Ah, mothers-in-law, the first woman to love your sweet other half. These women often get a bad rap for not being able to let go of their offspring, which often means they intrude into your family more than you would like.
Remember, after you and potentially any daughters you might have, she’s the most important woman in your husband’s life. However, for the sanity of everyone in your household, it’s a good idea to have a decent relationship with this woman. Here are 6 reasons why.
The main reason that you have to have a good relationship with your mother-in-law is you want to her respect you so that she doesn’t undermine your authority or belittle you in front of your spouse, or especially in front of your children, because you want them to learn to respect you.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, respect means, “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc, and should be treated in an appropriate way.” In your relationship with your mother-in-law this looks like her saying “okay,” when she suggests something that you say “no” to, whether it’s going on a certain outing, feeding your children certain foods, smoking in front of your children, or using a form of punishment you disagree with.
Now respect is something that goes both ways. If you want her to respect you, then you need to respect her. For example, if she smokes at her house and you don’t want your children to be exposed to that, then it’s all right for you to tell her that you would prefer if she came to your house to see you children, and that you do not want her to smoke while she’s there, because it’s unhealthy and dangerous for your children to be exposed to the smoke.
However, you need to do this without demeaning her decision. If you don’t respect your mother-in-law to begin with, perhaps it’s time to try and change that. And according to the Centers for Family Change, respect is when you “treat your spouse or partner in a thoughtful and courteous way. It means that you avoid treating each other in rude and disrespectful ways, for example, you don’t engage in name calling, and do not insult or demean your spouse or partner.
It also means that you do not talk sarcastically to them, or ignore or avoid your partner. Finally, mutual respect means that you view the opinions, wishes and values of your partner as worthy of serious consideration. While this article is focusing on respect between married couples, it still works for a relationship between you and your mother-in-law.
If you want to start changing your relationship with your mother-in-law than you need to first acknowledge that you can’t change her, but you can start acting like you respect her, and once she feels respected she might start treating you better. Then after you’ve come to that realization, you should avoid speaking to her or even about her condescendingly or sarcastically, and try to see things from her perspective.
She put a lot of herself into raising her son, and she thinks he turned out pretty good, so naturally she’d think that the way she did it works really well.
If you can start respecting your mother-in-law, it will pave the way for a better relationship with her. And that will be beneficial for your whole family, because it will most likely change the way she treats you, which will in turn show your children that you are worthy of respect.
Furthermore, it will give you the foundation to get all of the other benefits of having a good relationship with your mother-in-law, because unfortunately, if you don’t respect her, nothing she does will ever seem to be thoughtful, no matter what her intent was.
Another reason that it’s good for your family if you have a good relationship with your mother-in-law, she’ll give you the space you need and desire. What that looks like depends on you: you might not want her over the first week or month after the birth of your baby, or you might want her in the delivery room with you.
The point is, if you have a good relationship with your mother-in-law, she’s more likely to give you the space you need as long as you ask for it. Communication is key.
First you’ll need to sit down with your spouse and talk about what you want the boundaries to look like. For example, you’ll want to talk about when she can or can’t come visit, how you’ll be handling the holidays in the future. Let her know what your boundaries are.
Don’t assume that she can read your mind. If you want her to give you more space, or for her to be more present, then tell her. Once the groundwork is set, you’ll need to enforce the boundaries. For example, if she comes over uninvited, even though you’ve told her that she’s not allowed to do that, then tell her you’re busy and she can’t come in.
Before your first baby is born you and your partner were able to get out of the house whenever you wanted without any trouble or forethought. But once there’s a child in the mix, you have to plan a lot more.
You need to find a babysitter, or you need to find somewhere that’s child-friendly and, if they’re old enough to eat solids, maybe not as fancy as you’d like.
Until your oldest is old enough and responsible enough to stay home and watch the others, it’s always nice to have a mother-in-law handy to watch the children.
It’s cheaper than hiring a normal babysitter (and you won’t have to worry about whether or not you’re paying your babysitter a decent wage), you won’t have to fret about her credentials and experience, take the time to interview her and then phone all her references, and she won’t be a stranger to your children.
All of that means, you and your partner will be able to get out of the house alone faster and more frequently.
Your mother-in-law has practise being a mother, which means she likely has some advice on how to make your life easier. If you’re on good terms with her, you’ll be able to reap the rewards from all her years of experience—the mistakes she made, the shortcuts she’s discovered, things she tried that worked or didn’t work—and she’ll offer it to you in a nice manner.
Granted, she might not give good advice, and she might even give you advice only to pass judgment, but you can’t control her. So for your part, try to have a good relationship with her. That doesn’t mean you have to listen to everything she says.
For the bad advice, you can tell her that it’s bad. If you know why it’s not a good idea, (i.e. new studies, you’ve already tried it) then you can tell her that. But do so politely, without lording it over her, otherwise she’s just going to get defensive and stick to her poor advice even harder.
Another thing you could try in order to patch up your relationship is to purposely misunderstand her intent. This is something that happens in conversations all of the time, especially when they’re done over the internet or phone—people tend to get easily offended by something that wasn’t meant to be offensive. However, you can use this to your advantage and turn it around.
If you think she’s saying something to underhandedly offend or belittle you, pretend that she’s not. Pretend that she meant it in a kind-hearted manner because she truly desires the best for your family (since you’ve married her son, she probably at least wants the best for his family), and respond the way you would to your best friend who gave you honest advice.
This is a highly selfish reason to have a better relationship with your mother-in-law, but it is a reason nonetheless. Grandparents often enjoy buying gifts or trinkets for their grandchildren, and they often can buy their grandchildren more gifts than you yourself can, because they have more disposable income.
So, if you have a good relationship with her, your children are less likely to get the gifts she knows you’ll hate. So instead of the latest and loudest electronic drum set, you might get puzzles or other quiet toys.
This is because she’ll respect your wishes, and she’ll feel more comfortable talking to you about what sorts of things you’d like for your children to have, or what sort of toys you’d rather they did not have.
The last, and possibly most important reason you should try to get along with your mother-in-law, is for your husband’s sake. He’ll be much less stressed and much happier if you and his mom stop fighting, especially if you tended to ask him to choose sides or pass messages along to the other individual.
So if you and his mom stop fighting all of the time, then your relationship with your spouse will also get better, because he won’t be using all of his emotional energy trying to appease one of you. That means he’ll be more emotionally healthy, which will help him take more time to do fun activities with you, and help him want to find a good work-life balance.
There you have it, seven reasons that it totally makes sense for you to try and have a good relationship with your mother-in-law (and, as an added bonus, a few ways that you can patch up the relationship you might currently have with her), because let’s face it, no one enjoys when two people they love and adore are feuding with one another.