Don’t have it out IN-LA With mod­ern life putting more pres­sure than ever on the mother- and daugh­ter-in-law re­la­tion­ship, finds ways to thaw the frost and avoid a Christ­mas show­down

FAM­I­LIES

The Mail on Sunday - You - - Families -

I L L U S T R AT I O N S JA­SON FORD

For the first few years of her mar­riage, Mel’s re­la­tion­ship with her mother-in-law was per­fectly am­i­ca­ble. ‘We weren’t reg­u­lar fix­tures in each other’s lives, but we got to­gether for fam­ily oc­ca­sions,’ says Mel, 38, a mar­ket­ing man­ager. ‘She could be a bit full-on and my hus­band could do no wrong in her eyes, but our re­la­tion­ship was fine.’

Then, two years ago, when Mel had her first baby, their re­la­tion­ship be­came strained, es­pe­cially af­ter Mel re­turned to work and her mother-in-law stepped in to pro­vide some of the child­care. Ten­sions were soon bub­bling, and Mel re­cites a cat­a­logue of com­plaints. Her mother-in-law feeds her daugh­ter too much, too of­ten. She leaves her in front of the TV for hours, or lets her nap too long, so that by bed­time her daugh­ter is ei­ther bored and frac­tious, or wide awake. She con­stantly ti­dies Mel’s house, sorts through her fridge, re­ar­ranges cup­boards and makes loaded com­ments about the gen­eral state of their do­mes­tic ar­range­ments. Her so­cial me­dia is plas­tered with posts about Mel’s daugh­ter – but noth­ing about Mel. ‘I could go on for ever, it winds me up,’ says Mel. ‘So far, we’ve avoided a show­down but I do won­der how much longer be­fore it hap­pens.’

Chris­tine, 66, ex­presses sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments about her daugh­ter-in­law – in fact, her ‘is­sues’ sound sim­i­lar to Mel’s, ex­cept told from the op­po­site point of view. ‘We got on re­ally well un­til my son and his wife had chil­dren, then it be­came very dif­fi­cult,’ says Chris­tine, a re­tired teacher. ‘My daugh­ter-in-law is ob­ses­sive about how the chil­dren should be raised. She and my son both work full time, they’re busy, su­per-stressed, the house is chaos, but any gen­uine at­tempts to help are taken as crit­i­cisms.

‘I can’t say or do any­thing right, yet they still ex­pect me to look af­ter their chil­dren two days a week. I am de­lighted to be able to spend time with my grand­chil­dren, but if I don’t fol­low my daugh­ter-in-law’s in­struc­tions to the let­ter I’m in the dog­house. I man­aged to raise three chil­dren, in­clud­ing a son she liked enough to marry, so my par­ent­ing skills surely can’t be that dis­as­trous. I worry that one day the re­la­tion­ship will break down com­pletely and I’ll

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