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Are you in a blended family? What do you do when a toxic mother-in-law openly plays favorites with your children and makes insulting remarks that she is not obligated to treat the non-biological children fairly? My older child finally commented on the differential treatment. About six months ago my mother-in-law made a very insulting remark about my two older children who aren't her biological grandchildren when she wanted to take her favorite out for a "special" birthday celebration and my husband and I told her it wouldn't be fair to the other three children whose b-days were within 2 weeks of the favored child. She had a tantrum and began an insulting tirade put my husband and I at odds b/c he supports her decision and hasn't confronted her on her insulting remarks to me about my children. What do you think I should do? ”

11 replies so far...

  • I was your children and my step grandmaother did not care for me or my sibling and had no problem letting us know that we were not biologically related to her and she was not required to treat us as such.

    My mom tried in vain for years to get my brother and I loved and accepted by her. This only left her room to reject us over and over again. We had to call her grandma and him dad. While my step dad did not treat us any different then his biological kids his mom sure did.

    Looking back I wish my mom would have said she is not your grandma and she is not going to be nice or fair. So call her by her first name or Mrs so and so. This would have allowed us to put up a wall as well to protect us from the continued rejection. If it comes from a grandma it is worse then if Mrs. so and so or Tanya dose not treat you as nice as she treats other siblings.

    I will also say that her biological grandchildren did as children do they totally enjoyed grandma spoiling them every chance she got, however, as they got older and realized how mean she was to their big brother and sister they began to reject her and argued with her themselves about how she acted and began to refuse to go places with her.

    My mom was very clever and worked hard to teach my siblings that we were to stick together, no matter what. We were family and when family is hurt or in crisis we closed ranks. Mom taught us this and my step dad saw nothing wrong with teaching the kids to stick together. It backfired in the end as mom planned activities where we enjoyed time together and my siblings grandma is a very lonely old lady right now.

    My mom did not openly say what she was up to she just saw arguing was not getting her any where and she saw someone trying to divide her family in to a cared for and not cared about split. She fixed it and by the time we were teens, pree teens, and now as adults we are the best of friends and we do not allow anyone to interfere

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Dawnie on 3rd January 2009

  • Totally disgusting. How anyone could be so cruel would also make me think twice about their relationship with the biological grandchild.

    I am very lucky. My oldest son has two step grandparents and family that have completely adopted him and love him like blood. If this had been me I would be at my wits end.

    You have my deepest sympathies. My first reaction is to say, "Keep the biological child away until grandma has a better attitude." But, in the end that is petty and hurts the relationship for your child. What you could do is be prepared for extra gifts to fill in at Christmas and birthdays. I'd also say that all the children would have to be included in the birthday "treat" or none were available. You could even plan the special event and invite her - cut her off at the pass.

    I'm not sure that this helps, but I support you. Good luck.

    But, in the end, based on her behavior, my guess is that not much is going to work. Your children may already realize the favoritism and have made up their own minds. It might be best to do as much as possible to make them feel special and cover for her crass behavior.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Michele on 18th May 2008

  • Wow, that´s truly awful. I can see how this would happen, but it´s really not fair to your children. And I don´t think you should keep quiet or leave it up to your husband to deal with the problem, since he obviously doesn´t take it as seriously as you do.

    In this case, rather than out and out confronting her, you might consider writing her a letter explaining how hurt your children are and how when you married her son, you all became part of the family and expect to be recognized as such. If that doesn´t work, then you just might have to get in her face! Your kids should definitely be important.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Genesis on 14th May 2008

  • First off, you have my deepest sympathies in this situation with you MIL. The fact that you've taken the high road this long most definitely brings out the class in you and the ass in her. That said, the very fact that your hubby refuses to deal with the situation, nor show support for you and the children he accepted as his own when he married you speaks volumes here. IMHO, it's been long enough of "letting it go." It's way past time to speak up for yourself and call her on the carpet, and in front of others if need be. Don't think that others don't see what she's doing. They do, but are most likely too afraid to speak. IMHO, people like this are ultimately cowards and won't back off unless they're directly confronted.

    I had a situation with my MIL, tho NEVER like this. Because she was old school Catholic, ske kept badgering us shortly after we were married about when we were going to have kids (we waited 9 years) and then after we did, when were we going to have others. She even went so far as to try to enlist my oldest SIL (who has 8) into trying to talk me into having more kids.

    Bad....bad idea. I'm the kind that when I get pushed, I push back. And hard. I bluntly told my husband that either HE dealt with her or I would and I would NOT pull any punches. Ironic thing here is that my own parents weren't even saying a word to me...and I'm an only. She said a couple of things more and one evening after she started in and we were with family, I'd had enough. I told her, in front of the rest of the family that those kind of decisions were OUR buisness, and nobody elses and if she didn't like it, that was tough becuase that's the way it is, was, and always will be. And I turned and walked out of the room. After that, I never heard another thing about it. And we got along fine. I just had to let her know up front that I wasn't going to be bullied anymore.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by JKLD on 14th May 2008

  • I really feel for you and for your kids. It's a shame that some adults forget that children are the innocent bystanders in a divorce -- they do not deserve to be treated like second-class citizens, ever.

    What they deserve is your protection, and it seems to me like you're trying to give them that. It will make family gatherings difficult, but I think you should make it clear to her that your children -- all of your children -- have equal status in your family, and if she can't bring herself to treat them equally, then any gifts or plans must go through you so that you can make things equal. I'm sure you can find a diplomatic way to do this, if your husband isn't willing to. Appeal to her as a mother... tell her that you respect her feelings, but, as a mother, you're sure that she'll understand that you have to make your children's feelings in this matter a prority, and ask that she respect your wishes as you are trying to respect her.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse on 14th May 2008

  • It doesn't sound like she feels like she has an obligation to them. I had a similiar situation myself when I was growing up. My step-grandmother favored her biological grandchildren all the time. She showered them with REALLY nice gifts and my sister and I barely got a hello and a card. As I grew up I got over it. My mom would always just tell the truth "You are not her blood related grandchildren and it will always be like that". I never had much love for her and tolerated her and still always loved spending time with my step-cousins. Sad but true.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by on 14th May 2008

  • To answer your question Kathy - If I only knew then what I know now. No, I didn't know she was like that until after we were married as I said before she was never as overt and NEVER came outright and said that she shouldn't be made to feel obligated to her non-biological grandchildren. My point is even if she felt that way - she had absolutely no right to SAY it or act on it. And, even though I was naive to it, my daughter picked up on her behavior and asked me why she was never invited to sleep over when the "favorite" child had stayed over many nights. So, even though my mind wasn't focused on her behavior - it showed - to my children.

    And to answer your second question - there was a situation last year that involved another step-grandchild who she alienated. There was a problem with her third son and she offered to take his biological children and told him (her son) that he'd have to send the other child off to boarding school b/c she didn't want to take him. I was shocked, but kept my opinion to myself knowing I'd never let her have the power to do something like that to my children. I never thought she'd be so ignorant to make such a statement like that about my children. But, yeah I guess the signs were always there, but not until after we got married.

    The clincher here is that she also has 4 children (3 by her first husband and 1 with 2nd hubby) So she should know better and be more sensitive to blended family issues such as this. She also knows and was asked by my husband to step up her game when my mother died in 2006 suddenly which left all 4 of my children with only her as a grandmother. I guess it was too much (even from her son) to ask of her.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by caramelsugarberry38 on 13th May 2008

  • Sounds to me like you have to realize that for starters, your mother-in-law has made a decision about how she feels about her biological grandchildren versus ones that married into her family. You then have to realize that her son, your husband, supports her decision.

    How you deal with it is entirely up to you but it doesn't sound like you will be getting an ounce of support from your spouse. I guess my question would be did you not see this coming? Surely if she is this way NOW with your children she was like this before you were married to her son.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by KathyHowe on 13th May 2008

  • I've tried to talk to my husband several times about how hurt I am by what she said about my children, but have tried to take the high road for six months by not approaching her on this myself. I've spoken to a professional therapist and a respected church Pastor both of whom asked me to let it go for awhile so my husband could talk to her. This is not the first time she's done something outrageous, but my husband and I talked to her and we got passed it and began visiting with her for the children's sake. She's never been so outward as she was this time with her feelings about her favorite biological and my other children until six months ago. Although she has expressed awkward thoughts about her other son's step children. I probably should've seen it coming, but b/c we're the closest family to her (physically) and spend the most time w/ her I never thought she'd have the audacity to verbalize it.

    I've been quiet alot, but steamed to myself, hopefully waiting for my husband to settle this and ask her to apologize. She doesn't call the house to speak to me and insists on calling my husband on his cell phone when he's out of the house. My husband condones her behavior and has said some very harsh things to me expressing his support for his mother's views and behavior towards me.

    He promised me he would talk to her and only did so once over the phone where she denied everything and said the problem was ours b/c she was over it. He accepted that and never approached the issue again. We have not seen her since and the "favored" child keeps asking to see her and doesn't understand why we don't go to see her or she us anymore. I don't think it's appropriate to share this dispute with the kids so I just try to brush over it and change the subject, but hubby just doesn't get it or he just doesn't care how much this problem has affected me and insulted me. He doesn't see my point of how this problem if left unchecked is going to cause many more bigger battles later on as our children get older.

    My parents have never played favorites, not even my stepfather who still comes to see the children after my mother's death in 2006. My stepfather was very upset when he heard what my MIL said.

    I'm very hurt and upset by this b/c I feel I've done everything I can do except make a bad situation worse by confronting her. It got so bad today that I went shopping and left the keys in the ignition with the car running for over 45 minutes and didn't know until I couldn't find my keys and got back to the car.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by caramelsugarberry38 on 13th May 2008

  • That is unacceptable. You and your husband need to see a family therapist before it puts a completely wedge between the two of you. It also isn't fair to your children. My stepmother and father have been married 28 years. When they met my dad had us four kids. She hated us. During Christmas time she would give everyone in the family lots of gifts and we would all get one. We would sit there so hurt. You don't do that to kids. My dad eventually would not put us in situations like that. We would stay with our mom. When we got older, we all kept hard feelings for her. We had no relationship with her - ever! She passed away and my stepmom wanted to pass down some of her belongings. We said NO THANKS. We didn't want a thing that reminded us of her in our home. Do you see now what kind of damage you could be putting your kids through. It is not fair. You need to see a therapist to see what the best move would be. I have never seen a therapist for family until recently and OMG, what a difference it has made in our life. Think about it.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by txmommy on 13th May 2008

  • Holy cow. That is so wrong, wrong, wrong. (IMHO) I'm so mad that I don't feel I could give you objective advice. My advice runs more along the lines of...uh, you don't wanna know. LOL I sympathize, my friend. Hang in there. - Paula.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by tkd_mama on 13th May 2008