The birth of a child is the start of a new chapter worth sharing with your loved ones. But although you value their role in your child’s life, you will surely feel that at some point, lines have to be drawn. Establishing boundaries is one of the challenges when it comes to mother-in-law problems.
Once you assert the need to have boundaries, it isn’t always well received.
One mother-in-law found herself in this situation, so she sought advice. She was devastated that she could not witness the birth of her first grandchild.
“My son, Steven, and daughter-in-law, Julia, are expecting their first child and our first grandchild next month,” she wrote. “I had what I thought was a good relationship with Julia, but I find myself devastated. “
Her daughter-in-law Julia apparently wanted only her husband and mum to be in the delivery room.
“I was stunned and hurt by the unfairness of the decision.”
The hurt mum-in-law says she was “stunned and hurt by the unfairness of the decision.”
After pleading with her son and even trying to enlist the help of her daughter-in law’s parents, she still couldn’t get her way. Aside from the fact that she was the baby’s grandma, she felt that her 40 years of experience as a nurse entitled her to be present for the birth.
“I’ve felt nothing but heartache since learning I would be banned from the delivery room,” she continued, adding that she no longer feels valued.
“I cannot bring myself to speak to Julia. I’m being treated like a second-class grandmother even though I’ve never been anything but supportive and helpful,” she writes. “How can I get them to see how unfair and cruel their decision is?”
Was this decision really “unfair and cruel”?
The mum-in-law was called out for being “entirely wrong.”
“Your daughter-in-law is giving birth, which is a pretty difficult, painful, and intimate process. She has every right to plan ahead for just how many people she wants to be in the room for that. This is not about you,” she stressed, explaining how the mum-in-law will get to be in their grandchild’s life.
“Nothing is being taken from you,” read the response. “Your daughter-in-law and your son are drawing a totally appropriate boundary, and you need to stop trying to argue with them about it. Let this go. Do not rob this moment of its joy by keeping score and demanding more.”
Mother-in-law problems: 4 Ways to set boundaries with love and respect
In the situation above, the mother-in-law was hurt because she felt excluded from an important moment. She felt it not only undermined her role as a grandmother, but her knowledge as a nurse.
Could it have been handled better? We will never know how their interaction truly went, but one thing’s for sure: in mother-in-law problems and conflicts, setting boundaries is important.
But what’s even more vital is not to burn bridges when your draw the line. Here are four ways to help make it easier.
1. Remember: be firm but don’t be mean
Boundaries are important. They don’t mean to hurt or devalue, but to allow for space to grow. It’s important to be honest, keeping in mind your MIL’s possible response based on her personality.
“Be clear, concise, yet kind. No matter how they try to manipulate you, stand your ground,” psychotherapist and author Deanna Brann tells the Huffington Post. “If they’re persistent, you may need to add consequences to whatever boundaries you have set. By letting them know in advance about boundaries and consequences, they’ll be making the choice, not you, for what happens next.”
2. Get your spouse to help
When it comes to mother-in-law problems, pushing back and setting boundaries should not be your burden alone. Your spouse has to step up sometimes and let his mum know when she is crossing boundaries.
Of course, it won’t be fair to put your spouse in the middle of the conflict. But if you try to take on the conflict yourself, you might just sacrifice your relationship with your mother-in-law. Seek your spouse’s help if you feel like your mother-in-law’s meddling is interfering with the family you’re building.
Getting your spouse to speak to his mum can ease the tension and make your mother-in-law more receptive.
3. Ask for their help
You don’t have to shower them with compliments or put on a fake smile just to make them feel better. But you can genuinely remind them of their value in simple ways. This way, they will be more open to the boundaries you want to set.
Most of the time, mother-in-law problems stem from the hurt of no longer feeling needed. One good way to do this is by asking for their help.
“Look around and find a problem in your home or family that you could ask your in-law for advice on — a cooking or investing question, for instance,” psychologist Greg Cason recommends.
“Then, go use the advice and report back about how helpful that advice was. Give lots of details,” he says. “Your in-law will start liking you more because he or she feels respected. As a result, your in-law is less likely to invade.”
4. Know when to compromise
This is easier said than done, but compromise is essential to resolving in-law conflicts. Manage your expectations and keep in mind that they might be overstepping. But they are coming from a good place.
After all, in-laws are a part of your life. Yes, you can minimise interaction, but you can’t totally shut them out. So you might as well try to achieve common ground, right? Who knows, you might end up growing closer because you established boundaries firmly but lovingly.
Let them be a part of their grandchild’s life. Not only do they have a lifetime supply of wisdom to offer, they also have boundless amounts of love and patience that will help your child grow up feeling truly valued.
Sources: Slate.com, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post
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