Dear Patricia Marie

I have a job that my mother-in-law doesn't approve of. She never misses an opportunity to say I'm irresponsible, unethical and an embarrassment to her. But that doesn't stop her from coming to our house all the time and enjoying our hospitality.

Recently she was here for three weeks because her house was being redecorated as she was getting headaches from the smell of paint. She drove me crazy with her high-handed comments about my work. Now my wife wants her to join us on our spring holiday. She says it will be nice for the children to have granny around, and even though she agrees her mum can be interfering, for the sake of a quiet life she puts up with this.

I love my wife very much who is easily influenced by her mother, but why should I put up with the company of my mother-in-law who clearly doesn't respect me?

Thank you for reading my problem. I look forward to your reply.

Patricia Marie says...

I suspect your mother-in-law feels that she can get away with saying anything she likes because no one ever challenges her. Perhaps she does not see how intrusive she is being. To her it may just be she is showing caring behaviour and trying to help. She could be feeling vulnerable - scared she may not be wanted or needed, and by displaying authority allows her to feel she has some control.

It would be a good idea for you to meet up with your mother-in-law somewhere on neutral territory so you can level with her. Insist your job enables you to provide a home and fund holidays for your family, and is of no concern to her. Explain you are not happy with her constant criticism and recognise she seems very unhappy around you. This saddens you as you would like her to be at ease in your company. However, if her unacceptable behaviour continues, you will not be wanting her to visit as much. Once she realises her feelings are important to you, hopefully things will change for the better and you will enjoy each others company.

Your wife needs to understand the importance of you spending quality time alone with your family, otherwise it could create problems within your relationship. Albeit, you need to remember there are advantages to having your mother-in-law join you on your break. It means you and your wife can get to spend time alone together whilst your children are being looked after by their doting granny. Although your mother-in-law may have been taking your generosity for granted, it seems you may have been focusing on the negatives, therefore, not noticing the enormous help and support she must be bringing to your family. And remember, for all the things you find irritating about her - she raised the woman you fell in love with.