The last post covered a type of behaviour where the narcissistic MIL uses her relationship with her adult children to get her core emotional needs met. This parentifying is a natural result of the NPD MIL’s perception of her children as extensions of her will, there to do what she wants, not as separate to herself and free to do what they wish. In order for parentifying, or any other dynamic where the children provide for the mother, to exist the children must be controlled and conditioned in ways that motivate them to continue going along with it. One way this happens is by infantilising the adult child, your spouse. It creates dependency in the adult child by treating them as if they lack the emotional and practical skills necessary in adulthood while dismissing any signs of their maturity. It is a form of brainwashing and as such is abusive.

What is Infantilisation?

Unlike passive-aggressive behaviour or dysfunctional communication which is something your personality disordered MIL can do in any situation with anyone; infantilization is the deliberate collusion between MIL and your spouse to treat them as much younger than their age. It is an interaction that exists between two people, the MIL and your spouse.

Our family of origin is a blind spot in all of us until we reach adulthood and start to see our relationships with our parents from a more detached perspective. Part of adolescence is to separate from the family of origin. To leave behind the roles you played in it and the habits there formed and forge your own independent identity.

If your family of origin is dysfunctional or abusive in some way then it is often difficult to go through this process of separation and independence. There are a few reasons for this. Each family member is under a large degree of emotional control and conditioning to accept the family situation as normal and allow the abusive parent to continue the abuse. Keeping the family secret and accepting the family way of behaving takes precedence over normal growth and development, even if this harms the children. The children raised in a family with a narcissist are not encouraged to separate and become independent, they may not go through the usual teenage rebellion against their parents values. On the contrary they are encouraged, bullied and coerced into being dependent. As far as a narcissist is concerned they exist for the narcissist’s benefit. Something small children do is hero worship their parents. As you grow you are more able to see your parents’ flaws and faults and their sacrifices and admirable traits also, they become human not heroes. This is an appalling prospect to a narcissist.

Narcissistic mothers infantilize their adult children in order to control them. This ensures they maintain a supply of people willing to do whatever they want and mollifies their of fear of abandonment by keeping their children dependent. Infantilization can happen even  out of rivalry with the children who are kept enmeshed so they can’t achieve more than she did.

Part and parcel of keeping the children trapped in the web of the narcissists making is to feed them the idea that they really can’t cope on their own, that they are weaker, less mature and capable than they really are. This can be done directly by actually telling them that or indirectly through actions, body language, tone of voice and what is not said or done.

My MIL manages to convey through her actions and the way she relates to her adult children that she still sees and views them as her little kids, not her now adult offspring. Most adults I know call their parents mum or dad, she insists on being called mummy, and refers to herself as mummy in emails or on birthday cards. Mummy is a term used by small children.

She constantly refers to things from my husband’s childhood in a way that makes it still present, for example she kept, boxed and categorised in a folder (I’m not kidding) all his old toys and rarely fails to mention how she has some Lego, cars or train sets of his and what does he want to do with them. She sends him old childhood memorabilia in the post, an old comic, a picture. Childhood pets are brought into the most inappropriate conversations and what she sees as humorous incidents that invariable have my husband or his sister acting in a particularly silly or childish way, she tilts her head and smiles at them indulgently as if they were still those children. She calls her daughter by a baby pet name that no one else uses. She calls my husband “my big boy” and practically pinches him on the cheek, bleugh. He is thirty eight for goodness sake.

If the adult children mention a problem or mistake they are dealing with she uses the exact same voice you would use to speak to a toddler when picking them up off the floor, all exaggerated sympathy concealing a core of parental disapproval. She takes what was an adult-adult interaction and twists it over and over again into parent-child. She even had my husband’s birth certificate, which you need in the UK to get your passport and various other official documents, in safe keeping until he was thirty six years old and then presented it to him in an over the top manner, presumably as she now thought he was just about old enough to have it himself. He took it rather bemusedly wondering why on Earth she was making such a big fuss of it. In contrast, I’ve had my birth certificate since I was a teenager.

Transactions and Your Spouses Role

So that is her behaviour, but what about the spouse? Well for this to work at all, they have to play along. It is a trap and it keeps them under her control. Both my husband and his sister went along with calling her mummy until I pointed this out, at which point my husband did a double take, thought about it and stopped. Hallelujah! She constantly tried to rescue him from completely normal incidents, which conveys the message that she doesn’t think he can cope and he would accept her help and the implied comment on his capabilities. Now he doesn’t. Such over-involved and unnecessary parental rescuing is rejected and batted back, as it should be.

For example, he is looking for tenure at a university, a process which involves many, many applications for funding and positions most of which are rejected. After such a rejection she delivered a completely over the top reaction. She was so sorry and how dreadful it must be and he was so clever and how hard it was. Were our kids being extra good to make it all easier for him? Then followed up with an email where she had searched and found cheap holiday accommodation in a town near her by the sea as a trip to the seaside would make him feel better and she would love to see us. You would think someone had died. What made it even stranger was that she only did this for that one, not particularly special rejection; he had had a load more that elicited no comment at all. Clearly she needed to play “good mummy” at that point for her own egotistical reasons.

Something my husband works hard at is being assertive with her as he has a tendency to revert to an automatic childlike demeanour when in her presence. He would not hold my hand or show a natural level of physical affection, not even touching my arm, around her.  He would sit slightly hunched over, taking up little space and his voice even took on a higher pitch when talking to her, even on the phone. We half jokingly invented a “man-pose” where he would stand with his feet apart, chest out, arms on his hips when talking to his mother on the phone to counteract that. I can tell whether he is talking to on the phone purely from his manner. He hates the way she makes him feel.

The best and most robust response to infantilization is to continually rebuff all attempts to turn the interaction into parent-to-child and respond over and over again as adult-to-adult. This requires a combination of assertiveness (and you can be trained in that) and an understanding of transactional analysis or TA.

TA is a way of studying the interactions between people. It helps to identify the childhood scripts that are being played out in relationships, family or otherwise, and the recognition that complementary communications are the most effective, that is when people relate in a matched way, adult to adult or an actual child to their actual parent. The narcissistic mother sets up transactions with her children that never move out of parent to child. Break out of the ingrained way of responding to her and you open up a whole world of more assertive and more adult behaviours.

The problem with NPD MIL is that even if you phrase a transaction in an adult way she will respond parent to child. This is an example of what the founder of TA Eric Berne called crossed transactions. He wrote a seminal book called “The Games People Play” all about crossed transactions and messages that have one overt meaning but another covert one. Another good reference on this whole subject is the book “Peoplemaking” by Virginia Satir a renowned family therapist. Understanding the way the NPD MIL communicates with your partner, and in turn with you, goes a long way towards breaking the pattern.

She will protest. No change in your spouse’s interaction with their mother will occur with any willingness on her part. She may ramp up the infantilizing behaviours to see if your spouse will crack, she may get sulky that they won’t play along, she may ridicule it saying things like “ooh, your being very serious darling” with an exaggerated pout, or “if you say so dear” which is just so patronising. Do not respond or let your spouse respond, to do so would be to fall into the child role again.

Insisting that conversation by kept at an appropriate adult-adult level is a boundary worth considering. You can withdraw from any conversation where someone persists in treating you as if you are a child.



Filed under Controlling behaviour, Describing narcissism, Effects of NPD on others, Examples of narcissistic behaviour, family roles, Helping your spouse deal with NPD mum, Manipulations, strategies for managing NPD MIL

18 responses to “Infantilization

  1. Kate

    Once again I am reading your blogs about parentification and infantilization, and you are describing my MIL to a T. My husband is an only child so these controlling behaviours are projected on to him relentlessly, it is MIL’s greatest weapon; to my absolute frustration! The Mummy & Daddy references are constant – she has even tried referring to my parents as Mummy & Daddy when speaking to me – to which she got a quick and sharp retort along the lines of I am no longer a small child, they are my Mum & Dad. Believe it or not, the other day, she even spoke about a footballer spending time with his Mummy & Daddy after finishing playing at the World Cup!!!!

    MIL has kept EVERYTHING from husbands childhood too – all his toys, all his school books (exercise and reference), all his university notes – everything. She is constantly asking him if he would like this thing or that thing, as though to keep reminding him of his childhood and the fact she is his Mother.

    And as for the fake sulks when she is challenged / not getting her way or alternatively the patronising smirks if she is getting the attention she is craving, this makes me so mad – how do husband & FIL not see it / put up with it? Quite honestly it makes me want to slap her!! lol

    Until VERY recently, MIL also used to phone husband regularly at work too & only ever on his landline, so that if he wasn’t able to pick up, one of his colleagues would thus giving her some sort of attention kick. If he was travelling away for work, he always had to send her his travel details and itinerary , and phone when he got there and got back. If for some reason he didn’t phone her, she would then phone his office and make out she didn’t know he was away, oh what a bad boy he is not telling his Mother blah blah blah. My husband is in his 40’s – it astounds me that not only she did this but also he went along with it.

    In a similar way, she also phoned around all her family members when we were on our honeymoon, saying how sad and disappointed she was that hubbie hadn’t phoned or written to her while we were away. (The emotional parentifying gets put onto the only male child in this way too!) She even turned up at our hotel the morning after we were married, (before we were awake), expecting my ‘new’ husband, to take her & FIL to their accommodation several miles away…..apparently they had been unable to get into their accommodation the night before as there was a problem with the lock, so they travelled to a friends house & stayed overnight, then travelled over to our hotel (past the village where they were due to stay) and arrived unannounced to wake us up to get a lift back to their accommodation! Thankfully the hotel owner intercepted them before they reached us and gave them a lift himself – he looked in total disbelief when he saw us at breakfast to tell us. MIL did of course have to phone husband as soon as they got into their accommodation to tell him of their ‘events’ just to strengthen the emotional control – and of course she couldn’t possibly have contacted any other member of their family staying close by, for help or assistance!

    Sorry I know I am going on a bit & venting quite a bit, but your blog is such a relief to read. Dealing with the whole NMIL thing leaves me so frustrated and angry on some occasions and heartbroken and sad for my husband at other times. Thank you Fierce Cork Woman for giving us this wonderful forum & sharing your knowledge, it really is a great support.

    • Hi Kate, I am glad to hear I’m not the only one with the weird childhood toy issue! I can’t believe your husband told her all his travel details when away for work! Good grief. Why has he stopped now? Did the light dawn on him? Your honeymoon story is just :O what a cow, and well done that hotel owner, give the man a medal. I guess he must have seen his fair share of “difficult” guests over the years…

  2. green star

    First of all, let me thank you FCW, as many others have done, for writing this blog. I’ve recently come upon it and have spent the last few days reading all your posts and the comments. What a relief to hear from others in the same situation as me! Since becoming aware of my mil’s narcissism about 2 years ago I’ve been researching this PD and found a lot of useful sites, mostly for Acon’s, daughters of NM’s, but none that were specifically written for us unfortunate souls who married into this situation.
    I can totally relate to all the posts here, but this one on infantilization really hit home. We recently moved and had to set a boundary with NMIL regarding visiting our new house. She insisted on an open door policy, to visit whenever she likes, to which my husband had to politely tell her no. They were welcome to visit, but only when we extended an invitation. This, as you might suspect, sent her into a narc rage. I came home one day to find my husband visibly shaken, and when asked what was wrong he informed me he had spent that past 45 min on the phone with his folks (FIL too) using every trick in the book (guilt, shaming, yelling) to try to get him to back down from the boundary he had set. FIL (who takes on NMIL’s anger and any other negative emotion she doesn’t want to deal with — can you write a post about that?) actually said to my 39 year old husband, “You are going to sit down and explain to us your reasoning for this!” as if he were a 5 year old child. It was ridiculous. Props to my husband for not backing down, and for not taking the bait and offering an explanation. (I later asked him why he felt like he had sat there for 45 min listening to his parents rage at him, treating him like a child. Why didn’t he just hang up, or tell his parents to call back when they were calm and could treat him like an adult? He stood there looking at me for a moment with his mouth open. I don’t think it ever occurred to him that he had the power to do that.) This situation is, of course, only one example of many attempts in infantilize my husband over the years that I have known him.
    I love how you included the different types of conversational transaction in this post too (adult-child vs adult-adult). For years I too had been caught in NMIL’s conversational trap, her constantly asking me questions about anything and everything (in a very friendly and inquisitive tone of course), and me always feeling obliged to answer, to justify and defend all the choices and decisions I’ve ever made. She hijacks EVERY conversation this way, peppering the other person with questions so that it looks like she’s honestly “just wondering” and wanting to get to know you better. I read somewhere that “the person who asks all the questions in a conversation is the one who controls it.” Think of a job interview, or more appropriately here, a police interrogation. Light bulb! That’s what my NMIL has been doing all this time, interrogating, not honestly asking conversational questions in an effort to further the discussion or get to know someone better. To her, she is the adult and gets to ask the questions, you are the child and are obligated to answer. And woe to you if she does not like your response.
    One more thing I wanted to add (real quick, how did this comment get so long?!). When you mentioned your husband didn’t like to show affection to you in front of his mother, it reminded me of every time my husband would even give me the slightest peck on the lips, or hold my hand and kiss it in front of his parents, the inevitable comment from his mother is, “Oh, go and get a room already!” in this exasperated tone. Ha! She simply can’t stand to see her son as an adult, acting in an adult way, or having adult feelings. So sad.
    Thanks again FCW, and keep up the good work! You write so eloquently and have a gift of articulating these difficult topics so well.

    • Hi Green Star, your comments on the way MIL dominates the conversations were spot on. My first meeting with her felt just like an aggressive job interview. She does exactly what you describe and asks a lot of questions while giving very little away about herself. I think for an experiment I will turn this on its head and ask her a whole series of quite blunt and probing questions next time I see her.

      Interesting to see you describe the rejection of your husband’s normal affection for you. She is jealous, pure and simple.

  3. alabaster77

    Wow! Thanks for yet another great post. Last weeks Parentification subject reopened some wounds that needed attending to and I definitely feel so much better and lighter for it so Thank You again.
    Infantilization is something we can identify with. I’m not sure if this is on topic but we have a running joke regarding new ventures, investments, large purchases, career choices or any decision of Med/Large scale. It’s the ‘Don’t mention anything to your Mom’ joke because this is where we see the infantilization most… She actually tries to take on a disproportionate amount of stress, worry and concern regarding OUR decision and takes it upon herself to do the homework and give US her facts, all package with a sweet motherly tone of ‘I’m just looking out for you and trying to help’ Crap She Is!!
    It’s always about Control which opens the door to the 11:45pm phone call with some insignificant factoid of absolute irrelevance that she gleaned from some professional person whilst sharing Our situation and possible best outcomes that suite um well, Her Agenda!!!
    My concern as spouse is the ease in which she uses the Concern, Worry and Confusion and effectively in stills these in my Husband where there was none to begin with. Then she plays rescuer and remedy to the very thing She created!!!!! An Infant Adult Child!!!!
    I really identified with “Part and parcel of keeping the children trapped in the web of the narcissists making is to feed them the idea that they really can’t cope on their own, that they are weaker, less mature and capable than they really are. ” BINGO!!! That’s It!!! Years may pass without the blessing of her company (joke) The Family begins to heal and find a groove that makes life more pleasant and sweet beyond our wildest dreams and within a couple of days in her presence we’re all confused, frustrated, completely overwhelmed and my Husband thinks that the only way we can survive is with Her Help!!!!!!! How The Heck does she do that??? It concerns me greatly. His given me the ‘Blessed Be The Peacemaker’ scripture after she NarcRages at me, even his Sister shook her head at him saying ‘Oh No, That’s wrong, you can’t blame the Victim (me) for the Abuse (NMIL). And so, the story continues…………. Yep! TA I’ll definitely get onto that!

    Some days I’m just an Alabaster Bottle full of expensive perfume, owned by a prostitute to be poured out on her Savior’s Feet!!!

    • Yep I’ve had to deal with MIL doing our research for us, offering endless “expert” opinions and sending tidbits of useful information in emails and phone calls for weeks following some discussion, Usually it is financial matters she decides to take on in this way. She considers herself an expert. So buying a house, getting a mortgage, career decisions yes she is there with all her better-than-our knowledge. Honestly how did I survive without her?

  4. Male in his 40s

    I have experienced this many times with my wife’s NPD mother, and it makes me sick to the stomach. I have witnessed it in person and also in writing. Everything I read hear resonates with me. She does treat my wife as if she is an incapable child. My wife also works up strategies prior to telling her mother about things we are going to do or things we have done. Rarely she shares the joy that we (our own family) may have experienced. The MIL still doesn’t know that we took our kids to the Zoo 2 years ago, because my wife fears her reaction. And when it comes to us going on holidays – my wife has to build up the courage to tell her we are going away.

    On two occasions, I have witnessed my wife become physically sick for days with issues relating to her Mother.

    FCW, I would love to see you put something together about the NPD obsession to ‘WIN’ and how my NPD MIL’s issues with power and control has made it’s way into my own relationship, My wife is also obessed by power and control, and became obsessed that I was trying to control her. It got to a point where I became unable to respond to my wife if she asked me any question were I might provide an answer that differed from what she wanted to hear – even with carefully considered ‘I statements’ – They got twisted… So I resorted to communicating via SMS only, so my words were set in black and white and couldn’t be tampered with. It came to a point that if I put away the washing, I couldn’t put away my wife’s (because even that was considered controlling.

    Thankfully, we are finally working on the issue of control and I think she is beginning that the issue is mainly through ‘Faulty Thinking’.

    I feel that I am now in a space where I can respond without fear of punishment or accusations of control. I’m still not putting her washing away though!!! (saves me time and I hate sorting the washing!!)

    Only a matter of time though till the NPD MIL throws a spanner in the works and makes things difficult again,,,

  5. Natalia

    I wanted to post how grateful I am to have found your amazingly helpful blog. It is a treasure trove of info. My husband and I have recently found out what is “wrong” with my MIL and it has brought a whole new awareness, which is sort of a relief. Sort of. My therapist has helped to shine this light on my NPD MIL, also giving a diagnosis of mild Borderline PD. I didn’t realize how much resentment I have had towards her. I am done with her toxic and manipulative behavior. My husband and I, together, have been creating new boundaries with her. I’m grateful we are on the same page. We have been observing her behavior and seeing so much clearer now that what she has is a major disorder. I wish there was a way we could show her and help her. After learning what her problem was, my husband wanted to lay it out on the table. My response was, I’m not sure that is possible. Is it just me or is there an epidemic of NMIL? Maybe I’m focused in but it’s so bizarre. MIL definitely infantilizes my husband and also parentizes. The other night my MIL reached out and pushed my husband’s hair behind his ear. He immediately responded with the inappropriateness of it and she denied and deflected her actions, of course. Boundaries are being set. Thank you so much, FCW, for sharing your experience and wisdom. I have read almost every post and feel better armed for my next encounter with the out law… 🙂

  6. bls

    for mother’s day my mil thought it would be just wonderful to go shoe shopping with my 40 year old husband…just the two of them…and she bought him 4 pairs of shoes. Just ridiculous and of course hubby thought it was ok,/normal mothers day.

  7. K.

    This perfectly describes the relationship between my husband and MIL. She keeps referring to herself in the third person, but instead of using her name, she says “Mommy.” “Mommy did this for you.” Etc. My husband has been consistently telling her to stop and leaving the conversation if she doesn’t.

    However, recently she tried to meddle in a situation between my husband and my SIL. SIL owed us money and has been avoiding us like the plague. Since we don’t want to waste our lives chasing after her over something replaceable we decided to drop it a month ago. Now out of the blue MIL is trying be a “good mommy” and save her baby boy from his problems that he can’t fix. When hubby told her to stop calling herself mommy yet again, this time her response was different. Instead of acting offended as usual, she told him that asking her to stop was funny. It made her feel good about herself. Husband again explained clearly why she needed to stop and that’s when she got offended and became the victim. Husband then stopped speaking to her for good. What’s more annoying is FIL acting like it’s my husbands fault for hurting her feelings. What an enabler.

    I’d always suspected my MIL of being a narcissist, but her last comment convinced me that it is true. I’m proud of my husband for sticking up for himself and not backing down when she’s overstepped her boundaries. It’s taken him some time to get out of that web, but he’s taking those steps now. I don’t think he believes me when I told him I think she’s a real narcissist, but he definitely agrees she’s narcissistic. I guess the NPD label shouldn’t matter as long as we’re going in the right direction, but it would take a load off of me to be believed. Thank you for this blog!

    • Alabaster

      Thanks for sharing that ‘K’ and welcome to the NMIL survival kit. 😉 this is a great resource and safety net from ‘Am I Going Crazy’ it sounds like you have quite the handle on things.. Keep it Up and Keep Sane 😉

  8. Anony Moose

    She was never technically my MIL, but this post really reminded me of my ex’s mom. My ex and I have a son together, but we broke up before he was born. When my son was a baby, my ex’s N mother would come to help a lot and I appreciated it because I was a single mom with a baby. But then as I was getting a better handle on things and less vulnerable, she was still all up in my face trying to do everything for me and trying to run the show. She was trying to infantalize me!

    She would always say that I was like a daughter to her, but I never said that she was like a mother to me because my mother is alive and well and we get along. Once when I tried to have a conversation with her about boundaries, she said, “We’re family now, we don’t have boundaries.” I brought it up again later that day, and she said that she wanted boundaries too, and that her boundary was that I couldn’t say no to her. She would call me “little girl” all the time and whenever I asked her not to, she would just laugh. She was always telling me that I’m stubborn because she would want to do something for me and I would say no. Once she said, “Why do you have to be so damn independent!” like it was a bad thing to be independent.

    Eventually there was a straw, and the straw broke the camel’s back, and I went no-contact with her. After a couple months, I did let her see my son for a few hours and met up with her in a public place so she could pick him up. It was just, like, a full on verbal assault about how I was awful for cutting off contact with her. She threatened to tell my parents, and I told her to go ahead. What did she think that my parents were going to do? Make me have a relationship with her? Does she think that they still make my decisions for me? They’re well aware that I’m an adult! After that I went no-contact again for another couple of years, and now we’re very, very low-contact.

    Sorry for the novel! I’m enjoying your blog.

  9. Deana

    Thank you , for these posts! Been struggling sooo long with my NPD mother … She has all my toys , baby clothes , school projects … Everything from childhood … I’m now 45 … We struggle with our relationship , as she sucks me back in …. We argue , because it’s a constant power struggle , over my life … She nuts! My adult sister , plays into it!!! Causing a thorn between us! Very frustrating! My mother ends phone calls with ” mommy loves you ” good god! Mommy???? Oh brother … She does not like anyone my sister or I bring around … ( go figure) As they would take us away from her…such pathetic behavior.

    • Deana I feel for you! Have you read any of the books for daughters of narcissistic mothers? I haven’t but some people I know have and they say they are very helpful. The mommy loves you thing is vomit inducing isn’t it, bleugh! My MIL signs off with “love from Mummy XXX” on every email and text.

  10. Epiphany

    Thank goodness I am not alone!!! The past two years of my life has been dominated by the fallout of my NMIL and severely angry/abusive enabling and potentially N FIL. I am lucky in that my husband came to see the darkness of his family fairly early on in our marriage but that doesn’t mean that he is healed overnight. Even with his earnest attempt to understand, change and break patterns it is an almost daily struggle; one we often feel quite lonely in. I think what strikes me most about this particular post (I’ve read a few other and so much is spot on) is how the manfestations of infantilization were the first red flags I had that there was something seriously off about NMIL and her relationship with her children. These examples were all over the place (re-gifting childhood memeobelia, an obsession with ceremoniously giving stacks childhood photos, pinching and slapping my husbands butt, nagging endlessly about his hair length even when it hardly ever varied in length by more than an inch or two, revelling in recounting every “embarrassing” story about my husband so the family could laugh at him again and again, and oh so much more). I tried to dismiss these things as odd quirks but as they piled up and more abusive and damaging behaviour surfaced when our first child was born I saw them for the distorted and sickening actions that they really are. I wanted to share because someone might be reading these things unsure of what they are dealing with and I really can’t emphasize enough how important it is to listen to your instinct on this issue and put up some boundaries post haste. If it’s a desperate enough situation emotionally that you found this blog, the changes seem pretty high that you are dealing with someone who is disturbed. Don’t let the crazy win.

  11. Momofthree

    What about keeping a “room” in your house for your married son? My husband and I have been married for 10 years and we have 3 kids. My MIL still has a “room” for my husband in her house. After high school, he joined the military and his room stayed the same, he took nothing. We met and married before his discharge, and now we live 1500 miles away. Thankfully. Plus she’s moved to a new house since my husband left, and established “his” room in the new house. He has never lived there. When they moved she counted 25 boxes of his childhood things in her attic, including clothes, books, Legos, and even crayons. She won’t let her other grandchildren play with certain toys from my husband’s childhood, and other toys on a limited basis. The 3 year old once called one toy “his” and my MIL lost her cool on a 3 year old, correcting him that those are NOT your toys!! I dread their visits, because we obviously do not know how to care for our children or run a house without her daily instruction. I also do not properly care for my husband either. (We are successful when they are not around, imagine that!) Thankfully we only see them 1-2 times a year, or my marriage would not have lasted. I feel for my sister in law, they live next door to my MIL and my MIL helps care for her kids. My SIL calls me crying at least weekly how she feels MIL is turning her children against her, and the husband does not see or understand what is happening. He does occasionally recognize that some behavior is “out of line”, but he refuses to discuss with his mother, because she does help them so much. She is miserable but feels helpless. While I miss my family and wish I were closer, I am quite thankful for the miles between my husband and his mother.

  12. Maia

    My N mother has her specific way to treat me as a child.
    I’ve been living on my own for almost 7 years now, yet she still calls me to ask wether I did x or y – being x and y things every adult and mature person do without encouragement or help.
    E.G. “Did you pay the bills?”; “Did you remember to call…. to tell…”
    Obviously, her tone is that of a know – it – all teacher, since she’s tthinking “I ‘, sure you didn’t because you’re such a stupid child”
    That’s not the worst, however, because when she comes out with this questions, I simply answer: “Yes” clearly annoyed, and change topic/stop the conversation.
    The worst is when she wants to tell me how to do a certain thing. I tell her I know, or I already got infos and all; she won’t listen, or tell me I did wrong. No matter how many times I remind her the boundary (“I can get info on my own, mother, thank you”), she simply goes on. So that my only choice is to hung up the phone. And this is even not enough. I’ve hanged that damn phone so many times, she just keeps telling me how to do certain things – and I have to underline, they usually are things she knows nothing about, but she has heard of them from others. So she not only wants me to tell how to do something, but she tries to dictate me someone else’s mind/idea. Obviusly, she’s deaf to my boundary (“I’m happy if X did so, I’m doing on my own, thank you”)

  13. Leanne

    I ended up here in my search to understand the dynamic between my grandmother and my male cousins who she raised. Infantilization describes it perfectly and it’s sick. Now that I know what it’s called I’m going to research it more and discuss it with my cousins because I hate to see them treated this way.

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