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How to Deal with Your Mother-In-Law Talking Smack

By Isabel Kallman

By Catherine Connors of Her Bad Mother

1. Assess The Insult

Is the comment a slur on your parenting or is the insult directed to your child? In the former case, keep your claws retracted and try to respond calmly, even nonchalantly (see #2, below.) You can take it. Save your moral outrage for when it’s really deserved – as is would be the case if the comment was directed toward your child. In this case, you have my full permission to growl and bare your teeth and – if warranted – ban the relevant in-law from your household for whatever term fits the crime. What’s that? You think that little Farnsworth has an unfortunate nose/is retaining too much baby fat/is slow for his age? Thank you for your totally unwelcome opinion, and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Guide to Everything Archives2. Maintain Moral Superiority

Do not stoop to a catfight, no matter how badly you might want to. Whatever your response, make sure that it’s articulated politely. It can, of course, be totally passively-aggressively polite – why, yes, I do take pride in my ability to get through each day without ever picking up after my children! Such a shame that women were so oppressed by housework back in your day! – but take care to ensure that the delivery of your response is above reproach. Remember, you have years of Thanksgiving dinners with this person.

3. But Do Defend Yourself

Maintaining Moral Superiority does not mean Letting Them Get Away With It. Let the offender know that you have recognized and registered their comment as the stupid insult that it is by articulating your disagreement and – if possible – your disappointment with their sorry attitude. I’m sorry that you find breastfeeding in public distasteful. Personally, I put my child’s well-being before the sad sexual hang-ups of others. Perhaps you could look away if you’re unable to distinguish the nursing breast from the sexual breast.

4. Vent. With Caution.

Let your spouse know that you do not like having to dodge the MIL’s/DIL’s/Great Aunt Mehitabel’s verbal arrows. You’re within your rights to ask that he/she intercede in particularly trying cases (sometimes, a simple lay off, Mom is all that is needed to put a stop to the needling.) But make every effort to not be excessively angry or insulting in getting your complaint off your chest. The offender in question is, after all, a close relation of your spouse. Your spouse might even love the offender. Make sure that you keep those feelings in mind when you’re tempted to say YOUR &[email protected]%&MOTHER IS BANNED FROM OUR HOME FOREVER, YOU HEAR?!

5. But, End Of The Day, Let It Go

Yes, it’s entirely possible that you have to deal with this person on a regular basis. Yes, such dealings will likely remain awkward and painful if this person insists upon continually taking out their sublimated frustrations about no longer being the center of their own children’s universe on you. But remember that the problem is not really you or your children, it’s their own loneliness or feeling of isolation from their children or whatever-yadda-yadda-Freud-blah. A little tolerance will go a long way toward keeping the peace in your extended family.
And if not, there are always ear-plugs.


Isabel Kallman
About the Author

Isabel Kallman

Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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  • Heather Cook

    October 13, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Thank you! I’ve had two MILs. The second has taught me how lucky I was with the first. 🙂
    I’m actually going to bookmark this article and then re-read it when I need it!

  • Angella

    October 13, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    My MIL moved four hours away. Now I just get to deal with The Crazy from a distance and on holidays. It makes it easier to just shrug and be thankful it’s not all the time.

  • Isabel

    October 14, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Wow…this can be such a touchy subject. Thanks for the advice. I think even the best of MIL’s can push it to the limit from time to time. It’s nice to have methods to deal with it. Thanks!

  • Kelly from Almost Frugal

    October 20, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    You sure we shouldn’t just say &[email protected]%& off?
    I’m just done with my MIL. I’m polite to her, I don’t stop her from seeing the kids when she wants to, which is *ahem* NOT that often considering that she lives 10 minutes away, and I go over there and eat her dried out pork chops when ever she invites us, which is again, not that often.
    Not that I’m bitter or anything! It’s just that my mother lives 9 time zones away from me and sees my kids once a year if that, and my MIL, who is barely nine MINUTES away from me sees my kids with about the same frequency.

  • Crystal

    October 25, 2008 at 6:37 am

    Great advice for the average nosey MIL, but apparently you havent met mine. To say that she is a b***h is an understatement. She takes pride in telling her sad story to everyone she meets, recently to include the heating and cooling man. She puts on her little show about how she has done so much for us, yet we treat her badly. Which is 110% false.
    We have been nothing but kind. Have given her chance after chance. She hasnt caught on that her friends really arent her friends and the crap she talks about us always come back! Misery loves company!
    So gals be thankful for what you have. I’ll be happy to trade you any day for mine!

  • nancy

    October 25, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    My mother-in-law moved to Calif 28 years ago (we live in Mich) she never called or had any contact with my children. Now she is older and plans to move back for help. My feelings are why bother now?

  • Meg

    October 25, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I find that the more articles I read about MIL’s the more I see that it takes two to make a problem. DIL’s can be the cause of a lot of the conflict as well as the MIL. Trying to be friends because we both love the son/husband is the answer. That love of course is a different kind of love from each. Jealous sometimes is the problem, too.

  • Carrie

    October 25, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    I do believe for the average bad mother in law these tips work very well. I’d love to hear more tips for dealing with the very worst mothers in law, which I consider mine to be. She has called me a F#$%^& B$%^& and a F$%^&* whore to my face in front of my husband and 12 year old step son while kicking/throwing outdoor furniture at me. She was upset because my stepson decided not to spend the night at her house. The completely inappropriate comments/behaviors keep coming. I refuse to be alone with her. She is not welcome in my house. I will not keep my step son from seeing her and so I still have to deal with her from time to time. Yes the moral high road and polite coldness are the road I’ve taken; however I cannot let go of her wretched behavior.

  • Dolly

    October 25, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Wow…what a sweet article. Actually I was hoping to find out if battery acid was too strong to marinate my MIL in while I roasted her over an open fire. Oh well! Maybe your next article. My first clue my MIL didn’t like me was when I’d been married a few months and she made a racist comment about “my people”. Since I’m White, Hispanic, Scandinavian, Polish, Spanish and God only knows what else, maybe she meant “my watered down people”? At first she lived far away from us. When we went for visits and I tried to help her with housework by sweeping, she’d take the broom away from me and start sweeping. If I tried to stir food on the stove, she’d take the spoon out of my hand and start stirring.All without making any comment. Twice when her son and I had problems because of his drinking and irresponsibility I tried to go to her for advice on how to deal with him. Both times all I got was, “That’s just how “we” are. “We” meaning “her” family of which “I” wasn’t included. Gotcha. When I started my own business to supplement our family’s income she asked me how much money I was taking out of “her” son’s pocket for “my” silly little business. I then noticed that my husband would come home from her house and start fights with me about the business. When I asked if his mother was talking smack on me, he denied it but never fought about the business with me again. My husband’s take on all this? I’m being too sensitive, he can’t believe his mother would say something like that, I must have misunderstood…yeah…right. And about my business, beginning the first year…I make more money than my husband. Sure you don’t have any ideas on that battery acid marinara? Just curious;)

  • steve

    October 25, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    you know i guess i am one of the lucky ones,i have had my mil for 19 yrs. & she is the sweetest lady i know. i love her dearly.

  • Danielle

    October 26, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Wow, being married for two years and the fact that my MIL lives very far away *although visits for almost a month every year* I am surprised to hear exactly the same problems from so many different people! Complaints about standards she’s never achieved, a heated recommendation that my husband divorce me the day before our first anniversry, and yet the most shameless bragging of how much we “love” her to whoever has the unfortunate position of communicating with her. All I can say is JEALOUSY…God help me if I can’t be better than that in my old age!!

  • Lisa

    November 1, 2008 at 8:59 am

    My mother in law is just plain mean. I try hard, and are always nice to her because i don’t like conflict and i don’t wish to upset my husband. But she’s gone too far shes a schemer and goes about things behind my back, acts all nice but isn’t. I’m really hating her right now mostly because i’m angry that once again i let my guard down she’s been mean i haven’t told her what she did wrong, and i’m being nice again….. go ahead shoot me again is what i should say… i just don’t want to see her anymore, i have read the tips and wish i had them ages ago…. i’m gunna keep my distance, recently i wasn’t answering the phone when she rang ‘pretending i was out’ soo two weeks went by and the next time i was alone with her she confronted me and said do you have a problem with me ? have i don’t someting to upset you ? and it wasn’t in a nice tone… she’s smart and nasty and i’m just thinking of ways to not be mean or a bitchy but not so nice either… arghh soo over her….. read in another article
    “remember to keep your distance even when she’s being nice” because they reel you in just so they can stab you !!!!!!.

  • Susan in Ohio

    November 16, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    My mother-in-law will not respect my wishes when it comes to my child. She lets her climb on tables, eat whatever she wants even when she doesn’t eat the “good stuff” first, and has very little to do with her grand-daughter that is biological or my son from my 1st marriage. I feel that we are all a family and she can either accept all of us or none of us. She does not ever come to see her granddaughter and we live 7 minutes from them but then complains because my mother is always there every other day (NONE OF HER BUSINESS). She has come into our home and opened my husband’s mail, walked through our home when I wasn’t there and looked in every room, let herself in with a key that my fil demanded she have upon our buying the new home while we were gone. I have had pictures of ex-girlfriends flung in front of me, she has publicly humiliated me at work in front of people by making ignorant comments and she is constantly sticking her nose where it does not belong. She makes comments about how good looking her son is all of the time and tells me that our children will be pretty because her son was “beautiful” and I’m “pretty”. When I was pregnant, she would always say, “OH MY GOD!!! YOU LOOK LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO BUST!!!!” She is an ignorant, rude, self-indulged, selfish B****!! Three days after my brother’s funeral, she called me and asked me if I could write a term paper for her. How dare she be so selfish while I was mourning…not one time did she offer to help me. It is always about her. I have invited them to dinner at our home several times and the favor is never reciprocated, I have painted her walls, papered for her, baked birthday cakes, etc….I will never be good enough for her “Little Boy”. I am 8 years older than he is and she told him that I was too old for him and that he should be dating younger girls…..I have really just exhausted myself trying to be accepted and have reached the point that I really could care less….

  • patty

    December 5, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    My boyfriends mother is beyond the line where i could save anything. She pretended to like me for over a year, then changed her mind and has done nothing but accuse me of things i have never done and would never intend on doing. She said that i ruined her sons life and dreams, i tore apart his family, and that now that i succeeded my ‘mission’ i could go and move onto another victim. She has called me everything that i would never wish upon my worst enemy and yet she tries to justify herself by mentioning God and how i will have to face him one day. I have never done anything she claims i will need to repent for and yet she has made the last few weeks hell since her son lives with her.
    Im at the end of my rope and its taken a toll on my self worth because i did not think anyone could be so cruel and rotten

  • Monique

    January 20, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    So helpful thank u so much.

  • Sue

    March 9, 2009 at 2:25 am

    My MIL is even crazier- she told my husband that I was a devil worshipper after she saw me wearing “black” one day. She told him I am always “cold” towards her and rude when I had been nothing but nice to her (he backed me up on this and told her she was a liar). At social events she always introduces me as his “friend” as a slap in the face. She also funnels money to his ex-wife who frequently seeks to destroy our lives and tries to take his daughter away through frequent court hearings- every time she sees her she is sure to hug and kiss all over in front of me (even though she gossips about her as soon as she turns her back). I told my husband that I want nothing more to do with MIL. I just cannot stand to be around fake people. You cannot get along with people like this trust me- they will only look for faults. She told my husband he should leave me after she found out I didn’t attend highschool, saying he should marry someone better like a doctor or lawyer. It is all very ironic considering I am working on a master’s degree now and he flunked out of college himself, filed for bankruptsy, was unemployed for almost two years, has a low-paying job, and had his daughter out of wedlock when he and his former wife were in highschool (MIL let them live together at her home). So what a hypocrite! And I am “lower class”?!?! But hell I don’t care and I love him no matter what.
    You know what I think it is? I think the MIL’s are uncomfortable knowing we are going to directly experience and learn about all of their sons flaws, which they feel is a direct reflection on their mothering abilities! So in order to compensate, they look for flaws in us to point out whenever they get the chance!

  • dianna

    April 20, 2009 at 4:18 am

    Well, the article was good but even still. My MIL actually went out of her way to ask an old friend of mine about our sex life. She told her son that she never asked but knows how/how often/and where. When he found out that she knew, he was upset with me for talking about it with a woman I thought was my close friend. I had to ask if he said anything to her about how sick and twisted it was that she would even listen and he did not. I am so sickened by her. What mother would sit and listen to details of their sons sex life! She has done her best to try to dig up any dirt on me and it is getting old. I did my best to not respond but one day I finally had it. He wanted me to say something to his mother and sister about their behavior and when I finally did, he gets upset and tells me I should’ve never said a thing. No matter what I do it is somehow seen wrong in his eyes even if he told me to do it. He sat her down to have a talk about how this needs to stop and somehow she twists it and was probablt crying alligator tears the whole time and then brought up that she even knew details about our private life. I really think at this point she is somehow in love with her son in some sick twisted way

  • Debbie

    April 26, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Well, my MIL started the first time I ever met her. She spent two weeks in my home and on the last day, accused me/and or my son of stealing her mother’s jewelry. She screamed, cried, accused, etc. for over two hours, never said goodbye, then calle my then boyfriend and said “Oh, I forgot, I left the jewelry at home. I never brought it to town.” That is only the start. She constantly brings up old girlsfriends to me, discussing my husbands past and even brings pictures of old girlfriends to “share”.
    This is literally the “tip of the iceberg”. She is non-stop B)(&(*YU. She is one way in front of him, and other when we are alone. I can’t stand the thought of another visit.

  • Sara

    May 23, 2009 at 1:15 am

    My story is kinda long so sorry about the long post:
    – One month after my husband and i got married, my mother in law breaks up with my father in law heres why
    – my husband and i have to go get her from jale , aparently her husband (my husband’s step father) called the cops on her because she had been hitting him
    – she cant stay there so she moves in our tiny one bedroom aparetement … i know …yikes
    – she tries to be the lady of the house , i make sure to tell her to back off and let me be the wife to my husband
    – she gets upset at me because im not falling for her sherade and tells her son that im angry at her and i dont want her here, and all i did was just not really engage in conversation, thats all i can recall doing
    – a few days later, we’re in the car and she starts tellin us she wants a new husband just like her son, that creeped me out, i told my husband that was not right but he said its only because he and his brother are the only men she ever respected. bullspit shes strange
    – she moves out because she wanted to bring her FREAKING cats to our aparetement and when i said my landlord doesnt allow pets in the building she threw a fit and cried and left
    – a few days later at a barbeque at her friends house (where she lives now) she made racial comments about me , i am of an arab background and she called me a racist term, my husband was tehre to hear it, but when we discussed it at home he kept making excuses for her, that she was drunk out of her mind ,… yea [email protected]!
    – everytime we visit at her friends house, which are lovely people and i love them to death and i wish her friend was my mother in law, so everytime we visit she corners my husband and waits for everybody to clear off and cries to him, he talked to me and said he doesnt know why she does that and he doesnt know what she wants from him
    – on my husband’s birthday she kept whispering to my husband that her, him her and her other son are the three musketeers and it should have stayed that way, WHAT THE HECK DOES SHE MEAN? that her son should have never gotten married?????? so i snap and i ask her why she said that , she storms outta the room in the middle of the party and goes to sleep. we all know she wanted someone to come after her, but we didnt , we only called her when we were abuot to have the cake, so we did anyway, we gave her a chance to come but she didnt, so when she heard us singing happy birthday she comes over and blames her son and her friend for not waking her up but me and her friend did! she was just too proud
    – after this hooohaaa we see her packing her stuff and she pretends to leave there too, but no one gives her the attention she wants so after 20 mins of driving she comes right back because her who ever she went to said they could not put her up for the night.
    – anyway we go back yesterday and at the end of the night . we were sitting on the porch 6 of us. me and my husband and her friend and her husband and some guy they know and her
    so i was sitting on my husbands lap and as soon as i got up and got my own chair, SHE JUMPS ON HIS LAP AND STARTS KISSING HIS NECK!!!!!! ? WTF? im still in denial.
    i cant believe it happened and i been in shock ever since, my hudband didnt even say anything, i could see he was extremely uncomfortable.

  • Sam

    June 14, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Mil’s suck period! Mine is emotionally unstable and violent. How do you let go of your anger towards someone who has caused you such problems in your marriage and whom by the way contacted my husbands ex girlfriend so she can talk badly about me. Documented proof, not just my imagination running wild. It’s hard because no matter what my Husband say’s about agreeing with me and being on my side whenever the Holiday’s come around it’s like none of that stuff ever happened and it makes me angry with him. Geez!! So tired of dealing with my insane Mother In Law. All I know is that when my daughter gets married I’m going to remember these experiences and do my damnest not to be a crazy MIL to my son in law.

  • Mary

    June 17, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I am a MIL….my daughter married a wonderful young man 3 years ago and they just had their first child. My husband and I consider our new son-in-law our friend and treat him as such. He respects us and we respect him. I keep my opinions to myself and let them do what they need to do for their own child (I have already raised mine!) My daughter knows that I am just a phone call away if she has any questions. Our relationship has grown because I treat her as an adult (which she is) and I let her and her husband make their own decision. I don’t always agree with them, but I would cut my tongue out before I would tell them.
    That is the good news….the bad news is I am a MIL. I have a daughter-in-law from HELL! Yes, there is always another side to every story! My son married this person almost 10 years ago. From the very first time I met her, I didn’t like her and she didn’t like me. I have made some HUGE mistakes with her….I thought she would respect me as the mother of the man she fell in love with. He is a wonderful man because his father and I raised him to be what he is…generous, kind, and thoughtful. Over the past 10 years things have gone to hell-in-a-handbasket! I wasn’t allowed to see our first granddaughter until she was 6 months old (they lived 2 miles from us, their second child was born before we were even told they were pregnant, we were told of the birth of their third child via text message (a broadcast message to all of their contacts). My grandchildren have never been to my house, which is the same house my son was raised in.
    I had a brain anuerysm in 07 and had brain surgery…barely escaping the experience with my life. My son flew out for the surgery, but my daughter-in-law didn’t even feel the need to send a get well card. She probably had a doll and was sticking pins in her head during my 6 hour surgery!!!!
    It’s funny, I married my husband because he was such a good son. I have never tried to interfer with his relationship with his mother, I embrass it. My MIL has said and done some things that have been hurtful and unkind over the years, but I love my husband enough to know that coming between him and his mother would only hurt him and that whatever she said or did just wasn’t worth it too me.
    So, I am a MIL and a DIL and they are both hard. For all of you DILs out there who are bitching and complaining about about their horrible mother-in-laws, please remember, you will be walking in those shoes in just a wink of an eye…..

  • tiy

    July 12, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    To the mother-in-law bitching about her daughter in law – take a look inward lady, you CAN choose to be different and accepting of your daughter in law (and you should!) Shame on you.

  • Tired

    July 15, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    It’s always the same story… mothers-in-law can handle their daughters getting married but not their sons, because they fill in as pseudo-husbands. These women get jealous of their son’s wives and then all hell breaks loose. Don’t you people have husbands already? Are you all unhappy in your marriages? Can’t you get a freaking boyfriend and leave our man alone?
    I would be weirded out if my father decided to compete with my husband for my attention, and did all he could to drive a wedge between us because he was jealous. I mean… come oooon! Let it go already! Own up to the fact that you are all pathetic old hags with a pathetic husband who doesn’t care the least about you and you are just jealous that we are young and that your son loves us. Stop acting like some miffed ex-girlfriend because that is really gross. And don’t expect daughters-in-law to like you and not get pissed off that you try to interfere and steal our husbands with fake disease, errands and bland food. I wish there was a law against in laws being allowed near a newlywed couple in the first two years of their marriage.

  • Cutie Pie

    July 17, 2009 at 3:57 am

    My MIl is very sweet woman and very loving Nana to my daughter . The only problem me and my husband dealing all her lies and sometimes used us as her alibi to save her butt from my FIL knowing that she is living beyond thier means .

  • elena

    August 31, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    For MARY…the mother in law here,
    From the very first time I met her, I didn’t like her and she didn’t like me.
    ok…this statement is tottaly inapropriate …you could of say what she did to you for you not to like her and you should of not assume that she does not like you …unless she told you so..
    My son married this person almost 10 years ago
    calling her this way(this person)comes to show us how much respect you have towards her as your son’s wife…and the fact that you did not accept yet that she is the one your son choosen for a wife.
    I wasn’t allowed to see our first granddaughter until she was 6 months old (they lived 2 miles from us, their second child..and so on …
    you dont give enough informations about why u been cut off by your DIL…you talk like you should never be denied acces to your grandchildren..hmm..depends on situations ..yes you can lose your privileges as a grandmother if you dont respect your grandchildren’s mother.
    (your son)He is a wonderful man because his father and I raised him to be what he is…generous, kind, and thoughtful.
    ok, that is verry nice to hear and i dont doubt that u raised him the best you could…but there i have a question for you…if he is a good man like you said and your daughter in law is so awful(this person how you call her), she is a DIL from hell also and so on …should not your son grant you entry in theyr lifes?…should he not talk to this monster wife he has to let you see the grandchildren…it seems to me that they came to an agreement in wat concerns you and decided together to cut you off..his horible wife would never be able to control your son better than you so she would never be able to cut him off from you unless there are obvious reasons…
    She probably had a doll and was sticking pins in her head during my 6 hour surgery!!!
    we are adults here …and please act accordingly…unless she told you that she was dooing woodoo on you, you should not make this kind of statements…and by the way you wrote (she probably)..makes me think she did not told you so..dont make this kind of statements again because you make people believe that you have a bit of paranoya and make up stories in your head about what (probably)your DIL have an obssesive behavior towards her if you are that far to make asumpsions about her wishing your death and so on…
    I married my husband because he was such a good son……………
    hahahah…this one is so funny…verry well that your husband was a good son, this is how it supose to be …if your MIL had a bad behaviour towards you sometimes and you accepted it for watever reason that does not mean that your DIL should accept your disrespect or bad behaviour…the more educated and inteligent a human beeing is the more they have theyr own personality and can stand up for themselfs…and would not accept people that do not respect them around.
    I love my husband enough to know that coming between him and his mother would …..
    please sustain your statement by relating facts …not just saying what you feel as beeing the reality…we all seen how your asumptions can go a bit too far sometimes(aka the voodoo doll thig)…
    For all of you DILs out there who are bitching and complaining about about their horrible mother-in-laws, please remember, you will be walking in those shoes in just a wink of an eye…..
    this is the only good thing i can say you put in your story…yes we will be MIL’s in a blink of an eye….and personally i am terified to be a MIL like you..
    PS: you should go for counseling and get some help in understanding were you stand in the relationship with your son and his wife…get some help in finding a comon ground ..that if is not too late to repair what is already done..