I am a 43-year-old housewife. I have three children and my husband is a good natured man, who has never caused me any heartache. My problem is my mother-in-law, who always has a problem with everything that I do. Although my children are her flesh and blood, she is very unfriendly and mean towards them. What we do is always wrong and what her daughter and her children do is always spot on. My sister-in-law lives near my house and visits us at least thrice a day. Her children come with her and their attitude towards my children is obnoxious. They pass snide comments on them and make fun of them in front of their mother and grandmother, and they laugh it off. If my children retaliate they complain to my husband that my children misbehave with them. My husband then gives them a long lecture about being nice to relatives, but never asks them why they had to misbehave.
My mother-in-law is so old that I cannot even answer her back. She uses her age as a weapon. All the time she keeps telling my son what the status of parents is in our religion, and my husband, who is a very good son, becomes even more servile. I don't mind that, but what irks me is the fact that she tries to keep my husband with her all the time. Even when he is in my room, she does not leave him alone and comes in on one pretext or the other.
My children have told me that they would not take anymore from their grandmother, aunt and their children. Nadine, two of my children are in high teens, while my eldest son is 21 years old. I am afraid that they might misbehave with their father, although they respect him very much. I keep telling them to ignore what their cousins do, but even I dislike the way they treat me and my children. I don't want things to blow up, because if I let my children answer back, or say something to my sister-in-law, it would spoil the apparent harmony we live in. How should I cope with this situation?
Dear Fed up,
It seems you are a sensible, mature woman because so far you have handled the situation with creditable forbearance. It is not easy to watch others ridicule one's children without reacting, but you have done it for such a long time that a deviation from your usual complaisance will only earn you the blame for their bad behaviour. My dear, the thing parents need to understand is that they are the ones who have to protect their children from the snubs of others, even if those others happen to be their parents or siblings. To some extent, the blame must be shared by you, because you did not curb your sister-in-law's children when they were rude to yours. As their aunt, you were entitled to correct them gently. And, had they misbehaved with you in return, your husband would have listened to your side of the story. Besides, you should have brought their bad behaviour in your husband's notice, because it could have demoralised them permanently.
You need to talk with your husband seriously about this problem. If he doesn't realise how this humiliating treatment can impact your children, you must make him do it. Ask him why only his children should be nice to their cousins. Make him notice things and tell him that he should either let the children deal with their cousins or speak to his sister. It is parents' job to shield their children, and your sister-in-law is doing it, even if her children are doing wrong.
Your mother-in-law is a different story. Since she is so old, it is better to disregard things that you don't like. She cannot harm you because so far your husband has not done anything bad under her influence and that is why you have stated that he has not caused you any heartache. It is difficult to do so because we all have egos, but waging war with an old woman is not a good idea. You have been very good so far, and why deviate from your usual goodness now? So, overlook what she says and God will reward you for your goodness. Good luck!
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