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

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Tara is both a full time mom and boss lady who recently moved from the city life to a new home in Muskego. She lives with a whole heap of boys - her husband of almost 10 years, 6 year old Beckett, and 1 year old Ellis. In addition to mom duty and obsessively decorating her new home, she runs the small greeting card and design company, Cracked Designs. (which is like her third child.) In addition to her passion for all things design and illustration, she loves indie music, road trips, and enjoying craft beer.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I live with my mother in law, got married & came to live with his ma, but he doesn’t want to leave his ma, & on a term with his ma, we’re not close, we’re distant.I have a 3-year-old, sigh I need an advice

  2. Sigh. Thank you for having a place to talk! It’s so needed. I hate that I’ve been brought to a place where I need to vent. Mostly because it makes me feel ungrateful. My MIL is not a bad person, in fact, she’s loving. Maybe too loving. She would give us the world if she could, but at what cost? What started as a medical necessity has become emotionally draining. We have no privacy. We can’t make decisions without “helpful” input. We were close at one time, but I’ve pulled away a lot recently. I blame myself because I missed the biggest red flag of all… The biggest fight we ever had was the night before we got married and it was about my MIL. I thought I was defending her, but what I clearly didn’t see at the time was that was the beginning of a losing battle to live our new life together. I moved half way across country to find myself and start life with my new husband, but I feel like I’ve ended up losing myself. Another thing we have on hold is our desire to have children, but we don’t want to bring a child into this environment because we know it would be a battle to establish boundaries in the way we would like to raise our child. It’s one thing to have Grandma around, but I can smell the hovering a mile away. I want to have a life with my husband again and I want me back. It’s something we both desperately want, but are not in the position to pick up and go at the moment. This is breaking me day by day.

  3. That is so me right now, i wnt to move out but the problem is that my husband is not working and the MIL helps in a lot of ways financially and that makes her feel entitled to him. He even brought him a truck to do odd jobs, whenever there is a conflict she reminds us of it that its hers, that she is supporting our second whom we stay with(first staying with my mom)… And i have no say in her house settings coz its her house anyways. I had an accident and I can’t do heavy duty jobs cos of by back problems and hand problems but to her its as if i am being lazy… Every time I fight with my partner there is a saying of “because you are working, so you are disrespectful”

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