How to Survive Living with Your Mother-in-Law

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living with mother in law

It all started with a crazy thought that we should sell our beloved house, build a brand new one, AND have a second baby. Looking back on it now, it sounds just as overwhelming now as it did back then. This was our plan: Me (who was then pregnant), my husband, and our 4-year-old son would move in with my mother-in-law until our new house was finished being built. 

This is my story of the LONGEST year of my life, and how I survived it. If there is anyone else out there going through mother-in-law (or living with their family) purgatory, just know you’re not alone and you’re not crazy.

I’d love to tell you that I handled this situation with grace and maturity. But I did not.

I said a lot of things I regretted and made decisions that I’m not proud of. But I’ve learned from my mistakes. I still cringe when I think back on that time period and even have a hard time visiting my mother-in-law’s house. It sounds dramatic, but that year was incredibly draining and brought out the worst in me. 

Here was the timeline: We sold our house in May, we got pregnant in June, we moved out and into my MIL’s house in July. Our new house construction was supposed to start promptly in August, which allowed for a move in date before my March 8th due date. We were on track for smooth sailing!

But like we all know, life never goes as planned. Our tight schedule started falling apart little by little. I think the stress of house building goes beyond the normal stress levels that a person should ever encounter. It started taking its toll on my husband and me, which meant more fighting, and overall just having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. 

A Nod to my Mother-in-law

Despite all that happened, we’re always grateful for her offer to let us move in. Being able to live rent free was a huge help. But, my MIL and I have never had a very close relationship, which should have been the first red flag that this living situation might be difficult. 

Some background: my MIL is a widow who has lived by herself for 10 years. She’s very set in her ways, to say the least. Because she’s lived alone for so many years, it was tough for her to accept the chaos of a family of 3 invading her space so completely.

In knowing that, we tried to keep our area tidy, we tried to give each other space, and we tried to give our son a sense of normalcy in an otherwise abnormal living situation. It was tough. Living in close quarters in someone else’s home while they are overlooking your every move, is tense. We often felt judged and it started breaking us down. 

We had lived in our home for 8 years prior to all this. We were used to having our own space, and our own way of doing things. Having our own space defined us, and when that was taken away, even though we knew it was temporary, was very difficult. I felt like I had nowhere really mine to go. 

The downward spiral 

As the months went on, my pregnancy started getting to me. I was constantly exhausted. I started to doubt all the decisions we had made about everything. “Should we have really sold our house?” The fact that our new house build was going so poorly just added to my overall irritability. I was a huge pile of hormones. My MIL easily got on my nerves, as well as my husband, though he was just trying to make everyone happy. He was stuck between trying to keep the peace with his mom and trying to keep his pregnant wife happy. Plus, we were still trying to keep a happy environment for our 4-year-old. 

I wasn’t myself anymore. Our family wasn’t the same either. We had become a sadder, more depressed version of us. We were often fighting and felt defeated. It wasn’t until my son turned to me one day and asked me, “Mom, do you not like Nana?”. That comment woke me up out of the long funk I had been in. I was so disappointed in myself that I had set such a bad example for my son. I had been too busy feeling angry and sorry for myself that it started affecting him. My husband and I decided right there, that it was time to move out. We moved into an apartment for the remaining 3 months of our house build.

A new start

When we left my MIL’s house, it was like a weight was lifted off our shoulders. Even though our apartment was not glamorous, it was ours. My husband and I slowly became a team once again. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a long road to recovery. Our relationships had been seriously damaged. We had all seen the ugly sides of each other, close up. Everyone needed time to retreat, forgive, and move on. So, what did I learn from all of this?  

There IS a light at the end of the tunnel – focus on it.

I always felt better when I could focus on something positive, even if it was just looking at our new house blueprints, so I could remember why we were in this situation in the first place.

 You’ll still be family, even after this is over.

Each day felt like an eternity, and some days I was so caught up in the moment that I would say something mean and not worry about the aftermath. Just like with most relationships, you have to learn to pick your battles. Looking back now, that year was filled with battles that never should have been fought. On both my end and hers. 

The whole experience was a dark one and I’d have to say I wouldn’t do it again. But I can, for a fact, say that we came out the other end, still intact. I’d like to think that this whole thing made us stronger. If we can get through the worst of times, we can get through anything. In the end, no one was really to blame. We all were just doing our own way of getting through a tricky situation. And that’s what I have to always remind myself when I think back negatively. But at the very least, we can all still be in the same room together to this day and we learned a lot about ourselves in the process. 

mother in law

9 COMMENTS

  1. I basically lived your exact same situation but it was my husband who was moving in with the in laws. We sold in November, didn’t start the build until April and moved out the following November. We had 2 kids when we moved in and when we moved out had a newborn baby. After 6 months I would say that stress was getting high but my husband and I always made the decision that my family, my problem and his family his problem. So I talked with my mom about what was happening and we worked through things. We set boundaries and knew there was an end. After we moved out my kids were devastated, they loved living with my parents, we kept any disagreements behind closed doors. However, life threw a giant curveball our way when months after we moved out my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer that came out of nowhere and took her just 6 short months later. We now look at how lucky we were to get an entire year with my mom and for my kids to get all those hugs and kisses and stories. Yes it was tough and we absolutely fought but life taught us an invaluable lesson.

  2. Listen ladies I’ve been a stay at home mom for 4 years now. I ha e one three year old daughter and a 6 month old puppy. We have been staying with my mother in law for the last two weeks, evrytime I turn around either my dog is chewing something up or my daughter is breaking something. I’m stressed out! She’s very set in her ways as well she’s is also single for the last 5 years, she has a mentally handicap son whom is 36 and can’t live on his own or in a facility. My hubby is in agreeable with her and he wants to take over guardianship eventually (am I wrong for not wanting to live my life for my mother In law hubby and bro in law?) I didn’t know in the being when me and my hubby got together that he had future plans. Currently I watch him while my hubby works 45 hours a week and then more on the outside of work so me or my daughter ha ent seen him much. So the mother in law asks my hubby to have him take his bro to the casino. I’m sorry but we’ve been here for two weeks and I don’t want to spend my hubbys free time with his brother! It’s like I don’t even have a family with my husband cause he’s to busy doing work his truck doing everything for his mom and brother or somebody else….we have lived in mother in laws house previously for about a year finally got our own house and got comfortable and now we are stuck here. She is a by hypocritical judgemental ****** and she loves to see me stressed out at her house cause I can’t allow my kids to live or do anything like they would be able to at home! I’m so over it!!!!

  3. I’m so glad to hear this!!!! We are living with my MIL while building and have become very anxious and feeling down. This all sounds so familiar! Glad to know we will be finished building soon 🙂

  4. Glad to know I’m not the only one going through an ordeal with their MIL. I have felt guilty for snapping back at her and not being more understanding. Our family of three are almost going on 2 years in her space as well as relocating to a new country. Next month we will be finally moving out! My eleven year old has never been able to bond with her grandmother due to her bossy nit picky ways, and I have started giving up getting on my daughters back to be friendlier to her grandmother. Maybe with time and space our feelings will soften.

  5. This blog spoke to me like nothing ever before. I’m currently living with my MIL. She has been living with us for 3 months. I was 8 months pregnant when she moved in. Now, my son is 10 weeks old and I’m so over having her here. I want her GONE. She is a functioning alcoholic and I don’t trust her around my son.She moved in with the intention of helping me out around the house. She is just stressing me out. She is very opinionated and she babies my husband, who has now reverted back into a teenager. She makes him breakfast and lunch. He is too lazy to do it himself.

  6. I’m so glad I found this blog post. We just moved halfway across the country to my husbands home town. We had a rental lined up that fell through last minute. We’ve been living with my MIL for 6 weeks and I’m crumbling.

  7. This is so helpful! We had to move in with my in-laws due to a job opportunity for myself that fell through. Anyways, I was working on receiving my LPC which is supposed to only take 2 years, and we were only going to be here for like a few months till we could get on our feet. We’ve been here around 5 years now! I think the most difficult part is his mom treats me like Cinderella but thinks it’s ok cus I’m a woman. And my husband has turned into a teen again! I just hate being told I’m not doing anything when I’m cleaning and cooking constantly. Oh, and we have no privacy! She feels free to come into the room and go through our stuff!

  8. We relocated to Bay Area of California, my husband’s home, and my in-laws floated the idea of us moving in to save money. We moved in temporarily to get help with our first newborn and my MIL was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly thereafter. We took over a California mortgage and, while I was more than willing to help, it’s been an enormous financial strain. It will be 3 years next January. Full disclosure of the financial picture would have been needed to know what we were being asked to do. I’ve kept quiet with my in-laws to maintain the peace, and focused on positives, such as relationship they formed with my son.

    After being depressed for so long, I learned from therapy it’s important to acknowledge my needs our valid. These needs are: financial well-being of our family unit; independence and privacy; and freedom from a communal parenting household.

    An end date is vital. Of course, I would share my concerns with my partner. I learned to scale back complaints and focus on objective needs outlined above. This allowed us to have a dialogue, but still we didn’t have a plan. I took the focus away from his family and shared we need to relocate again to avoid signing up for the stress of a California mortgage. I expressed my willingness to try new cities, and he’s finally on board. I’ve just reassured him he needs to trust me. We hope to be out of here next spring. Wish us luck!

  9. My MIL moved in with us when I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter who is now 17. She has taken most of the happiness out of our family. My daughter does not like her and is seeing a therapist because of her. She treats my husband like a god, and he seems to be turning in to her. He has begun mimicking her dramatic verbiage when someone complains. Our relationship was full of fun, love, and joy before. Now that the kids are old enough to go out for the night or weekend, we still cannot be alone. She “rules the roost.” She has taken the full ability of being a wife and mother from me. Her other two son’s do not like her. She has no income to afford her an apartment. I have wondered how petty it would make me, to leave my husband and move into my own home with the kids. I am torn because she has no where to go but I have sacrificed all of my dreams already. There is no end in sight.

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