When I married my husband and decided to have children with him, I had high hopes for our relationship with both sides of our family – and all the love we’d get to share with our children. As my husband’s side is local and mine isn’t, I naively assumed our growing family would inevitably be extra close to my in-laws. I didn’t anticipate all the excess friction we’d encounter with my mother-in-law (MIL) once I became a mother myself.
As it turns out, many young families deal with MIL issues. Since sharing my own, I’ve heard numerous horror stories about MILs trampling boundaries and acting like their daughters-in-law (DIL) are invisible. Yet, somehow, expecting full access to the next generation. Whether you’re a daughter-in-law who has been disrespected repeatedly or a new grandma who can’t seem to understand why your son and DIL are keeping their space, I hope this letter – built of firsthand experience and raw emotion – resonates.
It’s My Baby and My Turn to Be the Parent
I kindly ask that you consider respecting me as your peer. And as I am a grown woman, a wife, and a mother, it’s my baby and my turn to be the parent. You had your turn. Quite frankly, it’s time for you to (politely) back off.
I Remember When We Told You We Were Expecting, and I Saw the Wheels Turning
The first words out of your mouth? “Oh, well, if it’s a girl, you MUST give her the middle name Marie. That’s what we do in my family!” But what about what we do in my family? Perhaps the family I came from? Or the new family my husband and I are creating? Maybe, just maybe, I have some names in mind for my child.
You had your turn to be the parent and name your babies. This is mine.
I Remember How You Begged to Be Allowed into My Labor and Delivery Room
You tried guilting me into saying yes by telling me about your random co-worker’s attendance for her grandchild’s birth. You know what, though? Birth isn’t a spectator sport. It’s the most vulnerable, personal, intimate moment of a mom’s life. You’ve never so much as tried to get to know me on a sincere level. So, no, you won’t be in attendance for any of my children’s arrivals.
You had your turn to call the shots for your labor and delivery experience. This is mine.
I Remember How You Tried Convincing Me to Go Back to Work, Knowing My Plans to Stay Home
Over and over, and awkwardly, in front of a room full of your extended family, you cheekily told me you’d “babysit” so I could “go back to work.” Even after being assured that it was (and still is) my dream to be home with my children. Like it or not, MIL, this is my work. This is what I’m called to do, at least for the foreseeable future. If you can’t be happy with my family’s best-case scenario playing out right before your eyes, please keep your unsolicited desires to yourself.
You had your turn to make the best decisions possible for your family. This is mine.
I Remember the Presumptuous Gift You Gave Me Before My Daughter Was Born
A baptismal cap. That she would “also have to use” as a converted handkerchief for her wedding one day because your daughter had one just like it. When her baptism was a surprise for everyone but her godparents the following summer, I imagine you weren’t pleased to see we had dressed her with a delicate baby’s breath crown instead. I still remember you yelling out, “Nobody told me about this!” in the otherwise blissful quiet of the reverent occasion. I had no words that day, and to this day, I still have none.
You had your turn to plan milestone events for your children. This is mine.
I Remember Your Boasts About Continuing Your Long-Gone Holiday Traditions with My Child
You’d finally, once again, have someone to take with you to have Easter baskets blessed at your church every Holy Saturday, you said. Not stopping to ask what I thought about that prospect, nor to consider the possibility of my family wanting to build our own traditions. Including the day before Easter. Perhaps at our own church or wherever, as our own family.
You had your turn to make memories and create family traditions in the magical, young years of your children’s lives. This is mine.
I Remember the Many Times You Told My Daughter What She “Had” to Do
“You have to eat your chicken now. Take another bite. You have to!” FYI, MIL, I don’t force my children to eat things they don’t want. I teach them to listen to their bodies and stop when satisfied.
“You have to give me a hug goodbye. Come on!” Please don’t force yourself on my child when she’s uncomfortable with your pushiness as it is.
“You have to stop crying, or else I won’t give you this toy! You can’t cry!” (Uh, yes, she can cry. Emotions are a healthy thing, MIL. I’ll make sure my children are comfortable being human; thanks.
You had your turn to set the rules for your children. To teach them boundaries and about feelings and all the things. You had your turn to choose how you wanted to speak to them. This is mine.
(And I’m proud to be doing things differently over here.)
I Remember How You Ignored Basic Boundaries Set for My Baby
During the middle of a pandemic, when you “just couldn’t help yourself,” not even two seconds after we told you not to kiss our baby. You claimed your family doctor told you RSV was “just a cold” back in the day. You rolled your eyes and laughed at our concerns. I’m curious; did you stop to rethink your behavior when my second child wound up in the ICU with RSV just over a year later? I hope you did. I really, truly hope you did.
You had your turn to look out for your babies, whatever that looked like to you. This is mine.
I Remember the Fit You Threw Upon Learning My Photos Aren’t Yours to Share
“But it’s just a photo!” you pleaded.
No, MIL, it’s not. It’s my precious baby.
You know, the one I created, carried, and brought into this world. The one I spend 24-7-365 with, advocate for, care for, and stand for. The one I am raising because, you know what, MIL? It’s the baby I am mama to. Don’t even get me started on the fact that you’ve tried to get away with being referred to as “mommy” multiple times because you “just aren’t used to the whole being called grandma thing.” Just no. No. No. A million times over, absolutely freaking not.
You had your turn. This isn’t it.
This is my baby, my motherhood, and my turn to be the parent. These are my moments and milestones to share with my children. These are my memories to make as a mom.
And, mother-in-law, as much as I’d love to have you here in our corner, I need you to realize this isn’t about you. Being a young mom is a sacred, fleeting, and cherished journey not to be messed with or stomped all over. You were there once, right?
I’m not going to allow you to take this from me. It goes by far too fast.
Don’t you remember?
Your Daughter-in-Law (Aka, The One Who’s The Mom Now)