My step-mother-in-law demands that her grandchildren, children, and herself come before anyone else in the family.
Meanwhile, my son, husband, and brother in-law suffer.
My father-in-law and his wife do everything for her kids - cleaning, cooking, buying them stuff, even RAISING the grandchildren (while my step-sister-in-law watches TV every day).
My father in-law’s abusive while drinking (but only while drinking).
But he’s also in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Whenever he wants to see his grandson (my son) or husband, his wife has the say on when and where.
He’s not allowed to help any of the four of us emotionally or financially. If he tries, she threatens a divorce and leaves, taking as much as she can. She eventually returns hours, or a couple of days, later.
I constantly battle with my inner conscience because I don’t want my son ANYWHERE near these stepfamily members.
Their behaviour’s unhealthy mentally, and I’ve noticed signs of neglect and emotional abuse on the step-grandchildren.
My husband and I want to call Children’s Aid but are afraid of the abuse and vendetta the step-mother-in law and step-sister-in-law will try against us.
Also, my father in-law will NEVER be able to see our son again because of them.
It’s not our place to tell my father in-law to leave this toxic relationship and get help for his drinking, but we still love him.
Meanwhile, other family members are noticing the favouritism away from our son, and worry that he’ll notice one day as well.
I’ve thought of my husband and me writing a letter to my father in-law about how we feel (either anonymously or not). Not sure if it’s a good idea.
How do I overcome this battle with my inner self, and still help my husband and son?
Let me be clear: While there are different laws between some countries regarding reporting child abuse, where you live (Canada) there’s a legal duty to report any suspicion of child abuse including neglect.
The fact that it may cause some attempts at retaliating against you, is far outweighed by the legal duty of protecting children from further abuse/neglect.
So, while you’re dealing here with your “conscience,” recognize that the priority is the children, not your dislike of this step-mother-in-law.
It’s up to your husband to talk to his father and encourage him to have the strength to insist on seeing his grandson and son when and where he wishes. An anonymous letter is a weak approach, and transparent as to its source (given the animosity here).
Your husband should encourage his father to stop hiding from his difficult relationship through excessive drinking.
If he were confronted with how abusive he gets when drunk, he’d be more likely to consider getting help to stay sober.
Father and son could attend a session of Al-Anon for him to learn how his drinking is affecting those who love him.
But the most important task for you is to give your son the love and encouragement he needs from his parents, far more than any of these other relatives.
Hearing all this discord, angry reactions, feelings of losing out on emotional and financial help, is also not healthy for him.
Your other family members – those who worry about your son – can be encouraged to pick up the slack.
Invite them over, share holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas with them, and show your son what a family’s emotional support looks like.
Readers’ Commentary “It's amazing what can be resolved, or improved, through a difficult conversation, when it’s supported by a third party mediator.
“At St. Stephen's Conflict Resolution and Training, in Toronto, we provide free community mediation for many kinds of interpersonal disputes including difficult discussions among family members.
“Examples: These may be parent-teen issues, about care for an elder relative, communication between ex-es, or landlord-tenant or neighbour disputes.
“We don’t provide divorce mediation, but where communication’s a problem in families, we can often be very helpful.
“Mediation in the community program is provided by trained community volunteers.
“We also have a professional service for which we charge, that provides training and mediation, facilitation, and coaching for workplaces and organizations.
“For more information: www.sschto.ca/conflict-resolution”
Ellie – I urge readers to look for similar services (free or affordable for those who can pay) in your own cities and areas. If they’re absent, urge your community agencies to provide them.
Tip of the day:
When an in-law relationship is toxic, look for love and support from other relatives/friends, and also model it to your children.