How Do I Handle a Meddling Mother-in-Law?
Each week, Miss Manners answers questions exclusively from the MSN audience on all of your etiquette dilemmas. (Have an issue you want help with? Send in a question today.) Read on for this week's hot topics:
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
A dear friend of mine is expecting her first baby in a few months. She is somewhat superstitious (perhaps because she has had several miscarriages) and does not want anything purchased for the baby until it is born. I had planned on hosting a "welcome baby" shower for her after the birth.
The problem is her mother- in-law. She is insisting on holding a traditional pre-delivery baby shower for my friend, and will not listen to either myself or her son when told it will not be welcomed. She believes it is only "new mother jitters" and my friend will enjoy herself.
Nothing can be further from the truth. The shower is to be a surprise, and invitations have already been sent.
Should I tell my friend? This of course, will spoil the surprise, and it will also make her mother-in-law hate me, but I feel my friend is stressed enough without having to deal with this.
Should I attend the shower if her mother-in-law goes through with it? I feel like I should stay home but I want to be there to support my friend if she needs me.
"Your friend's mother-in-law hasn't listened to Miss Manners, either. Miss Manners keeps telling mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers and sisters that they are not supposed to give showers for their relatives, and yet they keep right on doing it.
Another decidedly ungracious idea is surprising people when you know that they will object. A warning to your friend does seem to be in order, if only so that she can reconcile herself enough to pretend to be pleased at the event.
But why should you have to issue it? Dear friends as you may be, the lady's husband surely knows both her and his mother better and can therefore better weigh the consequences of warning his wife."
DEAR MISS MANNERS,
My mother has been working over the past several years to salvage and refinish hand-carved wooden furniture that has been in our family for several generations. The finished products are beautiful and she would like to use the items in the main living room of her house (a chair and a love-seat, in particular).
The problem we are facing is our extended family. We have several family members that are quite large and we are afraid that the furniture may be damaged if someone very heavy sits on them.
Is there an appropriate way to direct people away from the antiques without offending them or do we have to hide the furniture away when certain family members come to visit? You guidance would be appreciated in this delicate situation.
"Well, you could put golden ropes across the arms of the chairs, as they do on off-limits chairs in museums, but Miss Manners does not claim that this would qualify as delicate. It is true that hostess should see to it that her guests are comfortable, but this would be better accomplished by saying, 'Oh, do take this chair-- that one is a bit rickety.'"
Judith Martin's latest book is No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice. She is also the author ofMiss Manners' Guide toExcruciatingly Correct Behavior(Freshly Updated). She and her husband, a scientist and playwright, live in Washington, D.C. They have two perfect children, of course.
Your friend's MIL shouldn't be surprised if your friend is out shopping, having coffee or at a museum during her surprise party. Hope the two of you have fun.
Regarding the meddling mother in law writer, is the husband already aware of the shower? The MIL must have taken steps to ensure that the guest of honor doesn't have other plans that day, which may include bringing in the husband on the surprise. In that case, the letter writer may need to consider warning the friend anyway if the husband has failed to stop his mother from throwing an unwanted shower and also failed to warn his wife about an event she will likely resent forever. This may also be an opportunity to have the husband, the wife, and the MIL sit down and discuss healthy boundaries because the MIL obviously does not respect the wishes of the future parents regarding their baby.
How often does the MIL visit. Let her go on. Small price to keep piece in the household. Everytime though, buy yourself a nice thing and show it off to the
MIL's son. May take 40 or 50 new treats (on him), but think of your nice collection
of treats. Buy yourself a BMW. BUT remember, dear, you likely will be a MIL.
The antics, move them into an off limit room, or cover them, just today cleaned
them, still wet. I sat on my sister in law (and brothers') antic loveseat and it broke.
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