MIL Moment!

So life on the Mother-in-law (MIL) front was quiet for a week or two…. She communicated mostly with my other half; sending random texts as and when suited her. Then as we approached last Thursday; the date when my MIL was due to take up the reigns again in relation to caring for of our two year old daughter while we attended a friend’s funeral; she started to send him texts that all began ‘Dear Mammahannah (but my actual real name)….’. It soon became clear that she was in fact sending him what appeared to be copies of texts that she had sent to me; except that I hadn’t received any of them! The texts made her sound concerned – almost – and were clearly a ploy to dupe my husband into believing that she was communicating with me in a kind, motherly sort of way.

You see my husband had spoken with his mother mid-January about her behaviour towards me – there were repeated issues of her giving me the silent treatment after I’d raised concerns about my daughter’s wellbeing whilst in her care; there were lies (and plenty of them) to absolve her of taking any sort of responsibility for her actions (or lack of them); she didn’t adhere to the boundaries my husband and I had set, then made me her public enemy number one for having tried to set boundaries in the first place. She has even made repeated attempted to smear me to my Brother-in-Law and Sister-in-law… and then to my own parents!

My MIL has narcissistic traits and has a tendency to create misery and chaos for my little family… in fact scratch that… for ME!

Little did I know when I met my then husband-to-be in 2008, that I’d ran right into the line of sight of the Matriarch from Hell! The closer my other half and I became, the more this woman grew to despise me and sought to control me; making life miserable when she didn’t get things all her own way. This pattern of behaviour has continued for close to 8 years; progressively escalating until it reached an explosive climax last week.

I want and deserve a peaceful life with my own little family, and I am dog-tired of the barbed and loaded comments, and vile behaviour. It’s safe to say that I no longer want anything to do with my narcissistic MIL. In fact her behaviour on Thursday only served to confirm that she has more issues than the local tabloid newspaper! Here are some of the most prominent issues that presented themselves during our altercation…

  1. Psychological projection (blame shifting) – this is a theory in psychology in which individuals defend themselves against their own unpleasant impulses by denying their existence whilst attributing them to others. Narcissists, including my MIL, are experts in projection. People in general find her rude (including me), but she constantly accuses other people – neighbours, friends, acquaintances, ME – of being rude to her! Her most recent claim is that ALL my text messages to her rude and insulting; despite the fact I rarely text her without running my messages past either my husband or parents prior to sending them on to her (and they wouldn’t let me send anything that was rude!!). In actual fact, her behaviour in response to my texts is rude (particularly in relation to texts concerning my daughter; her granddaughter) – she rarely responds, and when she does she is typically curt, evasive or argumentative.
  2. Refusing to accept responsibility – It is never my MIL’s fault… and I mean NEVER!!!! If caught doing something insensitive or selfish, my MIL will tell us that she had to do it because of someone or something else. For instance; we had asked my MIL not to throw out any uneaten or partially eaten food from my daughter’s lunch bag (when she looks after her on Thursdays); to enable us to see what foods our daughter is/isn’t eating, and to allow us to plan lunch for the following the week. My MIL knowingly went against our wishes, and put the contents of my daughters lunch bag in a supermarket rubbish bin, but rather than accept responsibility for her actions, she blamed my Father-in-Law. When my husband and I implied that this was something that was her responsibility, she more-or-less told us that she didn’t care!
  3. Lies! Lies! Lies! – Narcissists lie to make themselves look good. They lie to get out of emotional responsibility; they lie to manipulate; and they lie to gain influence. And my MIL is no exception!! Life is very much a game to my MIL, and one that she has to think she is winning! An example of my MIL’s most recent lie is when she maintained that she had changed my daughter’s nappy just before my husband came from work, when in actual fact her nappy was completely saturated with urine and had even soaked through to her leggings (leaving a giant wet patch). Hence, even though there was physical evidence to suggest otherwise, she continued with the lie. Simply put, honesty compromises my MIL’s powerful persona, and there is no way she’s going to let that happen.
  4. Two faced & vindictive – Yes my MIL has more faces than the town clock! To me she is spiteful and vindictive because I have sought to challenge her, and request from her healthy boundaries and honesty. Even though I’m currently 7 months pregnant she takes great pleasure in behaving in a way that she knows will cause me stress. Narcissists are experts at sussing out psychological ‘weak spots’, hence it is no surprise that my MIL uses my pregnant vulnerability against me. However, to my husband she is the picture of innocence and compassion. For instance, during our spat last week, she maintained that ‘I don’t want to be the one who causes any stress….’, yet when my husband’s back was turned she pulled a face that I can only describe as pure evil!

As I have said before, I will not apologise for my lack of objectivity when it comes to my MIL. She is the bain of my life; a source of complete and utter toxicity who has caused a lot of stress and distress. And her behaviour last week was the final straw! After careful consideration I have now embarked on a low-to-no contact regimen which will hopefully alleviate some of the psychological trauma she has inflicted over recent weeks. My husband is still free to visit and contact his Mother, and he is welcome to supervise her contact with our children, but for me, certainly whilst I’m pregnant, my journey is done.

I know it’s not going to be an easy road – low-to-no contact is not for wimps – and there may be bumps along the way, but I’ll deal with those as, when and if they happen. For now I finally feel like I’m free to be me again….

Do you have a narcissistic MIL, parent or family member? I’d love to hear from you if you do!

MIL Moment!

So I had hoped to have a relaxing weekend, without any upset or drama. Unfortunately that was wishful thinking on my part. You see, I have a narcissistic mother-in-law, who is the single most disagreeable and difficult person I have ever come to meet.

I have started to write the odd post about life with a narcissistic MIL. Okay, okay so for the past three weeks running I’ve posted consistently about my MIL, but that’s only because her behaviour has escalated to a point that I can no longer keep my feelings to myself; and to dump it all on my husband would be a quick fire route to the divorce courts. He is unfortunately only in the early stages of coming terms with his mother’s dysfunctional behaviour traits, having been subjected to them all his life and therefore not recognising them as anything other than normal. It’s only recently, when sat in the same room as his mother while she verbally assassinated my character, that he sat up and took notice.

My husband spent Thursday night (just gone) at his parent’s house, trying to discuss ‘issues’ with his Mother that crop up consistently in our lives. He returned home completely exhausted, having tried his best to effectively communicate with a woman whose communication skills are generally confusing, unclear and for the most part unreasonable.

But what makes communication with NPD individuals so difficult? In my career as a Mental Health Professional I have observed patterns of behaviour in adults with personality disorders that definitely serve to complicate communication, but no-one has explained these behaviour better than fellow blogger ‘Fierce Cork Woman’ in her blog Narcissistic MIL.  Indeed, her post ‘Communication Problems 1’ gives a wonderful, evidence-based insight into the what’s and whys of the common communicaton pitfalls when dealing with NPD individuals. She talks about Triangulation, Proxy Recruitment, Mind-Reading, Indirect Speech, Ambiguity and Unique Vocabulary; all of which I’ve tried to summarise and relate to my own MIL’s behaviours.

Triangulation
The person uses a third party to find out information about someone. My MIL is an expert at this; regularly contacting my sister-in-law (SIL) to talk about something that she wants us to know about. And relying on my SIL to relay the conversation or message when my SIL speaks to us.

Proxy Recruitment
This is similar to Triangulation as it still uses a third party to convey a message, however it is a more deliberate, manipulative strategy. Now the third person is recruited to act as an advocate by the NPD person. A prime example of this was on New Year’s Eve when my MIL decided to call up my SIL to tell her that she wasn’t happy that she wouldn’t be seeing us on New Year’s day (despite us having other longstanding plans). My SIL was then encouraged to share my MIL’s disapproval with us via text, which she duly did!

Mind-Reading
Expecting people to know things without being told. My MIL expects us to know most things, without her telling us. She was unhappy about her last birthday present because we hadn’t bought her what she wanted; except that she hadn’t actually told us what she wanted! Many people with NPD hold thoughts that are so strong that they believe other people, somehow must know what they are too!

Ambiguity
This involves not specifying details in a conversation, and leaving other feeling confused as to who or what is being alluded to. My MIL often uses this behaviour to avoid having to take responsibility for something; incorporating pregnant pauses, knowing looks and a plethora of non-verbal cues into conversations. She also makes use of the word ‘thingy-ma-jig’ just to confuse matters further.

Indirect Speech
Instead of using first person vocabulary, the person with NPD employs use of third person vocabulary during conversations. For example; Instead of saying “I’d like to go to the garden centre today” they will say “Perhaps everyone would like to go to the garden centre today…” where it is unclear of this is the persons actual wish, or whether they are hypothesising the wishes of others.

Unique Vocabulary
This involves the NPD person having their own unique use for common words, which mean something totally different to the universal meaning of the word. My MIL uses the phrase ‘just now’ to mean that she will do or attend to something later, or in the near future; whereas the common definition of ‘just now’ is to do something in the moment, or a little while ago. As you can imagine this has caused a great of confusion within my wider family; something that only serves to delight my MIL further!

A few weeks ago I was asked by another individual, also suffering at the hands of a MIL who exhibits strong NPD traits, how I knew so much about coping with NPD. Yes, I’ve worked in the field of mental health for a number of years, which serves as a good knowledge base for understanding NPD, but the truth is that most of what I have learned has been from reading about it! Books and Blogs are two sources I’d credit – books (non-fiction, textbook) because they tend to be factual and evidence based, and blogs because they outline the personal experiences of other people with similar predicaments. There is no better way to learn than from the experiences of others, especially the negative bits!

Unfortunately, when it comes to my MIL, no amount of reading or professional experience can instil objectivity in me. This woman meddles in my life; causing chaos and disruption to my little family on a seismic scale, on an all too regular basis! Hence if you’re expecting objectivity, you’re in the wrong place! When I post a ‘MIL Moment’ it will be because I have reason to get something off my chest. I may be brutal and to the point (no beating about the bush for me) but I can assure you that I will also be brutally honest! It is my hope that my experiences may even help some of you in dealing with your own narcissistic family members too.

I’d love to hear about your ‘MIL Moments’ – please feel free to rant, vent or share your experiences in the comments.

MIL Moment!

So this is very much a ‘get it if my chest post’ in response to a weekend that was overshadowed by my overbearing, narcissistic Mother-in-Law (MIL). It started on Thursday evening when I returned home from work, and my MIL who was supposed to be looking after my two year old daughter, was asleep on the sofa. Thankfully, my daughter was watching Peppa Pig on DVD, and seemed otherwise oblivious to her Nana’s unconscious state of being. I’ve never seen anyone move so quickly, when she realised that I was standing in front of her sleeping form. And in true narcissist fashion, when questioned, she completely denied that she was sleeping at all! Infuriating….

Then to add insult to injury, my MIL, got up from her almost horizontal position and poked me hard on my pregnant belly! ‘I want to see your paunch’ she exclaimed! When I asked her what she meant by ‘paunch’ – a term normally applied to an individual’s beer gut – she prodded my coat covered belly again and stated ‘I want to see that thing!’ Talk about rude – in words as well as actions!!! It’s a bump and her grandchild, not someone’s protruding stomach from too much food or alcohol! I actually recoiled in response; fastening up the button, in addition to the already secured zip, on my parka jacket. No way was I going to make myself physically vulnerable to this women! The long-standing emotional turmoil is bad enough…..

So fast forward to Friday morning, when I was getting my toddler washed and dressed ready to start the day. Her little bottom, I discovered, was red-raw and causing her considerable pain. This is a consistent occurrence on Fridays, following Nana and Granddad day care (every Thursday), and is typically a response to being given junk food and/or juice that is too strong. My husband has, on several occasions, spoken to his parents about our wish for our daughter to be fed a healthy, balanced diet whilst in their care. However, our requests have fallen on deaf ears, with my MIL employing her default ‘it’s my way or the highway’ approach, even with her granddaughter.

By Saturday morning my little girl was in excruciating pain, and so I took it upon myself to contact my MIL in a polite request to know what she had been given to eat and drink on Thursday. My text was met with a very vague, cryptic response; and without answering my actual question. Reluctant to become embroiled in a long winded communication, I responded with a further text repeating my request to know what she had given my daughter to eat/drink. After a considerable wait (several hours), I eventually received a response outlining a few (junk) food items, along with a highly defensive statement about all the food coming from my house (talk about shirking responsibility). Yes the food may have come from my home, but my MIL was the one that had looked in the cupboards and had chosen a selection of unhealthy foods to give my daughter (as I duly pointed out). She could have made healthier choices after all – I mentioned this too! I further took time to point out that she’d told me herself on Thursday that she’d brought some food from home, and therefore her claim that all my daughter’s meals came solely from my house was in fact inaccurate! My MIL denied this, preferring instead to try to gaslight me into believing that I’d imagined such a conversation….

Predictably, the more I challenged my MIL on the matter, the more defensive she became, until she eventually began to give me the silent treatment. Punishments of this sort are commonplace with my MIL and are typically induced out of contempt or disapproval of something I have said or done. In this instance I’ve challenged her inability to ensure that my daughter eats a healthy diet whilst in her care, whereas she refuses to see that she has done anything wrong. It’s now Monday Noon (GMT) and I have not heard a peep from her since Saturday evening. She is of course waiting for me to apologise; her passive aggressive form of emotional abuse – the silent treatment – fuelling her inflated view of herself.

If you’re reading this and questioning my point-of-view please bear this in mind: when mostly healthy minded people give others the silent treatment, it usually blows over in a few moments, maybe hours, ideally after saying they need a break from the topic and mutually agreeing when to talk about it again. Non-narcissists know shunning someone is not the way to resolve issues; realising that it is cruel and abusive to perform such an act for an extended amount of time. Narcissists on the other hand do not see things in the same way others do; stopping at nothing until they get their own way. My MIL has been known to drag out her silent treatment for days, sometimes weeks; only choosing to acknowledge the offending individual (usually me) when they have apologised.

Had my values surrounding my daughter’s health and wellbeing not been so blatantly compromised, then I would have definitely thought twice before having any contact with my MIL. Recent events, in particular, have shown me that she isn’t likely to change, and so I recently decided to employ a minimal contact strategy with her. Indeed, research shows that this is a highly effective way to deal with a narcissist, and I’m hoping it’s right!

I’d love to hear about your ‘MIL Moments’ – please feel free to rant, vent or share your experiences in the comments.

Take Care xx

School of Cake …..

My daughter Hannah came in from school yesterday and told me (at the last-minute, as always!!) that she was required to take a contribution of ‘party food’ to her year six ‘end of SATs party’. And as with all things in Hannah’s life; a simple solution (i.e. crisps and biscuits) is NEVER an option!! So after several rounds of ‘please Mum’, and quick trip to the local supermarket for the basic ingredients, I set to work to make a celebration cake.

And here it is ………

Hannah informs me that it went down a treat! Apparently her teacher has taken a HUGE slice home with her this evening …. I’m taking that as a positive!

Are SATs a fair way to assess our children?

Apologies for the scant contributions of late, but my mind has been preoccupied by essays, assignments and assessed teaching practice – the pearls of continuing my education, this time into the realms of tutor / teacher training (in the lifelong learning sector!).

I’ve not stopped studying since leaving school, some sixteen years ago; such is my thirst for knowledge! And if anything I am more committed to studying than I ever was in my younger years. But perhaps that is because my preference for nights down the pub and late night parties is now diminished! Time with my family is now much more precious. And none so important as time with my ten-year old daughter. I have recently been helping her to ‘swot’ for her Standard Assessment Tests (SATs); tests that allow comparison of a child’s progress in Maths and English against the National Average. Tests that, to all intents and purposes, have precipitated a waterfall of salty tears in my home; begging the question are SATs a fair way to assess our children?

SATs I have learned from the Directgov website are designed to assess whether our children are working at, above or below the target level, or standard, for their age. With all eleven year olds expected to achieve level four. Sounds simple, right? But surely forcing our children to participate in six hours of summative assessment is not the most accurate measure of their progress to date?! They have, after-all, spent thousands of hours, from year one to year six, engaged in classroom learning! It doesn’t seem right that all their efforts and experiences are reflected by six measly hours of written assessment in Maths & English.

And what of differentiation or multiple intelligences that make up the pedagogy of learning? For SATs take no account of individual learning styles nor offer a variety of resources. They don’t take into account the tears and stresses of our children who feel the weight of the World on their shoulders at being coerced into a formal ‘pen and paper’ scenario. SATs merely demonstrate how well each child performs under pressure.

And then when the stress of the SATs dissipates, our children will be boxed into ‘above average’, ‘average’ or ‘below average’ categories and labelled as such as they embark on their journey into secondary education. And this assessment based solely on two subjects, Maths and English!

And so, in answer to the question, ‘Are SATs a fair way to assess our children?’ – I would have to shout a resounding ‘No!’. I believe that SATs do not help our children, nor do they bear any striking resemblance to the learning process (at least not the one that I am learning to teach!). How ironic for a study owl like me!!