Is your mother-in-law always criticising the way you bring up your kids from what you feed them to how you discipline them? Or maybe she’s constantly bombarding you with ‘helpful suggestions’ that are unwarranted and simply unnecessary. Whether she’s outright negative and rude or subtly intrusive, this type of relationship can put a whole lot of stress on your marriage and even your relationship with your children. If you’re dealing with a mother-in-law who just won’t stop interfering, these are some tips on how to deal.
- Sit Back and Assess
Before you get yourself worked up into a rage over your mother-in-law’s next snide comment or snub, take a minute now while you’re calm and collected to look at the situation from all angles. Put yourself in your mother-in-law’s shoes and think about why she may be acting this way. Maybe she’s worried that she is no longer needed or that you’re taking over her role and cutting her out of the picture. Or maybe she just has very different values and ideas about parenting than you do. You also need to think about your own behaviour, take a step back and try to look at things from her point of view (although we recognise that’s not always possible!). Is there anything you are doing that might be causing her to act this way? Once you have thought about the situation rationally, you can begin to formulate a realistic plan of action that will benefit both sides.
- Ask for Support
Even though the problem may lie just between you and your MIL, that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. If you haven’t already, try discussing the situation with your partner. Be sure to approach the topic from a logical side as opposed to emotional, and try to stick to the facts rather than judgements or harsh opinions. Hopefully you and your partner can come to some sort of agreement on what steps to take to alleviate the situation. However, if your spouse refuses to see where you’re coming from, you may need to seek support from a close friend or family member. Even if it’s just someone you can vent to, having another person to lean on can help relieve some of your stress.
- Set Boundaries and Stick to Them
Setting boundaries is all about standing up for yourself and not allowing other people to treat you in ways that negatively affect your life. Of course this doesn’t mean you have to tell off your mother-in-law and cut her completely out of your life (as tempting and wonderful as that may sound). It’s all about respect and integrity. This means sitting down with your MIL and honestly explaining why her behaviour is bothering you and asking her politely to stop. It could also mean setting limits on things like how often she calls or stops by, how much involvement she has in raising your children, and how much personal info she is privy to. Be firm and fair and stick to your guns so that she eventually learns that her intrusive behaviour won’t fly anymore.
- Don’t Lose Your Head
Sometimes no matter how hard you try to be polite, respectful and non-confrontational, your MIL will still find a way to undermine you. When this happens, the last thing you should do is fly off the handle or lower yourself to her level. After all, this may be the exact reaction she wants. Plus, getting angry won’t help the situation at all and will probably only make it worse. Depending on the situation, it may be in your best interest to just bite your tongue and humour her. After all, maybe she’s just trying to be helpful. However, if it’s obvious she’s trying to push your buttons, find a way to curb your anger before it gets the better of you by taking a deep breath, going for a walk, or reminding yourself that it’s not you, it’s her and that it’s in everyone’s best interest, especially your kids’, to stay calm and take the higher road. Instead of being confrontational, tell her directly ‘I don’t think what you have said to me is acceptable’ or ‘That’s not kind, so please don’t say that to me again’. This type of approach puts them off guard, because you are putting them in their place without lowering yourself to their standard and you come out the better person.
- Be Good to Yourself
When someone is constantly making you feel as though you’re not good enough, it can be easy to slip into a bad headspace and start getting down on yourself. Try not to take what your MIL says or does to heart. Remind yourself that her opinion is just that—an opinion, so it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right or even based in any truth whatsoever. Focus on the positive aspects of yourself and the things you have to be happy for in life. Make time for yourself, take care of yourself and give yourself a little self love. After all, the healthier and happier you are, the better equipped you will be to love and care for your family, MIL or no MIL.