I had a, shall we say, contentious relationship with my mother-in-law. I felt judged the moment I came into her son's life. I assumed giving her a grandchild would fix things, but my pregnancy opened the flood gates for a lot of unsolicited advice. It's not that I didn't want help learning how to be a good mom. I just didn't want her advice. After all, my mother-in-law's advice is some of the worst parenting advice I've heard in my over 10 years of parenting.
For example, I was told I had to stop breastfeeding in the living room at Thanksgiving, because nursing "should be done in private." And when I gave my baby a bottle of formula, she asked why I couldn't "just make more milk." She recommended spanking my toddler when she hit me to "teach her a lesson," (I don't understand how you can teach a child that hitting is bad... by hitting them), and when I told her I was feeding my kids a vegetarian diet, she said I had to at least feed my son meat, because "growing boys need meat."
In my many conversations with other moms, I’ve learned that the trope of the overbearing mother-in-law exists for a very good reason. It seems that everyone I know has received the worst parenting advice from their mother-in-law, including the following terrible suggestions:
"I got milk fever really badly and was really, really engorged when my milk first came in. I made an appointment to go see an IBCLC to get things sorted out. My husband was talking to her on the phone and told her we had an appointment. She made light of it to my husband, saying that breastfeeding was 'natural' and women of my generation made 'too much of things.' Good moms who are breastfeeding shouldn't need help or instruction, apparently."
"She told me to let my daughter 'cry it out' when she was 4 weeks old. She also told me, 'You shouldn't have to feed her that often. She probably only wants it for comfort and therefore doesn't really need it.'
This is the same woman that told my daughter she needed to start growing taller instead of wider. My daughter was 10 at the time, and was playing on two different soccer teams."
"Everything she told me was because she was a nurse and had three kids that turned out 'fine,' so she was obviously more qualified to parent my baby. The worst was that I needed to put rice cereal in my breast milk (I was nursing, and had no idea how I was supposed to do that). She also told me that I *needed* to give him dairy milk, all starting around the time he was 2 months old. She did both of those things and gave him formula behind my back for months."
"She told me to deal with my postpartum depression by cleaning my house and looking out the window."
"My first mother-in-law was a narcissist who insisted that my child was her second chance at being a mom. She referred to herself as mom, and took him and kept him from me for five hours when he was 11 days old because she wanted him to take formula instead of breast milk.
My second mother-in-law insisted that I needed to starve myself so I could be thin, to be a better example for my kids. She also heavily favored one of my kids over the rest, and would blatantly show this favoritism in front of the others."
"My son got embarrassed about something and was really upset. He likes to be left alone when this happens but my mother-in-law kept getting in his face. He started off politely saying, 'I want to be alone please. Can you please leave me alone?' When that didn’t work, he started getting mad and said, 'Go away! Leave me alone!'
I said, 'Let him be,' but my mother-in-law said, 'No, we should be with him!'
Within five minutes he was fine and back to his normal happy self. I refused to discipline him for yelling; if his boundaries had been respected, he wouldn’t have resorted to yelling, so I don’t see it as rude.
I understand where my husband got it from. It took years of fights before he learned you do not get in someone’s face when they tell you they need a minute."
"Don't hold the baby so much, you'll spoil him."
"About two weeks after giving birth to our son, we were at the in-laws house for brunch. My then-husband got a call from a friend to play in a softball tournament. He took off. I was stranded at the in-laws without a car. I was shocked and emotional. His mom told me that I needed to calm down and realize that he’s a good man... because he doesn’t hit me. Then, she told me it’s not proper to breastfeed in front of a man, so I was sent to feed my newborn alone in a room across the house each time my son needed to be fed."
"The worst advice she gave me was while I was pregnant. She said salads were bad for the baby."
"When [my son] was a newborn, she told me giving him a couple drops of water would stop hiccups (spoiler, it doesn’t)."
"I don’t know why it’s so hard for you! I had four kids and never asked anyone for help. I just did stuff during nap time. Have you thought of that? Doing stuff during nap time?"