I count myself blessed in a lot of areas, but I’ve never really given credit to the fact that I have the best mother-in-law (MIL) I could have asked for.
I’m hearing so many horror stories of late and I can only imagine the pain and frustration many woman feel, when every time they see their Mom-in-law, it becomes a time they dread, a time they really just grit their teeth and “deal” with the animosity, the judgment, the snide remarks, the lack of understanding. I feel so saddened when I read on Face book threads how these relationships reach an all time low, so low in fact that children become the leverage and grandparents are threatened they may never see their grandchildren again.
Are most mom-in-laws too nosey? Too judgmental? Are most new moms too sensitive, too full of pride? While everyone’s story is different and most of the time there are two sides to the coin, maybe we need to all take a step back and ask ourselves how we have let things escalate this far? Surely, family (and that goes for extended family too) is just about the most important thing in life. Surely we can dig deeper past our own hang-ups and for the sake of our children, put our need to be right aside? Surely we can try to just get along? Or is not always that simple?
Of course there are many instances where families have had to cut ties for very real and legitimate reasons. Abuse, neglect, irresponsible behavior, drug addiction, alcoholism and religion are very real issues and I’m sure in most of these cases, the decision to cut ties with family members are well deliberated and made out of a protective responsibility towards their children. And I’m sure they are always hard. I’m truly sorry for those families and my aim is certainly not to open a closed wound.
But, what I am addressing here are the normal everyday bickering and fighting over silly and mostly very futile things.
Now before you all go biting my head off and saying I just don’t get it because I’ve never had to deal with a difficult mom –in-law, let me add that my MIL and I are very different. We have been very different parents to our children (for the most part) and we don’t always agree on everything. BUT, I love and respect her and I know she is often right and has valuable insight into many issues concerning the kids. I know she raised my husband and his brother well and although we are raising kids in different times we RECOGNIZE that and admit we both don’t always have the answers. I also know there isn’t a single thing she wouldn’t do for my kids and that life without Nana, would be robbing my kids of the joy that only a grandmother can give. And Id’e be robbing myself of the odd night off!
The thing that makes respecting her so easy is that she does exactly that with me. She respects my decisions and although she may sometimes offer advice it’s always done gently and without stepping on toes. When Noah was born I can remember feeling a pride that only I knew my child and what he wanted. She gently had to remind me that she had been in my shoes twice before and all she wanted to do was be there for me. It was hard for me to hear, but I eventually, in my own time, came around and put up my white flag.
I think that this is so often where the judgment starts and so quickly escalates into resentment and animosity. I think most Grandmothers thrive on feeling needed and often feel excluded, when new moms put up protective walls. I mean I get that, for the first time you are entrusted with a life that is your own and the weight of than responsibility is heavy. We feel we are the first person to go through this and we will do anything to make sure our decisions are implemented. We feel a strong urge to prove them wrong. Because, well, we know better right?
The other side of the coin is that some MIL’s are just plain mean and rude, always undermining your choices and always second-guessing your decisions. Yes, I’m sure those mom-in-laws exist and this is indeed very sad. Especially if you have managed to put up with it for a long time and tried your hardest to address the issue. You guys are the exception and have my full blessing to beat them over the head with your handbag the next time they offer a snide comment or blatantly undermine you. Well, maybe don’t hit them over the head, but by all means give her the small bowl of dessert after Sunday lunch or hide their knitting needles in the dogs kennel on the way out. Don’t act so shocked, you’ve all though about it. Anyway here I go again, adding fuel to the fire.
There is the exception, but the things I’m hearing lately just blow my mind! ‘My Mom in law gave my 16 month old some chocolate! “My Mom in law made my daughter a dress and insists she wears it to her first Birthday party! And I don’t know why she should have to” or “ My mom in law thinks my children are too spoilt and I’m not strict enough with them!” (In this case I hate to say it but she is probably right! Although, it may not be her place to share her thoughts on the subject?) And my all time favorite has to be “ My Mom in law keeps calling my 6 month old chubby!! I don’t want her to grow up with self esteem issues!” Man this one gets me every time.
My point is that these girls start to knit pick and cause unnecessary drama, which only tends to escalate. Put Rosey in the dress for petes sake and do it with a grateful smile on your face. Is it really worth upsetting people over just so you can put your child in a dress that only you will notice? Do what the folk in Fozen do. LET IT GO!!!!
So yes we can agree on one thing…. It can be hard negotiating the logistics of MILS and maintaining healthy relationships. Here are a few ways you could try to improve your relationship with your mother-in-law and ways you can both get along better!
- Try getting to know each other better by showing interest in each other’s personal hobbies etc. Don’t always feel you need to talk about the kids. It’s so easy to focus so much on the kids that you forget you are both just woman at the end of the day.
- I remember reading somewhere that its helpful to act the way you want to feel. It’s really not a good idea to go into a situation angry, almost EXPECTING things to be unpleasant. Think positively and try to clear your head of all negative and hostile thoughts before you walk into their home.
- Remember that your Husband, the man you love and chose to spend the rest of your life with is a product of this woman you find difficult. Try to remember her for who she is and always, no matter how upsetting she can be sometimes, show respect. If nothing you will be the bigger person.
- Remember that we come from different times! They come from a time when things were simple and when things weren’t so CRAZY! With the fast pace lifestyle many modern moms lead, its no wonder they look at us at times like we’ve lost the plot. With things like car seats, complicated prams and over top baby gadgets, I see how they can have their reservations about how we are raising our kids. While we live in modern times and need to embrace the new developments around us, things like allergies, diets, sleep training, new improved EVERYTHING its no doubt they are going to compare it to “the simple life”. And it’s not worth bickering over.
- Allow her to do things with your kids that you don’t ALWAYS allow. Like if you have a no sweets during the week rule, but Nana/granny has taken them on a Wednesday afternoon, please don’t be an asshole and say she can’t treat them to an ice cream. Please. Just don’t.
- The most important thing is to trust yourself and know that you are doing your best. If you know deep down that your values are right and that although you may not be perfect, you are implementing wise choices, it really doesn’t matter what your mom in law’s opinion is at the end of the day. If she is constantly undermining you and second-guessing you, stand firm and rest assured knowing YOU are their mom. And politely and respectfully, tell her that you do things differently and you need her to respect that.
- Keep communication open without always getting your husband involved. As much as its important for both you and your husband to be on the same page and put on a united front, running crying to him every time you MIL does something to upset you is only going to make things worse. Be a big girl and stand up for yourself.
Like I say, I’m blessed in this department, but it takes work. Love, respect, patience, courage, forgiveness, humility, understanding and regular reminders of who we really are to one another and the effect these relationships have on our kids. So come on, go give your MIL a call and for the love of all things delicious in this world, let her take the kids for ice cream. Yes on a Thursday.
BY: LEIGH GEARY