Am I Missing Something?

This is some personal shit I just need to get out before I explode…or implode.

Yesterday my daughter-in-law left me absolutely gob-smacked.  She said she was going to do the prep for sushi nite at the restaurant in the AM, changing her schedule, because it wasn’t good for the baby to stay with us.

This is Not the first time statements like this have been made. At first I thought it was ‘lost in translation’ moments, because she IS Japanese & English IS a second language for her. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive but, I’m feeling Very hurt. Wanting to crawl back into bed…sleep till the ugly feeling is gone.

Let me fill you in a lttle bit in hopes that Someone can offer me some advice.

‘B’, my son, fell in love with Japan & its culture. He saved his money, got a ticket, went to Japan & got a job teaching English (he is a HS grad-no college) He met ‘Y’ thru a private lesson, they started dating, then got married. Money is tight for them. We send some now & again to help get them over the ‘hump’.  A coupla years go by and they have my 1st (& only) grandson. B takes the new responsibility hard, turns to alcohol. Things are NOT going well, divorce seems imminent. Both Y & B are calling for advice…I try doing long distance marriage counseling.

After several Months of this, things seem better between them. Then the contract with the school is up for renewal & new clauses are in the contract are unacceptable. It is late summer, no positions available. I say ‘Come home, I’ll send tickets’ My aching to see my grandson may have precipitated this. I said we would provide a roof over their heads and food in their bellies till they could get their feet under them. MrD & I change direction mid-stream… from a planned return to the farm way out in the sticks & a simpler life (to make it a working organic farm), renting out this house in town…to staying in town, cranking the buisness back up to provide work for B part time, $$ to pay the extra expenses and immigration fees for Y & baby.

I came out of my depression somewhat (again) and scurried around to clean/organize the house,  moving MrD & I to the attic because the stairs are steep & hard to climb, especially with a baby; giving them our room, ½ bath and the adjoining room for the baby. MrD & I now must traverse stairs & the length of the house to pee. (Did I mention I’m not in good health? I quit smoking last Feb, finally, after Years of trying. I have trouble breathing, especially in the humid summers of the south.) We put down carpet in the babys room & bought a crib, high-chair, car-seat & wagon. We painted our half of the attic and hung a sheet over the piled-high-with-boxes-other-end.

I tried Very hard to extend myself, be friendly, to this person I didn’t know. I was prepared to love her because my son does. I tried to include Y & baby all the time. I introduced them to my friend S. S’s daughter had a baby 10 days after my grandson was born…she & I hoped the two girls would be friends, the babys playmates.

On a whim I had bought a bib for baby & said to Y ‘you could make these, sell them for a little $’ explaining coastal life & tourist season. I bought a small bit of cloth, opened my craft cupboards to her (appx 30 yrs of crafting). After a polite thank-you I never saw the cloth again. Soon box after box arrives from japan-she has her mother sending cloth…she’s making bibs & sunhats to match. OK. After spending months sewing many sets and 2 Saturdays driving the coast trying to sell to stores the whole project is shelved. The store in town was never entered…she was told they did consignment & felt it wasn’t worth the bother.

I made a few outfits for the baby, some shorts and a pair of pants…never worn. I recently found out in a backwards way that ‘label’ clothes are what’s desired NOT homemade.
When asked, I offer suggestions which are dismissed out of hand. A week or two later I’ll hear that S or her daughter said the exact same thing & its now the greatest thing since sliced bread.  It doesn’t matter if its to do with cooking, or sewing or rearing children…
Not long after they got here I told Y there is a private school with ½ day daycare for 2+yr olds…’no, its very important to me to stay home & teach him’ Yet now S’s grandbaby is going- it’s THE thing to do…even tho it is $300/month…even tho they’re still in our house & Not Yet standing on their feet…I’m still buying their f-ing toilet paper & shampoo!
  When they got here I mentioned they could make a bit of extra $$ doing sushi one or two nights, check w/ the 3 local restaurants-especially the girl who caters…No, we don’t want to work in restaurants any more…now they’re doing sushi 2 nites @ the same place S’s daughter is.

I must admit I did have a depression relapse this past spring. I did ‘hide’ in the attic for several weeks and retreat from the family….part of it was the all horrible news all the time I was reading in orange…but part of it is how my opinion and my skills are dismissed so quickly.

Y seems to be very hidebound in her thinking.

Or maybe I am.

52 comments

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    • RiaD on October 11, 2007 at 5:42 pm
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    well if that’s how you feel, I’d just as soon you move out by the end of the month.

  1. Always difficult to have folks living with you under these kind of circumstances.

    Eventually you’ll have to figure out how long you are willing to have them stay — how long you’re willing to put off your own goals (i.e., the farm).

    I’m hoping you do get to spend enough time with your grandson to make some of this worthwhile!

    So no big advice — just some moral support here.  I think you are very very groovalicious!

  2. You have an Asian daughter-in-law.  Lots of soldiers marry from this region and bring them to our American homes and we are sort of mystified at times.  Asian women are extremely strong and not very touchy feely.  They hate homemade (means poverty and from rural areas) but they are very industrious and demand from themselves to be self reliant.  If Americans like homemade she’ll give them all of it they want as they will give her money and she’ll buy what she wants.  She expects you to be a mother-in-law like the mother-in-laws she grew up around…….fewer words, less embracing kindness for awhile, she expects to have to earn your kindness and if you easily give it you are a wimp.  She expects you to be distant at first as that is what she has been raised around.  I know this is not simple and hope more people chime in their experiences as well.  Asian women are independent as hell and she wants to be successful without any help from you, her cultural upbringing almost demands it from her.  They are very picky about their children but change their minds no less than we American women do.  I stayed in Korea for a summer and shopped in the markets with all of the other families and if there is one left of something and three women wanted it and one of them was me…….I didn’t get it…..they live by a different code and different things are nice to them but one thing that isn’t nice to them is being overly polite when three people are vying for the same thing……being nice in that instance is seen as manipulative and weak.  Tell your daughter that if it isn’t good for the baby to stay with you it isn’t good for you to buy her shampoo and toilet paper anymore.  I’m dead serious.  Just try it and keep it simple.  Just tell her this thing with it not being good having baby with you is stupid and that if your aren’t good enough for baby you aren’t good enough to buy toilet paper and shampoo and I bet you’ll be shocked at how fast this blows over and changes the dynamics of things. This isn’t about manipulation it is about how she perceives things and it isn’t a bad thing……..it is only different.

    • KrisC on October 11, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    You are my MIL to a tee!  My husband and I had similar experiences when we first were married and pregnant.  We lived with his mom & dad in their teeny, tiny home here on the East coast and I’m from CA, might as well be Japan…totally different cultures. However, our personalities are Me=miss sunshine from big city…MIL=distant and gossip-loving small-town  bessy.
    It was wicked hard at first, my husband and I started arguing a lot, I guess I was pissed that he wasn’t “more” capable of raising a family on his own.  That he didn’t have “all” the answers and how could he let us live with his parents…which is bullshit.  It was me, for sure, I was being a bitch, and I knew it.  Thank gawd we got through that, my MIL had a friend who needed to rent out her house while  said friend went to FL for the winter.  MIL made all of the arraignments for us.  My husband followed up by getting a decent job and was able to pay our own rent and needs.
    My MIL is a tough cookie, and it has taken us years to form our friendship/bond/relationship.  There have been a lot of things that she has done that I didn’t like at ALL, and I have done a lot of things she doesn’t like at all as well.  It goes both ways, but I’m still here and she’s an integral part of our family and now we really enjoy each other.  I love her.  MIL really doesn’t focus too much on our relationship, she goes about her life and I mine, I respect her for that-enormously.
    Why don’t you and hubby go to your farm?  Live your lives they way you want to live them, be the real you…  Maybe B,Y & baby would be happy to help you run your organic farm, it takes a lot of work and many hands to do it…
    Good luck sister!

    • Alma on October 11, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    I have learned so much I didn’t know culture wise.

    I feel for you RiaD, and think there’s some good advice here.  Stand up for yourself, and move out to the farm.  I would have been too nice too, not understanding the culture, and thinking “What do I have to do to make friends with her?”

    Me and Hubby lived with my parents when we were first married and had our son.  When he was 6 weeks old, my Dad said it was time for us to move.  We did, they helped us furnish the apartment we got, and gave us all of our rent back that we had been paying them.  There were no hard feelings.

    You sound like a wonderful MIL.  Mine is crazy, and all 3 of us DIL’s have problems with her.  I don’t think she’s too fond of us either.  We do love her and care for her, but she is difficult.

  3. My wife and I are hoping our family, that is our children will choose to return to the intergenerational family model. We are building our homestead to eventually include places for each of our six children to build houses. Really it is too hard otherwise to raise a family in a natural way. Without our current system i.e. retail stores, the only way is for large families and communities to help each other to survive.

    I think that for your situation to work you have to stand strong as the matriarch and you must bring light into these undesirable behaviors that you describe. Your husband and yourself are the elders in this arrangement you must set the tone, set the goals, boundaries and expectations . Your son and daughter in law are young and lost. they should respect your generosity and be ready to learn from your experience. It is an opportunity for them.You obviously have gifts and things to teach your daughter in law. Sewing and other skills have a timeless value and we all need to ready to learn when training is available to us.

    All the best to you.

    • Diane G on October 12, 2007 at 3:42 am

    I have no advice, nor experience to offer.

    I do know however, that depression isn’t contagious, and you were wise enough to remove yourself when it held you.

    I do know you are a beautiful being.

    And part 6 is up if you need a cheering up in a , ahem, fun way 🙂

  4. is prickly no matter what. I have one great daughter in law, and one who no matter what I do I horrify. She thinks I’m a dirty hippie. It’s taken me 5 years to get her to trust me at all. She and my son have now 3 children and finally she is relaxed enough to leave them with me. My husband had good advice as I agonized over this situation, just be yourself and don’t try to please or take her to seriously as it is some problem she has and not you. I still have to tread on eggshells and it’s tough. Ask her why she thinks it’s bad for your grandchild maybe it will help her if she has to delve into her motivation. I finally had a talk with mine and it made her loose some of her erroneous preconceptions of me.

    • mishima on October 12, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Japanese don’t usually admonish children in front of others. In fact any discipline meted out is done in a private setting. The mother may remove the child from a situation but again will not say anything then. Japanese are a lot like Americans in that they want things to be just like home. They are famous for traveling abroad and then going to a Japanese restaurant to eat. Education is very important here and it is up to the mother to make decisions concerning their child’s education.  Almost all areas dealing with school are dealt with by the mother with the father joining for special events.  People here do not wear homemade clothing of any kind. It’s all about style and the brand name. Your daughter in law was probably embarrassed because you suggested that she sell the clothing she had made on consignment. Here in Japan that is done with brand named items at used clothing stores and the items are not cheap.

    Finally sometimes just being an American is enough to piss someone off. Remember Japanese are not use to people being forward or asking for their opinion on an issue  which requires an immediate answer. People here work to build a consensus over a period of time.

    I hope this was helpful. Good luck. 

    • Temmoku on October 12, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    and I’m not sure I can offer anything different.
    But, maybe part of her response is that she is so unhappy and the cultural shock of living so far from her own parents. You probably should try to get them an apartment on their own for your health and sanity. Her statements probably aren’t exactly the way she intended. She probably just wants to hang on to her culture which she envisions returning to.
    It is something your son needs to work out and work out soon because, if he doesn’t, things will get worse and she will return home.
    Good luck, I feel for you but having lived under my mother-in-law’s roof for a few years, I think there is a potential for a sad end here. They do need to work out their problems without scrutiny or judgment. It is the influence of the in-laws on both sides that is hanging over them now.

  5. Hang in there!  The problem with raising kids-including when they grow up & marry-is that there’s no “Owner’s Manual” to guide us 😉  You are doing the best you can, in uncharted territory, with the best of intentions; so IMHO, you should try to be kind to yourself. 

    I have two (now grown) foster children from SE Asia.  We were lucky that the foster care system prepared us somewhat for dealing with some of the cultural issues and different world views that we would encounter.  Yet, even with social workers of the same nationality as our kids helping us, we still had issues with the interpersonal relationship dynamics of going from a household of three to a household of five.  Then there was my foster daughter-who turned out to be the total opposite of the “stereotypical SE Asian” female that we were instructed about in our foster care classes.  Over the years we have developed a wonderful relationship, but it was a rocky road at the beginning.  She was very opinionated and stubborn (& we had been told to expect meek & mild; I actually had been concerned about helping her to become more assertive-no worries there-she managed just fine 😉  I made lots of mistakes, I had lots of “meltdowns” but what I finally learned from her was to “Back Off”. 

    I learned that she was one who had to learn by the “school of hard knocks”.  She would choose to do the opposite of my suggestions just to prove her independence, even if it was harmful to her.  It was like an enormous burden being lifted off my shoulders when I let go of trying to guide her around life’s stumbling blocks, for her own good.  When she had her first child, I would praise her for what she did well & bite my tongue when she did things I inwardly cringed over (which, fortunately she didn’t do often).  The greatest reward was when she started saying to me-about different pieces of  unheeded advice I have given her in the past- “Mom you were right about…”

  6. approach it as not a confrontation but a mutual problem that needs resolving. My daughter in law is from another culture she’s a right wing, redneck, Bush loving law and order girl. Her father at a family dinner got in my face about how the Beatles ruined America , and rock and roll. The thing you both have in common is the love of both your son and your grandchild so maybe just being open about your feelings and taking the high road will help. It’s hard when your values and help are rejected. Good luck better to get it out in the open so you can find some peace with this.

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