Question: Dear Luise: My in-laws have a motor home. They travel south for the winter and then in the summer they park at their kid’s places…several weeks with each family. The one close to us doesn’t have room for their big rig, so we get them for a double visit, now. I have tried to like her and to be kind to her but she is loud, opinionated and tries to interfere with how I’m raising my kids. I know she’s had a hard life and raised her family alone and yet that fails to make her any more appealing to be around. They are talking about giving up their winter trips and I’m shaking in my boots. Is there anything I can do to be more charitable and still be honest? I feel really guilty that I’m glad I have a demanding job and can get away from her during the day. Thanks, Magda
Answer: Dear Magda: What you are describing involves some really tough family dynamics.
First of all there is absolutely nothing you can do to change this woman. She probably put up some walls and thickened her skin many years ago, unless she arrived on the planet “as is”. What doesn’t work at all for you, works for her.
If your husband understands the issues and is willing to lay down the law, you might try together to pull her nose out of your child-rearing business. You didn’t mention how he looks at the situation. Unfortunately, many husbands choose to take a head-in-sand attitude with difficult mothers. Does yours? And I have to tell you that taking a firm line with an overpowering person is often just declaring war. It seldom works.
My only suggestion is to look within and notice that her conduct is causing a conflict for you. When you study your feelings more deeply you may find that your own values are being highlighted. I would be willing to bet that you are not overbearing, do not believe in interfering with others and would never consider intruding into their lives. It’s an easy step from there to get that it may not be very comfortable being her. The last step of that exercise is compassion. It comes quite naturally.
If all else fails…sell your place and get one like the other family member did, that (unfortunately) has no room to park their big rig. Your peace of mind matters and your children are your business.