I’ve been asked this quite a few times, in fact, I just went on YouTube live the other day and this question came up and I got it again through Facebook yesterday. , How do I deal with an overbearing mother in law. I’m going to provide some specific tips but I want to first cover some general advice. This doesn’t matter whether it’s your mother in law, father-in-law, your wife’s sister or her brother….this applies to anyone on your wife’s side of the family. If there is a problem, it is not for you to get involved. This was actually advice I received from my mother many years ago. She had dealt with some issues on my father’s side and made it clear that going over family lines was a no-no. If something bad was to happen, there is the possibility of no return. You see, this isn’t your blood family. Unconditional love isn’t a requirement. Let’s say you have an argument with your wife’s sister. You may not ever recover. You need to stay out of crossing that family line. You discuss the issue with your wife and your wife needs to handle it. She is the one that needs to talk with her mother about whatever the issues are. If she is unable or unwilling, then the issue is between you and your wife. If something happens with your parents, you are the one that needs to handle it. Your wife should not be getting in arguments with your parents. It works both ways. Have that talk with your wife and be clear about your family too. You will deal with your family and she will deal with hers.
Ok, now that we know you aren’t to get involved with your wife’s side of the family, let’s get to some tips on how to deal with an overbearing mother in law. When you have a child, you sometimes get a little more sensitive to people’s suggestions or advice or their parenting style. My mom used to say “what happens at grandma’s house, stays at grandma’s house.” She had given the kids candy and was upset about it. She explained it to me this way. Jason, if my grandkids remember my house and being with me as fun because they got candy, I think that’s ok. After my mom passed away I realized how valuable that was. Whether it’s our in-laws or our own parents, they may do things a little different than we choose to do.
Anyways, here are some things to keep in mind:
1) It’s a package deal – You probably knew what you signed up for when you said: “I do”. Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, they all come with the package when you marry. Especially if your wife is close with her family, then you have to keep in mind that it is a package deal. That will help you keep perspective.
2) Be nice – Yes I’m saying to smile and be nice. You don’t have to get along perfectly with your mother in law and you don’t need to fake a relationship if it’s not there, but you still should nice and respectful. Sometimes you just have to bite your tongue and smile.
3) Set boundaries – Well, your wife needs to set the boundaries. Discuss the boundaries you want to set with your wife and once you both agree, she needs to communicate them to her mom. Does she need to call before she comes over? Does the baby need to go to sleep at a certain time? Be clear what your wishes and instructions are. Don’t expect they will all be followed or respected but she can certainly try.
4) Don’t take it personally – She may be an unhappy woman or just very opinionated. Don’t let what she says affect you. She could be critical of your parenting, or how you do things. Great, let her have an opinion.
5) Take it into consideration – When your mother in law makes a suggestion or provides advice, a good phrase to use is “We will take that into consideration”. It doesn’t make you have to do it at least acknowledges that you hear what she is saying and will think about it. Even if you have no intention of taking her advice, the fact that you will consider it may be enough.
6) Get to know her – I mean really get to know her. Ask questions about who she is and where she came from. You may get some insight as to why she is the way she is. Did she have a rough childhood, was she privileged? It may help you get a perspective to explain why you might be very different from each other. you may develop some empathy that you didn’t have before.
7) Take responsibility for your own actions – Could you have played any part in how the relationship has gone? Have you truly been nice? Have you given her a chance? Think back to how you have dealt with her in the past.
8) Stop having expectations – When we have kids, we often want our parents to be very involved, maybe watch the kids, or do other things for us. Don’t have expectations. It’s not fair to them. Having expectations will just lead to you being disappointed.
9) Look at their intentions – instead of looking at what was said or done, try to evaluate the situation based on her intentions. Quite often the intentions are good, they just were done in a way that you don’t agree with. Keep intentions in mind as that is the true way to evaluate a situation.
So those are some tips to deal with an overbearing mother in law. In so many cases, it’s not worth the argument. Having grandparents involved in your child’s life can be amazing. Often you just have to let go as you are the one holding onto resentment, anger, or other feelings that are just wasting your energy.
I would love to hear your feedback on this if you have any!