Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My mother-in-law is a psycho. She wants to spend time with my kids, but she uses the time at our house to tear through their closets and throw away baby clothes that I have saved while also telling my kids what a bad housekeeper I am.
My house is pretty clean, but she points out any little thing I’ve missed. The kids are usually miserable and tell me everything she’s said about me. She’s also super religious, but has been divorced five times, so I really don’t want any of her advice on anything.
Is there a way to cut her out of our lives without moving to another state? I read you every day and love your advice.
Norma Bates’ Daughter-in-Law
Dear NB’s Daughter-in-Law,
I applaud your optimism in thinking that moving to another state would put a stop to your mother-in-law. Unless, of course, you mean one of the non-contiguous states, in which case you may stand a chance. But since you want to stay put, let’s table that move to Alaska for now.
The solution to your situations rests in using your mother-in-law’s powers for good (i.e. babysitting and cleaning) while minimizing her potential for evil (destroying your property and er…talking to your children.)
I’m not going to tell you how to get rid of her and not just because The Mouthy lawyers are breathing down my neck. But besides such “legal technicalities,” I think that kids benefit from having a relationship with their grandparents. Even wacky ones. Is it possible that your children are miserable because they are “caught in the middle?” If so, let them know that it is okay to love their grandmother even if you (and they) do not agree with the things she does and says. Unless you think that your mother-in-law’s behavior is poisoning your children against you, try these steps.
Step One: Talk to your husband. I don’t know what’s going on, but some men get touchy when you try to eliminate members of their family behind their backs. Although, if you got rid of your husband, the mother-in-law would probably follow, so it’s something to think about. Especially if you took Kardashian vows. Discuss your concerns with your husband and get his feedback. If it is of the grunt-shrug-oh, she’s my mother! variety, let him know about Step Two.
Step Two: Talk to your mother-in-law. Tell her that you appreciate her help, but that you need to have some ground rules so that everything runs more smoothly. Ask her to agree that you and she will not discuss each other with the children. You know, because you’re adults.
Let her know that you don’t want her getting rid of any of your things. It’s a little insane that you even have to say this, but do it. Ask her if she’s willing to help you with some domestic projects while she’s watching the kids. If she is, give her something to do: organize the linen closet, polish the silver, dust the Mona Lisa, that kind of thing.
Step Three: If the first two steps don’t work, stop asking her to babysit. If she comes over uninvited, limit her visit to half an hour or so, while you are around. Make sure you are within earshot and tackle any issues as they come up head-on.
After a few weeks of Step Three, try repeating Steps One and Two again.
Hopefully, thanks to your fancy footwork, things will be smoother.