people treat the young as possessions of their parents instead of people (paternalism is the basis of our family system); all of these necessarily and implicitly reject an ethic of mutual consent, and while people tend to decry the inevitable results of a society that does not value consent as a basis for social interactions, many people are very unwilling to change one or more of the structural elements that underlie the particular social value of enforcing non-consensual interactions.
*I’m speaking specifically of USA, but this may apply, in part or in whole, to other societies as well
replying to Johann7: every single person who ever stepped over the bounds and tried to touch and/or photograph my children without permission came from another country. Every. Single. One. I’m not trying to disagree with what you’re saying, I actually see some truth in it, but the response I got from every single person who tried to touch and/or photograph my children without my permission was ALWAYS the same “Oh I’m sorry…in my country it’s normal / part of my culture” And my response was ALWAYS the same: Well, these are my children and I’m an uptight American so stop.”
“Learning to be your child’s advocate is all part of being a parent.”
“My kids don’t have a voice yet and until they do, it’s my job to be that voice even when it’s uncomfortable.”
People sometimes attempt to body-shame my oldest for having a large athletic build.
One of my relatives had done it to me, suggesting that I be more ‘girly’ because doing sports made me look too masculine, and eating a second helping was making me even bigger. When they started that with my child, they were told in no uncertain terms that those comments could be kept to themselves.
Yes. I had eating disorder(s) for ten years, starting in high school, and while my parents are and were loving and well-intentioned, it was not a coincidence that being raised by them led to that. I managed to shove my disorders underground pretty well starting at 26, when I was pregnant with my first, but it’s not like it doesn’t scar you forever; it’s not like you’re not battling that riptide for the rest of your life. Even now she’ll say things to me that make it clear that she thinks that thinner is better. For me, for her, for everybody. She is pretty unapologetic about shaming fat people (in private, to me). I mean, hello, recovering (always recovering) eating disordered daughter here–and she shames fat people solely for their weight? What the fuck?
She said something once about my then-10-year-old, about how she was so “pretty and slender.” This might sounds like such a little thing that it should have been a non-issue, but it triggered my arguably oversensitive internal HulkSmash response to that kind of crap, and I shut that shit down with her later when the kids weren’t around. You want to screw me up? Done and done, and I have put an enormous amount of work into recovering into being somebody I can live with. You want to lay the groundwork for that for my kids? FUCK YOU NO NOT EVER I WILL CUT YOU FROM OUR LIVES FIRST.
Fortunately she’s a genuinely loving mom/grandma, and she knows better than to test me on this, and she took the hint immediately and I’ve never heard anything like that from her since.
Sorry, I took this and made it all about me. My larger point was that I agree with the posters who make the point that we as parents advocate for our kids because that’s our job. If relatives can’t behave acceptably, then it’s worth making waves to protect your kids from that.
I sincerely hope that the LW’s MIL/FIL come around once the baby is here, but if they don’t, you should have zero shame about letting go of your efforts to oblige them in any way or to allow them access to your child.
Also, LW (and others), I’m really sorry to hear of your fertility issues. I know that’s incredibly difficult. : (
Thank you for doing that, RunForChocolate. My mother did /not/ protect me from her mother’s body-monitoring comments, because if it was wrong for Nana to say it to me, that would mean on some level that it had been wrong for Nana to say it to her own daughter – and Mom could not face the idea that she was scarred. The closest Mom could ever get was to tell me that I was beautiful no matter what (but here are regular critiques of any hair anywhere on your person, from hairstyle to toes; but it’s not BODY-SHAPE stuff because of course your body is fine!) I can testify that any parent anywhere, you or LW or anyone, who steps in to tell grandparent “You may NOT make Child feel inadequate!” and reinforce that rule, you are saving your baby some long-term pain.
Please don’t apologize for sharing your story! You sound like a phenomenal parent, and as someone who might someday want to be a parent, I find it very uplifting to hear these things.
No apologies needed!
Thank you for sharing, we’re all in this whole trying to make things better for our kids thing together. It’s staggering what some people will say around/to children.
My youngest has a birth defect that caused problems with eating and drinking from infancy until preschool. It took so much to keep her alive, she didn’t have enough fat to fight off infections or stay warm.
So when an acquaintance commented that my oldest would be beautiful if she were smaller, and how relieved I must be that my youngest is so petite, HULK-MOM SMASH!!!
My husband’s parents told him not to marry me and threatened to boycott our wedding. They came only because he told them I was pregnant and that if they ever wanted to see the baby, they would come to the wedding.
I ended up having a miscarriage a few days before the wedding (while they were staying in our house – and eating all of our expensive Carr Valley cheese, even though they were lactose intolerant – and getting drunk every night), so there was no baby after all. Even so, if that baby had been born, there was no way I was going to let my in-laws ever be around her to poison her with their mean, drunk criticism. They were not nice to my nieces and nephews and not nice to my husband and not nice to me. I was not going to expose my child to mean people.
I just wanted to say I’m really sorry – that sounds like a horrible experience.
Ha ha, I recognised the cheese-eating story from your blog!
Btw I totally didn’t mean that to sound like me laughing at your sad story, I was just pleasantly surprised I recognised this
I am on board with social anxiety / confrontation issues, but on the other hand it doesn’t take issues like that to have a problem confronting (1) parents (2) who are taking this kind of stance. I think it might be valuable for your husband to weigh “social anxiety” on one scale against “allowing people to say these things about my wife / the mother of my children” on the other scale, and pick a side of the scale.
“I think it might be valuable for your husband to weigh “social anxiety” on one scale against “allowing people to say these things about my wife / the mother of my children” on the other scale, and pick a side of the scale.”
This, +100. Your MIL speaking cruelly of you is cause enough for him to step up; your MIL speaking cruelly of you and then suggesting that he divorce you is really, really not okay.
This. My husband has manipulative parents and he had to do a LOT of work to overcome their “everything we want and do is great and everything that you want and do doesn’t matter” training. However, it started because they were rude to me on a regular basis. There was a certain amount of expectation that I would just suck it up for family harmony and friction when I said “Nope. Not going to happen, and it’s not okay for you to expect that of me.” In the end he had to choose his wife or maintaining the dysfunctional status quo. It wasn’t easy but he got through it. Is our relationship with them fine and dandy? No, but they are very well aware of which lines they cannot cross and behave accordingly.
I would say that the first step is that you realise that your husband’s mother stood there describing you like cattle and that’s not okay, but your husband allowed someone to discuss his wife like cattle and that’s really, really not okay. I don’t care how much anxiety he has, even if he could never bring himself to argue back that should have been a giant red flag to him that something is wrong in his life that needs to change. What if he takes your child to visit his parents and they spout this stuff in front of the kid? Will he expect them to listen politely and then kiss Grandma goodbye? I honestly would put the adoption on hold until you can be sure that he will not fail to protect your child should the need arise.
As an aside/contrast my BIL did NOT do the emotional work to distance himself from his parent’s manipulative tendencies and yes, they do take it out on the grandkids on that side, and yes, they do still speak rudely about his wife to him, and yes, he is perilously close to losing his wife/kids. It doesn’t end on its own.
I’m not 100% certain that conversation was with Husband. Could possibly have been MiL and some other party.
Yeah, I interpreted that as LW overhearing MIL speaking to some third party, not to the husband.
It doesn’t matter who the conversation was with, he knows about it, and still has dinner with them.
LW asked Husband to handle his families’ disrespect and emotional abuse of her. This whole thing could have been nipped in the bud if he had stood firm with LW from the beginning.
Mom: “Why are you adopting?”
Husband: “We’re excited to start our family, and have decided adoption is best for us!”
Mom: “Look at all these new fertility treatments!”
Husband: “We’ve already discussed all our options, and have decided adoption is best for us.”
Mom (to whoever): “LW is defective and denying us a real grandchild, Husband should divorce her!”
Husband: “Mom, you said some terrible things about LW during our last visit. We’re not coming back over until you apologize, and stop saying those things.”
Yup. MIL in this scenario sounds a lot like my mom. These days, my mom gets three strikes when she starts getting in our business:
“That topic is not up for discussion.”
“Be that as it may, that topic is not up for discussion.”
“You are overstepping, and it’s time for you to BUTT OUT.” + leaving, hanging up the phone, etc.
It sounds like you need to discuss with your husband the possibility that your in laws will never treat your future child as if they are “real” grandchildren. He needs to know that there is the possibility that you will simht have felt.ply want to cut these people out of yours and the children’s lives if their behavior becomes intolerable (in your judgment not his.) If he cannot face this possibility, then he should not become a parent. IMO, parenthood comes with the duty to protect your children from this type of horribleness. If I were you, I would both confront your MIL and let her know that you overheard her revealing conversation. If she tries to justify herself, maybe you should suggest that since she is now old and infertile, her husband should trade her in for a “newer model.” My grandparents had many grandchildren, about half of whom were adopted (including me.) I never saw any difference made between us, no matter how they might have felt.
Yes. And even if you decide that it’s not worth confronting someone about their views, it doesn’t mean that you have to keep interacting with them as if everything were peachy. My husband had a relative (since passed away) who objected to me because I wasn’t the ethnicity/religion he wanted to see in his family; there was no real benefit in making a stand with said elderly relative, but my husband ensured that I had to deal with him at most every couple of years–not twice a month.
Yeah, I’m thinking that regardless of everything else the Husband should be seeing his shit-talking mother a WHOLE lot less than twice a month. It cuts into valuable time he could be bonding with his wife, and then with his future baby. Hell, my dad LIKES his in-laws and we didn’t go see them nearly so much when I was growing up.
Something else the husband may need to consider is whether his wife and child will be able to have any sort of relationship at all with his parents – and, by extension, whether he will either. Because if there is the slightest risk that they will say shitty things to that child, possibly even before the kid understands about being adopted, then LW probably won’t want them around. And if their dad keeps on going to visit grandparents that they aren’t allowed to see, kid is not gonna be happy.
(I think the site ate my comment? re-posting, but may be a duplicate)
My dad’s mother was an absolute horror to my mother, and started being an absolute horror to me as a wee tiny child (emotional abuse, not physical, to clarify), so my mother put her foot down with my father “either you deal with it or I will”. He was unable to, so she (I swear to god) wrote her a 10-page letter outlining her grievances that started off with ‘You have always hated me, and I have never known why. After this, I will know why.” and none of us have been to see her since. Not once. Not in 29 years. My father is free to go have lunch with her (and he does, sometimes, and then is in a snappy mood for 2 days), but no one else is obligated to deal with it. Thank god.
To the LW: I guess the question is 2-fold:
– What is your ideal situation? Anything from ‘they apologize and greet my child as a family member and everything goes along cheery-nice’ to ‘eff them, I’m not an effing broodmare and I’m never having dinner with them again’ is VALID, but it’d probably be useful to know your ideal resolution.
– What is your husband willing to work towards in terms of resolution/solution? Is he willing to be an active participant in the solution, or is he stepping out and letting you carry the emotional labo? Is he capable of having your back? Your child’s back?
For the solution to be implemented:
– Is your husband able to deal with it? (Keeping in mind that sometimes ‘social anxiety’ = ‘valid anxiety produced due to anxiety-inducing situations’, according to my therapist). If he is ABLE, is he WILLING? (If not, you’ve got a husband problem in addition to a MIL problem).
– Can you deal with it, if he can’t? Keeping in mind that this is likely to lead to a more scorched-earth result, and is likely to end all pretence of a ‘close-knit family’. I mean, I personally would have a really hard time having dinner with someone who compared me to a defective brood mare, but those are my boundaries – find yours and stick with them.
– If they refuse to apologize/behave like non-asshats, what are the consequences? I don’t mean ‘I will institute a punishment’, but ‘logical consequences dictated by their actions’. For me: I don’t hang out with people who look down on me/insult me and refuse apologies/insult or mistreat my family. My children do not spend time with them. I do not help them when they need it (if you call me names and look down on me, then you are CLEARLY too good to need my money/time and should handle yourself on your own). Etc. Know what your lines are and what you refused to be dragged into in the name of faaaaaamily. It might not come to that, but I do find it’s useful to have established boudaries prior to needing them (and then needing to form them on the fly AND defend them from attack). Fortify prior to engaging, basically!
It did eat it, but I rescued it. If that happens again please do not keep posting the comment – it makes more work to clean it out. Thank you.
FYI @Captain, it’s not always clear if the WordPress login process erased the comment/failed to pass it through or if it simply got caught in a filter, which may be why people continue to re-post sometimes even when asked not to do so. I’m not sure if there is an ideal solution to this problem.
Johann, thanks. Reposting is not the solution from my perspective and I would prefer not to have to clear multiples from the queue.
Not sure why this has been posted as a response to my comment, but I apologise if it somehow posted twice without my knowledge.
Oof, sorry Johann. Now I see it was a nesting issue. It wasn’t clear on my little phone screen
The other thing to weigh in is if your husband would like you to have something other than a terrible relationship with his parents at some time. Fun story time: during my first psych hospitalization and bout of agoraphobia partner’s parents suggested that he would be better off without me. I heard this. That made them not safe people in my world and, by failing to shut it down, it made my partner feel a bit less safe to me too. Partner dude and I talked and that wasn’t the first time his parents had said things of that nature. He did hear how important it was for me to feel like he had my back and he rehearsed shutting them down and he eventually could every time with firm language. They eventually stopped saying those things. I’m sure they still feel them but they feel them quietly and not out loud in my presence or in his.
Fast forward eight years and my MIL is sad that we don’t have the close mother daughter style relationship that she had always wanted. We have a cordial relationship in which I like her Facebook posts and occasionally email her high res versions of her favourite grand-critter pics. She showed me who she is, I believed her and we have a relationship level that is slightly above a stranger in terms of self protection. Prior to all of those things we’d been quite friendly and I felt comfortable and safe in their presence. I had felt like they were the sort of family that I could turn to when life got bumpy. They weren’t.
If my partner had failed to shut them down I would have ultimately ceased all contact with them. As it is the contact is limited and my partner must always be there. I also would have felt less safe with my partner and less trusting.Messed up inlaw relationships have some pretty big ripples.
“She showed me who she is, I believed her.” You made such good choices throughout this hard time but in reading your story I was struck by what a state of grace it is to let someone live with their decisions.
I have social anxiety and I agree 100%. It’s really hard but it’s so, so worth it.
LW, congrats on your soon-to-be family member! And condolences on the asshats who are your in-laws!
I’m a big fan of the “That’s pretty sad to hear” script when it comes to dealing with said asshats insinuating that your child will not be treated as a “real” grandchild, and I might think about adding something like, “Thanks for letting us know in advance so we know where to spend the holidays.”
Yes–this goes along the lines of, when people tell you who they are, believe them.
“Thanks for letting us know in advance so we know where to spend the holidays.” Yes. This.
Jedi hugs, LW. Your in-laws behavior makes me so sad, for you and your future child. I wholeheartedly cosign all of the good Captain’s advice, and especially the part where you no longer make yourself attend these “cozy” family dinners, and let your husband deal with whatever they have to say about it. THEY have made it weird and uncomfortable, and they can just stew in it. Good luck with the adoption process! wish you and your husband all the best.
Another possible response to “We won’t consider them our grandchild!”, that will work best when your husband backs you and things get even worse than they are now, is, “Then I guess you won’t ever meet them!” Since they feel entitled to your reproductive organs, remove the possibility of them meeting your adopted child. My mother did that with her mother-in-law, and wonder of wonders, MIL started behaving.
Clearly, that’s something to think hard about before saying, but it is an option.
I’d also suggest being honest with why you’re missing dinners, using “I” statements. “I feel hurt when you tell me my children won’t matter to you.” “I feel upset that you’re making a very positive event in our lives very stressful by fighting us on it.” They’re the ones in the wrong here. Call them on it.
Or if OP’s husband isn’t comfortable with that hard a line, then perhaps “We won’t consider them our grandchild!” can be followed by a shrug, and “That’s alright. They have [number] other grandparents who are pretty psyched to meet them.”
To repeat a classic CA concept….you aren’t ruining things by pointing out awful behavior and asking for accountability. They are ruining things by behaving awfully and expecting a pass. I hear you on your partner’s anxiety, but I strongly feel he owes you some visible sign of solidarity. If that can’t be a blunt “what the hell?” conversation, maybe that’s he skips those dinners too. I can’t help but think that might fuel their notion of a life for him that doesn’t involve you, and I certainly don’t think you owe them your presence for a minute. If as the Cap’t suggests, this involves therapy for him to support him in getting to that point, that’s great. At the end of the day, you and your partner need to you you are on the same team. Parenting is a huuuuuuge and wondrous challenge, and this is a great time to put some stress and garbage away.
“I hear you on your partner’s anxiety, but I strongly feel he owes you some visible sign of solidarity. If that can’t be a blunt “what the hell?” conversation, maybe that’s he skips those dinners too. I can’t help but think that might fuel their notion of a life for him that doesn’t involve you”
By not either confronting them or at least quietly withdrawing alongside LW, he is tacitly agreeing with them that LW is the problem, and letting her bear the burden of his family’s anger.
Right – and in fact, CA is full of useful advice for husband too. Such as, you don’t have to have a confrontation if that’s too difficult. You can just reply to their next dinner invitation with a text message that says “Thanks for the invitation, but I’m not willing to spend a whole evening listening to you say rude things about my wife and future child”, and then not go.
It’s still hard and scary, but it’s doable.
I also am unable to have biological children. The very first thing I got from my husband’s family was an email from one of his aunts; berating me that she found out about our engagement on facebook and then planning my future children. What the ever loving hell? I wrote a reply stating that hey I called my family and I am his fiance not his personal assistant. Also, that I am 100% infertile and if she ever brought it up with me again I’d break one of her fingers. (I realize that violence is bad and wrong) I then showed my future husband what I had composed and said “Do you want to get your family in line, or do you want me to send this?
I was blindingly angry, not at him, but he needed to step up and he did.
While I am aware that much of his family wishes he would divorce me and marry a nice healthy young Catholic or Jewish girl (huge family mainly Catholic and Jewish) none of them say it to me and the one time his mom got all “but you’re the only boy and our family line” He told her that if we ever did have a kid it would have one of my family names and my last name and to never bring it up again. She offered to pay for fertility treatments and I just couldn’t deal, we were at dinner and I got up and went for a walk.
My husband is very introverted and his family set up is complicated; he still did the wrangling of his family.
LW, your ILs will be only the first of many people who will question your choices and your child. Find a good counselor literate in infertility and adoption. See that person with your husband. You should both know how to handle conflicts like this before you have a child in the mix. And he should be 100% in on this, and you should be on the same page. Think of this as the first parenting challenge.
I think this is a great idea. Also, when my aunt and uncle adopted their kid the agency offered to put them in touch with other adoptive parents in a sort of mentoring system. The agency were also really good about very frankly talking through potential difficult situations with adoptions, so you might also be able to get some pointers from them.
In addition to the suggested scripts, The Captain’s classic script of a horrified look coupled with “Wow. That’s a really rude thing to say.” could work really well here. Stop treating their comments about adopted kids being damaged goods (gross) as things worthy of discussion. Act shocked and horrified to hear such a statement, and move on. Don’t reason, don’t argue, don’t convince. No amount of logic and reason is going to get through to people who are making horrifying comments based on inappropriate feels about your child-having choices. Treat those awful statements like the smelly feels-poops that they are, and let them fester for their owners to clean up.
Heh, I picture the LW leaning towards the MIL confidentially and saying, “Do you realise you said that out loud just now?” in the way one informs an acquaintance that they have spinach in their teeth.
Over time my go-to move in situations like that has been looking at the person expectantly… like waiting for the follow up.
What I like about it is that they have laid out a provocation that they KNOW is a provocation, expecting you to rise to the bait (freak out, get defensive, back down, whatever). Treating it as, yes, provocative but THEIR provocation to respond to is in my experience like magic jujitsu.
It’s much easier than a snappy comeback (which requires daring, coolness under fire, not stumbling over your words — this is hard for me, at least). It’s not non-confrontational, but it makes them have the confrontation they are spoiling for with themselves rather than with you.
Sometimes they get embarrassed. Sometimes they keep upping the ante until… they get embarrassed. Sometimes they act like they’ve scored a triumph, but you can always tell it’s not quite the triumph they were hoping for (you, upset).
Surprisingly often, they backtrack. They make the talking points you would have made and (partially) concede them. You get as much progress as you would have gotten from any other method, usually. It might not be a lot of progress, but you get it without working up a sweat.
I love this tactic because The Expression can be practiced at odd moments and can become a goto when we are just both flabbergasted and horrified… And wish to convey that feeling to the world at large.
So often, these kinds of dysfunctional folks just rampage through everyone they know because everyone they know has long ago yielded to their Juggernaut of Jerk.
They have been used to saying, “Oh, so-and-so is like that.”
But LW should not have to put up with it, and neither should her husband.
This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing this idea.
…or she could just bait her in laws by saying, you’re right, this baby won’t be your real grandchild. I can hardly wait until I show the baby to my parents, you know, his REAL grandparents.
LW, congratulations on your happy news! I am sorry your in-laws aren’t playing on Team You, Your Husband, and Your Kid. It’s tough when you are let down in such a way.
I am also sorry your hugsband has the added complication of anxiety making strategy formation hard in an already hard situation. That’s also tough.
I think it’s wise to remember
1) You can’t ruin the relationship between your spouse and his parents. Only they can do that. By they, I mean, in this case, your in-laws are busily weakening it themselves.
2) I suppose you can facilitate their relationship to go one way or another. But that us an NLWP (Not The Letter Writer’s Problem) situation. Your problem is making good choices for/with you and your husband. You can be gracious (to a point), and you can be fair. But neither of those is the same as “tolerating mistreatment.” You cannot sacrifice your own family wellbeing on the altar of impossible to please relatives.
3) Your husband got the short end of the stick re: anxiety. He really has to do what he can to compensate for that. Whatever support he has, or can build, he will need to start building *before* your kiddo arrives. Not just because of your in-laws, but because of the many, many potentially stressful interactions coming your way in the near future. I don’t have to tell you, some kinds of adoption are heavily facilitated by the state, and if that’s your path, you’ll be hosting a lot of social worker coffee hours. It’s their job to be the best advocate for the kid that they can, and if you’re going to be good parents (I know you will), that means they’ll advocate for you, too. But it’s still a whole lot! Your partner shouldn’t have to be dealing with anxiety on top of everything else, if it’s possible not to.
4)As you move forward with this plan, remember to tap the resources out there for coping with resistive hurtful relatives, anxiety, and other adoption related stress. You are by no means the first, nor will you be the last, parents to have this very relatives problem. It could be helpful to go to the wisdom of prior experience on this.
5) I’ve noticed “close knit” often means “like it’s always been” or “as long as the problem people always get what they want.” That’s not the only way for families to be close knit. It’s time for his famjam to lay down the old knitting pattern of Close Knit Our Way and try something else for a change. Like the Crochet of Loving Support. Or the Cross Stitch of Life’s Changing Complexities. If they can’t, you both might want to switch to the Wovens of New Dynamics. Maybe something that won’t show whine stains, and will dry out quickly once you escape the wailing and gnashing of parental teeth. Spittle is a pain to get out otherwise.
Good luck, LW. I am pulling for you.
Lovin’ the whine-stains resistant new patterns! ^^
I like your handicraft analogies. 🙂 As my fiance and I are in the process of buying a house (to which his family mainly says, “What? So small! Terrible idea!” and my family basically says “hooray! congratulations!”), that Crochet of Loving Support sounds really great.
love your wordcraft here!
I see what you did there.
Thank you for the nice words, everyone. I am practicing a technique of Captain Awkward’s.
Fellow infertile woman here, also thinking about adoption. (We see an attorney on Thursday.) My husband’s parents are problematic in other ways (like racist, homophobic bigots), and we’ve had to navigate that. I’m not sure how we’ll do it when we have kids. He’s also very anxious about doing things like limiting our exposure to them, although willing to push back when awful things are said. (Unfortunately, that usually causes entrenchment and bad feelings all around.) But I wonder what might happen if we end up adopting a child who isn’t totally white, or a kid that turns out to be LGBT, and I know that will get sticky.
*jedi hugs* if you want them, Mom-to-Be. Navigating in-laws and children is HARD at the best of times, and when you have people who are clearly invested in the idea of BLOODLINES (like we’re in freaking 12-century England and the estate is entailed and the monarchy is at risk), it just makes it that much harder.
I do echo the suggestion to find a good counselor, though, for both of you guys together and separately. Those are a lot of feels to wade through, and there’s no shame in accepting help to do so.
Yup: infertile woman here, examined the adoption route. We would have adopted, and we would have gotten a child of another race, in all probability. I’d say that make sure that the agency you choose has group meetings and support services (most of them do). Also, cultivate supportive friendships: give your attention to people who support you. If you are always spending time with happy friends (of all ages), then the lack of “bloodline” interactions won’t be that painful. Finally, as bonus points, you get to navigate through diversity interactions! Woohoo! There are some great books out there (Amazon has wishlists that specialize even; I liked “I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla”). I also liked the suggestion of making sure that the places you take your child to celebrate diversity, even if the people in them aren’t as diverse as you’d like. Thus, even if you live in a white-majority area, the kindergarten should have multicolored people decorating the walls, that sort of thing. It seems like a small thing, but seeing people who look like you or act like you can make a formative difference.
Good luck! You’ll be fine 🙂
I’d argue that your kindergarten should have multicoloured people decorating the walls ESPECIALLY if you live in a white-majority area! It’s important for children to recognize themselves in the stories told, etc (inclusion! yay!) but it’s also important for white kids to recognize the common humanity of all people, instead of having people of different colours be ‘other’ and ‘different’ and ‘something to be included when you’re old enough.
A writer I particularly like has made that argument particularly well here: http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2016/01/26/want-black-lives-to-matter-want-to-help-end-racism-read/
With a list of books she recommends here: http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2016/02/10/black-childrens-books-worth-reading-i-younger-childrens-books/
Also massively recommending Nicole’s writing about being a transracial adoptee over at The Toast!
LW, are your in-laws likely to have grandchildren other than your and your husband’s kids? If so, please consider keeping your children far away from your in-laws, since they’ve already told you that adopted grandchildren will never be loved as much as biological grandchildren. Believe them.
Ten years down the line, those kinds of power plays can really fuck up a kid’s self-esteem and irreparably damage his/her relationship with his/her cousins (speaking from experience here). Please shield your children from the constant comparations that derive from a dynamic such as your in-laws’. A bad person doesn’t magically change for the better just because they become a grandparent.
That said, I think the Cap’s advice is really good; you’re totally allowed to avoid people who upset you, and your husband should start practicing his boundary-setting around his parents, because someday a small human being is going to depend on him to stand up for him/her.
Best of luck, and congratulations on your future child/ren! ❤
I agree with this. I’m not adopted, but my grandmother (despite never doing anything so uncouth as saying it out loud) nonetheless made it abundantly clear that she preferred her two Catholic grandchildren to the other two (my brother and I, raised largely agnostic with added Christmas carols, and also untraditionally – our parents spared the rod!). I can remember as a kid counting the photographs of her grandchildren on the sideboard looking for evidence to confirm the feeling that we were significantly less valued.
Thankfully, in the last 8 or so years of her life she mellowed out quite a bit, and since all of her kids ended up divorcing and none of us grandkids had managed to live ‘normal’ lives so far, she showed appreciation for all of us fairly equably in the end – even remarking on how pretty my wife looked in our wedding photos 🙂
Much like Amphelise below, I’m not adopted but my father’s parents hate/d my mother and my sibling and I by extension, and it was very VERY clear. We lived in easy driving distance, and we went to my grandparents’ almost every weekend, along with the rest of my dad’s siblings, and it was very noticeable how differently my sibling and I were treated. And totally not awesome.
(I was a careful, deliberate, and thoughtful–but exuberant and delighted!–shopper even as a small child, and my grandmother once called me a very unpleasant racist name because of it, and they implied that my mother was an alcoholic during my sister’s gestation because they, I shit you not, did not like my sister’s face.)
Augh, “Amphelise ABOVE”, and “my sister and me”. I am very tired.
I am an adoptive father and our path was similar to yours; a medical condition makes pregnancy problematic for my wife, and as an adoptee herself we felt very comfortable with that as a choice.
Whatever agency you’re working with for your home study should be able to point you at resources for dealing with cruddy family. It’s going to come up in the course of preparing it, so don’t try to hide it. Sadly you’re not the first or going to be the last to have unsupportive family.
The bad part of my nature would want to remind the MIL that *she* already produced an “emotionally damaged” child–her son with social anxiety. However I don’t think starting a second version of the _War of the Roses_ in the form of _War of the In-Laws_ is a good idea.
If your husband is in therapy to deal with his social anxiety, he needs to bring this situation up with his therapist ASAP with the goal of planning ways to deal with his parents and extended family.
If your husband is not in therapy, don’t go any further with the adoption until he is a) in therapy and b) has an achievable timeline for when he will be capable of dealing with his social anxiety. Not necessarily cured but capable of doing what needs to be done even though still experiencing inner anxiety. In other words, your husband needs to be functional enough to do what needs to be done without overly relying on you to bolster him beforehand or help him process afterwards.
The reason I suggest pausing on the adoption until your husband is functional is because my life experience tells me that bringing any child into a relationship means bringing a whole lot of unavoidable conflict as well, either with the child or with the rest of the world as you defend that child. If it isn’t your in-laws, it’s the parents of the little bully who lives 3 doors down or the person who objects to the presence of children in (fill in the blank venue) and takes it out on either you or your kid, the teacher who is picking on your kid, etc, ad infinitum.
There are no guarantees where marriage is concerned but please consider that any child you adopt will sooner or later will be at high risk for experiencing grief for the loss of their biological parents and adding divorce to that child’s load would be profoundly unfair and immature. If you are left with the majority of the burden of conflict either with or around your child, you are likely to begin to resent having to carry an unfair share of the negative side of childrearing. If you are involuntarily delegated to be the Parent of Spoiling Kid Fun and Expectations while your husband indulges your child because he’s so conflict-avoidant, it won’t be healthy for the child, either.
He could have had the greatest parents on Earth and still had psychological issues.
WRT to divorce being “immature”, guess what? Children are far better off with separated parents, than they are living in a virtual war zone of constant domestic strife. It permanently affects a child’s development when they’re witnessing arguments, and caught between people who detest each other. It’s far from ” immature” to make the decision to end a relationship before it implodes.
Maybe you shouldn’t let the “bad part of [your ] nature” post advice
Hey, a soapbox! I can’t freaking stand the concept of “staying together for the kids” or the idea that divorce is always bad for kids. Sure, going through a divorce isn’t a great time for anyone, but as someone whose parents *finally* got divorced when I was not quite a teenager, oh god it was such a relief not to have to listen to them scream at each other anymore. Divorce was a million times better for me and my sister than living in a house with two people who couldn’t stand each other. I also think growing up thinking that marriage was when you lived with someone you didn’t like and fought with all the time is directly related to the emotionally abusive relationship I endured in my late teens. “Not divorced” means absolutely nothing about the health of the marriage and family.
The part about the husband being “emotionally damaged” isn’t cool either, but I do agree with the advice to aggressively pursue therapy before actually adopting a kid. Even if LW’s in-laws were perfectly lovely, eventually their kid *will* need defending from someone and it’s not fair to make LW do it all the time and she’d have to be a saint not to eventually resent always having to be the bad guy. Not to mention how many sad stories I’ve heard about people who really loved their spouses but got divorced because spouse would never defend them when their family treated them poorly and they couldn’t live like that.
Yeah, a civil divorce is way better than strife, but *not adopting in the first place* (until you’ve got your shit straightened out, that is) is best of all.
Good luck, LW!
My dad’s girlfriend and her husband stayed together ‘for the kids!’. She was living at least part of the time with my dad when my brother and I met her kids, 5 years ago she and dad emigrated together. But she’d never put her children through the stress of a divorce, not like my cruellllll mother had done to us.
Pick which set of kids have the most issues relating to trust, honesty and relationships in general…..
I apologise. My communication was unclear to the point that it was easily misunderstood.
As for the hypothetical “emotional damage” shot at the MIL, I don’t actually believe that parents cause all emotional damage and I should have included a disclaimer to that effect. Social anxiety can arise in kids from perfectly wonderful families, as I well know; I’ve suffered from social anxiety since I was five years old due to the endemic racism I had to live with (I was born in the 1950s and at that time, it was apparently acceptable for white people to just say whatever racist thing they thought of). However, the MIL’s attitude towards LW suggests that LW’s husband may not have come from a perfectly wonderful family.
That hypothetical comment was intended to be a verbal sucker punch that the MIL would most likely have no way to refute, therefore leaving her in the same situation as LW: hurt and yet unable to reply. Since it is actually an unfair shot, that is why I would never say such a thing; even if my opponent is not treating me fairly (a la MIL), I try to set the standard for my own behaviour higher than that. A little strictly hypothetical shadenfreude was not resistible to me, considering that I neither know any of the parties involved or would say anything like that were I to know them.
I should also have included a disclaimer on my comment about divorce. Divorce is not always immature; sometimes it is the only mature response left to a terrible situation. I do believe, based on my life experience, that bringing children into a relationship, whether via birth, adoption or other means, will bring increased stress on the relationship. If both spouses have not dealt with their respective issues to the point where they are able to function normally, the increased stress is highly likely to blow the relationship apart.
No one goes into marriage (or comes out of it) as a perfect person. No couple needs to be perfect in order to be perfect parents. However, the nature of parenting well means that each parent’s issues need to be controllable and allow them to function normally. If one partner’s issues do not allow them to be normally functional, then divorce is highly likely when that parent’s issues start to affect the child(ren).
In the LW’s situation, her husband’s social anxiety is apparently not yet controlled to the functional level because she cites it as a reason he didn’t squash his mother’s jibes flat immediately, particularly since LW and husband are seeing his parents twice a month. It is highly probable that if he leaves the burden of protecting their child up to the LW, a divorce may well follow. If not because the LW becomes emotionally exhausted from trying to deal with the in-laws and protect her child, then the first time the child becomes aware of the implications of MIL’s attitude, because that will push every protective button the LW has and a bunch she never really realised she possessed.
So bringing a child into a marriage that is already at higher risk for divorce is immature, in my opinion. Yes, children do better with separated/divorced parents who co-parent effectively than they do in a household that doubles as an emotional war zone but they do even better if they keep the number of parents they started out with. Yes, I believe, on the basis of my life experience, that single parents can be great parents and couples can be great parents but when one parent is missing from the child’s day life each day, that child suffers a feeling of loss that knowing they will see their parents regularly but apart does not wholly address.
As for your final comment, I have no words.
Yikes, a lot of assumptions here about divorce that don’t align well with actual data. Divorce doesn’t mean the loss of biological parents, it means big change, yes, but people do figure out how to co-parent after divorce and as BPB points out, parents who separate because of whatever their reasons are can be far more mature than those who “stay together for the kid”–imagine that burden?! ugh.
I think Duly Concerned is saying that an adopted child might have feelings of loss re their bio parents, so if their parents divorce it’ll be a second loss.
BigdogLittlecat, yes, that is exactly what I meant when I wrote “any child you adopt will sooner or later will be at high risk for experiencing grief for the loss of their BIOLOGICAL parents…” (caps added to original quote to emphasis the word)
“Divorce doesn’t mean the loss of biological parents”
But adoption usually does.
To those replying: I don’t think this is a post attacking divorce as a thing that is ‘immature’ when a kid is already involved, but it IS immature to go gung-ho into an adoption if the parental relationship is already shaky. Like, we’d say ideally don’t get pregnant if you boyfriend isn’t good dad material and a breakup is on the horizon. You DTMFA THEN get organ any. If a baby is already in the mix then the kid is better off of you divorce than stay together, but I there is no baby yet? Split up FIRST.
Until the dad to be can be a responsible enough to be a dad it would be immature to bring a kid into that situation if you have a choice not to.
It’s two different things, is what I’m saying, so I think it’s unfair to jump on DukyConcernes for something they haven’t actually said.
“If the baby is already in the mix it’s better to divorce than stay together”
toniprufrock, thank you, yes, that’s what I meant, particularly since you said it better than I did.
I am also not saying that it takes two parents to successfully raise a child because that is clearly untrue; however, if a child starts out with two parents and then the parents get divorced, it is not easy on the child. If divorce is likely at the time the child is conceived (in either the biological sense or the sense of beginning the proceedings to adopt), it is better to get that possibility dealt with one way or the other before the child arrives.
I agree, and I think Duly Concerned was clear about that and people’s knees are jerking wildly. LW’s husband is not ready to be a father, because he is not ready to separate emotionally from his parents. Now, lots of people become parents before they are ready, and some of those people eventually become good parents, but why subject a child to that risk, on purpose?
If I were trying to adopt and my parents were acting like the LW’s in-laws (which I can’t imagine them doing, but for the sake of argument), my partner making that first “reminder” on my behalf would be infuriating and disappointing. NOT RECOMMENDED. If I were to say it myself, though—”Oh, I didn’t realize that my being raised by my biological parents was supposed to have automatically protected me from [litany of health problems, including emotional health issues]”—I think I would be making a fair point.
Timelines are difficult and iffy for mental health, even with a good psychological professional involved, but, LW, you’ll know your husband is probably ready after the first (or maybe second, to be certain) time he stands up to his parents on your and/or your future child’s behalf. It tends to get easier after that.
“The bad part of my nature would want to remind the MIL that *she* already produced an “emotionally damaged” child–her son with social anxiety.”
Whoa! Is that really what you meant to say? Equating anxiety disorders with “emotional damage”? Wow.
I apologise, I was unclear in my communication.
What I meant was that as the MIL probably considers social anxiety to be emotional damage, that hypothetical comment would be a sucker punch to her over-inflated sense of entitlement (she thinks her genetic descendants would be just as she wants them to be? to me, that’s entitlement written on a Donald Trump scale). I can’t know for sure that the MIL would feel that way but I see that possibility as being more likely than not on the basis of the limited evidence available. In any case, I tried to make it clear I was not suggesting that the LW actually say that to the MIL.
Social anxiety does not equal emotional damage. As someone who has social anxiety (but is functional despite my inner screams of “we’re gonna diiieeeeeeeeee if you say/do that”), I do feel that I am emotionally damaged but I am aware that not everyone who has social anxiety feels that way.
It is probably less important to “verbally sucker-punch” your MIL than to not do the same damn thing to your husband, whom you love and respect, while using a rude and factually indefensible brush to tar a lot of other people. I think you were perfectly clear in your communication, unfortunately.
Wow, how many times should Duly Concerned repeat that they were talking about a hypothetical situation, not something they would actually do or think that the LW should do?
Ms. Pris: Enough times that it becomes clear that calling all people with social anxiety “emotionally damaged” in this forum (or any other forum) is flatly unacceptable.
Even in saying “We’re playing by the MIL’s rules in order to puncture the MIL’s sense of entitlement,” as soon as you start playing by those rules, you start repeating the emotional abuse, and that’s not okay.
You brought up a good point, but it wasn’t to the regular posters’ tastes. So they laid into you about *how* you were making your point; why didn’t you say it exactly the way they could accept, etc. It was still a good point, and you didn’t deserve being tag-teamed and nitpicked. There was no explanation you could offer – and you did your best – that would be accepted. So! This is what an internet faamily looks like when an interloper sits at the family table.
I’m in a slightly different situation (polyamorous family, my two partners are our child’s bio-parents) but got similar reactions from two of my family members about how my child wouldn’t be their relative. When I related this to my therapist and said how upset I was by it, he said, “Their opinions on that don’t really matter. They already are your child’s relatives, whether they like it or not. The question is what kind of relatives they choose to be.”
One of them is now very sad that he hasn’t yet gotten to meet my child, who’s three months old. He and I have worked on repairing our relationship after a big fight (over this and other baby-related matters) and I’d be willing to make introductions, but my partners are still so angry at him that they’re not yet willing to invite him over, and I defer to them on that. So he’ll get to meet K at the next big family gathering, and he can cope with having to wait until then.
When you’re a parent you learn about natural consequences, like “you dropped the cookie and the dog ate it, so now you don’t have a cookie”. My relative not getting to hang out at my place and play with the baby is a natural consequence of him having been an ass. Likewise, your MIL not getting to hang out with her daughter-in-law and grandchild is going to be a natural consequence of her being an ass. You are not obligated to make nice to people who’ve said terrible things to and about you and your child. As a parent, your first priority is protecting your child, and if that means no family dinners at your MIL’s place, then that’s what it means. It’s awful and terrible when family are the people you have to protect your child from, but stay strong and remember that keeping your child safe matters more than your MIL’s hurt feelings ever could (and seriously, after saying all that shit about you, she’s going to be sad that you rejected her? Naaaah).
The other relative of mine lives far away, doesn’t visit our part of the world often, and isn’t a very emotionally interactive person in general, so there’s no real-world effect to deal with. But I still have feelings about it, and that’s what therapy is for. I definitely recommend finding an adoption-friendly therapist to talk with about these and other topics. You and your husband might want to go together, or you can find therapists separately, but either way, you need support while you’re going through all of this.
Natural consequences. EVERYTHING ABOUT WHAT YOU SAY.
It is not about ‘punishing’ people. If people are asshats, then not spending time with them is a natural consequence. Their feelings about it are their own to manage, along with THEIR ACTIONS (aka: not being asshats would, perhaps, ease some of the consequences).
Adoption is *hard*. Mentally, emotionally, financially *hard*. You need all the support you can get and you definitely do not need Nasty McNastyface inlaws being nasty.
Leave the inlaws to stew in their on nastiness. It’s clear they think little of you so please think nothing of them. If DH wants a relationship with his family then he needs to start adulting and figure it out. Please consider counseling with DH during the adoption process, because it is *hard*.
Build Team You. Take some time to yourself to de-stress and the like. You are an incredible person who wants to open her heart and her home to a child – and that’s awesome.
Carry on being awesome.
LW, one of my Aunts had an adopted son and also fostered some children and my grandparents were *horrible* about it. They would openly in front of the children refer to their “real” grandchildren and they favoured the bio-grandkids over the adopted/fostered ones and gave better gifts to the bio kids, only had photos of the bio kids in the living room, made a huge fuss of the bio sons my Aunt and Uncle had etc. etc. It was pretty awful. My Aunt and Uncle are also pretty awful people (in a whole bunch of ways) and did absolutely nothing to stop this. To be honest my Dad was always terrible at setting boundaries with them as well, and it was a problem for my mother because my Grandparents were super upset that she was the daughter of European Immigrants (they were super bigoted in all sorts of ways, like, before you even get to the racism you have whatever ism it is when people hate people of the same race from other cultures). One time my Grandma got super mad with me (as a little child) for speaking the language of my other Grandparents to show off what I’d learnt. Yikes.
Anyway, I tell this sad story to say that this whole situation was horrible for the adopted/fostered kids, and while they had more immediate problems with the terribleness of my Aunt and Uncle, I can only imagine how sad it was to always be a not real grandchild, and have to watch the “real” grandchildren get treated way better at Christmas and so forth. Or how off it was for them to constantly listen to people talk about how they were trouble and had problems because of their bad genetic backgrounds or whatever other nastiness. LW, it’s very possible that your in-laws will never get better about this. I would think it’s going to be easier to draw boundaries and put your foot down *now* before there are children involved. Especially because for you drawing boundaries involves making this your husband’s problem – right now he’s left you to just sort of put up with it (because he’s put up with it his whole life and probably doesn’t even understand that it’s possible to not put up with it), but you could refuse to. I think you should refuse to. Probably best to get that particular bit of probably very intense relationship upset out of the way before the child arrives. Be strong on this one!
Personally, I think that it’s a good rule of thunb to NEVER give unsolicited advice concerning when/how/if people should have children. The odds of you stomping on an emotional land mine are super high.
Agreed – though in this case it seems like the in-laws aren’t so much inadvertantly stomping on a landmine as throwing emotional grenades right in LW’s face.
And a slow clap to you, dear commenter! I cannot for the life of me fathom how some people never learned this. I do not ever, ever, ever ask anyone but the very closest of friends about their child-having friends. (And I’m talking like, my best friend, because she and I know how to navigate each other’s landmines.)
Some acquaintances recently announced on Facebook that they’re starting IVF, and for a moment, I thought, “Huh, that’s kind of a weirdly personal thing to share.” And then I realized that their first kid is three years old, so they’ve probably spent the last THREE FREAKIN’ YEARS fielding questions about when they’re having a second while secretly struggling to make that second kid happen and probably being really upset about it. Now I get why one might announce that publicly: so that (some) people will STFU and stop asking why you won’t just have a second kid already.
Everything the Captain said is so wise. Also, one thing I want to mention is that it’s smart and healthy of you to decide that people who are jerks don’t get to interact with your child. Getting to spend time with your kid is a privilege, not a right, and it’s a good thing if people who are jerks don’t make the cut.
For example, my maternal grandmother was an irredeemable jerk, and never learned (despite lots and lots of gentle constructive criticism) how to stop being a jerk, so she never got to spend much time with me when I was a kid. She was super angry about that, but she kept on doing mean and manipulative things, so my mom held firm. I met her a few times when I was a teenager so I could make up my own mind about her, but I saw pretty quickly that my mother had made a good call there. I feel really glad and grateful that I didn’t have her in my life when I was tiny and vulnerable.
I totally understand that Husband’s anxiety means he isn’t willing to rock the family boat, as he sees it, but I love the script about defective breeding stock so much that I think he should rehearse it in front of the mirror until he has the confidence to say it to his mother.
Unless someone says something like this to her, she’ll think she has carte blanche to carry on insulting you, LW. I doubt she’ll just stop otherwise. She needs a kick in the pants.
Heck, he could have a million of them!
“I am taking this genetic thing so seriously I am donating sperm every month.”
“We’ve signed up to try an experimental womb. There’s only a 30% chance of that two-headed problem, and they say they are working on it constantly.”
“You are going to give us $100,000 to try fertility treatments? Fantastic! Should we pick up the check at your house, or are you bringing it to dinner?”
“We can get me cloned, but they use sheep.”
>>“You are going to give us $100,000 to try fertility treatments? Fantastic! Should we pick up the check at your house, or are you bringing it to dinner?”
Oh heavens no, don’t risk that just in case they say yes!
Adoption comes out of a lot of loss: loss on the birth family’s part, even if it’s an open adoption; loss on your part, perhaps of your original plans or dreams for a family, perhaps about the rebellion of your body; loss on the child’s part, of their first family and/or culture. All this loss and brokenness can turn into something completely new and wonderful! A new, loving family! Two families, or more! A whole new set of experiences and people to care about! A whole new set of tools to deal with the grief and to forge something creative! Stability and people who have your back! But it’s important to acknowledge the loss as well.
This is probably part of what is making your in-laws act like appalling dicks. They have lost their first dream of what their son’s family would look like, and they aren’t letting it go. If your husband really, deeply cares about how they feel, he might consider approaching it this way. He might say (ONCE): “Mom, Dad, I know you thought we were going to have a batch of (blond/ black/ red-headed/ near-sighted/ whatever) kids for you and live happily ever after. That would have been great. But you know, this is going to be great, too. We can’t wait to meet our daughter or our son, and introduce them to you and let you hold them. You can teach them to (love maps/ make cupcakes/ whatever) as long as you don’t spoil them too much.” Try briefly acknowledging the loss (though yours and your child’s is greater) and creating a fresh idea of what family might look like for them. If they don’t respond, drop it; they will have to find their own way eventually.
I agree with the Captain to keep skipping the dinners, though. There is no need whatsoever for you to hear this kind of poison.
Jenny, I really like this. It’s a good way to be gentle while still holding your ground. I think the LW’s goal is to bring everyone together rather than find a way to break off and this is a good approach to attempt that.
This is lovely. If they have a heart to be touched, this would do it.
I love this.
“We won’t consider it our real grandchild!”
“Okay. We won’t consider you real gramdparents.”
Grandparents (darn virtual keyboard)
The cranky uncharitable part of me’s response is “That’s great because you won’t be seeing it, like, ever, so it’s so nice that won’t be an issue for you!”
I have to evaluate how much of everything I am actually willing to burn down before I let that part of me talk.
Yeah, but sometimes a burn-the-bridge, salt-the-earth approach is valid.
After trying other things, ideally, but there’s something to be said for knowing that you will never again have to deal with that BS. Time and place. 🙂
LOL! Yeah, I would also find this “touche’!” moment very tempting, but I suspect that if matters aren’t already at DEFCON 1 with the rude asshat in-laws, this would probably be just the phrase to get the situation to that point.
I’m not sure what the adoption process is like where you are but I’m a social worker in Europe. Support from and relationships with extended family would be a big part of the assessment process so you would need to know how you are going to manage this situation. If they will be part of your support network they would be interviewed. I wouldn’t want a child to be exposed to this sort of hostility it could really harm their sense of identity and self esteem. Things might be different where you are and you may already be approved but this could be one angle to use to discuss with your husband.
In the US adoption looks a lot different than it did even just twenty years ago. When my wife was adopted in the early 70s it was still pretty much exclusively a government-run and controlled thing. Her parents got their name put on a list and when a child was surrendered to the state they got a call. The adoption was “closed” – nobody on either side knows who or where anyone is – and that was enforced by law. Now almost all domestic adoption are “open” to the extent that the birth parent(s) wish, and they are basically the final decider of where the child is placed.
Private licensed social workers do initial interviews and help aspiring adoptive parent(s) get all the necessary documentation done, referred to as a home study. Something like unsupportive family members would for sure be something that would be discussed and a potential concern. I don’t think it would be a definite deal breaker for every social worker (nor do I think it should be; plenty of people have children biologically with unsupportive family) but they would discuss it and provide guidance and resources to help deal with it.
A completed home study is no guarantee that a birth mother will select someone, and in fact she’ll never see it. I mention this just because “approved” isn’t exactly the right terminology the way it works here. Most search/placement firms won’t work with prospective parents till they have a completed home study, but that’s just step one towards connecting with a birth family who thinks you’ll be a good home for their child.
I totally agree that unsupportive family should not be a deal breaker. I was thinking more that it would be best for the children if the adopters had decided between them how to manage the situation before the children arrived.
“When my wife was adopted in the early 70s it was still pretty much exclusively a government-run and controlled thing. ”
Maybe where your wife was adopted, but this really doesn’t apply to the entire US. If it had been true, maybe adoption during that period would have been less corrupt.
You In Laws are acting like jerks at the moment, no question. But I just want to bring up the fact that some people don’t consider Grandparenting to be anything more interactive than setting up a children’s table at the holidays, and sending along the occasional card for birthdays when they remember. None of my Grandparents put much more effort into our yearly visits to them than that, and no one expected them to.
I grew up in a far different era, and type of family involvement, where – when we visited my Mom’s family – the adults all talked together and we were expected to amuse ourselves and be “seen and not heard”. Family visits were never about the children. My Dad’s Grandmother even lived in the same town as us for several years, and I don’t think we saw her more than once or twice that year.
Oh, they loved us all, but I don’t remember ever having an actual conversation with my Grandfather. He died when I was 10, so maybe if he’d lived longer we would have eventually connected, but I’m not sure they were ever all that interested in children as people. And my Grandmother only ever came up to visit us once, that I remember. We drove down there twice a year, and I even stayed there for a week once (but I was at least 10, if not older, so I suspect she never babysat us when we were small). She took me with her to run errands once or twice that trip, and occasionally gave us coins for the ice cream truck in the summer or kept a small candy bowl we could take a piece from after dinner. Between meals, though, we were sort of expected to stay out of the way. They were kind, but we were definitely expected to fold into their lives, not the other way around.
But then there was also the time my Grandmother gave me a few hundred dollars when I went off to college, money that she had worked hard to save. She took over paying for my college education my last year of school, after I married and I couldn’t afford it and my parents weren’t going to pay for it. And, when I got married and she couldn’t travel for the wedding, I sent her a corsage for the day and she was thrilled to get it. And she left me a couple thousand dollars in her will, which was totally unexpected and generous.
Totally up to you what you want to lobby for, but it’s possible that their version of “Loving a Grandchild”, whatever it ends up being, isn’t going to be the all encompassing, weekly-visit involvement you’re expecting. You might have to decide if you’d feel all right accepting what they are capable of regarding the way they choose to participate in your child’s life, or if the only acceptable option for you is total involvement. Because if total involvement had been part of my parents’ rulebook, my Grandparents wouldn’t have even been in the game.
Sorry… my computer lost the first couple paragraphs of that post, so it seems completely off topic. The first couple paragraphs were something like:
You In Laws are being unbelievable jerks about your daughter’s adoption. I can’t believe they’d say a thing like that, and I wish your husband felt comfortable confronting them. Their comments were beyond hurtful, and not the sort of thing.
Is it possible to keep some distance from them, to just do your own thing for the first couple of years? If they’re not invited to your family events, maybe they’ll have some time to realize what they’re missing. And as she gets older, they might start to show some interest. My Grandparents weren’t all that involved in our lives, when we were small. They were supportive of our parents, but it was never really about us kids. They noticed us, but they weren’t all that obviously interested in us or our lives, as individuals.
… or maybe it lost the whole post, or I posted to the wrong place.
Anyway, hope the Captain will delete if I’ve double posted or made a late-night hash of it all. (and the end of the sentence up there was “… and not the sort of thing you or your child should ever have to listen to, even accidentally.”)
The rest of the post was basically the point that my Grandparents weren’t the sort of people who dealt with kids. When we visited, we were expected to keep out of the way while the adults talked. I don’t remember ever even having a conversation with my Grandfather. But still, they occasionally helped us through college, and sent Birthday cards, and checks at Christmas. And because it was normal for our house, it never occurred to us that their a-couple-times-a-year contact was kind of minimal.
Maybe your In Laws are just the Couple Days A Year sort of relatives. If that’s not going to be good enough for you, or good enough for the kind of family you want for your child, that’s your call to make.
(Wow, they really should take away my keyboard when it gets to be this late… making a hash of this post, too.)
The Captain encourages people not to double-post. She eventually gets to the comments that did not go through at first. With more than a hundred comments, it’s a lot of work to delete duplicates.
One way to approach the issue with your husband is from the child’s perspective. Are you going to be on good visiting terms with someone who treats your child like damaged goods? How far will you go to placate them and keep them happy? How will you respond if they are nasty to your child, or obviously favour other grandchildren? You have the ability to stand up for yourself if your husband refuses to do so to his parents, or to remove yourself from their presence. Your kid won’t, so you two will need to do it for them.
If you’re adopting an infant, you can see how it goes at first – they might relent when there is an actual baby there. But if you’re adopting an older child, someone who is old enough to notice their attitude, then I’d advise keeping your inlaws completely away from the child – no family dinners, no Christmas visits – until you’re reasonably sure they can behave themselves, or at the very least until you’ve settled in with the child, and they are sure that their new parents have their back and will defend them.
This is great, great, great advice. LW, have you had this conversation with your husband? If not, I hope you have it soon. If he’s not good at defending you to his parents, how is he going to handle what they say to your child? Maybe a conversation like this will give him the push he needs to go talk to a therapist about dealing with his parents.
BTW If your husband won’t go to therapy, GO BY YOURSELF. Good therapy for you alone is better than no therapy at all.
I have awful, awful in-laws too and a husband who, I’ve come to realize, in unable to stand up to them because of his own demons. I started seeing a therapist because I needed help dealing with my husband directly on his lack of familial boundaries and I needed help dealing with the foul jerks of his family. Therapy has been wonderful. I have so many tools now. Plus a spine….and some scripts…and some polite but snarky comebacks…..I finally feel empowered.
Make sure you yourself are completely empowered throughout all of this. Give yourself all the tools you can get. Jedi hugs to you!
This was my situation growing up. I was not a ‘real’ grandchild because I was adopted. It was awful, my father’s family was nasty directly my face about myself and my mother. I got over it.
My mother never did. Even when they aren’t directly nasty, being unequal has a way of wearing your down. I remember hearing my parents screaming at each other some nights. Going to school tired because I got to listen to my mom sobbing and begging my dad to take her pain seriously and not make her go interact with his family. I’ve gotten over my extended family, but it was hard even to type this.
LW, you need to have this conversation in a serious way with your husband, because my childhood could be your child’s childhood. And he needs to step up and help you stop that from happening.
Oh wow, Mom-to-be, the things your in-laws have said are so nasty, intrusive and wrong. My blood is boiling on your behalf.
I think the Captain’s advice is great. I just wanted to add though, about your husband finding it difficult to confront them because of anxiety – as a parent, your husband is going to need to be able to stand up for his kids and put them first, even if that means confronting or otherwise disappointing his parents. I’m an anxiety sufferer too, so I know it can be hard, and I don’t want to downplay that. But he still needs to do it, or if he can’t, he needs to go to therapy and do whatever work he needs to do to be able to look out for you guys.
Most parents I know need to get into a confrontation at some point to protect their child’s interests, so it’s a good opportunity for him to practice for the rest of fatherhood. Otherwise, it sounds like you might need to be the one who defends your child from life’s slings and arrows – the other parent who thinks it’s ok to feed your kid nuts because s/he’s not ‘really’ allergic, the teacher who writes your kid off because they’re a non-traditional learner, the doctor who thinks your child isn’t really sick, etc.
I think it’s very kind of you to want not to damage the relationship he has with his parents, but since he hasn’t yet tried to set boundaries with them about the adoption, you don’t actually know what will happen if he pipes up. It could well be that him saying ‘Mom, Dad, we’re adopting and that’s the end of the story. Now can we talk about something else?’ or ‘Mom, Dad, enough with the adoption gripes already’ next time they take a swipe at you will improve the situation without causing major explosions.
Until he can do this, it’s completely fair to give family dinners a miss. You are not under any obligation to eat up a serving of bile with your family dinner.
This is my gut response so I’d like feedback of other commenters have it. I know I’m viewing this via a lens affected by abuse but LW’s mom’s comment made me feel 10x yuck.
LW, I must say I question your husband’s lack of support for your decision. I have social anxiety too; as well as GAD and abusive parents.
Being courageous and standing up to people who try to whittle you down is really really hard. But I think it’s so important to stand up for people. Especially as it’s his future child? AND especially if he cares to find out if his mother is just flinging shit for fun or if she really is going to be a negative force in your child’s life.
My whole life I was the peace maker, never one to rock the boat and always there to soothe ruffled feathers no matter what the drama was. I have social anxiety and have a hard time forming words if I think there’s too much attention my way, I dissociate if someone is angry at me.
At some point after I moved out and started making Decisions That Weren’t Approved, I became the black sheep/scapegoat. But I still did my best to not rock the boat. Never stood up for myself.
Until that is, my little brother moved out and also started making his own Decisions That Weren’t Approved.
Maybe it’s me, but I’m happy to let my parents walk all over me but my brother? Not a chance. One time I saw my bro crying over the crap mom was saying to him on the phone, so I picked up the phone myself and told her in no uncertain terms that she could call me names all she likes but she was not welcome in my house if she was going to treat my brother as subhuman. I was very nearly sick afterwards, a combination of a lifetime of being groomed to be quiet and meek and a very real fear of both phones and causing tension made me ill.
Haven’t spoken to mom in years. Don’t regret it at all.
But, I couldn’t stand by while someone I love was copping crap? Is it worth keeping someone in your life who didn’t think much of you at all?
Er sorry for various typos/lack of plurals. I’m on my phone.
Anon, just wanted to say how hard that must have been and how proud you should be, Jedi hugs I you want them.
I think it’s a really good point that people can find wells of bravery they didn’t know they had when someone they love dearly is being picked on. Te hope is that LW’s husband can draw on this and unlock the furious Papa-Bear. It’s upsetting that he hasn’t managed to find that for LW.
Maybe it will crystallise when the little one turns up, but ideally he need to ‘prove’ himself before then, even in little ways and protect his family, like LW is protecting hers
LW, skip the family dinners. Skip all the family dinners! You have no obligation to hang with people who think and say horrible things about you. They don’t deserve your company, faaaaaaaamily or not. Your husband can skip with you or he can keep attending; it’s his choice. He’s been put in a lousy position, but you aren’t the one who put him there.
As an example, my partner’s brother and his wife think and have said horrible things about my transgender child. Because of their thoughts and statements, I don’t feel that they deserve the company of myself and my child at faaaaaaamily events. So we don’t go. My partner still goes to visit their kids, but his visits are few and far between. Brother and wife know exactly why kiddo and I are never with my partner on these visits. It’s too bad for the little ones — this could have been an opportunity for them to learn inclusiveness before they’re even in middle school [*], and now they don’t see their uncle too frequently. But their parents have made their choice. It was a bad choice made for bad reasons, and the consequence is that they don’t get to hang out with me and my kid any more.
I’m very sorry to hear that your husband has social anxiety. And I’m sorrier to hear that his family has ramped up the tension in this situation by being terrible people. It also sounds like they’re exploiting his anxiety to try to make him and you change your mind about the adoption. This is not what a “close-knit” family does. This is a faaaaaaaamily you (and your child!) don’t need in your life on any kind of regular basis.
[*] Of course, it’s not my child’s job to be their teacher or role model, unless they want to.
Just jumping in for Jedi Hugs and a bit of understanding.
It is tough to reduce family contact, and yet it can be a relief that we “don’t walk through the minefield today.” Family is a privilege, not a right 🙂
FAMILY IS A PRIVILEGE, NOT A RIGHT!
Shouting this from the mountaintop.
Someone close to me is adopted from birth and although that has certainly had an impact on part of his self image, he is not damaged or missing some key experience of family belonging. He was adopted thirty years ago when children put up to be adopted were seen as scandalous and despite not having the progressive adoptive agencies we have now, he grew up in a home where he was loved and enjoyed an extended family network within a group of flawed human beings. His imperfect folks did a good job. They didn’t need to compensate for his situation, they did normal family stuff.
What his mother did; give a loving parent relationship to him, was a wonderful thing and what you are doing is as special, as worth celebration and support. Babies are babies, no family is perfect. Focus on self care for you and hub and draw that protective boundary to allow you to be yourself, rather than teach anyone else. You deserve to spend your energy on kind and supportive people. Sometimes it helps me to frame that a no to someone who is disrespectful is a yes to an alternative, a yes to me time.
Children know what family is – I come from an abusive birth family and yet I know what a healthy family when I see it and I enjoy the families I am a part of now. SO kwe yoir focus on creating yoir family and ignore the ignorance of your in laws. Your little one will be OK.
Congratulations to team Mama!
Have to +1 this. My mother was adopted at birth. Once as a child I asked her if she had ever wanted to find her real mother, and she kind of looked at me, and said, “I was raised by my real mother.” And even as a child I understood what she meant.
Two of my cousins are adopted. They’re every single bit as much of our family as I am, or as any other relative is. Family by choice, family by courtesy, family by love–these are Real Families (TM). Kids know that.
I think being protective and thoughtful about the issues of adoption are all well and good, but this idea that adopted children are fragile and different and need a big show of inclusion, I think that is a hang up we project onto them.
It’s highly possible that the LW will not be adopting from birth though. Due to improvements in reproductive choice and parental rights, adopting a newborn domestically is in general rare. Of course the LW’s potential future child or any adoptee should not be othered (and certainly not labelled as ‘damaged’ as the in laws are doing here) but an older adopted child will remember the loss they have sustained. There is no one way the child will react to this.
Absolutely, if the child is not a baby then the sense of loss can be bigger. There is no one way. I was trying to address the idea that all adopted children are always going to be ‘damaged’ or that adoptive parents must be perfect and that adoptive families need to maintain harmony at all times in order to raise a child.
You don’t need an excuse not to go to dinner. Your husband knows the truth — you don’t want to spend time with his parents because they’re rude, intrusive, and they actively want him to leave you. Those are very valid reasons! If he wants to make something up to say to them about why you aren’t there, that’s on him.
If you’re having dinner with his parents twice a month, assuming you’re there for only a couple of hours each time, that’s 48 hours a year that you’re spending with people who hate you and want you out of their son’s life. Add in birthdays, holidays etc, and that’s an AWFUL lot of time that you could be spending on taking a walk, or chilling out in the bath with a good book, or trying a new recipe, or fitting in a few more hours at work, or watching cute cat videos on Youtube, or literally anything other than hanging out with people who wish you weren’t there. I would choose those other things from now on and drop any guilt about doing so, because life is too short and free time is too precious to spend it on assholes.
Looking forwards, pretty much the only thing that matters in this situation is whose side your husband is going to pick. If he picks your and your future child/children then his parents are a pair of tiny squeaking little gerbils with zero power in the situation. They can do nothing. If he picks them, your life will be an ongoing battle of trying to protect your kids from his parents unpleasant behavior, while he undermines your efforts.
It’s sad that he has anxiety, but you can’t change that for him any more than you can make his parents into nicer people. That’s something he will have to develop the skills to deal with himself. However, I think how he handles ‘I will not be going to dinner at your parents’ house any more’ would give you some empirical evidence of how likely he is to protect you and your kids from their disrespectful behavior in the future.
“Becoming a parent in his own right is a very good time to think about family dynamics”
This!!! My husband was very non-confrontational with his parents and their crazy demands for years. It drove me absolutely nuts that he would put up with behavior that would literally leave him sick for days after a visit because it was “easier to just let them have their way”. I worried endlessly about how things would be once we had kids and how his toxic family would behave around these innocent kids. My husband surprised me. Once he became a dad, suddenly things that he had let slide were suddenly issues when it pertained to his children. How fast? His mother came to the hospital hours after I’d delivered our daughter and accused me of pushing the baby into the world early just so she (my MIL) couldn’t be in the delivery room with us. My husband draped his arm across his mother’s shoulders, told her that she either stopped complaining and enjoy the last few minutes of visiting hours or she could leave and he would be the one to escort her from the room.
My point is, LW, that your husband may surprise you. It might help to talk with him about your concerns about what happens once your family grows from two to three (or four or five) and what each of your expectations are about how your family will be treated. Play the “what if” game over dinner and see where it gets you. “What if our child comes to us at age 13 and has done (insert terrible behavior)? What if your mother tells our child that they’re not really part of our family because he’s adopted? What if our child is bullied? What if our child is the bully? What do we do if your mother continues to be negative towards the baby once he’s here? etc….”
Good Luck! Adoption is exciting.
His mother came to the hospital hours after I’d delivered our daughter and accused me of pushing the baby into the world early just so she (my MIL) couldn’t be in the delivery room with us.
Excuse me, I think my jaw just fell off and bounced into the other room…
I feel shocked that MrsLoki didn’t want this woman to be in the room while a tiny person was being yanked out of her vagina.
Oh, no, wait, I don’t feel shocked at all.
Speaking as an adoptee myself, it is essential that your child not be exposed to that kind of crap. Adoption can generate a number of difficult issues, and adding rejecting grandparents is just going to make it worse. Also, once the child is old enough to figure out that they never see one set of grandparents (which I hope will be the case if they cannot be trusted to behave) you will have to think about what to say – I don’t approve of family secrets but ‘Grandpa and Grandma didn’t want us to adopt you’ is not going to be a good line.
Another adoptee here, one who was fortunately accepted by the extended family. My parents understood that I had to know I was adopted because I was wanted, and so that was the message from a very early age. The first time I encountered family who had reservations about me were my in-laws, and it was because I was fat. I wasn’t beautiful enough for their son, and they encouraged him to break off the engagement. I never let on that he told me that, and they might have forgotten it. I haven’t. I’ve forgiven them — that was 36 or 37 years ago — but not forgotten.
I bring up the in-laws because they have this fascinating and to my mind, horribly wrong notion that Blood Is All. Daughters-in-law are not daughters, however close we may be (and husband’s brother’s wife and I are both close to them, they really are nice people in most respects.) Stepchildren are not real children. I’ve been asked several times why I’m not interested in finding out about my “real” parents, since mom-in-law is a genealogy buff. I refuse to explain that it isn’t that I’m not interested in my birth family, but that they’re not my real parents; my real parents are my adoptive parents. It’s better to just not have that discussion.
I also bring up the in-laws because the young, unmarried daughter of my husband’s brother’s second wife managed to get pregnant and decided to carry the pregnancy to term. My in-laws were full of condemnation. Sex outside marriage! Carelessness! Foolishness! And how was a teenager going to care for a baby? And on and on and on… until my grand-niece was born and they actually got to hold her in their arms. Amazing how fast their tune changed! Now there was no more condemnation of my niece, just comfort in the fact that she had lots of good family to help raise her child. (That baby is in her senior year of college now, and I am VERY proud to call her my grand-niece.)
This is a long-winded way of saying that people are often ambivalent about unexpected and unapproved things happening in the family, especially when those things don’t follow some prescribed pattern they have in their heads. LW needs to prepare for the worst, of course, and that might well be that her new child is rejected by their grandparents or treated badly or second-class. At that point those grandparents need to have no say or influence on their rejected grandchild. But when the baby’s in the cradle, things might well change for the better, and that outcome needs to be planned for, too.
I hope, hope, hope that things turn out well for this family, and that the grandparents relent.
This is my own personal bugbear due to stuff that has happened in past relationships, so take this with a grain of salt the size of a Buick but I am *very* *tired* of seeing letters from people who are being treated badly by their partner’s family, but partner can’t do anything because “they have anxiety” and/or they’re “nonconfrontational.”
Anxiety DOES suck. Confronting people, especially family, IS very difficult. What ALSO sucks is being treated horribly and not having the person who is supposed to be the biggest part of your Team You be on your side.
I think the LW might want to read The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense for any future Terrible In-Law Dinners. I, personally, find that the best strategy for when I’m forced to interact with Asshole Brother is completely disengagement from anything he says. (Him: “You’re crazy because you have depression!” Me: *raised eyebrows, continues to chew food*) It’s actually very hard to antagonize someone who refuses to engage with you.
I also think that some form of counseling, individually or together, would be really great here. Adoption is a wonderful thing, but it can be a fraught thing, and adding to your family (whether or not it’s through adoption) can be really challenging in ways you’re not expecting. I think it’s better to talk through how you/he are going to deal with his parents being douchebags to your child BEFORE said child is a reality and its happening.
When my parents got married, my father’s mother told him it was either his wife or their family. He picked my mom. I’ve only met that grandmother twice in my life. The second time I saw her, I think I was in my very early 20s, and I had a tattoo on my forearm. My grandmother started demanding to know why I had tattoos and my father calmly and firmly told her it was not a topic that was up for discussion.
My dad is not a perfect dad or husband, I’m sure, and my mother is not the easiest person to be married to, but I have mad respect for him for making that decision at a pretty young age and remaining steadfastly on my mom’s Team Her.
I’m not married, but it was a really great example for how I would want to treat a partner and how I would want my partner to treat me. I would like to think that, despite having anxiety and also not being a confrontational person, I would figure out a way to stand up to people who were shitting all over someone I claimed to love and care about and defend them.
This is my own personal bugbear due to stuff that has happened in past relationships, so take this with a grain of salt the size of a Buick but I am *very* *tired* of seeing letters from people who are being treated badly by their partner’s family, but partner can’t do anything because “they have anxiety” and/or they’re “nonconfrontational.”
I totally get that out of control anxiety/confrontation issues are real and exist. And that families like the OP’s husband’s reinforce them daily because it gets them what they want. It’s wrong, awful and unfair.
HOWever. That does not give a grown person who’s on the brink of starting his/her own family a lifetime pass to never do any emotional labor or make any hard decisions. Cripes, if he can’t handle anxiety now, how the hell is he going to manage being a parent? What’s that? His wife will take care of all those hard icky things just like she’s been cast as his rescuer/personal assistant/constantly assailed defender of their JOINT DECISIONS when it comes to his horrible family? I thought so.
I’m not saying he’s going to/be able to change overnight, or that he needs to have an epiphany or grand moment or never feel bad again when dealing with his family. Doing good hardly ever correlates neatly with feeling good. Chances are he’ll be dealing with stray scraps of guilt and shame generated by his family dynamic for years, even decades. And that’s horrible, wrong, and unfair. But it’s also reality.
He and his wife are never going to be “good enough” to ease his fears and give him a foundation to stand on, nor is it going to be granted to him by his parents.
The very best advice I ever came across was from the Tomato Nation website relating to dealing with wretched in-laws: No good ever came of putting the desire to please crazy people ahead of your own well being and self interest.
It’s tough and I know it’s a delicate balancing act, but I dated someone for nearly a decade with an anxiety disorder, and believe me, there was not a knot I didn’t twist myself into or a backbend I didn’t do to try to accommodate them. Towards the last year or two of our relationship, “I have anxiety and can’t do X or Z” was really code for “I don’t want to and it’s hard to try and you’ve done such a good job doing all the work for me, why should I do anything now?”
For the sake of FutureKid, I really hope LW and her husband get this hashed out NOW. I have a feeling things are going to be a lot more real when it’s not just her being shit on but a tiny defenseless child. I have no doubt that if my father hadn’t taken a hard line against his parents (and later, against my mother’s mother, who is kind of wretched) my parents’ marriage would not have lasted.
Anxiety is real, and it’s hard, but if you are privileging your anxiety over your partner’s right to not be verbally abused, you might want to do some hard work to try to figure out some strategies that let you both take of yourself AND stand up for your partner. No one has the right to have a spouse, but you do have the right not to be treated terribly by others, which I hope the LW’s husband keeps in mind.
In retrospect, I had a serious wake-up moment with my late husband when he had an appointment with an ophthalmologist about some of the eye problems after his stroke and I opted to wait in the waiting room during that appointment (the third of that day) rather than go in with him, and he blamed me for the ophthalmologist praying over him. The dude asked first though, and hub said “yes”, because, he said, he was too intimidated and anxious to refuse, so *I should have been there to do it for him*. Like I did every other hard, messy, dirty thing in our relationship, every thing that might provoke anxiety or make people mad or cause negative repercussions.
Same here. Except for me, it’s because my parents are awful (they are currently in their 18th month of ignoring that my darling Best Boyfriend exists) and I can’t imagine letting them be mean to someone I love. If we were at their house (which we WON’T BE because they are being DICKS and dicks don’t get to be in my wonderful life with Best Boyfriend), I wouldn’t let the words dry on their lips before we were out the door.
From one soon-to-be non-biologicial parent to another.
My husband and I are about a third of the way through getting certified as foster parents, due to both concerns about fertility and long-story-reasons for thinking foster parenting is something we want to do. His parents have been . . . skeptical. The primary difference from your in-laws’ reaction is that his parents wants to know why we want to take care of other people’s kids if we just have to give them back again. I think adoption would actually be more welcome to them. Given that we are going to be fostering instead of adopting, I do understand that everyone involved is a little reserved, since the idea is a planned temporary situation. But we’ve been talking about this for a long time, and have been talking to the state in the last month and started the process — and just last night, his mother said she’d thought we would have given up the idea by now.
Here’s the thing, though. My husband fields their calls. He explains things to them when he thinks they’ll be receptive, and just says ‘I hear you’ when he thinks they’re not. He doesn’t argue. He doesn’t give in. We live far enough away that most contact is by phone, which makes it easier. But he doesn’t let them go after me – who they see as the instigator of this terrible idea that will ruin our lives. It was hard for him to learn how to stand up to his parents, and he certainly didn’t get it right the first time, and doesn’t get it right every time even now. But he learned how to do it because our plans and hopes are more important to him than what his parents think.
If I were you, which I’m not, so please feel free to ignore this, I’d take the Captain’s suggestion about talking to your husband about becoming more proactive in dealing with his parents and shielding you. And about getting therapy. And think about getting therapy for you, as well. From what I’ve seen, this would be a rough process for you two even if every one was on board and supportive.
Good luck. Here’s hoping a year from now, we both have children, and doting in-laws who can’t believe they ever thought this was a bad idea.
I understand that your husband has “anxiety” but that is not a good enough reason to let his family crap on you. Have it out with him, and insist that if he cannot speak up, he needs to go to counseling to learn how. Otherwise, you will never be visiting his parents again, and they will never see your child. Stick to this. And if you ever do have to see them again, stick up for your self, very loud and clear. He will never defend you, so you must defend yourself. Let your mother-in-law know that you heard her ignorant breeding stock remark, and let her know that she is never to speak like that about you again. Embarrass her! If she said it, she should be made to own it.
Right? I mean, on the Grand Scales of the Universe, I think “having your in-laws shit all over you/potentially shit all over future children” should weigh a little more heavily than “but telling people to stop shitting on my wife and potentially my child(ren) is hard and scary!”
Congratulations on your decision to become parents! I hope the adoption goes smoothly and you are parents soon.
The Captain has given you stellar advice. I want to reiterate that you deserve more support from your husband than you describe him giving.
I read you as indicating that you and he believe that he is too delicate to withstand confrontation, and that so far it has been your job to protect him. You can’t really do that anymore. And maybe you should not have needed to in the past.
The thing about “and forsaking all others” is that it doesn’t refer only to sexual partners. It’s a view of marriage in which a new family is created,o be in which the partners place each other before anyone else. Including parents.
Most of us will put up with some level of nastiness from our spouse’s family of origin before requiring that Spouse take on that burden Spouseself. I think you’re at that point now.
It’s your husband’s obligation to put his new family first. So, for example, if you two decide that he will continue to see his parents twice a month (without you), he should not repeat any lousy things they said about you. Why should you hear that nonsense?
Mind you, my opinion is that he should not see them, and he should tell them off.
But even if he doesn’t, you and kid (or kids) aren’t required to put up with this.
As the Cap said, small wonder that LW’s husband has anxiety, with parents like that.
But if he stands up to them and enforces his boundaries, he’ll probably find that after the initial confrontation is over, his anxiety around them decreases. He’ll learn he is not powerless before them and that he can survive their displeasure.
Congrats on your adoption journey! I echo the comments of others who feel your spouse should be doing more. His job will be to protect his children. That can and should start now, before those children are even here!
F*ck his anxiety issues. I am sick and tired of reading story after story in news articles and mom blogs and advice columns about couples struggling with infertility issues. Across the board, it is glaringly disproportionate that it is the woman that has to explain why she’s not pregnant yet. It’s the woman that gets grilled about her health issues, and gets the pamphlets shoved in her face and has to answer the “well have you tried X” questions. And it’s the woman that also gets asked questions about her sex life and has to answer questions about whether her spouse can “cut the mustard”.
You should NOT have to bear that burden on your own – and certainly not when it’s coming from your husband’s people! The adoption process will be stressful, time consuming, and (I hope not for you) may even come with some sadness and disappointment. You MUST insist that he bear his fair share of all of that. Best of luck to you in your journey. We have no adoptees in my family, but we do have some inter-racial kids in the bunch and the comments about “you kid’ll be a half-breed!” were pretty horrible. But for most of the nay-sayers, once that baby landed in their lap, the ugly went away and was replaced with the joy that a new baby brings. I wish the same for you LW!
Oh, LW. My brother and sis-in-law are in the adoption pool (yay! SO EXCITED!), and her mom, J, spent a good while acting not unlike your husband’s parents. J has gotten better as she’s had time to sit with the idea and no one took her up on her ‘suggestions’ that they ‘try harder’ for ‘their own’ baby. We employed some of the CA-approved “…Wow. Why would you say that?” and it worked WONDERS. I think seeing everyone else in the extended family being super excited and not caring she was grumping about it helped her realize it would be boring and lonely over there and she wasn’t getting her way regardless. I hope your in-laws come around, and are good grandparents to your impending kiddo. I hope your husband steps up and handles them as he should.
But, most importantly, congratulations on entering the adoption process!
This exact situation happened to me. My in-laws offered us money to surrogacy and in-vitro fertilization. We visited them with our 1-year-old son for Christmas the year he came home. We were chatting in the kitchen about our plans to buy a new house. My FIL said “you know, you could buy a nicer house. We still have $100K set aside for the first grandchild.” I stared at him, then at our son, munching cheerios in his high chair, refusing to believe what he was implying. My husband talked with him and discovered our worst fears were true. Our son was not considered a grandchild, would get no inheritance or gifts that their other grandchildren would, and that they were pretty upset with me for being infertile/not enduring aggressive and invasive fertility treatments. It was a horrible Christmas. I wanted to take our baby and go home.
Possibly more horrible, my husband divorced me a year later, marrying within months of our divorce and having a biological child with his new wife within a year. While I believe my ex is a reasonably good and responsible human, I can’t help but think his “family values” trickled down into his feeling of dissatisfaction with our little family. Recently, he dragged me to a psychologist to discuss our son (who is now six) tying up his barbie dolls in his game of “rescue” like it was some sort of deviant behavior. He was clearly dissatisfied with the professional assessment that it was nothing and that perhaps the best thing we could do is not make it a big deal. I live in fear of my son noticing that his father and paternal grandparents think he’s “less than” his biological little brother. I pray that they have the decency to not be obvious about it.
With joint custody, all I can offer him is lots of love and cuddles and my own parents, who adore him as a beloved grandchild along with my niece. I hope he feels and knows he has a huge and close-knit pile of adults who love him and consider him family.
Oh, how horrible! At first I thought your then-FIL was essentially saying “It’s great that we didn’t end up paying for fertility treatments; take the money and buy a nicer house for our grandchild to grow up in instead!” And then it turned out that wasn’t it, at all, not even close. And then it got worse.
Jedi hugs to you, if wanted, and a big dose of support for you and your child from this internet stranger.
>>>At first I thought your then-FIL was essentially saying “It’s great that we didn’t end up paying for fertility treatments; take the money and buy a nicer house for our grandchild to grow up in instead!”
I thought that too! I had to re-read the comment three times to get past the, “oh, asshats redeeming themselves with generosity!” assumption I was making, because the reality was just too too awful.
twistpeach, your son sounds like a kid I want to hang out with. And as a kid who missed out on one set of grandparents due to shenanigans, I can honestly say that I never missed them because all the caring adults in my life were there for me, all the time. Your son knows he is loved and whatever the difficulties, it really makes all the difference.
Wow, twistpeach, I am very sorry that your in-laws and ex are so inexcusably awful. Hugs to you and your son.
Oh. 😦 Your poor, poor son. I’m glad he has your side of the family to love him like he deserves. To be honest your husband sounds like he has already decided your adopted child is in some way ‘damaged’. That is so scary.
Oh wow. Someone in this thread said “It’s not like we’re in the 12th century and the estate is entitled and the crown is on the line.” Hmmm. Apparently to your ex-in laws, it was. I am so, so sorry. And shocked. And horrified that people like this exist. And I though my family issues were bad…..
Jedi hugs to both you and to LW again.
Apparently, my FIL spouted some stuff about genetics. But what really appalled me was that my very kind MIL made apologies for his rudeness in *bringing it up* (like his real sin was being uncouth) and my sister-in-law, the possessor of the “legitimate” grandchildren and already a recipient of $200K in this little scheme, made no move at all, not even to offer a comforting “sorry he’s a tool.” These are people I considered compassionate and reasonable, while my FIL had always been a little tight and kooky. All of them had been nothing but kind to me.
Sometimes people get crazy ideas, but other people are supposed to shush you and tell you that you forgot that other people are human beings. It was a hard lesson that people can be very polite and say kind words and still be appalling when the rubber meets the road.
My brain is shooting flaming bolts at your former in-laws.
Jedi hugs to you and your son, and the rest of your family.
HOORAY for your family, LW! Hooray for you and your husband deciding to start a family in a way that will be best for you, and for looking honestly and your needs, health, values, and whatever else contributed to this (personal, individual, nobody-else’s-business) decision. And condolences on terrible in-laws who don’t understand just how big that “hooray” is.
As a queer woman, I have been the unintentional sounding board for a startling number of my straight, perhaps infertile friends and coworkers – because the narrative around starting a family is all-pregnancy, all-the-time, and they seek me out like little heat-seeking missiles to the warmth of my non-normative reproductive strategies. So I’m going to share with you what I share with them, which is a thing that you already know but probably don’t get enough backup on:
Adoption is the greatest, as a first choice. Full stop. (Fostering is also the greatest as a first choice!) Becoming a parent is hard, and requires patience and flexibility and openness to who your child is – whether that kid is related to you or not – and the people who are most effective as PARENTS, biological or otherwise, are those who are prepared to see and support and love the kid that is before them, not their expectation. In some ways, knowing that your child is not related to you is an advantage and superpower: you havethe opportunity to face the fact that your kid is not some magical extension of you, and you are doing the work of preparing emotionally to learn and love this amazing little person. Watching my coworkers and friends, they are all so used to being told that there is something wrong with them because this is the path they are taking – even if they have chosen it for non-health, non-infertility reasons – that they forget that choosing adoption, for whatever reason, is also evidence of something so supremely right with them.
Don’t argue with these awful in-laws about that, but when you say “That’s too bad,” to their nonsense: it IS too bad. For them. That they can’t see and celebrate your superpowers, and appreciate the complexity and toughness of your decision, and be there for you on this road. That is what family does, and it is their loss that they are losing an opportunity to be family.
As you navigate your in-laws being asshats about this (and probably some other things! asshatery is rarely so narrow as that), maybe their behavior can be a kind of gift: this awful situation lets you see, before there is a child involved, the number and nature of boundaries that your little family will need from your extended one. This is how I sometimes try to think about my queer inability to get easily pregnant, or my MIL being half and hour late to my wedding (and her ongoing disrespectful shenanigans in which she makes it super clear that she is not psyched to have a lesbian daughter), or the fact that I can’t have my partner’s kid even though I would LOVE to – they are sad, hard, unpleasant situations to face, but they have helped me clarify my needs and values, have tough conversations with my wife, and prepare for the life I want with the non-ideal building blocks I have.
You’re a badass, LW. You’re going to be a great mom.
“If people make the choice to treat you poorly, try seeing it as giving you permission to stop worrying about what they think, to stop trying to please them, and to stop spending your precious free time in their company.”
Oh, oh my. I nominate this for a crossstich pillow, a T-shirt, *and* an airplane banner.
I would so buy the coffee mug, and then drink out of it while facing transgressors.
Applicable to soooo much of life! Thank you Captain!
If someone else has made this point, I missed it. I’ve gone over it repeatedly, and I really hope what I mean comes through, because it’s horribly awkward. If I cause pain, I am sorry.
Congrats, hope, strength, health, and all manner of good things to you and your husband and your future little one(s). I hope things go smoothly, and may your paperwork never be lost or delayed.
LW, you and your husband, collectively and singly, DO NOT OWE REPRODUCTION TO ANYONE.
You are not defaulting on a contract. You are not failing a quest. You are not cheating on finals. You are not breaking a solemn oath. You are not stealing anything from anyone. Your in-laws are allowed to be disappointed but they are not allowed to take it out on you or about you because you are not doing anything wrong. You’ve decided to adopt because YOU want one or more children, not because you owe anyone anything, and because adoption suits your circumstances best to get to a result YOU want. You and your spouse are the only ones with any rights in this matter. Anyone else screaming about their non-existent rights… well, now you get practice in dealing with temper tantrums, because that’s all that is.
If you are carrying any guilt from that, please lay it down. It’s undeserved, it’s unfair, and it’s corrosive.
I wish you lots of smiles, lots of sleepy snuggles, and lots of shared wonders.
This is the BEST comment ever
I have 4 cousins, two of whom are adopted, and they are an amazing part of our family that we love. My Mom is one of their Godparents, and everyone was so glad when the joined our family. I was old enough to remember how hard the adoption process was for my Aunt and Uncle too, and it was such a perfect Christmas when they showed up. They had issues, just like all of us do, but they are our family, forever. Once they get out of their annoying early 20s stoner phase I look forward to a lifetime of adult friendship with them.
Basically, from the extended family of some adopted kids, the LW’s in laws are jerks, and I have lots of curse words for them. And her husband should too.
Oh, LW. I have no amazing advice, and I am child-free by choice, but I have to say my jaw literally dropped open reading your letter. I am aghast on your behalf that your in-laws would behave like this. Jedi hugs if you want them, I know extreme rudeness can be so emotionally and mentally exhausting to deal with.
I notice that the LW is concerned about her husband’s anxiety, and that is a valid thing.
What I want to know is, who is being concerned about LW’s anxiety?
She is not ‘eating for two’ but she sure is being anxious for two. Two adults! That’s not healthy either.
Let us all take a moment to step away from a man’s anxiety about HIS OWN family and express concern for LW’s anxiety about dealing with her adoption plans being called into question, her marriage being called into questiontorpedoed, and her own general worthiness being called into question.
Oops. Typo. I’m looking for Hubby to express concern for his wife’s anxiety.
Commenters have been in LW’s corner from top to bottom 😉
“Lately, I’ve started using work as an excuse to skip dinner with them, but that can’t work forever.”
If you get to the point of Giving No Fucks, of course it can! “Hmm, I *mysteriously* seem to have had to work every night I was supposed to eat dinner with you, In-Laws! For the last five years! How strange! One of the great mysteries of life, I suppose!”
But you don’t have to do that. You can let them know that you value yourself and your future child more than you value their company, so OF COURSE you’re going to skip dinners with people who belittle the two of you. It’s, as other commenters have said, a natural consequence of their actions. You can even skip (*gasp!*) HOLIDAYS with them over this, and be in the right.
Your husband’s path here is separate from but related to yours. If he is committed to being a husband and a father, he will have to reconcile how to do that while maintaining whatever relationship with his own parents he chooses. The status quo, however, ain’t gonna work. You can help him find counseling, internet resources, maybe a psychiatrist if anxiety medication is called for, and whatever else, but he has to take the important actions himself. The problem is not going to go away on its own unless, to be morbid for a moment, his parents suddenly keel over dead next week. And even then, he will probably have to confront *someone* on his child’s behalf at some point in the future, so better he learns how to do it now.
Now, I suppose it’s time for *this* anxiety sufferer to go do some things she has been avoiding. Jedi hugs to you, and even to your husband, as much as he’s irritating me right now. And here—a few extras to save up for your child. Let’s call this the Life Star: 🌟
My partner and I just adopted an 12 year old boy and I highly support allowing everyone to set their own boundaries. My sister-in-law and her husband are very much right wing Christian evangelicals. At the behest of my awesome mother-in-law hubby and I came to spend a week with the in-laws wherein I get actively ignore by sister-in-law and her husband. I try and steer conversations to neutral topics like how our respective boys are doing and cooing how well they all get along. Nothing. After that week of the freeze out I let my husband and mother-in-law know that I am never again going to be in the same room with sister-in-law and her husband. It was hard but almost a relief for all parties involved not to worry about placating sister-in-law and her husband and supporting me. On my side of the family, my father really doesn’t think my son is his grandson and husband and I have set clear boundaries around interactions with my father. Luckily the REST of my family has embrace my son wholeheartedly (my uncle loves my son and always wants to talk to him and my cousins and their girlfriends are great about playing video games with him). So the rule is, no one on one time with my parents and son. It’s the whole big fun, family or nothing. This spring break my husband and son went to visit his family and I had my sister, her family and my parents at our house. Husband dealt with his family’s dysfunction and I dealt with mine. We all have families to negotiate, but that burden does not have to be inflicted on our partners.
“my father really doesn’t think my son is his grandson”
This is the saddest sentence ever. For you, for your son, for your father. My younger sister is married to a man who has a son from a relationship years prior. The boy, now a teen, had only a superficial relationship with my BIL but through social media they started talking. two years ago he asked if he could move in with his dad and my sister. They agreed and he came to live up north with them. That first family gathering was mildly awkward as we call wondered what to refer to each other as: nephew vs BIL’s son, aunt vs stepmother’s sister, grandmother vs stepmothers mom but by the end of that dinner he was referring to us as Auntie, Uncle, Grammy and we were referring to him as our nephew, grandson – part of the family. To be honest, my mom surprised me the most. She’s always been part of the blood is the only true family school of thinking…but not since John came into the picture. Just last month he asked her to come watch him cheer at a basketball game at his highschool and she was there…front row in the bleacher…camera ready.
It makes me sad that your Father won’t allow himself to know that joy. Good for you for protecting your son. 🙂
I’m largely a lurker here, but just had to respond to this letter. LW, my partner and I are the queer parents of a wonderful adopted daughter. We’ve both had some issues with our families of origin, me much more so than she. Suffice it to say that her parents are *lovely* people whose devout Catholic faith made it difficult for them to accept our relationship although, bless them, they were always kind to us. The situation with my father was simply too messed up to explain quickly, so I’ll leave that be. The point of this response is to say that my partner and I were willing to put ourselves through some pretzel-like contortions to keep peace in the families.
Until our daughter came along. We ended up having to make it very clear to all our parental units that if they *ever* wanted to see our daughter, they were going to have to treat both my partner and I as our daughter’s “real” mothers and treat our daughter as their “real” grandchild. Because no way in hell were we going to allow our daughter to ever think that she was lesser than anyone else. And, perhaps because they were fundamentally decent people, they figured out how to do that and my daughter developed lovely relationships with her grandparents.
It’s amazing how much having the responsibility for a tiny human changed our willingness to play along with screwy family dynamics. It’s possible that your husband, LW, is going to figure that out for himself. But what made it work for my family was that my partner and I were always on the same page: our kid comes first. It seems to me, LW, that the most important issue in front of you is your husband, not your in-laws (who seem like pretty vile people, actually). Is he going to be willing to demand that his parents change their behavior? To sever that relationship if his parents don’t change? I would hope that he would do so just because of his starring role in the cast of Team You, of course. But you’re both about to be key players in Team Baby, and that tiny human will learn about their value in the world based in large part on how Important People treat them. So it’s your husband’s responsibility to insure either that his parents treat his child well or that they are not Important People in his child’s life.
What I see here on the MIL/FIL’s part is a temper tantrum because they are not in control of your decisions, and you’ve made a choice different from what they wanted. This is how controlling parents roll. They threaten, they make personal attacks, they withdraw love and support – because these are the tactics that have always worked before.
What remains to be seen is how they react when they realize that you’re going to go ahead with your plans, regardless of their tactics. Some grandparents eventually accept defeat, realize their children are grown/parents now, and they’d better get on the bus if they want to be part of your lives. Some never accept defeat, and either continue to impose their disapproval on their kids and grandkids for as long as they’re allowed, or they become estranged. That choice is theirs to make, not yours or your husband’s. You’ve made your choice. Congrats on your soon-to-be new family member!
Just wanted to endorse the “Okay” response that I’ve seen Captain recommend here and elsewhere. I think sometimes it seems like it won’t help when you hear it, but it works wonderfully. It completely dissolves the conflict, because conflict requires more than one participant and you’re just not joining in.
I do it sooooo much. “Okay.” “That’s an interesting idea.” “I see.” What they all mean is, “I hear what you’re saying, but I’m not at all interested in talking about it.” But they do it in a way that feels less confrontational than just saying that outright. It gives them nothing to argue with.
Anyway, if you’re afraid of conflict but don’t want to engage on a topic anymore, give it a try.
I’m seeing a lot of denigration of anxiety here.
I get why. There is the distinct probability LW’s husband is using his anxiety issues as a smokescreen for his inability/unwillingness (more heavily the latter) to avoid dealing with his family issues. He’s gonna have to adult sometime, and with a kid coming, that time is pretty much yesterday.
All the same, can we acknowledge that anxiety disorders are real, are not the same thing as garden-variety nervousness, and there is also a small but real possibility that LW’s husband is genuinely unable to address these issues due to untreated/undertreated anxiety?
The responsibility for treating it falls, of course, to him. It is not LW’s or anyone else’s responsibility to initiate or set up treatment.
THAT SAID, we’ve got comments ranging from (paraphrase) “Just put your wife on one side and anxiety on the other, and pick a side”/other comments that imply anxiety is a choice, to “I’m tired of reading about anxiety,” all the way to “Fuck his anxiety.” No. Just no. You can make the very important and necessary points about smokescreening, responsibility, emotional labor. Maybe do it without spitting on people with genuine anxiety problems.
Yeah, I agree. I see why too, because it’s true that men *do* use women to do all their emotional labour, and the situations can sometimes look similar, especially to an outsider. But there are quite a few comments that outright call it “anxiety” or are along the lines of “if he cares enough about his wife/child, he’ll be able to get past anxiety.” I wish that were true, and that I could not be paralyzed by anxiety if the thing in question was important enough to me– unfortunately, it’s never worked yet.
I feel like there’s been a lot of letters with really helpful advice around things like “keeping the house clean even when depression is a thing” that didn’t venture to suggest the depressed person was really just lazy…but there are more than a few comments here that really skirt that line…
Only the LW knows her situation. It’s possible her husband is working really hard to find a way to manage his anxiety and also be on Team Her.
If that were the case, though, I think she probably would have mentioned it in her letter, no?
Anxiety aside, the LW has a right not to be verbally abused by her in-laws. She and her husband need to find a way to make that happen, in whatever shape that takes.
About 3 years ago, I essentially adopted a 17 year old whose home life had completely fallen apart. I was 25 at the time.
My sister thought it was awesome. My dad, once he was assured that all legal issues had been squared away, thought the same.
My mom… well, apparently she realized in that moment that yes, I am 100% serious about not ever birthing children, and adopting older kids, and her brain weasels decided that it was a perfect time to bring back all her buried anxieties about her (eventually resolved) fertility issues.
One moment, she would be happy and excited for me and kind and accommodating to my kid. The next moment, she would be freaking out that my kid was using drugs like her mother, and that it would somehow cause me to start using (?!?!?!) and making wildly inappropriate comments about my kid’s diet. Some of these comments, she actually made in front of Kid.
After about the second time this happened, I realized that it was a problem that would need to be addressed head on. So I took her aside, and explained that she needed to stop randomly being a bitch to my kid, and if she ever put me in another position where I felt like I had to chose between her and my kid, Kid would win, and Mom would stop seeing me. It worked, and she stopped. (Though, by then, Kid was understandably so uncomfortable around my mom that I cut their exposure down to almost nothing. Mom consequently saw less of me. Sucks to suck.)
It was REALLY FUCKING HARD to say this to my mom, because I love my mom, and she was and is a legitimately good mom. Also, because I have depression and anxiety. But I figured out what I wanted to say, and I practiced it enough times that I could say it without shaking or crying too badly, and when the time came, I did it. The fear wouldn’t go away, so I had to do it while afraid, because it was what needed to be done.
This letter really touched something for me. We’ve had to deal with our own fertility issues, and adoption was something that we seriously considered (and we did put in an application, but other circumstances intervened).
I truly believe that my mother would never really accept an adopted grandchild as “hers.” She isn’t very maternal as it stands, and she has only stilted contact with my brother’s daughter (biologically related to her). Add into this the fact that any child we would have adopted would have been of a different race.
The best that I can say as advice is twofold: I’ll add my voice to so many others and say that your Husband has stand up and set boundaries, because this is his child too. I know all the things you have to go through with adoption (and I’ve done the fertility treatments) and, damn, it can’t be done alone even if you want it to be. But even if he won’t (and it is “won’t,” not “can’t”), it starts with you and you setting healthy boundaries. I don’t think that it’s out of order to talk with a family therapist who can help unpack everything and go through what healthy boundaries are and how to have them.
Second, spend your time and attention and love with the people who will be positive and happy and excited for you. It’s easy to concentrate on the negative. But you all are embarking on your life as a hypothetical family, and you deserve enjoy it. Having that support can also be invaluable in the endless paperwork, potential anxiety, and waiting (especially when you feel like you’ve already waited long enough for a baby).
It’s a lot easier to live “Sorry, I can’t attend [judgemental in-law event]…I have plans [with someone who is actually happy for me].”
(Don’t say what’s in the brackets.)
I mean, I could say that maybe they’ll come around and maybe they won’t. Many people do, but not everyone does. It’s also really hard to forgive someone who spoke that way about you like what happened. I don’t know the families in question, so I don’t want to assume, because, well, what if I’m wrong? In any case, family is something that you really do chose, and if blood relations don’t act as family, they don’t have to be.
There’s so, so much stuff here associated with misogyny, family planning, adoption/fertility issues, everything. I could write a book here.
I don’t know if I can put if I can put in recommendations here, but Adoptions Together (MD, VA, and DC area) was the agency that we consulted, and they were informative, supportive, and very realistic. There are also several books that I really liked: “You Can Adopt: An Adoptive Families Guide” and “I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World.”
If an adopted grandchild isn’t a “real” grandchild then Mother-in-Law can happily have no “real” contact with hers in the future ever. Just something to consider.
Congratulations, LW, on expanding your family!
That said, I’m very sorry that your in-laws are basically terrible people. Your mother-in-law in particular is showing you exactly who and what she is, and you should believe her. It sounds like you are. Unfortunately, your husband is expecting you to go along with The MIL Show, so he doesn’t have to do the heavy emotional lifting of dealing with his anxiety, and the fact that his parents are being terrible people.
Calmly sit your husband down and tell him, “Look, your mother has said, very openly and bluntly, some really shitty things about me and our future child. I’m really not going for this. I’m not going to tolerate the nasty comments made behind my back, I’m not going to tolerate ‘your child is not our REAL grandchild,’ and I’m not going to sit there and take it while you cower in fear because you are too anxious to confront them on the terrible things they say. So, I am no longer interested in a relationship with people who say such things. And I am not interested in having our future child have a relationship with these people, either. If you want to go and take that abuse, that’s on you, but it’s not going to cut into holidays or our time as a family, and I will not tolerate you bringing it home to us. It’s time for you to decide whether you want to work on your anxiety and stand up to them, or whether you want to continually cave to their unreasonable demands.”
Do not do the emotional labor of facilitating their relationship, and do not, do NOT allow him to dump their garbage on you. Because that’s the next thing, once he no longer has you to act as a buffer, he may come home from a visit and dump whatever garbage they’ve heaped on him onto you. Kindly hand it back to him, and tell him, “No. This is yours to deal with, and I’m not going to handle it for you. This is the price of admission for adulthood.”
This is pretty much what my MIL said (“damaged goods” etc.) when she heard we planned to adopt an older child from the foster care system. We didn’t see her for a year or so after the adoption (she lives in another state) and when we did finally visit, my spouse and I had a rock-solid plan along the lines of “First unacceptable comment, we leave, stay in a hotel until the return flight, and don’t see her again.”
She was fine with our son, as it turns out; at least as fine as her mental health issues allow. But there was no way we could have known, and I felt it was very important that we (a) had a plan, and (b) were absolutely on the same page about it.
LW, I’m sorry your in-laws are such asshats. I was adopted at birth by loving, relatively functional parents with whom I have always had a close relationship. They have never treated me or my also-adopted brother as anything but their *children.* My brother passed away in 2011 and my dad just this year, so now it’s just mom and I. (I also found my birth family in 1997, and have a pretty close relationship with one sibling and a cousin, so I kind of feel like I lucked out in the family department.)
At any rate, all of my adoptive relatives – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – also always treated my brother and I as nothing but family. However, my oldest cousin’s wife seems to feel for some reason we are not actual relatives. When my uncle died and mom was working with my aunt to have a memorial dinner at a time that would fit with my brother’s work schedule, she had the real, actual nerve to ask my mother why it mattered, because it wasn’t like my brother or I were ACTUALLY related to my Uncle.
You could have seen and heard the steam coming from mom’s ears. She’s hated that woman with a passion ever since. I think she was actually more upset about it than Ken or I were.
Ultimately, it is *your* relationship with your child and what you believe is true about your family that matters to the son or daughter that you will adopt. That mama-bear defense of your cub will be what gives your child a deep sense of safety and belonging, no matter what anyone else may think or feel about their status.
1. It isn’t really that much relevant how able or not you are to bear children. You and your husband gave, no doubt, a lot of thought to all the possibilities and picked a path that works best for you and the potential child. It’s not your inlaws’ place to stick their noses into any of that decision making. If you had just decided you’d rather adopt than go through pregnancy, it would still be completely legitimate and not their business. You shouldn’t have to buy their permission with sharing medical details.
2. If his parents are treating you badly, it’s your husband’s job to keep them at bay, no excuses. The power dynamics of him being their blood and you an “immigrant” is such that he can do much more than you can on that front, and it’s part of his duties as your avowed partner to actually step up and protect you. (Similarly, if your parents were treating your husband badly, it would be your job to bounce them off.) You’re fully in your right to demand it.
I can’t really tell you how you actually achieve it, but I want you to know what you’re owed. From the letter, you seem to think you’re entitled to way less than you actually are.
LW, I don’t have advice for you but I want to express my sincere congratulations towards you and your husband for not only making a decision but sticking to it. I wish you both all the luck with the adoption process. And all the luck with learning to be parents as well as all the happiness in your lives. And hope your relatives stop being huge jerks. Especially as making the decision to adopt rather than take the risks to try and have your own flesh and blood child from your body is a very hard decision to make.
Your post resonates really strongly with me. My biological father passed away before I was born and when I was a couple of months old my mom met a new man who became a father to me and my brother. My dad never had biological children of his own and most of his family always held this against my mom in some degree. It CAN go like with CA’s grandmother, that’s what my grandmother did. After a few months she adored us and treated us like all of her other grandchildren.
His father? Not so much. Very early on in our childhood my mom refused all common holidays with him because he expressively treated us different from his biological grandchildren. He would give them expensive sports equipment for Christmas and give me and my brother garden gnomes from the dollar store. I still remember this, despite not being very old at the time.
I couldn’t tell from your letter if your husband has siblings or whether biological grandchildren exist/are in the cards, but if they are, please do not let your kid be around to be treated differently from the bio-kids. That shit is obvious even from a young age and it hurts and my dad’s inabillity to stand up to his family about their treatment of us is one of the major (not the only, there were other substantial issues with jealousy and possessiveness going on as well) reasons they separated in the end. Even if your husband never learns to stand up to them (which I sincerely hope he will), It’s better to not be around a grandparent and not have a deep relationship with them than it is to see them and constantly be treated like second-rate trash.
I really hope they come around and I think you and your husband and the future awesome addition to your family are gonna do great together no matter what.
I’m in really late here, but as someone with a mix of genetic and adopted siblings, I have a one strike policy with this. If someone suggests in any way that my adopted siblings are not “real” or their genetic family is their “real” family, I correct once and if it happens again, friendship is over.
I have no interest in changing the opinion, but I have even less interest in spending time with people who doubt my family relationships. And it’s non negotiable.
I think this is the only thing in my life in which I Enforce my boundaries in a nuclear fashion.
I just want to celebrate your decision to expand your family, and send you all the jedi hugs in the world for having to deal with any unpleasantness from the outside.
I am the proud daughter of my mother’s second husband, who stepped up to being a third parent and an amazing Dad for 25+ years. His mother and sister loved my Mom and I, always considered us family from day one – his other sister, however, made her disapproval known in the nastiest ways possible (it didn’t help that my Mom and I are not white, and my Dad very much is). My mom’s decision was to completely cut off contact with sister and let him deal on his own. I’m sure he wasn’t happy, having to always visit sister by himself, not having his nieces in our lives, having to defend his family against her constant disdain and racist bullshit. After years, he pulled away from her as well, realizing what a toxic and horrible person she was being. I was young enough not to realize exactly what the problem was, and my parents were really great at protecting me from someone who was trying to be abusive. I learned later the truth of the situation, and was filled with crazy love and pride for my mom standing up for us.
I can understand your husband’s fear in dealing with his abusive family, and feel deeply for him. I can’t imagine the shame and embarrassment he must feel that the people he’s loved (and been trained to obey) his entire life are acting this way. But I have to agree with everyone above, and from my own experience, that their disgusting behavior is his responsibility to referee. If he can’t have the difficult conversations of setting boundaries, you are able to set your own and make the difficult decision not to expose you or your child to their poison. I’m sure I missed out on a lot of faaaaaamily moments, not having contact with my Dad’s sister, but I was also saved dealing with her disrespect.
Wishing you the best with your journey and hoping you are able to make the family of your dreams!
“Becoming a parent in his own right is a very good time to think about family dynamics, and maybe it’s Therapy Time for him! That doesn’t mean it’s Do More Emotional Labor To Mollify People Who Treat You Badly time for you!”
I’m pretty much a lurker (and a once a week lurker at that) around here, but this comment made all the bells ring, lights flash, and the gates swing open to the Land of Epiphany for me.
It relates to a situation that has nothing to do with LW’s concern (and I feel very badly for her and hope that the wise counsel that prevails here makes her situation more bearable, and also yay! adoption! may all go well with you!) …
I would be totally remiss if I didn’t pass along my gratitude.
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