Controlling Mother in Law---How to Deal

Updated on September 20, 2011
K.M. asks from Daly City, CA
22 answers

I am not sure what to do anymore with my mother in law. I believe she crossed the line, but I need an outside opinion on that as well. I was out of town for a few days for my sister's bachelorette party in Cabo. My husband was also out of town for bussiness trip, so I have arranges for child care (my son is 18 months) so that Friday thru Saturday my nanny stays with him, Saturday thru Sunday--my MIL and Sunday thru Monday my parents. My MIL is very controlling and she thinks that there is nobody better who can take care of my son than her, but she only usually spends one day/weekend with him even though she does not work. Anyway, I called her from Cabo to find out how everything was going, and she was saying fine, but then she would make some sarcastic comments about my mom: she said that my mom called her and wanted to pick up my son earlier on Sudnay, but my MIL said that he will be napping, and then my MIL said sarcastically laughing about my mom how she does not care whether my son will nap or not. I let that comment go, although it did hurt my feelings that she said it to me about my mom.
I come home on Monday night, and ask my nanny how everything was, and my nanny said that my son was acting kind of restless on Monday and she told that to my MIL, so my MIL rushed to our house furious thinking that my parents did something wrong with my son. I got a bit upset with my nanny that she reported this to my MIL because she know how controlling and crazy she could be. I decided to call my MIL and find out exactly what happended and have a talk with her. So, when I asked her why she rushed to my house, she said that my parents took not such a good care of my son, by not feeding him on time, not putting him for a nap on time and got him sick, even though he was totally ok when I got home. She also said that he woke up screaming from his nap and she thinks they scared him.
I could not take it anymore,so I told her that it upsets me that she makes these comments about my parents, that they love my son as much as she does and that I want her to stop talking about my parerents like they are some kind of monsters. She said that she does not want to talk to me anymore and hung up the phone.
I called my mom this morning and told her about it, she got really upset and also said that she called my nanny and accused her of hitting my son because she saw a bruirse on his elbow. I don;t know what to do anymore and how to deal with her, the problem is that my husband is very close to his mom and he would never be on my side no matter what his mom does or says, so I am kind of all alone in this and so tired of swallowing all this crazy controlling behavior from my MIL, I wanted to talk to her but she does not want to listen to me. What do I do?

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answers from Chicago on

She would not be watching my son anymore until she learned to respect the other people that care for him (your parents). I would make it perfectly clear to your husband that he is going to need to back you up on this or he could spend alot more time with that mother of his. Men need to put their wives and kids before their parents when they are grown ups, otherwise it leads to marriage trouble.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

you know, my very 1st response was: & this would not have happened if this poor child had not been shuffled from caretaker to caretaker....while Mommy was in Cabo. But then that would have been an unkind comment & serve no purpose. & yet, here I am typing it! Whoa....

& that's my honest answer: you weren't have NO right to judge any of the caretakers for any of their actions. Yes, we are supposed to be in a position where we can trust our choices in childcare...but in the end, no one does it better than Mom. & as for that bruise....good grief! He's 18mos! Falls, bumps, bruises are a part of life.

& as for that MIL....she is part of the problem. BUT you knew she was an issue before you left! You chose to place her in the equation & that's where everything went wrong.

I feel soooo sorry for your nanny. She's having to answer to too many people, too much drama, & now being accused of hitting the child. If I were in her shoes, I'd be walking out the door! Next time, either stay home or find ONE caretaker for your child....someone who puts his welfare above all else, including the family drama.

I know this response is harsh. I do sincerely wish you a rapid resolution to your issues. & I do wish you Peace.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Charleston on

Stop letting her care for your child, and when your husband asks why, tell him because she is a manipulator, disrespects you and your parents, and that HE won't back you up when he knows his mother is in the wrong. Then tell him if he doesn't like what you just told him, to go live with his mommy. The more you allow both of them to control you, the more angry and stressed you will become and that is not good for you or your baby. Good luck. My MIL is crazy too. :)

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

If it's true that your husband "would never be on my side no matter what his mom does or says" you have much bigger problems than a controlling MIL.

I'm not suggesting that your MIL can NEVER be right - it's just odd (and scary) that your husband would always take her side.

Marital counseling - ASAP. JMO.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Don't go to Cabo?

Seriously, you don't need to deal with your MIL, your husband needs to deal with his mother! (Leave and cleave?)

And I would have never vented this to my parents--now they feel angry and hurt as well.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

From now on, only have your Nanny... care for your son.

You tell your Husband, this is the way it is.

Your Husband is married now... and should not be a Mama's boy.
That is the problem.
A Wife and his child, should be the FIRST priority.

GOOD For you in standing up to your MIL.
Keep it up.
Or you will be a doormat and secondary to your child.

YOU are the Mom. So pull rank.

Sure, your MIL is a drama-queen and very interfering and so insulting.
You know that about her.
So then, limit, the opportunities for her... to impair you and your child and your family.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

You told her what you had to. You were right to have defended your parents. If she isn't talking to you consider it a blessing. Don't involve your husband, just speak up when you have to, and try not to give her situations where she has your son by herself. She will get the hint that if she wants alone time with your son she has to play nice with you and your family.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Read "Boundaries" by Dr Henry Cloud.

Get counseling so you and your husband can come to agreement on how to handle everyone's parents.

Never ask your parents and your MIL to share child care duties ever, ever again! One or the switches part way thru.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

That's too bad that your husband doesn't support you or back you in this. I had (she's totally changed now) a crazy MIL just like what you said and my hubby stood behind me and even defended me. We stopped talking to her twice for about 6 months each time. If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't talk to her especially if she won't even let you speak. I'd decline going to her house etc. even if your hubby goes without you. You don't even have to do that every time but if things are strained, then stay away. Sharing how you feel is a great idea even if she doesn't receive it well. I found that they still listen and respond even though they'd never admit it at the time. You have to teach people how to treat you so you'll have to stay on top of her behavior and call her out on things as you see them. She'll learn. I have a great relationship with my MIL and things were really, really bad for about 5 years between me and her and about another 3 years on how she treated my girls. Now finally, things are much better between all of us. My husband works for her too so it made it worse. Thankfully, we are all doing great and we're really close to her so a lot has changed, there is hope for you, too!! Good luck! And hang in there!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I somehow knew your post was going to end with "my husband is very close to his mom and he would never be on my side". And therein lies the problem. Very frustrating because you'll always be alone in this. sorry.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Your first mistake was planning 3 caretakers for your 1 singleton child in rapid succession. What a circus that must have been for him. No wonder he was restless...

Ditto all the other great advice about managing family in the future. Comparison is poison.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I would talk to the nanny first. Tell her that she is to not give your MIL ANY information again. Then tell your husband that you have had enough of his mother's meddling. Explain to him that this is hurting your relationship with her and could hurt her relationship with your son. Let him know that it hurts your heart when she says mean and nasty things about your parents. Let him know that you certainly don't say things about his mother but that this must stop and he must be the one to stop it. If he doesn't let him know that he is hurting your relationship together and his family. I would also limit her time with DS. Also, when she starts on her hurtful comments tell her you will not listen and say goodbye and hang up. I think that is about all you can do. Good luck!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

So sorry you are having to deal with this. I'm also sorry you are having to deal with downright mean (admittedly) and judgemental comments.

I don't think the issue is that you went to Cabo and "shuffled" your baby around. You arranged for care for your son by people you trusted greatly.....his grandparents and nanny. Perhaps you split time between them because one person couldn't watch him the entire time. Or maybe because both grandparents wanted some one on one time with him. I see nothing wrong with that. He is old enough to be left for that short of a period of time with trusted people! Having said that, just because you leave your child with someone, doesn't mean you give up the right to judge the quality and type of care he is receiving.....that is utterly ridiculous! He is YOUR child and you have every right to judge and question how things were taken care of in your matter who is caring for him!

The real issue here is that your MIL is WAY controlling and needs to take a step back. She is creating drama where the isn't any and causing a tremendous amount of ill feelings. I think from now on, I would limit her babysitting time and set up some pretty strong boundaries with her.

I do feel for your nanny as she seems to be a little stuck in the middle.....she is forced to deal with your MIL and then you are putting an expectation on her to no involve your MIL in anything because you feel she should know better. It is not her job to be involved in this personal's her job to take good care of your son. Let her know you are sorry she had to deal with that and try to keep her out of it.

Another big issue is that your husband needs wake up and be able to see that you are his wife and stand up for you. It's time for him to grow up and realize that he has his family and stand up to his mother when necessary.

Good Luck to you!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Sometimes people feel that they have a "right" to do things their way--or to butt in--when we ask them for help, like babysitting for "gratis". Hence the ol' adage: There is no such thing as a free lunch. So, if you don't want her to butt in and be a control freak, a good start would be to not ask her for help you in any way. I'm not saying that she will change her stripes, but sometimes when we struggle with our boundaries with people that are, for lack of a better term, abusive, it might be hard for her to understand until she realizes you "don't need her help".

As far as your husband not backing you up, if he did, would it matter? Would her behavior change? Not excusing your husband because maybe he has his own reasons for not backing his wife because he should. As far as her bad-mouthing your parents, your husband needs to explain to her that she cannot talk ill of your family...period. His inaction is him condoning her behavior.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

She seems to have a lot of oppinions, so annoying. I would appriciate the fact she is helping out a lot and loves your child. This type of trip would have not be possible for you to go on without you MIL help. I would not be even able to consider to plan this type of getaway. Pick your battles, she means well and wants the best for your son but she does things differently than you do. she is your sons grandma and your husband's mom, you need to respect that. One day you will be a MIL, you would want your son to always have your support.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

This may sound hard to believe but your MIL is mild compared to the one I had. She was one of those who believed that she knew everything. If I was vacuuming she had a better way--she had a better way to change diapers -- she had a better way ect ect ect. And my ex was so convinced she was right he never stood up to her.
That being said....
I would get your parents and MIL and the nanny together for a talk. Allow them to confront her and her accusations and let her defend herself. She is the one that needs counseling. She needs to understand that she is not helping and if she continues to accuse others she will not be allowed to care for your son again.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I'm sorry that you are dealing with this. Does it help you at all to think about how much she apparently loves your son? I mean her heart may be in the right place, even though she's handling things all wrong.

Being a grandmother now and having my grandson live with me has awakened all kinds of feelings that I never imagined before. I want to mother my grandson. I want to control where he goes and who's he is with and I want to hold him so close. But even when he was bitten by a dog at my daughters future in-laws, I had NO rights at all to keep him home with me. He's been staying over there for weeks with the dogs roaming freely even AFTER he was bit.

I am sure your mother-in-law really BELIEVES that she's the one that can protect him when you are not there. Maybe she was abused or knows people that have been. There is probably some reason behind her fears.

You do need to talk to her when you are not so emotional. I'm sure you were very upset and a productive conversation will never be had when you are feeling protective towards your parents.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Yikes. Well, I can't see what good came out of telling your mom about what your MIL said. I know you needed to vent, but do it here. Just like I NEVER EVER tell my mom or dad -- or MIL -- if my husband and I have an argument. Anyway, your MIL sounds like a piece of work. Frankly, I would never ask her for that type of help again. Unfortunately, she pretty much screwed that one up herself. Lesson learned.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Ditto CookingMom, sorry.


Daycare sounds like your best option!



answers from Rockford on

Hmmm. I would decide MIL does not watch the child until hubby goes to counseling with me and can learn to support his wife. If he asks why MIL can't watch the child, tell him. If MIL asks why she cannot babysit, tell her you have made other arrangements for now, and since she was the one who hung up on you, you cannot have someone watch your baby who won't even talk to you. NOT HAPPENING. Then insist counseling with hubby since he will not support you at this point. That is a huge obstacle that must be overcome before you can even think about the problem with MIL. You might as well just bang your head against a brick wall if hubby is not on board with you. You will get nowhere without him.



answers from Washington DC on

I would talk to him and say that while you understand that he loves his mom, her behavior is hurting your son, his wife and his MIL. It is also making the nanny feel put in the middle. When you cannot count on everyone to play nice while you are away, you are less likely to go away. If the nanny can watch him overnights the entire week, then pay her extra and take MIL out of the picture until your son can speak for himself. Is he the only grandkid? Is she jealous of your mom? Is your DH her only son or "baby"?

A friend of mine's grandmother was so meddling that she somehow ended up with custody. I'd lay out some very clear boundaries - for your sanity and your family.



answers from Houston on

Do not let MIL watch the baby period. You also need to have a heart to heart with your hubby, its great that he is close to his mom but his relationship with you should come first and if it doesn't then you will have problems. You also do not need to try to be friends with you MIL you just need to be polite with her and not give her any info(your hubby should also no be giving personal info) or she will twist it on you, some people just don't have boundaries and I limit my time with these people. My grandma is kinda like this as she has no filter, my daughter broke her arm so she "suggested" I was not feeding her properly because obviously she was not getting enough calcium or her arm would not have broken. Eh? I had to get off the phone quickly before I got rude. We eat healthy mostly organic food too.

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