The 10 Worst Things a Bad Mother-in-Law Can Do

Updated August 13, 2021
Daughter in Law Seeks Advice from Mother in Law

Some people say "I do" and end up with a wonderful partner and equally wonderful in-laws. How lucky they are! But not everyone gets a mother-in-law to brag about. Some strike gold in the partner department, but strike out when it comes to the in-laws. The mothers-in-law that don't make the grade can range from pesky to downright toxic, and the following bad mother-in-law behaviors are enough to make a saint swear.

She Calls You When She Needs Her Child

The phone rings: it's your mother-in-law. She needs to know what her offspring's belt size is, what time they are swinging by to mow her lawn, or if they have gotten any of the last 200 voicemails she has left. It seems to forever escape her that you are indeed not your partner's personal secretary. If she needs to contact them, they have an email, a telephone, and she darn well knows your home address. There is no reason to contact you when she really needs her child. You have enough to do without being the communication middleman for your mother-in-law and your spouse. Proper channels, lady. Learn them.

She Doesn't Believe in Boundaries

You get out of the shower, walk down the stairs, and there is your mother-in-law, meddling around in your kitchen (she just had to come by and pop a casserole in because, you know, without HER, your family would clearly starve). You and your partner discuss vacation plans at a family gathering, and her opinion is right there, front and center. One of the worst mothers-in-law moves a person can make is not respecting boundaries, whether physical, emotional or otherwise. She might have a place in your lives, but she doesn't get to be front and center with a microphone in your relationship.

She Thinks It's Opposite Day When It Comes to Your Kids

You tell the kids to put a coat on, and she permits them to run around without one. You give a strict 9 p.m. bedtime, but she overrides the executive decision and claims the evening a free for all. When your mother-in-law is around, it feels like opposite day. Your rules and guidelines for your family no longer exist in her presence, and she seems to think she calls all the shots. It's infuriating, it's confusing, and it creates conflict and tension between you and your partner. No WAY does your partner want to get in between the two most important people in their life. This is not okay. Your mother-in-law had kids. She made the rules and routines when they were growing up. She had her turn. In your home, you and your partner call the shots.

She Gives Advice When You Clearly Don't Want It

That baby needs socks. The kids should be eating dinner earlier in the evening. Devices? No sir. They are rotting her dear grandbabies' brains out! Grandmas like to dole out advice left and right. While some advice can be good and useful, mothers-in-law can quickly become unwelcomed parenting partners who don't read the room and can't recognize when they should back off and zip their lip. There is most definitely a time and place for advice from older family members, and if your mother-in-law gives you her perspective and thoughts on everything, then space from her is certainly needed.

Cheerful mother and son taking selfie in park

She Babies Your Partner

Ew. Gross. Please stop this ridiculous behavior like, yesterday. On the Top Ten List of Cringey Mother-In-Law Moves sits babying her grown child. A mother-in-law who cuts her adult child's food up, brings over new underwear and socks from Costco just because, and continues to cook for them (and them only) years after they have moved out of her home is going to be an obnoxious one to have to deal with.

She Questions Your Every Move

As if parenting isn't hard enough! No one needs a mother-in-law that questions, or worse, judges, everything you say and do regarding your partner and children. Just about every decision you make with your family will be a decision you second guess in some capacity. In your parenting journey, you need support in the choices you make, not a mother-in-law forever playing the part of devil's advocate.

She Pushes You Out of Family Decisions

Heck no. Not happening. You married into this family, and with that vow, you become an equal stakeholder in all family decisions, whether your mother-in-law wants to acknowledge that or not. A bad mother-in-law move is when the almighty matriarch makes you feel like a second-class citizen. Family decisions should include biological family members AND family by marriage, meaning you. Your mother-in-law doesn't get to dictate who gets a say in major family decisions, and who doesn't.

She Makes All Major Events About Her

Birthdays, holidays, and other major events get planned around your mother-in-law. There isn't much more than will ruin a special day! One epically bad mother-in-law move is when she becomes the ultimate center of attention, regardless of the function. Everything has to be held at her home, with her friends in attendance and her traditions being revered. A mother-in-law relationship where these actions are commonplace is a recipe for disaster, and animosity, and negativity. Holidays and family events should aim to please all parties, not just one.

She Pits You and Your Partner Against Each Other

She makes your blood boil and does things to get under your skin. You can only take so much before you fly off the handle... at the one person you trust more than anything with your thoughts and feelings, your partner. The problem is, as much as your spouse wants to make everything better for you, that is their mother. Now they are trapped between the two of you, stressed, frustrated and angry. A fight that was between you and your mother-in-law is now suddenly a fight between you and your partner. Do your very best to keep your issues with your in-laws and your issues with your spouse separate. They are different people, and your relationships are different relationships.

She Treats You Like a Rival and Usurper

Until you came along, she was the Queen Bee, sitting upon her throne, living life as the most adored female in her child's life. You waltzed in all wonderful and dazzling and turned her baby's head. Now you are the primary person in her kid's world, and, try as she might, she feels usurped. There is a new love in her son or daughter's life, and in her mind, there is only room for one true love. Treating you as a rival is toxic. You didn't show up to take anyone's place or push her from her Queenly, maternal throne. Your aim is to add more love, enrich your spouse's world and give them even more support and adoration than they previously had. A poor move on the part of the mother-in-law is to forever see you as the person who stole their baby from them.

Remember to Focus on Your Partner

Even if your mother-in-law is a downright pill, remember who you joined your life with. You are not wed to her; you are wed to her child. That is the person you share your life with. Even when you feel dismayed by bad mother-in-law behavior, remember to separate her from your partner.

The 10 Worst Things a Bad Mother-in-Law Can Do