The almighty mother-in-law. The one woman that is feared by all daughter-in-laws of the world. At least initially.
If you have the lucky fortune of being your MIL's favourite daughter-in-law, congrats! You have achieved a status so many of us wish we could reach but sadly, never have or never do. If you have a difficult relationship with your MIL that either runs hot and cold or worse or is so brutal the two of you would fare well in a boxing ring, you'll commiserate with these three harsh signs that your MIL wishes for your destruction.
Snubs Your Invites
Your mother-in-law would rather die, yes die, than go to a party, holiday, or any other occasion that the underling daughter-in-law is throwing. She somehow has to do her hair, feed the needy, raise money for the poor, and just about every other thing under the sun than attend a fete you've organised.
If you want the holidays at your house and she's passionate about breaking bread at hers, she will dramatically snub your idea and offer a billion other reasons that she should be the big hostess for the day.
If you find that she never wants to join your celebrations, you have three choices:
- Ask your partner to please speak to mom. Ask how you could make things better with her. Have him ask her how she could make it better!
- Don't get angry if she doesn't attend. She clearly doesn't like you. Be polite and invite her, and move forward.
- Attend her fetes and make a point to be gracious. The bigger person always wins. Remember that no matter what, most likely your children want to see her because she's grandma, so try to attend events simply so the kids can see her, even if it's for a short period of time and then you leave.
Tears You Down to Her Child
Whether your partner is a man or a woman, if your MIL tears you down to her child, you know she's ready to bring you to hell in a handbasket! That old Brooklyn expression means she will do anything to get you out of her child's life as quickly and as completely as possible. She criticizes you at every turn to her kid and makes it clear that she feels her child is better than you. In her eyes, you can do no RIGHT and are certainly not a match for her darling child. If she is truly that unkind, your only two options are:
- Have your partner draw a hard line in the sand with mom. If MIL is not open to change then your only option is to:
- Avoid interacting with her. Unfortunately, this can cause a big family rift between your partner and his or her mom, but it may be necessary.
Goes Against Your Parenting Wishes or Undermines You
Even if your MIL goes against your parenting wishes, it may not be because she doesn't like you. It may be because to her, her ways are more familiar, comfortable, and right. What can you do?
- Tell her that your pediatrician recommends you do X,Y or Z instead of what she's doing. When in doubt, blame the doctor!
- Choose to let some of her "reparenting" efforts slide, and pick battles on the most important causes. First person who should speak to her is your partner, if you aren't on good speaking terms with her.
- Restrict the time Grandma is the care provider if you feel she is harmful, or
- Accept that if Grandma is helping, some things are going to happen that are not within your control.
Now, if your MIL undermines you in front of the kids, that's a more aggressive position and needs to be addressed — ASAP:
- Your Partner should speak to her with you about not confusing the children about discipline or what have you in front of the kids
- Tell Grandma, "I appreciate your wise insight and advice Grandma as I know you care, but that's not what we will be doing today." You may look like the bad guy to your kids, but better to show Grandma that you are not going to be belittled
- Leave. If Grandma starts to undermine you and it's possible to leave, leave
- Tell Grandma that the kids have to go by their mother's wishes, but perhaps could she give you advice on another matter? You would appreciate it. Making Grandma feel wanted might cause her to zip her lip.
- If she doesn't respond to any of the above, keep visits with Grandma brief, but keep her in the kids' lives if at all possible.
Keeps You Close Enough to Pick at You
She doesn't snub you so it's not as obvious to everyone as it is to you that she doesn't like you. You know she's not "feeling" you because she insults you in that subtle passive-aggressive way that makes you think: "Wow, did she just say that?" only for her to come around and say or do something nice shortly thereafter. The switch-over from passive-aggressive attacks to sweet comments is carried out in such a sophisticated manner that it's hard for you to debate your case with your partner.
Life with your mother-in-law may not always be perfect or may always be cloudy, but the point is to always be the bigger person, speak to your partner honestly about his or her mother's involvement in your life, and try to see things from her perspective.
What is also very important is even if Grandma is a royal witch, you need to keep mum about your feelings in front of your children. They don't need to hear how much you don't like her. Let them have a relationship with her, if it is possible. If she is really awful, the kids will see for themselves later on down the line, but having a grandma is a great gift.
If she's alive, try, try, and try to keep her in the kids' lives, even when it is hard! Keep in mind that perhaps she feels left out of her child's life since you arrived, is unhappy with herself, or is a biased and negative person. No matter the reason for her displeasure with you, try to not let it get to you. Not everyone in this world will like you!