Monday, April 1, 2013
Yesterday being Easter, we spent the day at church and with family. Hubby lead a Christian Seder, which only seemed truly appreciated by the children. His uncle and grandma were there along with his sister, her husband, their kids, and of course his mother and step-father. Anytime you get the family together it becomes a game of talking about the least desirable person, usually me. Well yesterday was no exception.
Hubby's grandma (let's just call her my Grand Mother in Law, or GMIL for short) has never thought we were doing anything right. When she first visited our warehouse 3 years ago, where we make and distribute our products, she said that we were pissing our money away and Hubby should be working for someone and saving for retirement. We are a great disappointment to her. She's in her 80's, cranky as all get out, and not afraid to tell anyone her unsolicited opinions. She just asks questions and retorts with all the flaws in one's thinking.
So really it should have come to no surprise when she went on a tirade against me at dinner. I was blindsided by it. She asked if we still had that RV (we got rid of it...unwillingly) and I told her no but that I was thinking about getting a smaller, van-like version of an RV for my mobile nail business. She started asking questions in her usual grumpy, I'm-out-for-blood manner. How was I going to make any money starting a new business? I have an assistant; so why would I pay her for work I should be doing anyway? I am spending money on things when I need to be keeping my business going. I shouldn't have an assistant. I should be doing the work. After all, my first business isn't making me rich. How am I going to buy a house when I don't have any money? She went on about how I'm "pissing" my money away and why am I not saving it and blah blah blah. I forgot about the incident at the warehouse until that moment. But I was in too much shock to tell her where to stick it.
Hubby was not at the table when this was going on. MIL only heard the last part of the conversation, so she didn't say anything. SIL and her husband were across the table, but they just kept their mouths shut. No one came to my defense. I had no witty comebacks and everything I said sounded like I was on the defense, which of course I was.
To drive her point home, GMIL started asking SIL about what she's doing. SIL is going to school full time to become a physical therapist, a doctorate degree. She stayed at home with her kids until they both started going to school full time and then decided to further her own education. She married rich. Her husband has an amazing job with lots of benefits and a huge salary. Because his job takes him from home a lot, SIL is following in the footsteps of her mother and grandma; she is in charge...of EVERYTHING. GMIL sounded like she was going to go on the warpath with SIL, but SIL answered all the questions correctly. When it came to questions of the kids, her homework, and even the sneaky one about who cleans the house, she passed with flying colors.
When it came time for GMIL to leave, she half hugged me and Hubby and said good-bye. She spoke with SIL and her husband loud enough to make sure I heard her say "Good-bye. Love ya. You guys are doing a great job!" to each of them separately. She had a point to make and by golly she was going to make it.
After she left, MIL was speaking with SIL about the incident with an "Oh my goodness! Did you hear her???" She made mention that she was glad she wasn't the target this time. SIL tried to make sure I was not angry with her over it. Of course not. Why would I be angry with Princess SIL? She's got money and ambition and does everything right. I struggle financially, am the least motivated person I know, and am the blackest sheep in the family. It's not her fault she's perfect. It is her fault, however, that she has no spine. None of the women in the family do except for the primary matriarch. And me. That get's me into trouble. A lot.
Hubby and I spoke about it on the way home. He just kept saying that that's who they are; a bunch of miserable, cranky women. He felt bad he wasn't there to stick up for me. He also reminded me that I need to not be so open about our lives around his family. They like to use anything we say against us. I reminded him of what his own mother said just a few weeks ago to my assistant while they were away at a trade show. MIL told her that my SIL does everything right and she adores her children.
Later, after we put the kiddos to bed, Hubby went on a motorcycle ride. He likes to get out every once in a while to go think. When he got back, he said something to me that I am still in shock over. He apologized to me for not validating my feelings , for not being there to stick up for me, and for not being transparent about his feelings (I thought he was just talking about this particular situation, but in writing this realized that he was speaking of the trouble I've always seen with his mother.). He responded to the it with a wall, when really he was very hurt by what had happened. He finds it incredibly unfair that his sister is treated like a princess while we are practically shunned. His mother is always openly proud of his sister, and never of him. He is hurt by it. He just kept saying that she loved us just the same, it's just that we lived closer so she didn't miss us as much as her daughter (who lives a whole hour away, and who's kids she sees more than ours). MIL doesn't realize that we moved here to be closer to family and that she's making us regret our decision.
He brought up the fact that we do not treat our daughter any better or worse than our son. We do not praise our girl and put down our boy. They are equals, and as such have the same love from us. I cuddle just as much with one as the other. I am stern with both of them equally. We have the same expectations of each of them; to strive to be the best they can, to be respectful, truthful, and kind.
But Hubby's family is very conditional with their love. I do not meet their requirements. I'm an obligation to be put up with. Now, if I were to stomp all over Hubby, make him work for the "man", dinner on the table at 6 every night, perfect children, own my own perfectly clean house...well then I might stack up. But Hubby didn't marry a spineless man-hater. He married me; strong-willed, messy, honest, pull-no-punches, fight-for-the-underdog me and all my imperfections. He loves me just the way I am. That's good because I ain't changing for anybody except myself. And I kinda like me, even if his family doesn't.
Still, it would be so nice to have family that we didn't have to be on our guard with. But Hubby being transparent with me and his feelings has just made a huge difference in me. I feel empowered. I feel like my feelings are justified. I also feel like crying. I think it's the combination of relief that I'm not (completely) crazy and sorrow for Hubby. He refused to see what I have been pointing out all along, but not because it wasn't true. It was because he didn't want to accept the pain that came with that truth. How could a mother love one child over another. It doesn't seem fathomable to us that would never dream of it. So how could it be? We don't know... We also don't know how to deal with it.
Update: Hubby says he is sure his mother loves him, but it's how she treats me and the kids that hurts the most.
See how much I have to talk to my therapist about today?