Did you and your mother-in-law get along
great until you gave birth to your first baby? Does it seem like she
won't leave you and your family alone and that she is trying to take
over your life? Life transitions can bring on new problems in old
(once stable) relationships. How can you help to ease the conflict?
As a new mother, you are at the stage of development
in the family life cycle in which it is essential that you and your
partner create a boundary around your nuclear family. It is very important
that you and your partner align loyalties.
You ARE the wife and mother in this family. It is
important that your authority be recognized in the extended family.
Instead of feeling trapped, find your voice as a mother. You and your
husband set the guidelines in the family. Explain to your mother-in-law
that you appreciate her as a grandmother. Ask her how she would like
herself referred to. Would she like your child to call her grandma,
nana, or some other appropriate endearment?
Let your partner know that you do not expect him to
love his mother any less, but that you are now the center of his life
and need his support. It is his job in the beginning to talk with
his parents about boundaries you two have set. He must show his mother
that he supports you in your parental authority and require that you
be accepted as his wife and the mother of his child. Not saying anything
for fear of his mother's reaction will only worsen the situation and
can reinforces her fantasy that you are merely a "third wheel."
Visit your in-laws only as often as you are comfortable,
and allow their participation in your baby's life at the level that
feels right to you. With your partner's support, your mother-in-law
will come to accept her natural place as a grandmother. And in time,
you will feel increasingly secure in your position as a mother.
Remember, too, that your mother-in-law is adjusting
to sharing her child with his new family. If she is living vicariously
through you it may have much to do with her loneliness in her own
marriage. You cannot change this for her.
Though there may be some reaction from your mother-in-law
as she adjusts to grandmotherhood, she will most certainly get over
any feelings of rejection if you continue to include her in your life.
Send her cards, invite her to visit you and the baby even if, for
a period of time, she falls silent. Consider her frailty, but do not
take negative "cues" from her. Act with the maturity of your new identity
as mother and treat your mother-in-law with patience until she comes
around. You and your whole family will benefit!