How to improve your relationship with your daughter-in-law
The problem: ‘She’s pushing me out of my son’s life’
My son has been with his wife for five years and I’ve never had an easy relationship with her. She is controlling, he gives in to her demands for an easy life and it makes me angry. She’s never been warm towards me and I always feel like I’m in the way at their house. I look after 11-month-old son Johnny once a week to help cut down childcare costs. I love the time I spend with my grandson, but she makes me feel I never do anything right. She leaves me lists of his routine, which I find patronising, goes mad if I bring over cakes, or don’t dilute his fruit juice, or help out with chores because they’re not done ‘her’ way. I feel I’m being pushed out, even though I’m only trying to help. How can I make things better between us? Joyce, 62, York
The solution: Challenge your thoughts to build a healthy relationship
Nothing I ever do is good enough
Daughter-in-laws often subconsciously feel the need to mark out their territory by showing their husband’s mum how they run their house differently. This could be by casting aside your way of doing things or rejecting the grocery brands that you have bought them in favour of others, but you need to remember this isn’t a personal attack on you. It may be that your daughter-in-law is feeling threatened by your close relationship with your son and your strong maternal instinct and therefore is trying to prove that she is good enough.
‘My son’s forgotten about me since she’s come along’
Since the moment your son was born you’ve been the primary woman in his life, the person he always turns to first. Now that he is married, it’s his wife that he phones first to tell his good news to and it’s his wife that he turns to when he’s upset or ill. This may make you feel pushed aside but you must remember that it is not your daughter-in-law’s fault and it’s nothing against you. Your son has found a wife that makes him happy and his shift in priorities is perfectly natural. If you were to ask your mother-in-law, she would probably tell you that she suffered some of the same feelings when you first married her son.
They don’t have time for me
Fill the time that you used to spend mothering your son trying out new activities, finally taking up that hobby you always talked about or seeing more of the world. If you find new ways to make your life fulfilling, you’ll be much less likely to find fault with your son’s new life.
I never feel welcome at their house
If you regularly drop-by for a cup of tea or just to see how everyone is you need to stop. Although these visits are more than likely completely innocent, to your daughter-in-law they may seem invasive and she will feel like you’re checking up on her. Next time wait to be invited over and you’ll probably feel much more welcome.
She thinks I’m a useless mother
If your daughter-in-law leaves you a list of instructions on how to look after your grandchildren, try not to see this as an attack on your parenting abilities. If she honestly didn’t think you were capable of looking after a child, she wouldn’t have left hers with you. It is much more likely in these sorts of situations that she is trying to be helpful and prove to you how organised she is rather than intentionally making you feel worthless.
She uses me for baby-sitting
As much as you love looking after your grandchildren, it’s possible that you’ll also feel under-appreciated and even used by your son and daughter-in-law from time to time. If this sounds familiar then it’s time to learn to say no. Next time they ask you if you can babysit tell them that you are busy. It will probably only take the one rejection for them to start realising just how much you do to help them and they will show their appreciation much more.