My mom keeps making mean comments about my wife’s parenting – how do I get her to stop?

I’ve been married to my lovely wife for 9 years, and have two children together. We both work full time and can afford some degree of help in terms of childcare/cleaning etc. My parents are fairly involved in our day to day family life and love being grandparents. That being said, they both have a tendency to spoil our kids (my mom in particular), and we’ve had to have a few chats regarding boundaries and discipline after they’ve visited or taken care of them. Recently, I’ve noticed my mom making an increasing number of comments about my wife’s input (or what she claims to be a lack of input) into both our household and raising the kids. My parents are pretty old fashioned, my mom has always been a SAHM and often shares her views on mother’s needing to be present at home with conviction. My wife’s family are far more progressive and have always encouraged both of us to find equal footing in balancing work lives and childcase, regardless of gender.
I’ve tried shutting down my mom upon a few occasions, particularly after incidents where my wife was directly involved in the conversation. She always apologizes and says she won’t say anything further, but lasts only a few days until she next makes some comment about how my wife should be home more, or how “unfortunate” it is that one of my kids currently prefers more of my attention than my wife’s. Obviously, I’m conscious of my wife’s feelings and don’t want her to constantly have to deal with the constant passing remarks. Considering I’ve tried to shut down the topic yet it’s still happening, what’s my next best shot at making my mom realize how big of an issue this is?

Hi there,

First off, I really feel for you. Navigating family dynamics is never easy, particularly when the cross-generation clash comes into play concerning differings views on parenting and household chores. It’s clear you’re deeply committed to your family, and the fact that you’re considering this an important issue is really commendable. I’ve spoken to a good few parents on the receiving end of this treatment, and many berated the fact that their partner’s were doing little to support them through it, so hats off to you!

Now, your mom is entitled to her own views and opinions. That being said, this sounds less like an issue of clashing views, and more about repeated disrespect when it comes to disrespecting your environment and decision making behind your own little family.

It’s great that you’ve tried talking to your mom about this, and it’s unfortunate that she hasn’t listened nor abided to your attempts to enforce your boundaries. As the issue keeps popping up, perhaps try a different approach. If you haven’t already, and opposed to just batting off her verbal criticisms, try sitting down with your mom again and really lay it out. Let her know how much her words are affecting your wife, that she’s inclined to keep her opinions but if she wants to continue spending time with her grandchildren, she will need to show respect to your wife and family.

Without attempting to threaten her too much, I would definitely consider voicing the fact that if she continues to ignore these boundaries and put your wife and family in an awkward position, there will need to be consequences regarding how much time she is allowed to spend with you all. It’s important that these are communicated not as a form of punishment, but rather a necessary means to protect your family.

In addition, it might also help to show that this issue isn’t just impacting your wife, but both of you, and that you’re standing united on this. Parent-in-law dynamics are often tricky, so you standing by your wife and sharing the impact of these comments will hopefully demonstrate to your mother that she is damaging more than one relationship with her current behavior.

I’m inclined to suggest that you do try and help your mom see the positives in how you’re raising your kids and managing your household – maybe some stories or articles that reflect your parenting style – but I wouldn’t suggest getting too caught up in changing her mind or trying to win her over. Fingers crossed, that mindset will come in time, but changing someone’s mind of they have certain beliefs which they have carried with them for decades is no easy feat. That being said, if she does show respect towards your choice or contributes positively in some way herself, do make sure to communicate your appreciation and ‘reward’ this behavior, so to speak!

And if all this feels like it’s getting too much, there’s no harm in seeking some outside help. A bit of family counseling could offer a neutral ground for everyone to express their feelings and maybe find a middle ground.

It definitely sounds like you’ve got your own family units honed down, so here’s hoping your wider family soon come around to respectful family dynamics you’re aiming for.

Take care,

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Ask Evie

Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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