I’ll start off by saying this post is more of a rant than anything, so I apologise in advance for the unleashing of pent up emotions I’m about to heap on you.
It’s about my mother-in-law. I could probably just leave it at that and you’ll all be nodding your heads and expressing your commiseration. Well, those of you who have had or have one, and know of the pain.
I promised my children I would never end up like their grandmothers. I would not be overbearing, impose on their time and space, offer unsolicited advice, or suggest they should take up hobbies and activities just because I like them. My daughter told me it was bound to happen and that old people were silly and forgetful. I hope to prove her wrong!
I read somewhere that one in four daughters-in-law hate their mother-in-law, with half claiming to have difficult or uncomfortable relationships. Reasons for daughters-in-law resentment stemmed from their mother-in-law’s excessive maternal jealousy and asserting parenting dominance. From the looks of things, there are plenty of stories online about difficult, emotionally manipulative and outright batsh!t crazy mother-in-laws. You may even have one of those! Please do tell us in the comments section if you have a story or two.
I have always had a tedious relationship with my mother-in-law. We’ve never really gotten along. I’m too headstrong in my beliefs and parenting style, and I’m not afraid to voice my opinions. Similarly, my mother-in-law is stubborn, volatile and set in her ways. At times, it’s been a clash of wills between the two of us with surrounding family members becoming collateral damage.
Having children brought forth a multitude of tension to our already fraught relationship. As a new mother, I felt offended whenever my mother-in-law and my mother offered parenting advice, usually because it was often outdated and questioned my competence as a mother.
I raised so and so many children and they turned out fine. This is what we did when we had young children. Blah, blah, blah!
Can I just say, I hate it when people tell me how to parent based on their experiences, no matter how well-intentioned? Sure, your kids survived but it doesn’t mean you did a great job! My mother likes to remind me that I turned out ok, so her parenting must have been great. I turned out “ok” despite her parenting not because of it.
When my daughter was 2-years-old, tensions between my mother-in-law and I built to such extremes that we ended up in a major blow-up after she called my mother unintelligent. She was jealous my mother got to babysit while I worked a full-time job, and the two of them clashed whenever their time crossed paths. Being from different cultures and having a language barrier meant the two grandmothers could not find common ground. The blow-up caused a deeper rift in our relationship and I refused to have anything to do with her.
Several years later, the arrival of my son somewhat healed the relationship. We are now civil and respectful enough towards each other to make the relationship functional and comfortable for those around us and for her to have a meaningful relationship with the children. It’s thought that a poor relationship between grandparents and children-in-law results in a poorer relationship with grandchildren. I don’t want that for my children so I try, oh do I try.
However, every time they come to stay, I can’t help but feel anxious. I don’t like having my personal space invaded. Plus we have two bedrooms so our whole family squishes into one to cater for guests. Routines for the children are disrupted. Sometimes we have to host for their guests who come to visit them.
Next week, we will be breaking the rules to allow them to stay over. I relented despite feeling nervous about the consequences of being dobbed in by neighbours and fined. I can’t say no without looking like a b!tch because they’ve not seen the children since lockdown started in August.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate my mother-in-law. I just don’t relish spending time with her because I find the things she says and does grating on my nerves. My mother-in-law is a wonderful grandmother and is well-meaning. However, she is simply not a self-aware person. My mother-in-law repeats the same stories over and over, talks about people like we know them and care, is woefully ignorant, and occasionally racist. She also does what she wants and refuses to budge on anything once her mind is set.
For example, today I thought I’d be nice and offered to buy food for their stay and asked what dinners might suit them. My mother-in-law told me she wanted to cook a roast while she was with us. She insisted on paying and to avoid arguing over money, I suggested we buy the meat when they were in town. The supermarket is literally a 5 min walk, just up the road from us. But no, being stubborn, she insisted on buying the roast, freezing it, and then carting raw meat in an esky for a 7-hour drive instead. To say it set my teeth on edge is an understatement.
I can only pray for the Universe to give me the strength to hold my tongue and grant me an abundance of patience to get me through the next two weeks.
My husband says I can’t change people and there’s no use getting upset or annoyed. He says I need to look at this from a learning perspective. I’m not exactly sure what bulldust he’s been sniffing or what kind of learning he’s expecting of me, so I’m gonna have to throw a question into the ether.
Does anyone have suggestions on how to find their inner Zen while having their patience tested?
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