As some would say, you either love or hate your in-laws, there’s no in-between. But is it really true? What are your in-laws doing to make you resent them? Maybe they’re too meddling and like to interfere in your life, maybe they’re judging the way you raise their grandchildren or criticize all your moves.
We’ve gathered information from Parenting.com’s Facebook page, where moms all over the country complain about their in-laws. As one mom wrote, her relationship with her mother-in-law is very complicated. She comes once a week to her house to spend time with her grandchild, but instead of focusing on having a good time, all she does is criticize her methods by telling her what she’s doing wrong, starting from the way she feeds her son, his feet are too cold, he’s not dressed properly, and so on.
She also added that her mother-in-law contributed to a lot of fights between her and her husband. Another mom wrote that every time she and her husband meet their in-laws they go to their house or to a restaurant, and they’re the ones always paying for the meal because their in-laws never offer it. That wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t having money issues, but the fact that her in-laws never offered to pay, not even once, made her resent them.
Also, she remembers one time her mother-in-law offered a gift for her daughter, saying something like ‘I don’t really know what this is, but here, take it.’ The fact that she didn’t put some thought into the gift was also not nice to hear.
Do these in-laws’ experiences sound familiar to you? It’s always been harder to get along with your in-laws than it is with your own parents. After all, you’ve been negotiating with them your whole life, so you know how to please them and get what you want at the same time.
With your in-laws, however, it’s very different. You don’t know exactly what you should say to them, because you obviously don’t want to hurt their feelings. But the thing is, every time you stay silent, your resentment grows more and more.
And what’s making things even more complicated is the fact that your in-laws could cause a lot of problems in your marriage, sometimes unwillingly, simply because your husband refuses to tell them to back off once in a while.
Another mom shared on Parenting.com that every time she tries to tell her husband what’s bothering her about her in-laws, he gets very defensive and takes his parents’ side. And that’s how you’re not only in conflict with your in-laws, you’re also in conflict with your partner.
But one thing is sure: These people are going to be part of your life forever, so you need to find a way to make things work. Read on to find out the most common ways in which your in-laws are driving you crazy!
1. They’re too involved in your life.
If you’re living in close proximity to your in-laws, they probably expect to be included in all your plans and family outings. But at the same time, if they’re living in another state, chances are they’ll monopolize vacation time, so you really can’t win.
As one mom from Tennessee shared on Parenting.com, her in-laws usually visit them once a year during summer, so they expect to spend all their vacations with them. She also added that even though it’s bothering her to spend all vacations with his parents instead of getting away as a family, he doesn’t mind it.
But you can’t really have a talk with your in-laws about this issue as long as your partner is not on board.
According to Susan Newman, Ph.D., author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It—and Mean It—and Stop People-Pleasing Forever, having a good relationship with your in-laws is not only good for your children, but for you as well, in order to strengthen your family bond. You may also want to check this book as well.
That’s why it’s important to approach the situation in a different manner. Tell your partner that it would be great to have more time together as a family, not to punish your in-laws, but rather to strengthen your bond, maybe he’ll see things differently this way.
But you also need to be prepared to compromise. If you’re asking your partner to spend less time with his family, you’ll likely have to do the same with yours. If he sees that you’re making sacrifices as well, he’ll probably accept the situation. It’s important to have a few trips each year without your in-laws or other relatives.
It’s important that your husband is the one that tells his parents that they won’t see you as soon as they’d like. They’ll probably take the new better if it’s coming from their son. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be involved in their grandson’s life. You can also plan frequent meet-ups on Zoom, or send them photos to see how much he/she has grown. Even if they won’t like this change at first, they’ll probably accept it after a while.
If your in-laws live in close proximity, it’s important to find a way to avoid confrontation. According to Newman, they’ll probably agree to the situation if you offer a compromise.
2. They think you’re exaggerating for being safety-conscious.
Another mom and nurse who occasionally works nights shared on Parenting.com that she was very surprised when she found out that her four-month baby sleeps all night when she’s spending the night at her grandparent’s house. Then, she discovered that they were putting the baby to sleep on her tummy, which increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
So it’s understandable why she flipped out. The best approach would be to be firm and direct, without accusing them of wanting to hurt your child.
According to Newman, you can say, “I know things were different when you were raising kids, but our doctor insists on [whatever safety measure they’re flouting] and we need to be absolutely sure everyone is following her instructions.”
Even though they might not agree with your methods, it’s important that they understand you’re not criticizing their ability to take care of your baby, but you want what’s best for your child.
3. They tend to criticize all your moves.
In-laws tend to disapprove a lot of the way their children are being raised. A Michigan mother shared on Parenting.com that her mother-in-law always tells her how lucky she is to have a nanny since she’s working so much and she’s not able to take care of her own child.
Another mother from Minnesota says that her mother-in-law always criticizes her and her parenting skills, especially when her child is feeling sick and her husband is the one that takes a day off to take care of him. Through their eyes, she’s a bad mom, even though her husband is the one with a more flexible work schedule, and he doesn’t mind staying at home with his children.
According to Newman, it would be recommended to be honest and straightforward. Tell them you don’t like the fact that they criticize all your moves, and even when they don’t agree with your methods, they should keep it to themselves.
4. They always meddle.
According to Susie Kohl, author of The Best Things Parents Do and a mother-in-law herself, grandparents like to interfere mostly because they love their grandchild very much. However, sometimes it’s not their place, and some advice isn’t welcomed.
For instance, if your mother-in-law recommends spanking your children every time they d something wrong, be firm and tell them that another approach works better for your child. If your child does something ‘wrong’ in front of his grandmother, you can tell them not to worry, adding that you’ll handle it later.
But sometimes you just can’t avoid a conflict. One mom shared that her in-laws decided to give her three-year-old son ‘speech therapy’ while babysitting. She obviously went crazy, especially because they weren’t qualified to do that, and he was just a child.
“They kept telling me that David talks funny, and I kept telling them that his pediatrician wasn’t worried,” says the mom. “But one day when I got to their house to pick up my son, he was talking with his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. He was self-conscious about his speech for a long time after that.”
The next time your in-laws meddle in and overstep their boundaries, don’t hesitate to show them how upset you are, without hurting their feelings, if possible. Even when they want to help, parents should be the ones to decide how they raise their children.
5. They don’t care about your family rules.
If your grandparents are only seeing their grandchild a few times a year, then you can definitely compromise and let them spoil your children. However, if your child is spending a lot of time at their grandparent’s house, they need to respect your family rules.
If you don’t want your child to eat cookies or other sweets during weekdays, your in-laws need to respect that. If you don’t want your child to spend an extra hour watching cartoons each night, your in-laws should respect that, too.
You can say something like: “She’s such a picky eater that I hate for her to fill up on cookies. I’m going to bring over some healthy snacks.” If they still don’t respect your rules, then tell them that you’ll bring all dental bills to them.
We can all agree that most grandparents love their grandchildren very, very much, so they want to spoil them as much as possible, but sometimes beside the fact that they’re breaking family rules, they are also creating bad habits for their grandchildren.
6. They don’t help out as much as you’d want them to.
This one can be a little more complicated, because just how you’re allowed to set some boundaries, the same goes for your in-laws. Even though life with children is not easy, you need to respect the fact that your in-laws might not have the possibility or the time to help you, as they might have other things on their plate.
But it could also be a probability that they’re not offering their help because they didn’t know you needed it. So the next time you feel overwhelmed, let your in-laws know how you feel, chances are they are happy to help you.
Maybe they’re not trying to set boundaries, but they simply don’t know if you want their help or not, so it would be best to ask them if they’re interested in spending more time with their grandchild or babysitting when you have to go to work.
7. They expect too much from their son (your husband).
Sometimes your in-laws might not understand how busy your lives are, and they come up with all kinds of tasks for your husband. One Mississippi mom shared on Parenting.com that her in-laws ask their son to drive one hour every day to water their plants when they’re not at home.
But when you feel like they’re asking too much from your husband, you need to tell them what your lives are like and how busy you are on a daily basis, splitting your time between work, children, and maintaining a household. Maybe they’ll finally understand.
However, there are also those in-laws that want to have control over their son, even when he’s not a child anymore. In this situation, your husband might have to learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty. It’s important that they understand you want to help, but on terms that won’t make your lives impossible.
For instance, the Mississippi family found a way that works for both parties involved. Instead of driving one hour each day to water the plants, they decided to only go on weekends and asked a trusted neighbor to look after the house on the weekdays.
8. Establish clear boundaries from the start.
Setting clear boundaries when it comes to your in-laws is very important, so the next time they drop by uninvited or offer unwanted advice, do something about it before it becomes a habit.
Even when they might not agree with your methods, they’ll manage to adapt and you’ll avoid a lot of future resentment this way. Setting boundaries is the only way you can have a healthy relationship with your in-laws.
9. Learn to compromise.
As previously mentioned, it’s important to establish rules, and your in-laws need to follow them as well. So be very firm about your child’s bedtime, even when he’s sleeping at his grandparent’s house.
At the same time, it’s not the end of the world if his grandparents spoil him with a cookie after dinner once in a while, as long as they don’t go overboard. Learning to compromise is key to a healthy relationship.
10. But sometimes you need to hold your tongue.
While it’s important to speak your mind and be honest with your in-laws, sometimes it would be better to just…shut up. Telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth is not always a great idea and can hurt others very much.
If you don’t trust them to babysit your child when you’re not at home, there’s no need to tell them that, just get a babysitter.
And if they ask you about it, you can tell them something like: “I really appreciate all your offers of help, but having a sitter who knows the routine is a lot easier for me, and I’m so frazzled at the moment, I just need to do the easiest thing I can.”
Make sure to also check: 8 Compliments You Shouldn’t Give to Your Kids.