Butt out, mom-in-law!

My mother in law can’t accept that I’m capable of looking after her precious boy.

Our elder can empathize — and has some strategies to try.

Dear EWC

I don’t know what to do about my situation with my mother in law. I have been married to her son for about seven months. Our house is one block from her house, so she’s coming over pretty frequently (which I have no problem with), but what I do have a problem with is that she comes only to ask me if I’ve already fed her son and if I’m taking care of him. I know she’s his mother and will always care for him, but it really does bother me because it makes me feel like she thinks that I don’t care about her son and I don’t take care of him, when in reality I do, and every time he feels sick I take him to the doctors. I always cook his food and I feed him well like any wife would. Today, for example, he felt sick from his stomach and had diarrhea, so I made him a healthy breakfast and gave him some medicine that would help him out. I was making him tea to make him feel better, and my mother in law came over. She asked me what I was making and I told her. She then said, “I’m gonna make him some tea, give him mine instead”. And left. When she came back, she brought over her tea and some food for me to give him. Out of respect, I have never said anything for her to leave us alone. I feel like she doesn’t accept the fact that her son is now married and moved out and has a wife who cares for him. I feel like she still sees him as her little boy and treats him as if he never moved out or got married. I don’t know what to do or how to tell her politely to stop doubting me or what I give him. I love her son and I don’t want this to cause any problems between us.

Alexandra replies

I’m so sorry that you’re in this difficult situation with your mother-in-law. I, too, had a somewhat interfering MIL, so I can certainly sympathize! I’m wondering if he is an only son and if he lived at home until you got married. Sometimes mothers — especially mothers of sons, it seems to me — find it difficult to let go.

However, I do think you have to try to diplomatically put a stop to it. If you go along with her “coming over pretty frequently” I think you will eventually find it very irritating and the pressure will build up. Can you imagine how it will be if and when you have children? How does your husband feel about her frequent visits? Does he know she is questioning the way you take care of him? I’m sure he loves his mom, but as his wife, you should be the number one female in his life now. Perhaps he should be the one to tell her how well you look after him. Hopefully, he looks after you very well, too, and making sure his mother doesn’t upset you is a part of that.

It took me a long time to learn to deal with my MIL. I bit my tongue a lot in the first few months, but eventually, I asked her — nicely — if she would mind just giving me a call before she dropped in, to make sure I was home and not too busy for a visit. Then sometimes I would tell her that it just wasn’t convenient. When she kept bringing over his ‘favorite’ things to eat, I thanked her and suggested that I needed to learn to make these dishes too, and perhaps she could just give me the recipes. We never became best friends, but she did learn to back off a bit and I learned to be a bit more assertive.

Make sure you and your husband are on the same page with this — he needs to know that it is upsetting for you that his mom doesn’t seem to think you’re taking proper care of him. It’s lovely that you have respect for her and that you don’t seem to mind her frequent visits, but I do think you and your husband need to set some boundaries and let her know that you are taking care of each other very well without her ‘help’.
I wish you the very best, and I hope you’ll write again if you want to talk more. We’re always here to listen.

Letter #: 443787
Category: Family

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