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I’m having issues with my mother-in-law.

I don’t have a great relationship with my mother-in-law. Can I say something without making it a big deal?

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Dear Is This Normal,

I don’t have a great relationship with my mother-in-law and she keeps saying “mommy’s so mean” to my one year old. For example, if I try feeding my son something new that he doesn’t particularly like or if I take something away from him that he shouldn’t have she will say “mommy’s so mean” I hope she’s just joking but I really don’t want my son hearing that! Can I say something without making it a big deal or should I just let it slide?

Signed,
Not Mean Mommy

Dear NOT mean mommy,

Oh mama, this is so incredibly NOT ok, I can’t even put it into words! I’ve read my fair share of nightmare in-laws stories, and no matter how many I read, they will never not blow my mind. I just cannot fathom what makes people think they can behave this way! Especially when it comes to actual family. You have every right to be upset, and you have every right to be concerned about the message your mother-in-law is sending your son. He may only be a year old, but kids at that age are sponges, and if this continues, it’s only a matter of time before he starts repeating or emulating the same behaviors he sees from his grandma. You and your partner need to nip this in the bud, and NOW.

Have you talked to your partner about their mother’s remarks? You mentioned not having a great relationship with her already, and it sounds like there’s more going on than just this latest example. If that’s the case, you and your partner need to get on the same page and deal with this together. Since she’s your partner’s mother, I would suggest they be the one to address it with her initially; I hear you on not wanting to make it a big deal, and it doesn’t sound like you and her are in a good place to hash this out yourselves. So your partner needs to sit down with their mom, and make it very clear that her insults and criticisms of you (especially in front of your child!) will not be tolerated. And then, once that boundary is set, you both need to present a united front and say something anytime she gets out of line. If she can’t handle that? Well, that’s too bad. If she continues to behave this way, then your next step may be to limit her interactions with her grandson. When you put it to her that way, chances are she’ll get the hint and knock it off. Stop calling you mean to your son, or she doesn’t get to see her grandson anymore! Shrug emoji, she’ll deal or you’ll deal with it.

I know you know this, but in case her hurtful words have started to seep into your conscience, let me make something very clear: you are not a mean mommy. You are not mean for wanting your son to try new foods, or expecting him to follow rules and listen when you tell him to do or not do something! That’s not being mean – that’s called being a parent. Jokes, in moderation, and in the proper context, can be fun for grandparents to crack, but they still need to respect your rules as the parent and support your parenting choices and decision. If your mother-in-law cannot do that, then I’m sorry, she shouldn’t be allowed to be around your son and be given ample opportunity to undermine you and your authority as his parent.

This is one of those things that you should make a big deal out of – if you don’t, it will only get worse, and as your son gets older and continues to hear this type of nonsense from your mother-in-law, he will start to exhibit the same behavior toward you as she does. Hard line on this one – don’t back down. It’s for your benefit, and your son’s benefit, that this be addressed ASAP. You’re not a mean mommy, but your mother-in-law is certainly acting like one, and it needs to end.

Time to Get Mean (With Your MIL),

Is This Normal

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