She didn’t always make my life difficult. In fact, I think she used to like me.
When my husband and I were dating, his mother expressed her excitement that her son had found me. I’m not sure when the switch happened, but as our relationship flourished — we got engaged, married, and had our first child — little complaints began creeping through her lips.
At first it didn’t bother me — everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, as our life grew — we moved to a new house, continued to expand our family, and made more life decisions — the comments from my mother-in-law became a little more frequent and aggressive. She thought every decision made between the two of us was a decision against her. Snide comments continued to escalate until every encounter with her turned into a negative interaction, where she repeatedly voiced her disproval and put me down. It used to take a huge toll on me — my feelings were hurt, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend an afternoon with her. Over time, though, I grew a thicker skin and developed my five golden rules to coexist with even the worst mother-in-law.
Golden Rule #1: Do not depend on her to babysit
If you’re in a bind, grandparents are always the best back up. However, for regular date nights, put in a little effort — ask your friends for suggestions or go online and nail down a Saturday night sitter. If you continue to use your mother-in-law for babysitting services she will throw her “sacrifices” in your face any time there is even the smallest disagreement, and she’ll expect you to be eternally grateful, which is only shown by giving in to her every demand and raising your children as she sees fit.
Golden Rule #2: Make sure your husband has cut the cord
Obviously, it’s his mother and you want him to have a good relationship with her. But that doesn’t mean she still needs to wipe his a$$. Help him discover a healthy adult bond that he can have with her, which may mean setting some very clear boundaries (which leads us to Golden Rule #3).
Golden Rule #3: Keep her out of your life decisions
You are in a partnership with your husband, not a ménage à trois with him and his mother. Life decisions — like where you live, schools you send your children to, etc. — need to be kept in house. Involving her in any way is just a recipe for disaster, because, let’s face it — she is going to disagree with you anyway.
Golden Rule #4: Do not tolerate her negativity
Your husband has chosen a life with you, which may, at times, mean he needs to grow a pair and stand up to his mother. It’s not reasonable for her to make negative comments about you to your face, in front of your children or your husband, or behind your back. She needs to know from both of you that this behavior won’t be tolerated.
Golden Rule #5: Ignore her advice
I don’t know what it is about my mother-in-law, but she loves to constantly give unsolicited advice. These comments are always followed by, “But I don’t want to tell you what to do.” Ummmm, yes you do. And I can see you watching my reaction with your judging eyes. I have given up on trying to explain to her why sleep training is a good thing or why we choose to discipline our children with timeouts. I just smile, nod, and IGNORE it.
The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is tricky. What are some strategies you’ve implemented to get along with your mother-in-law?