To be honest, my relationships with my mothers-in-law haven't always been the greatest. Yes, I mean mothers-in-law plural. I have been married twice and have had to navigate relationships with two sets of in-laws. It wasn't easy, but it was manageable. Well, before I had kids. I think there's something about having grandchildren that makes most mothers-in-law say the most passive aggressive, rude, and judgmental things. The worst are the things that sound nice, but really aren't. You know, like the times you don't realize your mother-in-law is lowkey shaming you. The sh*t outta you, in fact.
Sometimes I really do think our mothers-in-law mean well. After all, they want what's best for their children and their grandchildren. Unfortunately, sometimes what they think is best and what you know is best are two completely different things. They make comments about how long your mother-in-law breastfed (so much longer than you did), how she didn't have to get an epidural (so why did you need one, huh?), how young your spouse was when she expertly potty trained them, or how she thinks that you really ought to post more pictures of her grandkids on social media. Yeah, they aren't really nice.
By far, my least favorite versions of mother-in-law comments are what I call "mompliments" — underhanded compliments which aren't meant to actually be complimentary. Like, "I like this new haircut so much more than your last one." So, you hated my last haircut, then? Gee, thanks. And then there's the "You are so brave to wear that!" Umm, no thanks. What you really mean when you say these things is that you can't manage to think of something nice to say to me. So, you know, maybe don't say anything at all?
So, listen up mothers-in-law the world over, and let me give you some unsolicited parenting advice for a change: if you want to have a good relationship with your child, don't give their spouse advice unless you're asked. It totally won't end well, and it will most likely feel like low-key shaming:
When She Is Passive Aggressive
Mothers-in-law are the queens of passive aggressive comments and gestures. You probably know what I mean, too. The comments that imply their disapproval, but don't require them to actually come out and say that they disapprove, are the comment I'm sure you've heard more than a few times. Things like "Oh, you meant to dress the baby that way?" or, "Oh, you're not actually wearing that outfit, are you?" and, "That is an interesting choice." Or the time when my former mother-in-law (who was a hoarder, ironically) purchased me an organizer for my car so I could "keep it cleaner." Then, when you tell your spouse about it, he replies, "Well, I'm sure she meant well."
No. She didn't.
When She Tells You About When Your Spouse Was A Baby
I honestly don't want to hear about your experience growing, birthing, breastfeeding, or raising babies. It's a trap. I am so not going to do things the way you did, and that's OK. It doesn't mean either of us are wrong, it just means that we have different ways of doing things.
When She Won't Let You Cook For Her
I am an awesome cook, my friends, and people love my cooking. Except, it seems, my former mother-in-law. My family always had to go out to eat when she came to visit, which is not really fun once you have kids, and especially not fun when your mother-in-law complains about the restaurant, food, and how your kids behave in public.
When She Makes Comments About Your House
Yeah, my house is "lived in" and we have different styles, taste, and priorities. Your comments about my home are not welcome, especially when they are intended to make me feel bad. Not cool.
(I'm still waiting for her to pay for a maid, by the way.)
When She Doesn't Come For A Visit, Because She Doesn't Want To "Be A Burden"
When we invited my parents and in-laws for Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law decided not to come. She claimed that she didn't want to be a burden, which she wouldn't have been, but that conveniently turned her into the victim when people asked her why she wasn't there. Ugh.
When She Underhandedly Compliments You
Mothers-in-law have a "special way" of commenting about your home, outfit, or choices. For example: when your mother-in-law says "your house looks so 'lived-in and quaint,'" she really means you're a terrible housekeeper. When she says your dress is a "bold choice," it means she doesn't like it and definitely wouldn't be caught dead wearing it in public. And when she says that you are assertive, she really means she thinks you're a "b*tch.
I don't know about you, but I would just prefer my mother-in-law being straight-up honest with me.
When She Facebook Stalks You
My mother-in-law constantly reminds me that I need to post pictures of her grandkids on Facebook at least once a day. If I skip a day or two, I will get a message from her asking what's up, or worse, my husband will get a message from her asking if I have blocked her. Ugh.
She Gives You Unsolicited Parenting Advice
I hate unsolicited parenting advice from anyone, but I especially hate it when it comes from my mother-in-law. It always comes across as lowkey shaming or judgment. She got to be a mom already. And she did a great job, too, because her son is pretty awesome. I mean, that's why I married him. Now, though? Now I'm the parent, and if I want advice I will ask for it.
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