To say I have a strained relationship with my mother-in-law is putting it mildly. And in talking with my mom friends, I've learned I'm not alone. Does becoming a mother-in-law turns otherwise reasonable people into judgmental, guilt-tripping monsters? As a mom, I hope not, but as someone who has had two mother-in-laws, I can say that's been my experience. You see, there are questions mother-in-laws ask that make moms feel guilty, and I'm telling you: no one can make me feel guilty like my mother-in-law.
Sometimes my mother-in-law's questions seem innocent, or even "nice," but underneath her intentions are consistently less-than-honorable. For example, when my mother-in-law questions my cooking, clothing, or parenting choices, she may think that it's "nice" to tell me the "right" ways to do things, but it never feels that way from my perspective. To make matters worse, as a mom I pretty much feel guilty all of the time anyway, so I absolutely don't need someone to point out my faults or undermine my parenting. I do fine feeling guilty all on my own. And if that wasn't enough, my mother-in-law seems hellbent on constantly asking me why I don't like her, making our strained relationship my fault, rather than a result of her toxic behavior, I realize that there are no good answers to my mother-in-law's questions. I really can't win.
So, here are just a few examples of mother-in-law questions guaranteed to take even the best moms on a guilt trip. Relationships with in-laws are complicated, my friends. The least you can do is prepare yourself for the awkward, uncomfortable, and downright difficult moments ahead.
"Can I Visit You At The Hospital?"
This was so hard. I was totally caught off guard and had no idea how to respond without offending my mother-in-law. In the end, I said "maybe" when what I really meant "hell no." There was no way I was risking her seeing my ass, my vulva, or my boobs.
"Why Don't You Ever Come To Visit?"
Honestly, the last time we visited my mother-in-law it was a disaster. She insulted me numerous times and made me and my kids from my previous marriage feel totally unwelcome. Now my husband and I have a baby who hates riding in the car, as well as our four other kids who aren't big fans of sitting in one place for countless hours on end. The idea of driving 10 hours in the car with our big family and either paying for a hotel or staying in her non-baby-proofed house makes me shudder.
"Why Did You Stop Breastfeeding?"
I hate this question when anyone asks it. As a mom who struggled with undersupply, it hurts when people ask me if I am breastfeeding. When that question inevitably arises, I feel like I have to tell my entire breastfeeding saga or explain my choices in an attempt to prove I'm a "good" mom. I wish I could be snarky and say, "I will explain my medical history, breastfeeding struggles, and my baby's food allergies, if you tell me intimate details of your medical history and personal choices," but I am a little afraid she would actually share those details with me.
"Why Can't They?"
My mother-in-law constantly undermines my parenting by asking me in front of my kids, "Why can't they?" whenever I tell them no. I don't appreciate it at all. If I say "no" to a later bedtime or cookie, while she's constantly saying yes and being their advocate, I look like the bad guy. The answer to this question is, "Because I am their mom, and I said no."
"Why Don't You Call More Often?"
My mother-in-law is constantly trying to make us feel guilty about not calling her frequently. I don't have time to arrange for calls, and besides, last time I checked, phones worked both ways. If she wanted to talk with her grand kids or son, she could call.
"Why Do You Do It That Way?"
My mother-in-law constantly makes comments about about my parenting choices. She will even ask me directly why I don't parent differently. Most of the time I don't say anything when she asks me why the baby isn't wearing socks (indoors), or why I don't fight with my kids at meal time (because it doesn't work and I'm exhausted). But, then I start thinking that maybe I should be doing these things.
"Why Didn't You Post Pictures Today?"
My mother-in-law stalks me on social media. Then she 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 why, or worse, my husband will get a sobbing phone call from her asking if I have blocked her.
"Did You Mean To Do That?"
Mothers-in-law are the queens of passive aggressive comments and questions. By asking me if "I meant to" cook something a certain way, dress the baby in a certain outfit, or do my hair a certain way, she can express disapproval without having to admit that she actually disapproves. After all, she was just "curious," or as my husband says, "I'm sure she meant well." Yeah, I am not so sure.
"Why Don't You Like Me?"
Generally, my mother-in-law will ask this of my husband, but last time she literally asked her adult daughter to ask me, which was one of the most awkward experience of my life. Her need for approval is huge, but also is her need to play the victim. She treats me like crap, asks me personal questions, and then makes it my fault for not liking her. Honestly, the next time she asks, I may just send her this handy-dandy list or ask her the same question, because seriously, it kinda seems like she doesn't like me.
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