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Assumptions That Divide

On my MIL’s birthday we received a phone call at 7:30 pm.

“Hi Katie, it’s Larry. I want you to tell Dave (my DH) that we are very upset with him. Today is his mother’s birthday and he hasn’t called yet.”

I started to reply, “No, he’s at a vendor supper and he’s going to call as soon as…”

“…he gets home,”  was going to be the rest of my sentence but I never got a chance to finish because FIL hung up on me.   I have issues with the way my in-laws do things but have kept silent except for one time. DH usually just lets stuff like this go but this was so uncalled for I’ve asked him to say something.   He will when we go up after Christmas.

DH had left for work at 8am so couldn’t have called before.    1217-13

Wow, what a shame your in-laws choose to create division between themselves and their son because he did not call to wish Mom greetings on her birthday in a timely fashion.  They made assumptions that pointed them to a negative conclusion rather than assuming the best.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • hakayama December 31, 2013, 12:09 am

    It looks like “interesting” relatives are in vogue lately, and not necessarily because of strictly etiquette concerns. It looks like you, Dear OP, might consider visiting also some other sites that address your needs more directly: The DIL Society, I Hate My Inlaws, Mother in Law Stories…
    It is irrelevant here HOW the OP’s husband could have managed to fulfill his filial obligations. It is totally irrelevant that the MIL is a spoiled egocentric old biddy, and has been a spoiled egocentric biddy all her life. What is relevant is the fact that the nasty bat’s mate, in his quest to continue spoiling her, goes into a full attack mode against the proverbial innocent bystander, namely his DIL.
    It is not the advanced or advancing age that makes some folks nasty to deal with. It’s their basic character… Entitlement manifests itself very early and, I suspect, starts at KG if not before… If crude behavior is not tolerable in youth and middle age, there is no reason to tolerate it in the “golden years”.
    Dollars to cow chips that he would not talk to his son the same way. He was just feeling cocky because the OP has probably been far too mellow and gentle when dealing with her PILs. And if Dave is so browbeaten that he WOULD take the nonsense, there is no reason why his wife should.
    Dave needs to be told that the caller ID will be put to good use, and the OP will not answer ANY calls from his parents. As a matter of fact, for her own peace of mind, she’s entitled to greatly reducing, if not eliminating, ALL contact with her ILs. After all, from the looks of it, she will still be the bad guy, so she might as well work for the title. 😉
    Dear OP: Time to stop allowing the nasties to spit in your face. There are some good books out there with titles that include words “toxic”, “parents”, “in laws”… Who knows, maybe even DH might benefit from them. Best of luck.

  • Mer December 31, 2013, 1:07 am

    Green123: If the whole day was for client-vendor activities, the day might not be “normal” workday with personal lunch time and such. Also different level professionalism needs to be uphold for the day too, even if the work place usually is more relaxed and permits personal phone calls.

    However (hindsight is easy of course), if it was known that phone call is important to MIL and all live in the text message age with cell phones, it might have been useful to send a message in style of “Hi mom, happy birthday. I have to work until 8pm, so I call you after that. Let’s talk more then.” While text message is not very personal, used in this way it shows that you did not forget and call is coming and it prevents the problem when quick one minute phone call is taking 30 minutes because you cannot hung up on your mother in her birthday.

  • Sabeta December 31, 2013, 1:58 am

    Regarding Admin’s comment at 41 – yes, that discussion does happen. Except it usually consists of Americans saying that hosting your own birthday party is rude/greedy/pathetic, and non-Americans saying that in their culture/country it is customary to host your own birthday party to celebrate the people in your life by offering hospitality and a chance to enjoy their company and that American etiquette is *not universal*. I love this site but Admin and some commenters not understanding that etiquette and customs can vary outside of the US is something I find very irritating.

  • Kirsten December 31, 2013, 3:59 am

    “Have a little common sense and try to accommodate someone who you know loves you and is only asking for a small bit of your time once a year.”

    None of this excuses the FIL having a go at DIL then hanging up on her when she was trying to explain.

  • Ruby December 31, 2013, 9:07 am

    Are your in-laws retired? There are people in my family who haven’t worked in years, for whatever reason, and forget that the rest of us have jobs and can’t always answer or initiate calls during the day. My mother called me on her birthday one year and said in a sarcastic huff, “Thanks for calling me on my birthday.” It was 11:30 and I couldn’t have a cell phone on me at work. I just happened to be on a 15-minute break. I was going to call that evening.

  • PHW December 31, 2013, 9:37 am

    For those of you who said “Plan ahead” or “Why couldn’t he have taken 2 minutes out of his day to call”, it doesn’t always work that way. Some people prefer a call ON their birthday, so a call the day before would likely not appease them.
    When you are busy at work, you are busy at work. Despite having a cell phone, there are days that I can’t get away from my desk to use it and personal phone calls at work are frowned upon. Even though OP mentioned that her husband was attending a vendor dinner, it was a business event at which he was likely busy.
    7:30 is not end of day, I’ve called my mother up until 9:30 at night. Now that’s not to say that OP’s MIL isn’t 80 and 7:30 wasn’t EOD for her. That being said, FIL overreacted and forcing OP to relay the message onto her husband like some kind of secretary is just rude. What would have happended if DH had actually answered the phone? Would FIL have hung up on him as well? It sounds like, from the post, FIL didn’t even ask if DH was there. Perhaps MIL was upset, causing FIL to overract. Hopefully OP can provide a follow up and that DH called his mother when he arrived at home and that everything was resolved (hopefully with appologies from FIL for being rude).

  • amyasleigh December 31, 2013, 9:55 am

    At the risk of getting into trouble for too-specific commenting on things in the “religion” ballpark: occasionally, I wonder whether the Jehovah’s Witnesses are perhaps onto something, in their refusing to celebrate or in any way “do” birthdays. I gather that the JWs contend that the birthday thing is liable to bring to the fore, human beings’ nastier and less admirable and more strife-promoting traits…

  • OP December 31, 2013, 10:34 am

    DH has never forgotten to call his mom on her birthday. MIL is 62 and doesn’t go to bed until 9-10. He was waiting til he had time because before when he’s called her from work she has given him very detailed accounts of *everything* going on in her life. What the neighbours are up to, what their dog is doing, interesting emails she has gotten….

    He did talk to his father who ‘explained’ he called because his mom was crying because no one had phoned her yet. No apology, just explained why it was justified.

    When he got home and we tried to call the line was busy because people were ‘finally’ calling.

    Not that it matters but he only has a cell phone for emergencies and its illegal to use one while operating a vehicle.

  • The Elf December 31, 2013, 11:27 am

    Re: Calling at work.

    I work in a huge cube farm. Everyone can hear everyone else’s conversation. If I talk to my parents at work it goes from basic how-are-you-chit-chat to medical or personal very quickly. After all, they’re my parents. But they just don’t get – or don’t care as much as I do – that the other half of the conversation can be easily heard by a few dozen people. I prefer to make personal calls in a place where I have privacy. Sometimes that means work, if I can temporarily borrow an office or conference room. But usually it means home. The commute isn’t an option – I take public transportation. So, no, I can’t always spare a few minutes to make a phone call. 7:30 is not the end of the day; the parents should have at least waited until the following day to make their passive-aggressive phone call.

  • Elizabeth December 31, 2013, 2:07 pm

    Please don’t allow your in-laws to put you in the middle, ever (demanding that you relay the message that they are mad at your husband? WHAT??) Establish and maintain these boundaries.

    In this instance, I think I would have immediately called back and said, ‘we seem to have been cut off – it is probably best if you speak directly with DH on such an important matter.’ And then drop it completely. Not your problem, don’t let them drag you into it.

  • sv December 31, 2013, 3:08 pm

    ” Hi, FIL, it’s DIL. We must have been cut off because I didn’t get to finish my sentence! Hubby has been at work all day – he is planning on calling when he gets home. Hope MIL is having a great day! Bye! ”
    Hubby doesn’t need to talk to them for you – this is something you can handle yourself. FIL was rude to the extreme….to you. Not only is it inappropriate to ask you to pass along a complaint, but hanging up on you? No way.

  • Amanda H. January 1, 2014, 11:55 pm

    Others have already basically given my stance on the situation (ILs were way out of line, Husband is off the hook in my book), but I do want to add a note regarding “the mobile phone age.”

    Namely that even in this “mobile phone age,” not everyone has one, and those who do don’t always have all the same functions that others do. My husband and I are friends with a family that has only a landline. Period. Not even an emergency cell phone. My husband and I ourselves don’t have a data plan, and therefore don’t have texting (outside using an instant messaging program on my computer). My husband frequently forgets to recharge his phone, leaving him with just a minute or so of battery life left, not nearly enough time for a proper phone call. I know others in similar situations to all of the above.

  • OP January 2, 2014, 12:57 am

    I thought of calling back and playing stupid the next day. I’m hoping ill remember to if it ever happens again.

  • Library Diva January 3, 2014, 5:06 pm

    Hakayama, those are certainly some interesting assumptions you’re tossing out there.

    Other posters, I don’t think there’s anything entitled or ridiculous about wanting to be acknowledged on your birthday. In fact, I thought it was pretty standard. My family still celebrates all birthdays even though we have far more than 11 candles.

    I agree that OP’s FIL was really rude, but he was also dealing with a spouse who was in tears and that sometimes tends to cloud one’s judgement.

    My mother is a few years older than OP’s MIL and she told me something surprising a couple of years ago. I told her that I was sending Passover wishes to an older woman I knew through work who had moved away, and she told me that it was thoughtful because after a certain age, women start to feel invisible. She told me of a few occasions where it happened to her, when she visited stores where they usually haunt you but got completely ignored even though it wasn’t busy. Maybe OP’s MIL is starting to feel the same way and not getting any calls until late brought out a reaction that was about much more than not being paid her due on her birthday.

    Now that OP and her husband know this, it might not be a bad idea to coordinate with other family members so that MIL doesn’t feel like she’s merely an afterthought at the end of the type of busy day she no longer experiences. Send flowers to the house in the morning, or coordinate with other relatives so she receives calls throughout the day. It’s one day a year — I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

  • Grace June 1, 2014, 1:30 pm

    Well, maybe I’m weird or something (probably) but I’ve always called my MIL(s) on their BD’s on my own behalf, if DH is there at the time he could choose to talk then or indicate that he’ll call a bit later, which I will relay. But I call them when I’m available, because I want to wish them a HB from me. First MIL I absolutely adored and although I was married to her son for 14yrs and we’ve been divorced longer than that lol, I still to this day call her on her BD, Christmas, Easter, NYE, the day Dad died, couple times a week or month depending on how busy things are. She treats my youngest daughter, no blood relation, the same as any of her other grand-children, she’s truly a saint a one of a kind and she’ll be my Mom until the day I die. 2nd MIL oh that woman was a pain in my side, but until I left her son I called, my last one, was in between, and yes I called her. But have not kept up with the last 2, even though the 2nd one is the grandmother of my youngest daughter (I have 2), but there’s a lot of issues there more than would fill a book or several chapters of ehell at minimum.
    So I guess she might not have a good/great relationship with MIL, but I know kinda where she’s coming from, it’s the type of passive aggressive thing my own mother would try to do, but my dad would never do the calling.