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Susan Adcox

Grandmother's Behavior Troubles Mother-to-Be

By September 16, 2012

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A recent post on this site is from an expectant mom concerned about her mother-in-law, who already gives advice that makes the mom feel that she is regarded as "incapable." The mom is three weeks away from delivery. Instead of focusing on her baby, she's wondering how she should handle her mom-in-law. "I don't know how to approach her if she gets too controlling," the young mom writes. "How should I go about it?"

It's true that mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships are prone to problems by their very nature. The mother has been the primary woman in her son's life. Now she has been replaced by a wife. There's a natural tendency for the mother to be critical and for the wife to be sensitive to criticism.

In the case of the expectant mother, I do have some advice. She and her husband should sit down and develop a contingency plan: This is what we will do if a problem develops. However, the husband, who knows his own mother best, wants her to play a "big role" in her granddaughter's life, probably because he knows she'll be a fantastic grandmother. The mom-to-be should try to relax and let that happen without worrying about who's in control. Then everyone involved could enjoy this very special time in their lives,

Do you have advice for the young mother? Leave a comment below.

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September 17, 2012 at 8:33 am
(1) Penny says:

Your advice is right on. I had this problem with my mother-in-law, but as soon as I felt I had a solid partnership with my husband in our approach, I felt much better.

September 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm
(2) Grandma Kc says:

You and Penny are both right! I think it helps to present a united front to all of the relatives — and it is good practice for the united front they should show the child when the time comes!

September 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm
(3) Grandma who is trying says:

Did anyone ever think that the new Grandmother to be is excited and trying to be helpful or finally able to have something of mutual interest to visit with the daughter in law on? Why oh why is the Mother-in-law so often “meddling” or “interfering” or indeed even a problem to be figured out when she may just be making conversation?

September 17, 2012 at 10:37 pm
(4) Virginia says:

As a “nana” for 5 months now, my experience is that I only offer advice when it is sought by either my son or his wife….they want to be the parents to their child and I understand that!

September 17, 2012 at 10:38 pm
(5) Menow says:

My mother-in-law was very excited about having grandchildren. Mine was the first one. She was trying to help me in telling me what to do, but I thought I did know all I needed to know except for one thing: she had children before me. Once that was accepted, it was out of the way from my part. I let her say whatever she wanted. To my surprise, I learned few things here and there. I could have started a war with her, but why? She was the mother of the man I loved and did a fantastic job of raising a beautiful person. We had a nice relationship. She loved her grandkids and they have the best memories about her.

My own experience as a child with my grandparents was pitiful. My mom hated my dad’s family and could not care less about hers. We the children grew without them for many years. I met my maternal grandma at 16. I loved her so much, but she died 5 years after, and it broke my heart. I wanted my children to at least know and love a great lady. My mom was not a great grandma, but I tried to have her included. I don’t know why in this day and age women pulled themselves away from their in-law’s family. Is it so bad to let her say what ever she wants and just do what ever you want? Keep the peace.

Think about the grandkids to come. Don’t you want them to have great memories of their grandmother?
Just my 2 cents.

September 18, 2012 at 5:56 am
(6) granny annie says:

Thankfully I respected my mother and my mother-in-law’s greater knowledge and appreciated all the help and advice they gave me. I was terrified to bring home our newborn son and don’t know what I would have done without them. The day my mother-in-law left me on my own, I stood over this precious bundle of curiosity and cried buckets.

September 18, 2012 at 10:24 am
(7) Joyce says:

I agree with the theme presented by everyone else here, that making an effort to keep the peace will only benefit you and your child. If a “real” problem presents itself, I would suggest a loving conversation with M-in-L that begins with, “You did such a beautiful job with your own children, and I have a lot to learn from you, BUT I have a few ideas of my own and I would love to try them out. Can we work together on this?”

September 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm
(8) Gwen Bullock says:

My mother used to say, “Un-asked for advice is the definition of criticism.” I guess this holds up between mother’s and daughter-in laws too.

September 19, 2012 at 1:02 am
(9) Connie says:

It is difficult from both sides if you don’t have a good relationship to begin with. I’ve been the new mom with the terrible imposing mother in law and a husband who sided with her; and now I’m the mother in law who would love to give advice 24/7 on everything! You must be on the same page with your husband!

The thing is, I’m older and I feel that I am the one who should be more responsible for the relationship with my daughters in law. I would hope I’ve learned a thing or two about relationships by now! I work hard at LISTENING to them and reading between the lines when we talk. I try to be careful with any suggestions and not give more than one if it’s not received well. I look for ways to truly be helpful by asking them if there is anything I can do for them and ask how they want it done. My younger DIL had a talk with me once. She said that any time I said anything, even if it was a truth like the baby has a fever, she heard it as shes a bad mom from my point of view. I told her that I was amazed at what a good mom she was and that I never meant that; anything she heard from me would be praises not put downs. I also told her to please come to me with any issues she had so we could talk it out.

Then I strive to make her being able to approach me easy and I listen! No matter if I feel I’m right or wrong, I always apologize first and ask what she needs from me. If she needs me to keep my mouth shut I will because if I don’t have a good relationship with her, I put a strain on us all. Relationships are keys to stronger families. If you do them right, you will win every time. And the grand kids will be the better for it.

Yes this was mostly for the mother in laws! But Daughter in laws, we are not so bad and there is a lot of help and things that will benefit you if we can get along. Let’s all not be so easily offended.

January 1, 2013 at 8:13 am
(10) Jan Baer says:

I like all the suggestions. The situation reminds me that if I have a negative response to comments of important people in my life, my response is probably coming out of my own personal vulnerabilities, “unfinished business,” as some would say. As a grandmother now, I remind myself that a young parent comes with vulnerabilities out of their experiences with their own upbringing, allowing me to be more thoughtful in dealing with my own childen and daughters- and sons-in-laws!

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