How Real Moms Handle a Meddling Mother-in-Law
Dealing with an interfering mother-in-law doesn't have to end in an all-out war. Learn how to keep your relationship intact with these real mom tips
Got a mother-in-law who’s a bit of a parenting know-it-all? We’ve already asked experts to explain why some MILs feel the need to engage in parenting one-upmanship—or better yet, one-upmomship. But what’s the best way to cope with this unsolicited—and unwanted—advice? Laugh it off? Pretend you’re hard of hearing? Or just give in? Check out comebacks and coping strategies other new moms have used to keep the peace—and their sanity.
For example, when San Francisco mom Julie T.’s MIL began pressuring her about using formula and starting her four-month old on solids, although Julie had made it clear she was committed to exclusive breastfeeding until six months, “it became a mommy showdown,” she says.
Until, Julie finally had a lightbulb moment.
“My mother-in-law is addicted to The Dr. Oz Show and sees her own doctor at the drop of a hat. As devious as I may sound saying this, I used this little bit of knowledge to my advantage in finally ending the constant nagging about breastfeeding once and for all.”
Her strategy? Get her mother-in-law in front of a computer and then count on Dr. Oz to do to the rest. “I found articles written by Dr. Oz on the benefits of breastfeeding and some news clips where he extols extended breastfeeding. So one afternoon, after another round of, ‘are you still breastfeeding?,’ I very casually said, ‘I wonder what Dr. Oz thinks about this?’”
Julie recalls taking out her laptop, punching a few keywords into Google, and reading the articles side-by-side with her MIL. “She was as mesmerized as I had hoped,” Julie recalls. “And more importantly, seeing her go-to expert approve breastfeeding made her completely back off. We haven’t spoken about it since.”
San Diego mom Erin Kaese calls this approach to ending mother-in-law strife “referring it out.” Kaese, who is also an editor of an online travel website, Athletic Minded Traveler, uses her web savvy to find expert articles backing up her parenting methodologies. Whenever she is called into question by her mother-in-law, she simply sends her an article. “Hit up the experts and send the link!” she says.
A low-tech approach can also work using this tactic. “When I get any flack at all for how we are raising our child, my response is usually something along the lines of, ‘Gee, your suggestion is interesting, but our doctor thinks it is a good idea that we’re doing it this way.’ Nobody trumps the doctor! I would say this comeback works about 99 percent of the time to stop my mother-in-law in her tracks,” says Nevada mom Trina Brown.
What else can help?
Silence Is Golden: Mom blogger Christina Anderson of Land of Babies tries to handle unwanted advice from her MIL by letting her silence speak volumes. “When she talks about how kids should eat and points out perceived shortcomings in our daughter’s diet. I’ll generally smile and act like I’m listening, and then say something encouraging like, ‘I’ll definitely consider that Mom. Thanks for the information.’”
Like water wearing away rock, Anderson then says nothing else and turns her attention to making sure her daughter is eating the food she has served her. “This approach lets my mother-in-law know—in a nice way—that we respect her but most likely will not act upon her advice.”
Hug It Out: When Anderson’s serene approach doesn’t work, she’s also ready with a back-up. “If I feel like I’m at my rope’s end and her comments are bordering on what I would consider obnoxious, I’ll walk over to my mother-in-law, give her a hug and tell her, ‘Thank you so much for your advice. I know you care and we care about you. But we’ve got it all taken care of.’ At that point she’ll usually quiet down a bit,” says Anderson, who also admits that her husband is not a fan of this approach. “He thinks it’s passive aggressive, but it really works!”
Plead for Mercy: You’ve smiled, you’ve been firm, you’ve said nothing, you’ve showed her clips of Dr. Oz… and your MIL still can’t stop dispensing her pearls of parenting wisdom. At this point, say moms, it may be time to ask for a truce. As Kaese says, “Use this phrase often because it really works: ‘We are doing the best we can!’”
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