Mrs MacPickle: Solves All Your Problems!

Posted by in February's Magazine

The Monster in Law Problem

Dear Mrs MacPickle,



Dare I bring up the dreaded problem of the Monster In Law? Things have always been pretty tortured between my partner’s Mummy Dearest, and me but since we had our own child two years ago it feels like all out war, albeit a war fought only through passive-aggressive means. I feel endlessly criticised as a wife and mother. Please help me with your wisdom!

My dear friend, 

Let me try and shed a little light on this notoriously difficult relationship. A mother-in-law is the person on whose shoulders you quietly, or not so quietly, lay the blame for all that you dislike most about your husband/partner. Is he a wimp? She molly-coddled him. Is he emotionally illiterate? She did not mollycoddle him enough. Does he have anger problems? She repressed him. Tendencies towards strange perversions? She was almost certainly over-zealous with the nappy cream…and so on and so on. This in itself puts a massive strain on relations. But it works both ways, as what I have come to realise is that in turn you are a reminder to your mother-in-law of all her perceived failings. After all, if she had done a better job of raising her son he would not have married someone as awful as you now would he?!

All of the things he loves about you she can see as a criticism of herself…You are driven and successful, then was she too domestic? You are a slob, so was she so pathologically tidy she drove him nuts? You are an emotional basketcase, then was she cold and unfeeling? You are cold and unfeeling, then did she always freak him out by being an emotional basketcase? I could go on and on.  

Of course this is all made so much worse by the introduction of children to the equations, as M.I.L is forced to watch the consequences of her parenting skills affect the next generation: if only she hadn’t made her darling son hate mealtimes by fussing over how to cut up his chops then she might not have to endure the torture of watching your children scoff spaghetti with their fingers.

So what then is the solution? Rigid self-belief and a commitment to Not Taking It Personally. Once you can see every criticism and oversight as symptomatic of her insecurity about how much your husband loves you, you are onto a winner. And as long as you bundle on messing your own children up as you see fit with out apology or self reproach, then maybe one day you will be able to be a mother-in-law yourself without resentment or regret, and hence break the cycle.

Mrs MacPickle

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