Audrey is a mother to a 15-year-old and a newborn baby. She probably should have taken into account who she was marrying (Osher Günsberg) much earlier, as she’s far more comfortable behind the camera as a freelance hair and makeup artist, than a TV host’s wife who doesn’t know how to work her angles for any on-camera duties.
Audrey loves to cook, decorate cakes, gardening, DIY and is very handy with a flat-pack, few of which you would pay her to do for you, but she’d happily give it a shot for free.
My mother-in-law won’t stop criticising how I parent my two children, 5 and 2.
I’ve always known that my mother--in-law was a very strong, opinionated woman - and I respect her for that. She’s an extremely loving grandmother, full of life and so enthusiastic about my kids’ futures.
At the beginning of my relationship with my husband, she also seemed to be my biggest cheerleader but ever since I became a mother, her constant, passive-aggressive jibes about ‘how I treat her precious grandchildren’ have started flooding in and they’re driving me around the bend.
My husband, kids and I have recently had to move in with for a few months while we wait for our new house to be ready. While I’m extremely grateful for her generosity in letting our hectic brood invade her personal space, Im beginning to wish we’d just rented out a unit for ourselves instead.
I can’t even go into the kitchen to get a glass of water without her making a snide comment about something I’ve done that day. She has to have her say on everything from the ‘unhealthy’ food I make them for dinner to how I get them down to bed at night and how ‘I’m not teaching them the importance of sharing’.
How do I tell her to back off without causing an all-out family war?
Dear Bossed Around Mum,
You’re in a situation that many parents have found themselves in, and it may require herculean strength not to take the bait and bite when your mother-in-law is putting her unwarranted two cents worth in at every turn you take. Especially since you and your family are living under her roof while waiting for your house to be ready.
The biggest thing to remember is that this isn’t your problem. You are not the creator of her behaviour and it’s unfair that you are suffering through it. There is obviously something MORE going on with your MIL that would lead her to be treating you this way.
You’re bearing the brunt of her anger and resentment by the sounds of things. While that doesn’t excuse her behaviour, it can make it a little easier to cope with when you’ve got that in the back of your mind. I wonder what is going on in her life that makes her feel that this is ok? Has she many friends? Is she lonely? Does she feel like she’s losing relevance in her family now that she’s a grandmother and the duties that would normally fall to her as a mother are now the responsibility of her son’s wife? Again, this is not for you to concern yourself with, but it may help put some perspective on things for you.
The best way, unfortunately, to deal with someone who is treating you in a passive/aggressive or even outright confrontational way, is to be the absolute nicest, most respectful person that you can be. There is no one harder to argue with than someone who is not taking the bait and arguing back.
I’ve had reasonable success with this tactic of “out-nice-ing” people. Five years ago when Osher and I were still dating, I went to visit him in LA and I was faced with a situation where “out-nice-ing” came in handy.
Osher was taking me around a gathering, introducing me to his friends, their partners and children, and one such friend of his refused to shake my hand or even acknowledge me. Needless to say that shocked me, and then pissed me right off! Instead of getting aggravated and leaving this person alone, I made it my mission that day to take every opportunity to be nice to them. “Can I get you another drink?”; “Would you like to try some vegan sausage rolls?”; “Dessert’s ready over there, please help yourself” etc, etc.
It’s hard to ignore someone who insists on getting in your face, especially when other people are around. Eventually this person relented and within a couple more meetings, we were friends and they’d even seek me out to chat!
You can use this tactic to your advantage too. It will not be easy. Your self control will get a workout, but it will help showcase how negatively your MIL is treating you and hopefully make it harder for her to continue to do so. Keep your side of the street clean, despite the rubbish being left on it, and you should be able to avoid a family drama.
Living with your MIL is not a permanent situation and while you are living there, it will be easier to keep the peace by limiting your reaction to that of polite appreciation for her advice but a reminder you and your husband are happy with the routines you’ve got established for your family. If she insists on continuing with the snide comments, ignore, ignore, ignore. Then take yourself to the gym, put on some boxing gloves and let the boxing bag have it!
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