My mother-and-law and I have had a thorny relationship since always. She made it clear, from day one, that she didn't want anyone stealing her only child's heart, but it took me a while to realize just how much she disliked me. I can say now, however, that after years of her twisting stories to benefit her narrative or passive-aggressively playing the martyr to win a battle, I have a good idea of how little she values me. And, sadly, there are the things my mother-in-law actually said to my son right in front of me, too, in case I didn't get the memo.
I have spent 14 years trying to navigate a beautiful and sometimes challenging relationship with a man I love, which means means I have spent 14 years of trying to navigate a relationship with a woman who wants nothing to do with me. She's made her feelings about me painfully clear, so I have no doubt that my frustration and sadness is more than called for. Because really, and truly, all I have ever wanted was for her to see me as her son's loving partner and the woman who is raising her grandchildren to the best of her ability.
Instead, she sees me as someone who can't cook, can't handle her own anxiety, and can't handle her marriage. She also sees me as someone who doesn't parent "correctly," whatever that means, and that slight is the one that hurts the most. Our relationship is clearly toxic and impacts me in ways my husband just can't understand, which makes this entire ordeal all the more isolating. It helps to talk about it, though, which is why I feel the need to share the creepy things she has said to my son right in front of me; things I know were meant to be slights or hurtful; things that have also started to fracture my marriage.
"You Take After Your Mom"
When my mother-in-law tells my kids they take after me, I know she's not paying them a compliment. According to her I am constantly failing as a mother, so when my kids are "taking after mom" they're doing something they're not supposed to be doing. If my children ever act out (you know, act like children) it has nothing to do with her son and their father, and everything to do with my parenting abilities (or, according to my mother-in-law, lack thereof).
"Did Mommy Teach You That?"
If my son says something inappropriate, or my daughter's in a mood, it's automatically my fault. It's not like my children have their own personalities or freewill to make their own decisions, people. That's just ridiculous.
What makes this comment so creepy is that, again, it's said right in front of me... but as if I was not there at all. I know she can see me since I'm standing right next to her but, alas, I am not part of the conversation. Rude.
"He's A Daddy's Boy"
I love that my kids enjoy their time with their father, and that the bond they share with him his noticeable. But as the work-from-home mom who's with my kids every hour of every day, I also know better. I am doing 99 percent of the parenting, and more often than not by myself. I'm doing the hard work of raising our children while my husband works long hours outside the house.
When my mother-in-law claims my son is a "daddy's boy," what she's really doing is undermining the work that I put in and the parenting that I accomplish on a daily basis. And right in front of my son, and in a way that makes it impossible for me to push back.
"I Bet Mommy Won't Be OK With That"
Being a "bad mom" isn't enough, my friends. Oh no, I have to be the "bad guy." So not only is a grown-ass woman calling me "mommy" (honestly, can we not with that word, adults?) but she's doing so in a way that undermines my parenting and pits my children against me.
"Your Mom Is Going To Screw You Up"
Of everything my mother-in-law has said about me to my son, my daughter, my husband, or any number of random people behind my back or in front of my face, the very worst of them happened recently. During an argument my mother-in-law told me I was going to screw up my children — with my children standing right there — and before telling me to GTFO. My kids started crying, and my mother-in-law promised them that it was, and always will be, my fault.
The truth is, I could be Parent of the Year or Wife of the Year or the Best Daughter-In-Law Ever, and it wouldn't matter: this woman doesn't want to get to know me, like me, or is willing to respect me. Distancing myself from her and this toxic relationship isn't my loss. It's hers. Because while she won't admit it, I'm a great mother and a great wife... and that's all that matters to me.