The other woman: Your mother-in-law

The other woman: Your mother-in-law

It might be men who usually crack the mother-in-law jokes but as Stephanie Turner discovers, the prickliest relationships are between women and their mothers-in-law

mother in law
 

A study of hundreds of families has revealed that nearly two-thirds of women admit that friction with their husband’s mother had caused them long-term unhappiness and stress. Dr Terri Apter, a psychologist and senior tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge University, carried out research for her book, What Do You Want From Me? over two decades and found that women frequently accused their mothers-in-law of showing unreasonably jealous, maternal love towards their sons. What’s more, the frosty relations were found to be mutual as mothers-in-law complained that they had been isolated and excluded by their sons’ wives.

Dr Apter says: ‘Mother and daughter-in-law conflict often emerges from an expectation that each is criticising or undermining the other. As they struggle to achieve the same position in the family (primary woman), each tries to establish or protect their status and feels threatened by the other.’ Another problem we often encounter is that, while you choose your partner, you get no say in the in-laws. A mother-in-law can launch a look of disapproval, disgust and disinterest like no other. You are dismissed with an eyebrow, a sigh or a chuckle. She is the ultimate button-pusher. It can be a very charged situation – so much so that one of my friends even has a horror theme ring tone allocated to her mother-in-law so she can be warned whenever she phones. Another tells me: ‘I get a weird thrill of excitement if I know she’s coming round, like the adrenalin rush before a fight.’

Supporting role
But while comedians love to poke fun at the mother-in-law – ‘Take my mother-in-law...no really, take her’ – research has shown that one in three mums rely on their mum or mother-in-law to help with childcare when they return to work or further education. So, whether we like it or not, we need them. And if cultivated properly, your MIL can become a powerful and beneficial force in your life, as well as a great support network for your family. When I had a baby my mother and I fell out all the time over the way I did things, but my mother-in-law was really helpful.

It might come as a surprise to realise that you have a choice whether to allow her to make you miserable and angry, or to be your friend. This becomes easy once you accept that you can’t change her, but you can change yourself. As the saying goes: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

RELATED ARTICLES

Related Articles

Find the sport perfect for your tot
Baby
Find the sport perfect for your tot
Find the sport perfect for your tot Getting active is important for all...
Four mums on baby weight
You and your body
Four mums on baby weight
Four mums on tackling the baby weight Wonder if you'll ever get back in your...
Parenting rules: What worked for us
Parenting
Parenting rules: What worked for us
Parenting rules: What worked for us Ever wondered what goes on at home with the...
Social media challenge for new mums
Parenting
Social media challenge for new mums
The social media challenge for new mums Do other mums' chirpy baby updates ever...

the-cutest-trick-or-treater-aroundFashion

The cutest trick or treater around

What's your tiny tot wearing this halloween?
take-your-little-one-swimming-for-national-baby-swimming-weekBaby

Take your little ones to the pool for National Baby Swimming Week!

Take the kids to your local pool for a splashing time
top-ten-sleep-tips-for-babiesBaby

Top ten sleep tips for babies

Soothe a wakeful baby to sleep with these tips from Sarah Beeson
win-one-of-three-super-yummies-discovery-packsWin

Win one of three Super Yummies Discovery Packs!

We’ve got three exciting Super Yummies Discovery Packs up for grabs.
win-one-of-15-doc-mcstuffin-toy-hospital-sets-worth-over-75-eachWin

Win one of 15 Doc McStuffin Toy Hospital Sets, worth over £75 each

Enter our competition for your chance to win one of 15 prizes
win-a-dreambaby-sparkling-christmas-bundleWin

WIN a Dreambaby sparkling Christmas bundle!

Win all these products to help make life with little ones safer and easier