I emigrated to be with my husband and we are very happy together, living in a remote city with our infant twins, away from our families. My parents visit once a year and my husband gets on well with them.
The issue is my mother-in-law. She doesn’t visit that often but, when she does, I dread it. By the end of her trip, I am unable to interact with her andam just waiting for her to leave.
She is the same age as my mother – mid-60s – but when my parents come to visit they want to be helpful; they work so hard to give me and my husband a break from the twins. My mother-in-law came a few months after they were born and she said she thought she was coming “on holiday”, expecting to be waited on, as my husband has done for her his whole life – he was basically the parent, as she delegated everything to him.
When I told her how I felt (which was my husband’s idea), she got really upset, fled to her room and cried to my husband that I was ungrateful and she was a victim. She then refused to talk to me for rest of her stay. It was a nightmare. Although we parted on good terms, every visit since has followed a similar pattern – she arrives and tells me she is exhausted.
I don’t know why she thinks she can come on holiday to our house. It frustrates me so much. She is physically capable, but she is lazy and selfish. If someone can do something for her, she will make them.
What can I do? She will not change. I strongly dislike her.
It is OK to dislike your mother-in-law. Having read your longer letter, she sounds very difficult – just reading it made me want to scream. The friction caused by having to be with someone whose values and work ethic you neither admire nor agree with is enough to start a bushfire.
You didn’t get the mother-in-law you wanted, or probably deserve, but you are not alone. Plenty of women feel like you do. She probably has lots to say about you, too. I am on your side, though – who would visit new parents of twins and not expect to pitch in? But you are right: you are never going to change her. Repeat this to yourself; cross-stitch it on to a cushion.
So, you need to find a way to deal with her, because she is going to be in your life for the rest of hers. I like how your husband – like legions of men before him – let you tell her how you feel (does he not share your sentiments?) when what is needed is a shared approach. But you cannot change him either if he has always been the parent to his mother. Don’t let her come between you.