*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Making sure you have a good relationship with your in-laws for your kids' sake can get quite challenging when they don't like you that much. And if you add the fact that they don't bother to let you know when they want to pick up your kids and spend some time together, it can be very hard to avoid arguments.
How far is too far while still trying to have a positive relationship, and when would you give up and just tell them clearly their behavior is not acceptable?
My friend Clara, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband Anthony for seven years. They have one son together, Tim, and they both kept their jobs to be able to go on vacations every year while still keeping up with their house payments and the rest of the bills.
"I just couldn't be a stay-at-home mom, knowing my husband would have to struggle to cover our expenses. It didn't seem fair to our relationship since we promised to support each other. So I went back to the office after giving birth, we hired a babysitter, and our parents also helped us while we got used to being parents," Clara said.
Her mom and dad usually come by every afternoon and spend several hours at the couple's house, while Anthony's mom and dad will come by in the morning and check how things are. Clara is in touch with them, and they text her to let her know her son is having his meals at the right time and doing well.
"This made a difference for me. Because we're close as a family, I didn't have to keep calling home and talk to the babysitter or ask a neighbor to drop by. Mom and dad text me, or my in-laws will call, and I'm not worried and can focus on my work," Clara said.
While she's pleased with the support she has during the week and she can be in the office without any stress, Clara isn't totally ok with how Anthony's mom is behaving.
The mom is excited that her son can have all his four grandparents close, but she feels like Liana, Anthony's mom, goes beyond helping sometimes. The grandmother has always insisted on spending a lot of time with her grandson since he was born, and they play together; she reads him stories and cooks for him when she gets the time.
The problem is that during the past six months, she got into a habit of picking up Tim after the babysitter was done for the day. She likes to have him for sleepovers at her house but somehow forgets to let Clara know about it.
"The first few times, I was upset. But it's happened so often that I usually assume that's where he is. The issue is I explained that I'm not ok with that and that she has to tell me if she wants to have her grandson over. He's not her son to make decisions like that. But she keeps doing that and not asking me. Our relationship is getting worse for it, too," Clara said.
The mom tried to explain to her mother-in-law why it matters to have her permission before taking Tim to her house, but Liana kept forgetting. And by the time Anthony texts her, and she says Tim is with her, Clara is already annoyed.
At this point, Clara is considering if Tim having a close relationship with his grandmother is worth all the arguments and tense moments.
"She won't tell me when she picks him up for a sleepover; she's upset if I call to find out what's going on. But then she knows I'm not going to be pleased because I told her about it. I feel like she does it on purpose sometimes, not as a way to keep her relationship with my son a happy one, but to make sure I get upset," Clara said.
And since it didn't look like things were about to change, Clara told her mother-in-law she wouldn't be able to have her grandson over at all if she picked him up again without telling her.
Her mom and dad are supporting her, and they don't think it's fine to do that either, but Anthony asked his wife to be more flexible and let his mom have a positive relationship with their son because she's really happy about being a grandmother.
Liana, on the other hand, feels offended and wants her daughter-in-law to say sorry because she's only trying to help.
What do you think about this situation? Is it ok for the grandmother to just pick her grandson up and not let anyone know that she wants him to stay over at her house? Should Liana apologize and try to have a positive relationship with Clara so she can keep seeing her grandson?