Your relationship with your mother-in-law is an important one, so it’s worth navigating the inevitable hurdles and make it the most positive it can be
The mother-in-law jokes make you cringe. Until you notice yours personifying one of the clichés. Whether yours fits the bill or is an absolute gem, there’s no denying that your partner’s mum will have an important relationship with your baby.
And being gran is a very important role for her.
Making your relationship with your mother-in-law (MIL) work is a win-win for all the family and you never know, she could actually be a great source of support and advice.
And even if you’re on shakey ground, there are ways to make the relationship work for your family life.
Be honest about your relationship
By acknowledging the state of your relationship with your MIL, you can work on it – if needs be – in the best way.
‘Even in pregnancy, consider where you are and be honest with yourself if there are problems,’ says psychologist Sandra Wheatley. ‘Then look ahead to how you’d like things to be in future when your baby‘s here, so you can start building on that.’
Even simple things like making a conscious effort to take a deep breath and laugh off her comments about your slightly burnt lasagne can go a long way.
Perhaps she’s suggested a better way of feeding your baby or let your toddler watch too much TV. It’s frustrating, but your mother-in-law isn’t a mind reader and any interference is more than likely because she’s trying to help.
‘Think about what you can let go and what bothers you enough to say something,’ says Sandra. ‘But always show her respect – she may be able to give useful advice and you want this relationship to be a positive one.’
Make your boundaries clear
If you want to let your MIL know something bothers you or that you’d rather she follow some ground rules you’ve set with your baby, explain your reasoning.
Tell her you appreciate she’s trying to help, but that you don’t want your toddler eating sweets in the afternoon because he won’t eat dinner.
‘That helps her understand where you’re coming from and is more constructive than getting angry,’ says Sandra.
Make quality time with your mother-in-law
She’s going to be a big part of your life from now on, so cultivate that relationship and work out the best ways to spend time together. Lunch or a day out with your baby could benefit you both, and chances are she’ll appreciate the gesture.
Plus, you’ve both got a favourite topic in common – how cute your baby is!
Don’t use your partner as a go-between
It can be so tempting to ask your partner to be the go-between and relay what you want his mother to know, but it makes for less awkwardness and tension if you speak to her.
‘It’s important for you to establish your own relationship with your mother-in-law,’ says Sandra.
And remember that every relationship, whether with partners, family or friends, has its ups and downs. That’s life, so just try and build the most positive bond you can.