Why are they sharing when I asked them not to!

It’s FYI Wednesday and I have asked fellow Catholic moms for questions that they might have on such topics as motherhood and spirituality, children’s spiritual development, finding time for yourself, or just to learn more about Spiritual Direction; here is the latest question asked by Crystal:

I have a question that is more particular than spiritual: First I want say, I do not post many pics of our under two year old on Facebook for a number of reasons, but my Mother-in-law takes every photo I do post and shares it on her pages. She also uses pics I have texted to her on her Facebook pages. She uses the pics as her profile and cover pics, and never asked me if it is OK.  My mom does not do it.

This habit really annoys me but I can’t explain exactly why, other than that I don’t want people I don’t know having access to pics of my child. I know it is the internet and there is no real privacy but still. I have tried to let it go, knowing she is just proud of her grandchild but it gets to me every time I see my baby show up on her pages. It makes me not want to send her any pics! So, here is what I am dealing with: 1) should I really just try to quit being annoyed or 2) try to find a way to ask her to stop, in a way that won’t make her mad at me, I am already on the bad list with her. We have been married less than three years so I am still new to handling in-laws and have a long life ahead and do not want to have a strained relationship if I can avoid it. How can I deal with this situation?   ~Crystal

Crystal,  Mother-in-law “trouble” is a universal let me speak from personal experience, professionally as a spiritual director and as a future Mother-in-law myself, being a mother-in-law is a reflection of how we perceive the world, relationships, and how we are to be mother-in-law to our married children’s spouse.

Do try and talk with her first, remember that she is excited about her newest grand-baby, and people who are excited they tend to assume everyone else is just as excited as they are, and that you couldn’t possibly mind a few innocent pictures. In fact I will bet you anything that she will be shocked that you are upset, so a HUGE bit of advice, go into it with as light a heart as you can and do the old “Oh I forget to tell you this,” type of talk. That will deflect angry and put her at ease so you can talk with her; if you go in as if you made a mistake in not telling her will be much better and easier on you than going in with “YOU better not post anymore pictures of Susyque” kinda talk. If she, anyone really, feels attacked they tend to defend themselves they will attack back.  By going on the defensive you are creating a situation where listening stops, you want to always be moving forward.

Now on to your feelings. I can tell you are feeling all sorts of upset, violated, even wronged, and those feelings are very strong, valid, and rightfully so! We as moms are biologically/God givenly, (coined a new word!) geared to protect our babies, but don’t make the mistake of  not saying anything out of respect, really out of fear of Mother-in-law, being quiet isn’t respectful it only harbours anger.

Your mom, bless her heart, knows you and I bet you two have talked about your picture policy, but you never mentioned whether you talked Mother-in-law about your photo policy.  If you have and she is ignoring the policy, tell her again and like I said don’t be surprised by the shock. And if you did talk to her and she doesn’t think the policy is really meant for her; that can and will lead you to feel a great deal of disrespect from her. If this is true, she may be saying of you: “she’s young what does she know, posting pictures of my grand-baby is harmless!” This speaks more to your Mother-in-law’s magical thinking of magical protection around her grand-baby, than it does of any disrespect of you, set her straight determinedly, but nicely: more sugar than vinegar, may be with humour.

Let’s consider this: she is disrespectful of you.  If you have discerned this about this situation, and truthfully your whole relationship, pray over why this may be so. Does she have some preconceived notion about you that she will not let go? Is she a helicopter moms? Helicopter moms believe that the only way for a child to live life is if the mom lives it for them, through them and with them. These moms have an impossible time letting go, especially of sons, and everything they do is through the Helicopter mind: cling so they don’t make a mistake. You may be seen as a mistake, so tend very carefully and talk to your husband about how you feel.

Also look at your feelings toward her.  Do you both come from different cultural backgrounds, hold different convictions, see life differently?  Understanding how you see her will help you discern how to handle your responses to her in future.

Disrespect is a tool that can be used by Mother-in-laws who are jealous that some else has come into their son’s life. I am only saying this so you can go pray over this and discern what is going on, but those who are jealous will use passive-aggressive techniques to try and regain control, but in a way they, (the Mother-in-laws), think is sly and that no-one could possibly see as coming from them – the Mother-in-laws. This can be very dangerous for the relationship of your marriage, so it is vital you talk with your husband and that he back you up to his mother.

Here Wikihow has an article on just this subject: How to Deal With a Difficult Mother in Law

Is a spiritual director working helping moms find God in the everyday. She has been a spiritual director since 1998: worked as a Director of Religious Education for Holy Cross Parish(2000-2005), was Director of Project Rachel, a healing ministry for Post Abortive women(1999-2000). Patty worked a social worker for Catholic Social Services (1988 – 1995) Then studied for spiritual direction at the Dominican Center of Religious Studies, DeWitt Michigan

She is married 20 years and has four children

She has a BS/BA in social work from Aquinas College, CSD Certified Spiritual Director

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