The Family Photograph That Excludes

by admin on September 4, 2013

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.


{ 202 comments… read them below or add one }

Ergala September 5, 2013 at 11:24 am

Oh and in the OP it is stated that the DIL and son talked for like 5 minutes and then he confronted his mother, the OP. It didn’t say that pictures were taken, people arranged and then C realized T wasn’t there and instead across the street cinnabon. The DIL states that she was very very upset and went across the street to Cinnabon and buried herself in a treat there. Then her husband realized she wasn’t there, went looking for her, found her then they went back and confront her mother. That would take at least a good 20 or 30 minutes. Not 5. Something really doesn’t add up here.


Angel September 5, 2013 at 11:48 am

If Tami S in indeed the DIL then I think even less of the OP than I did before! It’s almost unbelievable that anyone would treat their DIL this way, much less a pregnant DIL. She must really not want to see the grandkids that much when they arrive :-(


Shalamar September 5, 2013 at 11:50 am

I find it interesting that OP didn’t mention that her DIL was pregnant with twins. That’s kind of important information, in my opinion.

I loved the detail about being close to a Cinnabon. Cinnamon buns make everything better!


MrsL September 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Wow. As a fairly new daughter in law myself, I would be so hurt if my MIL told my husband to be ready for family photos and that I was not included. Ouch!


AthenaC September 5, 2013 at 12:23 pm

In-laws can be a really touchy topic. With a submission like this it’s hard to know whether you are reading the situation correctly (“that sounds like my MIL!”) or not. It’s also difficult to not project your own issues onto a situation that may or may not have any similarity to your own situation.

Full disclosure: I have never had an issue with in-laws. My mother is the difficult one – I could bring home St. Joseph for a husband and he still wouldn’t be good enough.

That said, my MIL has had an 8×10 picture of each of her boys on the wall for years, and updates them every few years (3 boys, 1 picture for each boy, so 3 pictures total). My husband is the only one who is married. Guess what happened during the first family pictures after my husband and I got married? I was excluded from the usual picture of just my husband! Oh the horror! (That was sarcasm.) And the other traditional shot of just the boys? Again, I was excluded! Oh the horror! (That was also sarcasm.) How dare she exclude me!! I’m family, too!! I absolutely MUST be in every family picture! (Yet more sarcasm.)

I’m sure you can tell that I have absolutely no problem with pictures of different circles of family, and I honestly don’t see anything inherently wrong with “I want a picture of just myself, my husband, and my two boys.” For this specific story, we don’t know what the rest of the relationship is like, so it’s difficult to opine.

I see a few possibilities –

1) Evil MIL hates DIL and excludes her at every possible opportunity. The tears this time were because this is the last straw.
2) Evil DIL makes everything all about her and inserts herself everywhere, whether it’s appropriate or not. The tears were a manipulative fit to get what she wants.
3) Something in-between (i.e. there was a misunderstanding, T had just had a rough day and it all came spilling out of her, C has always been the manipulative one but Mom can’t see it, etc.)

Honestly, I think Abby (#134) hit the nail on the head. I am not sure what the DIL had to gain from posting additional details, given that ~80% of the commenters are inserting all their MIL issues in and assuming the worst of the MIL.


Pippa September 27, 2014 at 6:04 pm

AthenaC, your sarcasm is just rude and insensitive. I don’t think it is too much to ask for the DIL to be included in some of the family photos, after all, she is part of the family now!! What if they son and DIL had children, should they not be considered a full family member because they only have 50% of the fathers genes and therefore 25% of the MIL’s genes? Should the MIL exclude her husband, after all he became a member of her family also by marriage. The MIL needs to accept that her son has a wife and the family has grown. The MIL should stop being so possessive of her ‘family’ unit and start to include the DIL in the ‘family’ photos, I’m sure her son would also appreciate the gesture as I imagine he feels stuck between a rock and a hard place. Sure, have some photos with just your biological children, but have some with the DIL included as well. It doesn’t stop there though, don’t just display a photo that includes the sons only, also display a photo that includes all the family!


L.J. September 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Abby, another possibility is that the MIL was one of the posters who took the OP’s side. She may have thought she’d sound more convincing if she didn’t mention that she was OP.


Chelsea September 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Everyone has said most of my feelings on this, but I will add, doesn’t the thought of a picture of grown men and their parents in matching outfits strike you as…. odd?

My in-laws are somewhat like this, although not so obvious. They have never taken a picture of me with our child. Every other person in the family, except other in-laws, but not me. Not even with my husband. If I am with our child in a picture, my head is cut out or I’m off the side of the frame. I have no idea if they do this on purpose or if they just don’t consider me family so much that it doesn’t even occur to them to bother. I just let it roll off my back at this point and accept that I will never really be considered family. Oh well. There’s a reason neither my husband nor I are keen on visiting often, he doesn’t take to kindly to his wife being considered second-class.


Tami Smith September 5, 2013 at 1:02 pm

My MIL is not a nice woman. She had a rough childhood, she and her sister were bounced around their family. For about 4 years she lived with a super religious relative, and from what I’ve heard from my FIL there was some abuse. Now MIL has really strict religious views that I don’t share, and my husband never took to his mothers beliefs. She’s always been a bit hateful towards me because of this, but, I try to remember that things that scar you when your young are often difficult to let go of. Since I have gotten pregnant things have gotten worse, she calls daily to tell me I’m a heathen and a few other not very nice words. She has also told me that since I did not marry her son in a ceremony preformed in her religion’s church, I am not really married and my husband can leave anytime with a clean soul. Yes she really does talk like that. She’s also told me that because I refused to have my daughters baptized that I’m condemning them to hell. I want my children to be able to choose for themselves when they’re older.

However despite the harrasment I do plan on letting my MIL be a part of my daughters lives. I’m also planning on having either me or my spouse be there to supervise at all times…but my relationship with my paternal grandmother was special and I want to give my daughters that chance too.


Abby September 5, 2013 at 2:08 pm

@ Ana-

“Or, @Abby, perhaps you are the OP trying to put the blame back on your DIL because you’re upset that everyone is sympathizing with her AND she found out about it?”

That makes absolutely no sense, Ana. Did you read my previous FOUR comments defending the DIL and telling the OP she was in the wrong? Go through and do a search. I’ve commented on this submission multiple times.

For those pointing out that some people agreed with OP, true, but a vast majority thought she was out of line, including the Admin. If people don’t read all the comments, they usually do at least read what the Admin has to say. If the OP was truly the MIL, there is no way she came away from this site thinking everyone agreed with her. Unless DIL is purposely writing in a different way to throw people off, I actually don’t think she’s the OP. I think DIL told a friend about this incident, friend wrote it up (trying not to sound TOO over the top), and let DIL know the submission had been posted, and DIL came in to make sure there was absolutely nothing redeemable about the MIL.

All that being said, I still think the MIL was in the wrong. But I’d love to hear the MIL come back and defend herself.


Abby September 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Ah, wish I could edit. My last sentence (#158) should be clarified. If the circumstances are how I understand them, MIL arranged a portrait session and called it a family photo. Her son assumed his wife was invited. MIL would not even let DIL be included in the session (not just that she wanted a photo without her, she didn’t want ANY photos taken of DIL). If that is exactly what happened, I’d say whatever tears or tantrums the DIL shed pales in comparison to the rudeness of the MIL.

However, there are two sides to every story, and I’m pretty sure we haven’t actually heard from the MIL at any point in this submission, including the OP.


Goldie September 5, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Wow. How can anyone be so rude, indeed, to exclude a family member from a family photo! On the bright side, sounds like OP has raised her oldest son right. He did the right thing by standing up for his wife. Good for him!

Before anyone assumes that this sounds like my MIL, I assure you this sounds like the opposite. My MIL was (she’s still alive, I’m just no longer married to her son) a simple uneducated woman, who may not have had the perfect manners, but who had a lot of class and always (even when my marriage to her son was at its worst) treated me like she herself wanted to be treated. To imagine my MIL telling me to sit out of a family photo, doesn’t even begin to compute in my brain – it could never have happened. It’s just not done.


Tami S September 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I didn’t go across the street. This occurred in a mall. The Cinnabon was about 15 yards away, and on a Wednesday afternoon I got my stuff pretty fast. The whole thing took about 15 minutes, my husband assumed I was in the bathroom because..well pregnant…after a 3 hour drive. But when 10 minutes went by and the photographer started posing everyone, my husband got a little worried. He found me in the sitting area in the mall’s open area. This mall has the long&wide hallway layout with shops on either side, and kiosks and vending machines, and sitting areas in the middle.


Rebecca September 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm

@ Daisy:

I got screamed at over the phone within hours of having my 14-year-old cat put to sleep; my favourite cat ever, that I’d had since kittenhood. I was yelled at for being “stupid” because this person was trying to talk me through a computer problem and I just didn’t understand, over the phone. It hurt and made me so much more upset than I already was, with my cat. Your MIL’s behaviour was a million times worse. In fact it makes me think she must be mentally ill, and needs help, though its toll on your emotional well-being means you must look after yourself; I’d probably never want her over at my place again.

Re: the OP, I agree with admin. I think there’s a back story going on there, which is a dislike of the DIL that goes back well before the photo shoot. To say DIL “isn’t family” is like saying her own husband “isn’t family.” If she really just wanted a photo with her sons, how hard would it be to just take several photos; one including the spouses, one with just the sons, and several combinations thereof. Then she could view the proofs later and purchase/display the ones SHE wants, and perhaps send the one that includes the spouses to the son and DIL.


Ultra Venia September 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Ergala, you want to accuse the DIL of shenanigans and then have the nerve to complain about “interesting assumptions”? Wow.

And the rest of you doubters, cynicism is not polite. You don’t get points for calling FAKE on the internet.


Angeldrac September 6, 2013 at 12:25 am

Ergala – not everyone is the same as you. Just because you didn’t react a certain way to a situation, it doesn’t mean that other people don’t (to an entirely different situation, by the way).


Kendra September 6, 2013 at 1:11 am

Well, I’m going to add my $.02 worth to the discussion. I’ve noticed a lot of commenters are looking at the submission through the lens of their own in-law experiences. Now, I’ve never married or even really been in what could be termed a “long term relationship” so I have no in-law experiences; good, bad or indifferent. My take on the submission is that it is really sad. I think the op was just thoughtless, utterly thoughtless, to the point that when she was arranging this family photo shoot, the fact that she even had a DIL, and that DIL is family doesn’t seem to have entered her mind. Now with Tami’s submission that not only has she been a part of this “family” for a long time, she is pregnant with, I assume, op’s first grandchildren, the op’s thoughtlessness reaches dizzying heights. Like many of the PP’s, I don’t see anything wrong with a photo of the family of origin, if it is one of several combinations including at least one of everybody. I would like to hear more from the options about her take on all of this, but with opinions running this strongly against her, I doubt she will.

Like other PP’s, I was amused at the amount of in-law stories where the parents only considered “blood” family. These people do realize that their spouses aren’t blood related, right. Or if they are, then they have bigger problems than who is in the photograph. ;-). If a child’s spouse isn’t family, then neither is the parent’s spouse.

Just to give a little Window into my world….while, I don’t have any in-law’s, my son is engaged to a bright, funny, lively young woman who I enjoy immensely. She is very young, 19, and can be very immature. Yes, there are times when she drives me bonkers! Sometimes, I’ll tell her when she is bugging me, other times I’ll smile and nod and back away slowly, and couple of times when I’ve had to be the “parent” with her. There was the time she took a “tone” with my mother and I, fairly sharply, told her to “knock it off”. You have to pick your battles and look for the best in each other. Soon after they became serious, I would introduce her to friends and family as my soon-to-be-DIL. One day she told me that being introduced that way bothered her. It seems that in her family of origin, in-laws aren’t really considered family. So, now I introduce her as my soon-to-be daughter. She loves it, and I figure they’re both ways of saying the same thing, and the lazy part of me likes not having to say so many words to introduce her.


UKHelen September 6, 2013 at 3:22 am

Being English, I had to look up matchy-matchy photos and Cinnabon on the internet, and wow! If only we had Cinnabons over here! As for the matchy-matchy pix, I found a site of awkward family photos which had a load of m-m’s, and they are weird! It’s hilarious.

@TamiS, hugs to you and best wishes for your life with a great DH and two lovely (future) daughters. Shame about your MIL, but you can’t win ’em all.

@Daisy, hugs to you, too. If you google your MIL’s behaviour, I think you’ll find it fits a pattern. I also think the rules here forbid ‘diagnosing’ people, so I won’t.

Oh, and OP, get over yourself. You are not the centre of the universe. Learn to be kind, before it’s too late.


Lex September 6, 2013 at 4:20 am

People casting aspersions on TamiS’s identity as the DIL in this story don’t seem to be taking in peoples general penchant for hyperbole and generalisations.

As someone who is quite emotional anyway, and who struggles with depression, I fell pregnant in April this year and the pregnancy hormones turned me into a total emotional rollercoaster. Sadly I lost the pregnancy very early on but it stayed with me long enough that TV adverts for totally random things that just so happened to have what I term ’emotionally manipulative music’ had me blubbing like a child and LeBoyfriend would get home to find me sobbing on the sofa over a laundry detergent ad… So I can easily see how heavily pregnant, TamiS getting publically rejected by her MIL would be hurtful. I’m sure she was probably tired, a bit achy and uncomfortable from the long drive and to be told that she wasn’t family (after having made the effort to dress up for the photo) would probably have sent me over the edge too.

To me reading both accounts of the situation don’t result in the ‘something doesn’t add up here’ response – clearly MIL was employing hyperbole to exaggerate the negative aspects of DILs reaction and judging time periods without stopwatching it is hardly exact and she was probably just generalising the ‘5 minutes’.

The only thing I’d really like TamiS to clarify is the conversation between herself and her MIL in which MIL told her about this post – I’m afraid grammar and syntax in the sentances of TamiS’s original post didn’t make sense to me and I’m not sure I fully understand what she said.

I can also easily see how MIL would leave out the babies – that makes her look bad so OF COURSE she isn’t going to mention it as she would have thought people would be likely to side with the pregnant woman instead of her. Either way it doesn’t matter.

I would like to hear from the OP again too, however I suspect she posted this story hoping that she would receive virtual pats on the back and plenty of ‘Oh yes, you are totally right, DIL is a terrible person’ to validate her self righteous opinion, but it has backfired on her big-time and she is now either refusing to look at the comment thread as she won’t want to read and acknowledge that the general consensus here is that she was wrong, or (as pointed out by another poster) she is selectively reading only those posts that support her view. People are like this – nobody likes to be criticised or proved wrong, it is just that some are more gracious about it than others and given the tone of the original post I suggest grace is not a virtue the OP here possesses.

I feel sorry for you TamiS, I really do. Marrying out of your own family and being ostracised by your new MIL is probably very stressful. You are lucky that with such an influence like that growing up, your DH didn’t turn out to be a Mummys boy who is still tied to her apron strings. As it is, he can see the flaws in his mothers treatment of you and supports you as Husbands should.

I’m quite lucky in that my FMIL and FFIL are both easy going and have welcomed me into their family with open arms (although I’ll not go into fridge-magnet-gate but suffice it to say that for the first 3 years of our relationship MIL had a photo fridge-magnet on her fridge of LeBoyfriend and his Ex-fiancée swimming with Dolphins…) and whilst LeBoyfriend doesn’t always support me quite in the way I would prefer, both he and I get on well with our respective In-Laws (he with my parents and me with his) so our ‘family life’ is harmonious.

It would be wrong of me to encourage you to use your babies as a way of ‘punishing’ your MIL as this truly is manipulative, however there is nothing wrong with setting more restrictive boundaries and ensuring that you assert yourself otherwise your MIL could ride roughshod over your wishes re: the babies and it is important that you set those boundaries very early on and encourage your DH to maintain them.


Sara September 6, 2013 at 7:13 am

I haven’t read all the comments, so maybe this question has already been answered….

For me, it seems that the OP was certainly rude. But the extent of her rudeness (in terms of whether this was a minor blip of less-than-graceful behavior or an example of staggering, mind-blowing rudeness) is whether or not, when she called her sons to inform them of the appointment, she said that it was simply a “family photo” or specified that it was a photo that was only to include the parents and the two sons.

When you get married, your spouse becomes a part of your family. If my mom told me we were going to have a “family photo” done, and left it at that, I would assume that my husband and our daughter were meant to be included. If, however, she took the time to specify that only our parents, my sisters and myself should be in the photo, I would respect that.

Whatever the case, it does seem that a relatively easy and drama-free solution would have been to simply take two photos–one including DIL and one not.


Sara September 6, 2013 at 7:22 am

I wanted to add–I see a lot of comments about how “weird” or “creepy” it is for a family to want a photo with the parents and adult sons in matchy-matchy outfits. It seems a little strange to me as well, but it’s the family’s right to take whatever photos they want. Maybe this is related to a family tradition that we don’t know about. Whatever the case, it’s fine for the family to take an annual photo wearing whatever they want, no matter how strange it might seem to the rest of us.

What’s not fine, though, is to advise the people who are to be in the photo of the plan, leave out crucial information like “your new wife, who has every reason to believe that she is now a part of this family, should not be included in the family photo”, and then go on the Internet to trash her when she shows up expecting to be part of said photo and has the temerity to be upset upon learning that she is not to be included. At the very least, couldn’t the OP have complimented her outfit and the care she took in choosing it, and apologized for her own lack of communication, and offered to take one “nuclear family only” photo and one “spouses included” photo? Even if the OP did take care to explicitly tell the son that the photo was for the parents and children only, maybe the message didn’t reach DIL. Maybe he did tell her, but when she was in the throes of morning sickness and she didn’t hear him. Maybe she didn’t tell the son at all and her own poor communication skills caused this whole thing. Either way, OP seems to have handled things amazingly poorly, and it’s ironic that she’s now castigating DIL for her “rudeness”.


gwenhara September 6, 2013 at 7:51 am

When my in-laws wanted to do a photo session with a variety of photos, it was the photographer who suggested that we all wear the same dark color on top because it makes for better photos. We ended up going black long-sleeved tops and denim bottoms. As soon as the session was over, most of us took off the black tops to enjoy the rest of the day. So m-m may be less of a family decision and more of the photog’s decision.


Abby September 6, 2013 at 8:22 am

@ Lex-

“People casting aspersions on TamiS’s identity as the DIL in this story don’t seem to be taking in peoples general penchant for hyperbole and generalisations.”

I’ve read all the comments and I’ve yet to read one where someone accuses Tami of lying about being the DIL. One commenter posted a suspicion about Tami making the MIL look worse than she really was, but no one said they didn’t believe Tami was indeed the DIL.

What is baffling a lot of people is in the first post Tami contributed, where she said she was directed here by her MIL, who called her bragging about how she posted the story on the internet, and everyone agrees with MIL that DIL was a tacky heathen. Even if you consider that perhaps OP only read comment #1 and ran with it, the Admin called the OP out in a BIG way, and the Admin is generally considered the ultimate authority, and you would have probably read that before you got to the comments. So, a mean spirited woman who enjoys making her DIL cry intentionally sent her to a website where not only could DIL see a number of posts supporting her and commiserating with their own MIL from hell stories, but where DIL could also make a post defending herself and casting MIL in an absolutely appalling light? That just doesn’t make sense.

Personally, I believe Tami is the DIL. I believe the story happened, more or less the way she described. What I do not believe though, is that the MIL has any idea this story is on the website. I think OP is a very subtle, cleverly written satire of the MIL.


The Elf September 6, 2013 at 8:38 am

NotThumper, re: Daisy’s situation.

The problem with cutting out MIL like cancer, tempting as it would be, is that this is still her husband’s mother. The level of involvement should be first dictated by husband. If he wants to cut her out of their lives, great. Otherwise, husband should figure out first where his boundaries are with his mom. Then Daisy can go off that and make her own compromises so as to both perserve her own sanity and not be a wedge between mother and son. For instance, Daisy can say “MIL can visit in a few weeks, but I’m going to make plans for two days of that stay so I don’t have to be there.” Or, “four visits a year is more than I can handle. How about two, and you go to her place alone for another two?” This is how I straddle the line with my difficult FIL. As much as I dislike the man, he’s Mr. Elf’s only father and I don’t want to be the reason they don’t have a relationship. Mr. Elf is already putting down firm boundaries and limiting involvement; I can live with that and bite my tongue a lot.


The Elf September 6, 2013 at 8:48 am

Re: “matchy-matchy” outfits.

We did this once, as a family (with spouse). My parents, my husband, and I all like to attend the local rennaissance festival in costume. My brother….. eh, he sort of likes it. He doesn’t have a costume but will sometimes borrow a fancy hat or something. So the last time we had photos done, we did it all in costume! (My brother borrowed an outfit). It was so much fun and the pictures turned out great. That’s not quite the “matchy-matchy” of the OP, but it’s close. I can see the appeal.


WednesdayGrrl September 6, 2013 at 9:08 am

I don’t see how the issue of “who pays” makes any difference at all. If OP were paying for a six-day cruise for four, would be OK for the husband to tell his wife she had to stay home? Really? Money may equal power in this world, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to alienate and be rude to your son’s wife.


Library Diva September 6, 2013 at 11:00 am

Well said, Sara. This whole mess could have been headed off by better initial phrasing on the part of the mother. “C, I want to do an updated version of that adorable photo we took when you were in high school. Will you come to the studio in a blue shirt and black pants on the 14th?” “C, we haven’t had a photo of us with you and your brother in a long time, we’d love to make an appointment for one.” Something along those lines would have gotten the point across in a non-hurtful way. Nothing about “real family,” nothing belittling C and T’s relationship.

If the mother did this and the DIL showed up anyway, then there’s a problem, which could be as minor as C failing to pay attention when people talk to him, or as serious as a lack of respect for family bonds.

Others may disagree, but I still feel that it’s nice for blood relatives to have time together even after everyone grows up and gets married. My husband doesn’t accompany me every single time I visit my parents. When we’re with his parents (either them visiting us or us staying with them, as they’re 300 miles away), I always try to “have previous plans” or “need a nap” or otherwise vanish for a bit to allow him to have some time alone with the people who raised him. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a bond like no other and should be respected. I recognize that it’s also easy for me to say that since everyone gets along, though.


delislice September 6, 2013 at 11:46 am

There’s a big difference between wanting a professional photo, where one is charged so much per pose, and a family member with a digital at the holidays creating different groupings. Anyone old enough to remember the Christmas Day blowup in “Ordinary People” when Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland had a fight over taking a picture of MTM with their son?

Nevertheless, the OP communicated at least one thing very clearly — and it wasn’t her original instruction to her son. It was that DIL is not family.

Years ago, my MIL called to invite “us” for Thanksgiving dinner — but both children were under 8 years old, and she didn’t want them to come, because they might “run wild.” And she thought that since the kids were not invited, I had better stay home to look after them … so really, it was just her baby boy she wanted.

I was cross-eyed mad, but I suggested that he go anyway, since she was always like that and she wasn’t going to change (it took a couple of years of therapy to get to that point). He did and the kids and I had a blast roasting marshmallows on kabob sticks under the oven broiler and making s’mores.

Kudos to the son for siding with his wife. Unfortunately, some parents make their grown children take sides. I have counseled couples getting married and told them that if such a situation arises, I hope they do not have to choose but that I would recommend they choose their spouse. That is the new family they are making.

There’s enough love to go around — but when the new family they are making is threatened, that’s where their loyalty lies.

Should the OP be entitled to one shot in the session of just mom and boys? Sure. Should she have made it clear … again … that her son’s wife is no family of hers? Gonna be a lonely old age.


PM September 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

@Sara – I am one of the posters who called the family photo practice “creepy,” but I wasn’t referring to matchy matchy outfits so much as the intentionally excluding spouses of the adult children. It smacks of pretending the spouses don’t exist, so the parents can pretend that their grown children are still young and that the family unit is unchanged. It’s as if the parents are so eager to believe that they are still in control, still vital, still the center of their child’s universe, that they don’t mind hurting feelings and denying reality to do it.

Any practice that infantilizes grown adults gives me with wiggins, but that’s just me.


June September 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm

“I have a picture on my mantlepiece with my smug daughter-in-law staring at me all day.”

Yep. And it’s no less than OP deserves.


Ergala September 6, 2013 at 5:06 pm

You can disagree with me all you want I but I see a LOT of pig piling on the OP and I still think something is off. When I smell a rat I’m usually not too far off and I can see a few posters feel the same way. This makes absolutely zero sense. And no I have NOT always had a rainbow relationship with my inlaws. My sister in law and I absolutely hated each other for a very long time. To the point where we did NOT enter the same room as each other. She excluded me a lot from stuff, yes even while pregnant. But still I didn’t freak out and cry and throw a tantrum.

And yes it is a very interesting assumption because you are going based off details you tossed in there yourself BEFORE the dil even “clarified” the situation. You were saying that the MIL excluded her from other stuff, that she hates the DIL that she doesn’t view her as family. None of that was ever said in the OP. Yet it was brought up over and over and over. It was brought up so much that I reread the OP and the comments to see if I had missed an update or a paragraph. Then the DIL posted and pretty much said what everyone else was saying. That she is excluded all the time and that the OP hates her. To me it just seems off.


Ann September 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm

The first 5 years I was married I was also treated as an outsider. My MIL insisted on taking “family only” pictures at my wedding – of course excluding me. My husband and I told each set of parents we would buy an enlarged photo they picked, but I didn’t expect her to pick the “wedding” picture without me (the bride). We said no and would be glad to buy one that include all of us and she agreed. The whole feeling she gave off for years was exclusion. When we had children she was offended that she wasn’t in the delivery room, but my mother wasn’t either. It was a moment for just my husband and I. Over time she realized that alienating me was keeping her from spending more time with her grandkids because I went where they went. I was always polite and kind to her even if I was steaming on the inside. The patience paid off and we have a pretty good relationship now. I, like another contributor stated, forgive but haven’t forgotten. I don’t think MILs realize how much they can hurt us DILs when we are trying are best to fit into new families.


Ergala September 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Oh and yes I have been uninvited from MANY things simply because my SIL and I didn’t get along. I never ever made a scene but she made it very clear that if I was there she wouldn’t be. So they of course decided that since she was a blood relative she trumped me. I did tell my husband to go to the event that I would stay at home. Was I hurt? Yup. Did I cry later? Yup. Did I show up anyways and tell her how nasty she was and demand my husband pick a side? Nope. He put her in her place there and only stopped for a short while before leaving. But there are times we absolutely must pick our battles. I’m just glad she and I get along now after 10 years feuding. It was bad enough where my own children didn’t even know who she was because they were never around her because of all the hate and disrespect. When someone says “Oh no….” when you announce you are expecting a baby with your spouse it tends to leave a lingering unpleasant taste afterwards…..for a very long time.


Jocelyn September 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm

A couple of Christmases ago, my sister gifted the family with a photo session. The photographer set up in her home (which is now the house where we celebrate the family Christmas) and after the 4-generation picture of all family members was taken, we broke up into small groups: each grandchild, spouse and their children; my parents, my sisters and me; my sister, her husband, their children and grandchildren, etc. Each nuclear family had pictures made just with the members of their nuclear family, but when it was a 3 or 4 generation picture, both the parents of the children were in the picture. Then my sister and her family went to her in-laws’ home and shot pictures with the other set of great-grandparents. The funniest part was when my sister kept telling our mother that they were going to have a picture with her and her 4 grandchildren. My mother kept saying ‘2’, and my sister was beginning to get hot, thinking she was saying she didn’t consider 2 of the grandchildren to be her grandchildren! Finally, my mother said, ‘Dear, I have 2 grandchildren. YOU have 4 grandchildren. They’re my GREAT-grandchildren.’ Ooops. :)


Nikki September 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I am absolutely intrigued by the dynamics of the family in the OP and by that of some of the posters.

I grew up in a religion that teaches that when you get married, you “leave and cleave,” meaning that though you are still a part of your first family, your responsibility and loyalty now lie expressly with your spouse. Of course, not everyone is as good about putting it into practice as they are about speaking it – I understand that it can be easier to be the “new receiver” of the loyalties than it is to be the “loser” of them.

That being said, when I married into my husband’s family, the family – which included all the spouses and children (his mom’s sisters, their husbands, their children, and their children’s spouses and children) were pulled for a family picture.I will never forget the way I felt when the matriarch of the family, his oldest aunt, posted the picture on her FB page and wrote, “There we are. For better or for worse, this is us.” As good as blood, she told me at the wedding, and she was so thankful to see “our family” growing.
I don’t always get along with my in-laws, but because they have always treated me like family, they in turn will always be treated like family.


Kirsten September 7, 2013 at 2:16 pm

“When someone says “Oh no….” when you announce you are expecting a baby with your spouse it tends to leave a lingering unpleasant taste afterwards…..for a very long time.”

Oh, my goodness! I would be wiping away that taste by never speaking to that person again. How truly awful. That would tell me at once that my life would be improved without them in it.

The one thing that makes no sense to me at all here is that MIL rang Tami to tell her about this. Abby says she rang Tami ‘braggging’, but Tami never says so. Why would the MIL do this? Everyone has been giving her a kicking in the comments here. What would she say? “I wanted to tell you I have been slagging you off on the internet but everyone thinks I’m a cow”? Presumably she didn’t tell Tami so she could say she was wrong, and to give an apology – since Tami does not mention it.

I’m sorry, but nobody in their right mind rings their DIL to tell them they’ve been evil about them online and that loads of people have then trashed them. This is all starting to sound rather ridiculous, although I would believe the OP more, to be honest. Tami’s dates don’t work either. The MIL schedules the portrait ‘this past June’, but Tami says that between then and now she has moved on only six weeks in pregnancy. In 2.5 months minimum? Sorry, but I call foul.


Kirsten September 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Oops, my bad! Tami says she has only moved on 3 weeks. Since June?? And the MIL rings her to gloat despite Admin’s posting it up with her very frank response back that disagreed? How does MIL it’s gone up? She’d have looked, and she’d have seen Admin’s response telling her she was wrong and siding with Tami.

Sorry, I don’t believe it.


Tami Smith September 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm

My MIL made the appointment in June. The photo session was on August 14th. Also officially @ 33 weeks! Woo!

I’m keeping on this…mostly because I literally can’t do much else. I’m on bedrest, sprained ankle+pregnancy=you get to lay in bed and your husband brings you food. He’s so sweet. <3

And to everyone asking for clarification on how my MIL called me…yeah I'm working of of my phone because that 4bdrm…just moved in the week after the photo incident. Bought it in April and had some renovations done….however the guy from the internet company couldn't make it anytime in the last 4 months…needless to say we're switching. But yeah my MIL called and gave me the usual "You're a heathen" speech, but added that she had sent an email about my evil ways to 'that hellish website' and about how the 'whole internet' thinks I'm a tacky heathen. She's the type who if you don't agree with her she either argues or pretends you don't exist. She does both tactics with me. But she literally submitted the post because it's for Etiquette HELL. Then my husband logged on to her email from his phone (he set it up for her) and then gave the url. She didn't call me until the post was up tho.


Michelle C Young September 7, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Gee, I love it when you give the OP, complaining about the “rudeness” of others, the etiquette smackdown. This mother is something else!

When a couple get married, they are joining the family. Either accept that your family now includes your son’s daughter, or accept that he has joined HER family, or that they have simply formed their very own new family, which no does not need to include you.

If you want a family to be familial, you need to be accepting of the things and people that are most important to ALL the members of that family. If you get on your high horse, you might very well drive all your family members away. I know I’ve seen plenty of people cut themselves off from their Family of Origin (FOO), in favor of people who actually love and accept them, as they are.

OP, you are a fool.


Sara September 8, 2013 at 5:13 am

One MIL/DIL relationships: I married a wonderful man who is from a VERY different background than mine (different religion, different socioeconomic/cultural background), and my parents had some genuine concerns about this when we first got married. I would even go so far as to say that my mom wasn’t thrilled about it when we got engaged.

HOWEVER…..they have welcomed my husband with open arms from the moment we announced our intention to get married. They didn’t hide their concerns, but they addressed them tactfully and respectfully. And they have always treated my husband like a part of the family.

When I asked my mom about that–if it was hard for her to welcome him as her future SIL even with her concerns–she said, “Look, the bottom line is that this is the man you chose to spend your life with. And when you have children, he will be the father of my grandchildren. I trust that I raised you well enough to make a good choice in your spouse and this isn’t about me, it’s about YOU creating YOUR family.” I just about cried when she said that.

Her attitude was no doubt inspired, though, by the fact that she married a man (my father) who her parents never felt was good enough for their daughter, and they never let her (or him) forget that. No matter what he did, how successful he became or what a good husband and father he was, literally up until this day, my grandmother (my grandpa died a few years ago) never misses an opportunity to let him know that she doesn’t quite think he measures up. Unfortunately, my mom hasn’t always had the guts to stand by my dad the way the OP’s son stood by his wife.


Michelle C Young September 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

Ana Luisa, I think, that if you think there was any doubt at all that the DIL should have been part of the family portrait, and that the DIL had the responsibility to ask if she was actually invited to take part, then you do not have a clear understanding of the meaning of marriage.

Is it different in your culture? Does a spouse not become part of the family where you come from? Because in America, at least, the spouse does indeed become part of the family. Just as a married couple are considered a social unit for invitations, they also become a social unit for family events. This was a “family” portrait, and for the mother to insist that the DIL is NOT part of the family is to deny her son’s marriage. That put the burden on him, to either confirm his marriage, or to return to his mother’s side.

This really is not a gray area. And it is not “manipulation” on the part of the DIL to stand up for her rights as wife. Her crying was a natural reaction to the DEEP insult the mother gave. That mother denied her son’s marriage, and in so doing, his manhood, as well as being downright nasty to the daughter-in-law, who came prepared to participate as a member of the family.

I’m sorry to be harsh, but there it is.


Kirsten September 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

“She didn’t call me until the post was up tho.”

That’s what I mean. If she knew the post had gone up, she’d have seen the response from Admin which sided with you. The post didn’t go up on its own.

So why would she tell you she had posted it, given that underneath it was Admin’s comment? How could she tell you everyone thought you were a tacky heathen when Admin herself very clearly did not?

This is too weird.


Michelle C Young September 8, 2013 at 10:10 am

A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law arranged for a family photo shoot. She was my friend, before I introduced her to my brother, and frankly, I often forget about the “in-law” part. She’s my sister, plain and simple. My whole family adores her, and my parents, after meeting her, told my brother that if he did not propose to her, they would! She’s always known that she is family, so it was no surprise that she arranged a family photo shoot (for her and her husband and children) and invited us (husband’s parents and sisters, who all lived locally) along.

At the photo shoot, we took all sorts of different poses. If there was a different way to group us, we did it. There were some that were simply “biological XY generations” as well, I suppose, although to tell the truth, I have never seen any actual prints of such a grouping, and so cannot be sure.

My brother and sister bought more prints than we did. We bought only one – the complete family portrait, that now hangs in pride of place as the very first photo one sees upon entering our house. And from reading this, I just think it is so cool that it was the “in-law” who arranged it all, in the first place.

I confess, I was not overly fond of my sister’s late husband, and have only ever spoken on the phone with my other sister’s husband (due to distance, finances and traveling issues, we have not met in person). However, I hope I never purposely excluded either of them.

Family relationships can be complicated. Individuals can be easy, or difficult, and sometimes people simply clash. I can certainly understand if someone is unable to really bond with a member of their family, be they biologically related, married in, adopted, or what-have-you. However, the manners of the situation still dictate that if it is a “family” event, then all family members should be invited to participate, even if you know they will refuse. The invitation is still always issued. If it is a “just this grouping” event (such as girls only, or just the ones who enjoy this hobby), then the event is specified to be “just this group.” Grouping up is fine, so long as it is clearly stated in advance, and that group does not become the ONLY group that does things together.

If the OP had really wanted to do only a group photo of herself, her husband, and her two sons, she could have made that clear from the beginning, calling it a “group” photo. I like the idea of “recreating” a photo taken 5/10/x years before. It feels nostalgic, and is acceptable, especially if one such group photo is arranged at regular intervals. However, in such an event, it would be gracious to also arrange another group activity to include the DIL, as well, such as a “ladies’ lunch,” with the OP and DIL. In fact, to be sure to avoid hurting the DIL’s feelings, I would issue the ladies’ lunch invitation first, with the group photo invitation in very close succession, possibly within the same phone call, but definitely ladies’ lunch first. That indicates that you are thinking kindly of the the DIL, in advance.


Michelle C Young September 8, 2013 at 10:18 am

Daisy – I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve lost pets, too, and I know how much it hurts. Even if you don’t grieve as much for them as you do for a human, the fact remains that you are grieving. To insist on visiting the *very next day* is shocking, enough. To follow that up with the things she said… I have no words.

“Get in the way”?! Seriously?


Michelle C Young September 8, 2013 at 11:37 am

Anon’s advice to Daisy, to wit: If the MIL is going to complain about whatever you do, anyway, just make it easy on yourself and do what you would normally do, or just absent yourself for a fun day out, when she comes to visit.

I completely agree!

To those who recommend Daisy and other suffering in-laws visit MotherInLawStories, I also agree. This situation was hurtful, but not as hurtful as the MIL who actually presented DIL with divorce papers (sans signatures), all wrapped up as a birthday present! They were all ready to go, and all DIL and DH had to do was sign them. She had actually paid a lawyer to do all that, and called it a birthday present to the DIL. And presented it with the whole family watching, and laughing!

That’s the one I remember most, though it is hardly the only one. Also, I believe there have been a few mentions of death threats.

OP, you might want to check it out, as well, because you’ll be surprised how many of these stories end with “DH and our children have no more contact with MIL.” Just a warning.

For those who say, “OP was paying, so she gets what she wants,” I have no beef with that. The problem was that she called it a “family” photo (right there in the first sentence), but excluded a member of the family. If it was a tradition to have a particular group (parents and children) get a photo at regular intervals, then it is absolutely no problem to continue that tradition, sans in-laws. It is a group picture. It is a perfectly acceptable thing. Even without that tradition, if that is what you want, it is all right to get it. But do it right. You could even call it a Family of Origin picture, once the sons are grown and getting married. But then, make that perfectly clear when inviting the married children to participate! Good communication prevents so many etiquette blunders.

What the OP communicated here was “I do not consider DIL family.” That hurt, and the fact that she was paying for it does not give her the right to hurt someone in that way. There were several ways she could have been gracious and polite, while still getting exactly what she wanted in a photo she was paying for. This site is not about judging other’s choices, but on their performance (or not) of proper etiquette. The OP blundered.


Michelle C Young September 8, 2013 at 11:59 am

Tami S. – When your MIL called to say that everyone on the internet thinks you’re a tacky heathen, was it directly after the story was posted, before there were any comments? That’s the only explanation I can think of for her reaction, because clearly, not everyone on the internet thinks you’re a tacky heathen.

I’m so sorry for your situation with her. However, congratulations on the babies! Yaaay! And pregnancy hormones can make a woman cry even without provocation. I know when my sister was dealing with hormones, she could start sobbing hysterically for absolutely no reason, whatsoever, and there was nothing she could do about it, but collapse into a sobbing puddle of tears on the floor. That’s not throwing a fit. It’s being a human being, subject to forces beyond your control. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it *is* a real thing. So, I think you are excused for crying into your cinnamon rolls.


Michelle C Young September 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Perhaps the MIL saw that her story was posted, and just read the first sentence or two, to confirm it was hers, and then stopped to immediately call Tami, before she even read all the way down to Admin’s response? I know I have jumped the gun on things, so it is not out of the realms of possibility that the MIL saw what was obviously her submission, and then (knowing what it said, after all, why bother to re-read it?) immediately called Tami, and possibly some others. “I have a story posted online! Check it out!”

Perhaps by the time she finished reading the responses, if she even bothered to read them, she felt it would not be a good idea to actually admit it.


Tami Smith September 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Okay how to describe my MIL attitude about people who don’t agree with her…

It’s like if you don’t agree with her position 100% she either argues her point and brings it up ALL THE TIME. That’s only if she has to deal with you on a regular basis tho. With people say on the internet…if you were a commenter that agreed with her or defended her then she counted you. However if you disagreed or were on the fence she decided that there had to be something wrong with you and therefore you don’t count.

Like I said…not a nice woman.


Rigs32 September 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I can feel Tami’s pain. I’ve been with my bf for 5+ year and living together for 3+ years. I have never been in a large group photo at any family events I attend with him – weddings, picnics, holidays, etc. – even though they are taken at almost every event. Why? Because as soon as people start gathering, his mom and/or sister shove their cameras in my hands to take the photos. I’ve mentioned this to two of his aunts (one by blood, one by marriage) and they were sympathetic. It hurt even more when one of these aunts did the same to me at the last family wedding. I know she wasn’t being mean, but I did go to my car and cry for awhile.

They wonder why I no longer make time in my busy schedule for all of the showers and other events I’m invited to. Why should I continue to spend time and money on a group of people that don’t otherwise consider me part of them?

And if you’re curious, it has nothing to do with married or not. Other dates, friends, etc are included. It’s just that I am excluded. Always.


Dippity Doo September 10, 2013 at 12:37 am

My brother & I are both married. We have had large family pictures done a few times during the time I have been married (21 years & my brother 10 yrs). My folks always set up the appointment and pay. No matchy-matchy! We do a wide variety of photos. Just family of origin. My brother and his wife. Hubby & me. My hubby & kids and me. Grandparents and grand kids. Etc. Yes, people are left out of some pictures, but there is such a variety, no one gets upset. I think the OP could have done something similar. Taken one of the WHOLE family. Then, just her son and his wife. Just brothers. Dad & boys. Mom & boys. Then a family of origin picture. That way, everyone gets what they want and no one feels left out. I could be wrong, but I’m sure the DIL would have been fine with that.
We did have a small issue with a family member over pictures. My hubby and his siblings had a super cute picture they took as children with their dog. They wanted to recreate this picture at a family party we had as we have the same breed of dog. All the other spouses thought it would be cute & fun. Except for one. She thought EVERYONE should be included! I have no idea why. It was just a fun shot to recreate a fun image from my hubby & his sibling’s childhood. Of which we were not a part. She also got upset when my hubby & his 2 brothers wanted a picture of just them and their dying father. They didn’t even want their sister in it. Then, we took one of their sister alone with dying father. Their sister was fine with it. The only one who wasn’t was the same SIL. She wanted to be in the pictures too. We’ve taken lots of family pictures with everyone before. I see nothing wrong if there are certain times, like I just mentioned, if certain people are not included. If I’m wrong, I’ll take my place in E-Hell.
But, OPs story doesn’t appear to be a one time deal. It sounds like she is not a very nice person. For the sake of family unity and especially the new grandchildren, it would be nice if she could put her differences aside and be kind. They don’t have to be BFFs, but MIL could at least be civil. That’s my 2 cents!


Enna September 13, 2013 at 11:37 am

How did you tell T OP? “It will only be me, my husband and my 3 important boys”? that is quite hurtful even if you did say it nicely – if you didn’t Im not surprsied she is in tears! Maybe you said family photo and you son assumed it would include his wif ewho is now part of the family. I agree with Admin on this one.I would also like to add that you are too jealous that your son has another woman in his life that is more important than you.


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