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I have a live-in mother-in-law who criticizes everything I do!

Tagged as: Family, Health, Marriage problems, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (27 May 2013) 8 Answers - (Newest, 28 May 2013)
A female United States age 30-35, anonymous writes:


This is my first post. please be kind to me and excuse me for long boring passage.

I have a mother in law who criticizes everything I do or say. It goes from a simple recipe to how to take care of my baby. She lives in with us. My husband does not tell anything about it due to her old age and she does not have a husband. My husband does not support me. Other day i was talking to my sis in kitchen over phone for 15 mins at night as she lives in a different country in different time zone. she yelled at me right when i was speaking to my sis. my sis heard her and asked me what was the issue. I said nothing and said i will talk to you later. I feel bad and worried that my sis will tell my mom. I don't want others to know about my issues (since this is anonymous forum, i just want advice). She tells me everything i do is wrong. The way I dress bothers her. I wear pretty decent clothes. she wants me to wear ethnic outfits and not modern clothes like jeans, t-shirt. pray god more often (everyday). i am not so spiritual and it does not come naturally to me. she says i am not a good mom (hurtful). when she has her own faults like mindless tv watching. all the soap operas, dramas etc.. she switches on the tv for several hours a day (at least 8 -10 hrs - i am not joking). i cant stand the tv noise especially the emotional dramas. I stay at my room with baby. she says i don't bring my baby out much often!!! when baby's out with her in couch, she makes him watch tv too. baby has got addicted to tv and music.. he cries whenever i try to block him from watching tv.. he's only 7 months!! i used to work in pretty decent job as software developer with very good pay and I had to quit my job for baby. I don't want to put him in daycare. ever since i left the job, she tells me i am no good at being a housewife and i need to go back to work. she used to be pretty tolerant while i was working. now she changed and so is her son. nothing has changed since I left my job in terms of my behavior. I am same old person. but seeing me at home a lot makes her blood boil to lash out something at every little chance. i don't want to be friends with her. she is twice my age and her ideals are different. also i have the advantage of looking up the internet for anything i need. for instance, she has an aluminium cooker. she cooks food in it often. I have made changes in my household to avoid any toxic cooking material like non stick cookware or aluminium. when i told her that food reacts with aluminium and we should not use it, she says she has done that for years and no one has died from doing that!! i don't know how to deal with her.. i give her valid arguments. Not like being rude. just from health stand point. she has counter argument for every valid point i make. I know this may sound silly to some people but dealing with her on day to day basis is really horrific. i have to feel pressured and stressed at my own house (i pay half of the rent/ full utilities as it is registered under my name). please give me some good advice.

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A female reader, Tisha-1 United States + , writes (28 May 2013):

Tisha-1 agony auntYou stopped eating as a form of protest? That sounds like TV drama as well.

You are an adult woman who chose to enter an arranged marriage. That's not a common form of courtship and marriage here in the US, it sounds more like India. If you are far away from home and living in the US, you do realize you have the right to live in your own place, especially as you seem to be financially able to pay rent? You say you pay half the rent and all the utilities. So you have your own funds.

Go find a place with a mother-in-law apartment, move your family into that.

Notify your mother-in-law that you will entertain criticisms from her every other day at precisely 4:15pm until 4:30pm and from 4:30pm to 4:45pm you will offer your thoughts on why your choices work for yourself.

Do not act like a child. Starving yourself is a childish tantrum tactic and made you look foolish to your logical and rational husband. That is emotional blackmail and manipulative behavior, akin to "I'm going to hold my breath until I turn blue!"

Your mother-in-law is like a relic from a past age. I feel kind of sorry for her. She has to live with her son and his family because she has no one else in her life. That's a pretty sad state of affairs. She has no one she can apply all her brilliant ideas on, except you.

I would organize some gatherings of old ladies like her, get her some social life, get her out and about. There are senior day camps and activities all over the place. Get her out of the house a couple times a week. There are all kinds of volunteer opportunities, the United Way lists local volunteer events if you check out their web site.

You should be getting out of the house yourself; I see mother/baby groups gathering at some local places around here. Get into a walking group or a baby yoga group or something that interests you. If you get out of the house a couple times a week with the baby then you'll feel less oppressed as well.

But I still think the separate living quarters would be most effective. You have a voice in where you life, you are one half of a partnership. So act like an adult when tackling this issue. You sound overly influenced by your mother-in-law's drama. Get out and get some perspective, okay?

Good luck.

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A female reader, largentsgirl89 United States +, writes (28 May 2013):

largentsgirl89 agony auntTalk to your husband, does he know the extent of her critisicm? Tell him that you can't and won't live like this, this is your house, you pay half the rent and you have a baby. You shouldn't be stressed out in your own home.

Consider putting momma in with another relative or in with a nursing home where she can have her own space and people her own age.

If it were me I would stick to my guns, wear whatever I want. Ignore her "advice" on how to raise my baby and what and how to cook.

I find it ridiculous that your husband won't say anything to his mother.

Is she unable to live on her own?

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A reader, anonymous, writes (28 May 2013):

This is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Thank you all for your great advice, time and patience.

I feel so much relieved now that there are people to listen to my woes :) I don't speak about these things to my sis or mom as they get worried as I live far from home. I actually did not eat for couple of days as protest and kept quiet and was broody. my husband finally took notice. I made a note of every argument and told him that it was not my fault. He spoke with his mom.

My MIL made some noise and cried and made some scene as she has high BP issues (just like the tv drama). She said it was her fault that she chose me as DIL. We had an arranged marriage. I do love my husband. He's nice and logical about most things except for his mom. My husband said she must not criticize me again. She did not like what she heard but told that she will keep quiet and was like "i cant even tell her good advice?? How intolerant can she be? we obeyed our elders.. girls these days have become so arrogant and talking back".

In the end, my husband told me to take a blind eye and ignore the insults and also be respectful to her due to her age and she has no one else except us to take care of her.

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A male reader, Relationship.Chef United States +, writes (28 May 2013):

Relationship.Chef agony auntThere are two problems here.

First is, why does your mother-in-law act this way?

Second, what can you do about it?

First issue is easy.

Your mom-in-law likes your husband much better than she likes you and doesn't think that you deserve him. Voicing that to her might set things straight and convey to her that you understand her. At the same time it might blow up in your face. (Sorry, but there's not enough information in your post to make an accurate assessment).

Second, what should you do?

Put your foot down!

You have three people to take care of, yourself and two dependents (your child and your husband). She only has one dependent (her son). Trust me, we're all little boys to our moms.

Bottom line, your priorities take precedence over her whims. If she doesn't like it, tell her to either shut it or take a hike. If that doesn't work out, your last option is to move out (with your kid, leaving your husband to deal with his mother).

Btw, don't force your husband to choose between his family and his mother. It will not play the way you'd want it to.

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A female reader, Tisha-1 United States + , writes (28 May 2013):

Tisha-1 agony auntYou are in the US. The ethnic outfit here IS jeans and a t-shirt. If she's from the old country, and she's watching the soaps here and the dramas, that will eventually sink in, and become normal to her. Though I think they get a bit dressed up in the soaps.

If you are renting, then it's time to find a rental with a mother-in-law apartment. Start looking. Take the baby out with you and hire a good real estate agent. Find one that has a locking door between the residences. She will have to ring the doorbell if she wants to be in your space.

Tell your husband the house is too small for you all. He will have to pick: you and the baby and him or his mother and him in the same living space.

Get a place with separate living quarters for his mother.

Oh, and as it's your kitchen? Throw away the aluminum pans. Tell her you donated them to a nursing home, and that you needed the space.

It's the US. It's your household. Make the changes you need to make. Smile a lot. Nod your head. Smile some more. Do what you need to do to take care of your family. Invest in ear plugs. Smile some more.

And let your family know what you are experiencing. Part of your lack of resourcefulness may well be feeling isolated and stuck. If you have someone to whom you can vent, you won't feel like you are walking on eggshells.

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A female reader, eyeswideopen United States +, writes (28 May 2013):

eyeswideopen agony auntSweetheart there is nothing you can do if your husband will not support you. If he refuses to tell his mother to back off your options are very limited. All I can advise is you has a very calm sit down chat with you husband and tell him how unhappy you are with the current situation. Make no threats but if he totally refuses to see your side then you will have to weigh your options. Stay or leave.

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A female reader, Caring Aunty A Australia +, writes (28 May 2013):

Caring Aunty A agony auntYou cannot teach an old ethnic dog new tricks; she is set in her ways and wishes to remain ignorant about cook-ware. But what is more disappointing is that your Mother-In-Law is ungrateful for the blessing of having such a lovely Daughter-In-Law who accommodates her.

If she continues to criticise you, it’s like she’s criticising (her) Gods blessing onto her! That is; the one God that gave her a place for shelter, a family and grandchild to love and be loved, so as not to be a lonely mournful widow (or a divorcee). He has given her these blessings to enjoy and be thankful. He did not give her permission to criticise him, by belittling and disrespecting you! Perhaps you could remind her of this, given that she prays etc. it may just knock some sense into her?

If she wants to counter argue that; tell her to take it up with the Man above himself!

Plus your husband perhaps wise not to interfere every time this happens should still say something, support and encourage you before all Hell breaks loose. He should also be mindful that you are working the greatest (priceless) job of all – being a Mother!

Take Care – CAA

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (28 May 2013):

That sounds utterly horrendous... Kudos to you for managing this long!

First off, I would try and talk to your husband about the situation. Does she have to live under your roof? Just explain that her behaviour at times can be overwhelming and her comments unnecessary/hurtful. Surely to goodness he'd listen to you?

I would tell your sister about this situation and how you feel, as she could prove to be someone you can vent to etc. You could also say not to tell your mum, though it may be useful they know what's going on.

I would also be tempted to ask your mother-in-law for a quiet word about how she is coming across to you. Explain that, whilst you appreciate her insight about matters such as mothering, the way to dress and how to cook, that it for the most part is unhelpful and you do not feel like its fostering a positive relationship with her. Explain that its your roof she's under and therefore despite being half her age she should still show respect to you. Your baby is YOUR child and you will therefore call the shots on what he is allowed to do (ie. no more than 1 hour of TV etc).

It sounds to me like she has a void in her life from lacking a husband and wants to use your baby as a means to fill that void. That may explain the hostility and the eagerness for you to return to work.

All the best, hope this has helped!

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