Don't know what to do about MIL

abc12345March 17, 2007

My future mother-in-law, gave me one of those wedding hankies that turn into a baby's bonnet. We do not want to have children.

Would you just carry it to make her happy, and be two-faced about it, or tell her and destroy her dreams now?

We barely get along, and I don't want to make things worse, but I honestly feel funny about carrying it.

What would you do?


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Will she see it on your wedding day? If not, take it apart and carry it like an ordinary handkerchief or pin it under your dress, which is very common, where she won't be able to see it.

I wouldn't tell her at this point that you don't plan to have children. You never know, you may change your mind at a later date and there is plenty of time to discuss such matters in the future after you have had time to establish a relationship.

The other issue is that of making her feel as if she made a major blunder in giving you the handkerchief when she was probably trying to do something nice for you. To tell her now is to give the impression that you don't appreciate her attempt to be kind, though it probably wasn't the best choice on her part.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 6:09PM
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Sweet Pea is a wise lady; I agree with her.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 6:13PM
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I think you have 2 issues.

One is the idea that you and your DH-to-be don't want to have kids, and she doesn't know it. (if anyone ever tells her outright, it should be her son, not his wife). You don't actually have to tell her ever, if the two of you don't want to. Either she'll figure out that you don't want to, or she'll think that you can't. In *my* family, it's rude to discuss the matter, even if you are the parents. I was speculating to my dad about whether my big brother and his wife would ever have kids, once, and Dad said, "It's their business. They haven't said, and I would never ask. And you should never bring it up to them. If they want to tell you what their reasons are for not having children, they will. But if they don't bring it up, you can't."

Now, I know most families don't work that way, and the aunts, uncles, etc., are going to be asking HER, even if they don't ask you directly (though they'll probably ask you directly). So maybe you'll want at some point to get the info out firmly, just to keep from being bored with the same questions all the time. But I wouldn't make a formal announcement, esp. right before the wedding.

And as I said, your husband should convey this information to his own mother.

The other issue is that she gave you a wedding-day hankie. If you don't want to use it, don't. If you think that using it is somehow dishonest, don't. If you would be comfortable using it if you unfolded it, or whatever, then use it.

I think those wedding hankies that turn into babies' bonnets are corny and annoying--I know people like them, and I know that the people who give them are good-hearted. I just aesthetically do not like them.

They're usually way too scratchy and lacy to be truly useful for either function; they're just "set dressing," and I don't have physical room or time in my schedule for mere set dressing. And I have no desire for "heirlooms" that someone has ASSIGNED to me. I want to choose my own heirlooms, because they matter to ME, not bcs someone, however well-meaning, thought I *ought* to care about them and preserve them.

So I would be leaving that hankie at home, and I would never, ever say a word. Why hurt her feelings by revealing my true feelings--which would be, as you probably sensed, a small measure of annoyance and resentment?

If she said anything, I'd say, "I already have a hankie for the wedding day, but it was nice of you to give it to me." And I'd have thrown it away about 10 minutes after I got home from whatever event at which I was given it.

(which is what I did with the baby-bonnet hankie I was given when my baby girl was born--no way on earth was I keeping that thing until whenever it was she got married, what, 20 years in the future? And it was too scratchy and the wrong size to put on her head!)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 2:39PM
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I'd not tell her anything about the hankie or not planning on children. If she asks about the hankie, tell her it's too lovely to risk being lost on the big day.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 7:02PM
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Great answers - gave me lots to think about.

I just basically don't like her, she's pushy.

Thanks all.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 6:27AM
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I agree -- this is not the time, for many reasons, to discuss your plans about children.

I would just go ahead and carry the silly thing (I've never even heard of these) -- why not? Seems like a little thing to make her feel like she is part of the inner circle on her son's wedding day. If your only concern is that you'd feel you were being "two-faced about it," just forget it. You're not. It's just a hanky. You're not being two-faced, you're being gracious. Figure out a way to carry it so that it doesn't mess up the look you want; fortunately, it's not like jewelry or something that is supposed to show. You could even leave it in your pocketbook.

Your problem isn't a hankie problem, it's a relationship problem. Pushy or not, she's your husband's mom, and she's going to be your mother-in-law, and believe me, it's worth it to try hard to build a good relationship, even when it isn't easy. Try to find SOMETHING about her you can appreciate, if not quite like, and learn to get along with her, for everyone's sake. No one wins family power contests -- everyone just suffers. If you live far away, it's easier!

There is a Jewish saying that "a daughter-in-law is a little bit of a mother-in-law." Hearing that made me realize that we DILs can be just as hypercritical of MILs as they are accused of being of us, and I learned to be a better DIL. I've always been glad; I would have missed a lot. Now that I am getting close to MIL age myself, I'll try hard to remember how it felt to be the bride.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 2:32PM
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Best wishes on your upcoming wedding and may this handkerchief issue be the biggest problem you have to face in your married life.

Your reproductive decisions are your business and no one else's, and I wouldn't open the subject up for conversation by even mentioning them to MIL at this point. Try to consider this simply a handkerchief. If MIL had given you a plain one as a gesture of welcome and love, would you have even thought twice about graciously accepting it? And possibly using discreetly when she would notice it on your wedding day as an attempt to build a bridge? It's not as if she insisted you wear her wedding dress; you can tuck it in your purse and forget about it.

One of my MIL's friends gave DD one when she was born. They're so impossibly small that no baby could ever wear one. When she was married last summer, it never even occurred to us that she still had it and so she didn't use it. I doubt that anyone will remember it much past the wedding day, much less castigate you for not living up to an implied "reproductive contract" you entered into by using it.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 3:47PM
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Well, I decided to fold it up, fan or accordian style if ya know what I mean, and stick it in the bouquet, where she can see it. That will make her happy. When the next younger brother gets married, I'll ask her if she would like so and so to carry it.

BTW...She told me what I need to name the baby, too, if you believe that!

You are right, tho, it is a relationship problem. I don't like her, and she doesn't like me, and we are just never going to get along. She's way too controlling.

Like if he doesn't go home to visit her EVERY weekend, she says "you don't love me" and cries. (insert smiley with rolling eyes here) LOL

Why is it that, between men and women, opposites attract, but not between in-laws?

Thanks for all the best wishes, I'm gonna need them! LOL

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 1:24PM
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Good for you, abc12345. That's a very gracious way to handle it. And I hope you're pleasantly surprised, as time goes by, to find that you don't "need" all those good wishes. Stranger things have happened.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 4:02PM
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Something to think about: usually when 2 women (mother/daughters) don't get along it's because they are too much alike.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 6:52PM
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I like your solution. Hopefully in time both you and your fiance will work out a satisfactory relationship with his mother where all will feel comfortable.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 12:00PM
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I like your solution, too -- very much.

I also agree with the others that it is a mistake to close the book on your relationship with your MIL now. Don't let people hear you making proclamations that "we are just never going to get along" -- it makes it that much harder to eat your words later if things improve, which I hope you are hoping will happen. Things do change, and even when they don't, time has a way of making just about everything look different later.

And keep your venting about how difficult she is to safe places like this. No matter how right you are -- and she does sound difficult indeed -- it is always ugly to hear someone badmouthing her husband's family. Don't make the mistake of assuming it's a contest you can win; it isn't, and your husband will suffer terribly. No matter how bad she is, if it weren't for her, you wouldn't have him.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 5:53PM
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Both our families are totally different. I find his smothering, and he thinks mine uncaring.

He is working while I finish school, then we're going to grad school together.....far, far away LOL

Thanks again to everybody.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 11:16AM
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It used to really tick me off when people would ask about us having kids. I had infertility problems for years and dreaded that question. Luckily I eventually was able to have kids but those questions.... I just wanted to scream and cry at the same time.
Remember people - DON'T ask those types of questions. not only is it rude but could be highly insensitive.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 2:42PM
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OH, ABC, I am LOL with you (not at you!) My first MIL was like that. Every conversation was: when are you having our grandbaby? What will you name it. etc,etc......

If it helps you at all, I'm still happily childfree.

And Kudos to you for coming up with a FANTASTIC way to use the hanky.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 5:17PM
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