5 ways to manage your mum-in-law
According to a study of hundreds of women over a 20-year period, more than 60 per cent of females admit the relationship with their mum-in-law causes long-term unhappiness and stress. Michelle Hamer, mum of four and author of Caesarean Culture (Random House), says clashes with your mother-in-law are normal, and provides some tips to ease the tension:
You are wired to clash with your mother-in-law
If you find your mum-in-law criticising or ignoring your parenting skills, remember that she's most likely feeling under-mined as a new matriarch (you!) enters the family. "Mothers-in-law feel like their parenting style is being made obsolete and feel defensive about the way they did things," says Michelle. "New mums feel like their inroads into finding what works for them is being undermined and it's a recipe for a very tense generational stand off."
Children can add friction
If you don't have a strong bond with your partner's mum before children, expect things to get worse (in the short-term) when babies come along. "If there is friction before children, then that can increase after the birth of kids," confirms Michelle, adding that, on the flipside the birth of grandchildren can sometimes cause a mum-in-law to mellow.
Put yourself in her shoes
In your darkest hour, remember that your mum-in-law has been through the testing baby years (with your husband!), just like you are doing now. "As my sons get older, I can see how hard it will be to accept any woman as being good enough for him," advises Michelle. "Most mums want the best for their sons, sometimes they find it hard to relinquish the care of their beloved boys to another woman."
Let annoying comments slide
Michelle says one of the key elements in maintaining a healthy relationship with your mum-in-law is to remember all of the above points - and sometimes let it go. "With my mother-in-law of 20 years there were plenty of times when I just let comments that I found hurtful slide. It wasn't worth fighting when I knew that she didn't mean to be unkind, she was just a very different person to me. We were forced to find a way to get along because her son and I had fallen in love and decided to build a life and family."
Stand firm on big issues
Just as it's important to let the small stuff slide, you also need to stand firm on important parenting issues that matter to you. "I was determined to enforce some boundaries that were really important to me - such as not giving the children junk food, or allowing them to watch violent movies," says Michelle. "I found that by setting clear boundaries about the things I was most concerned about I could let the smaller stuff slip by and life was more harmonious for everyone."
This article was originally written for our sister site kidspot.com.au by Joanna Bounds