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The Family Photograph That Excludes

This past June I made an appointment to have a family photo done. Just me, my husband, and my two grown sons. I called my boys to schedule a date and told them to wear nice blue shirts, dark pants, and nice shoes. (My husband and I were wearing this, too. Family photos in the matchy matchy style.)

Skip to last week my younger son (perfectly in dress code) shows up at the photo and we’re all sitting on a bench, waiting for my older son, C, to arrive.  15 minutes later he arrives with his wife, T, in tow…both wearing blue shirts, dark pants, and nice shoes. I pull T aside and explain that I want just me and my 3 important boys in the picture. However instead of gracefully bowing out what does she do? She starts sobbing and generally throwing a fit. She goes crying to C, and after about 5 minutes he comes over saying that if his wife can’t be in the picture then they were both leaving.  I consent and now I have a picture on my mantlepiece with my smug daughter-in-law staring at me all day.

How can someone be so rude? 0823-13

You did refer to this as a “family photo” twice so there is no mistaking your intent to have a “family photo” done that will be prominently displayed on your mantle.  So, it’s a “family photo” that deliberately excluded the one person who married into the family, i.e. your daughter-in-law.   If actions speak louder than words, you sent the clear message that she is not family and you don’t want her intruding in the family photographs nor do you want to see her face beaming out from that photo.    I suspect from C’s prompt decision to respond as he did to you that this may not be the first time you have expressed a desire to exclude his wife from some family occasion.     It was Shallow Stupid to not have scheduled a complete family photo session with everyone involved and then take other photos of father and sons, mother and sons, two brothers together, C and T, even daughter-in-law and mother-in-law to at least maintain an illusion of family unity.  It would have been profoundly Deep Stupid to have placed a framed photo center stage on the mantle broadcasting to the world that your family does not include spouses.    Because the bottom line is that C has left his nuclear family and started his own which does include your daughter-in-law and while you want to enshrine your nuclear family as it was before C married, that is not the reality as of now and it appears that C has no interest in facilitating your need to remind him, his father and brother that you should be the only woman in his life or this family.


{ 203 comments… add one }
  • Anon November 29, 2013, 7:29 am

    This has happened to me *many* times in a slightly different way. I am, at least twice a year, asked to take a photograph of my MIL and her kids, and my FIL and his kids and my kids (they are divorced). I always do so with a smile, but it definitely hurts, and is just one of a dozen ways a clear message of being excluded has been sent to me by my MIL, in particular… but then she told me the day her son and I got engaged that she never did like me anyway. Truth be told it has had an alarmingly harsh impact on our marriage as time has gone by, which is how I ended up here looking for advice. I’ve already tried including her in everything from wedding plans to family vacations, to emails and messages she never responds to. It was easier to take in stride before we had kids, and when they were too young to notice that they were left out or forgotten. She doesn’t even wish them a happy birthday. So I wish this DIL luck, and I’m impressed with this son- my husband would not have done as much, but then I wouldn’t have forced the issue.

  • Laura May 15, 2017, 9:28 pm

    My mother-in-law always has her family pose for every family event. She has years and years of these similar poses. And I was included since her son and I were engaged 10 years ago. I gave birth to a son last May, the first grandchild for both my parents and for my parents-in-law. My parents live 450 miles away and my parents-in-law live around the corner. Importantly, my younger brother and my parents only son passed away tragically at 28, 17 months before my son was born. It’s been a difficult time for my parents, through their grief, to be so far away from their first and only grandchild. They do visit every 6 weeks and we have made 2 trips to visit them.
    We just celebrated my son’s first birthday and my family traveled to celebrate. The birthday party was the day before Mother’s Day. My parents in law made plans for Mothers Day Brunch at their country club where the family is well known. At the end of brunch, my mother in law asks to have a 4 generation photo taken of herself with her mother, my husband and my son. She excluded me! It was my first real mother’s day and I thought she was being extremely insensitive, not only to me, but to my parents as well. She couldn’t, just this once, curb her obsession with these multi-generation photos.

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