I have been depressed since the birth of my child 9 months ago. I am doing better but the biggest problem is my mother-in-law. She is always criticizing me, saying I am neglecting my child and a bad mother because I go out with friends once a week and leave our daughter with her dad. She also criticizes my housekeeping and says I am fat. I am 25 lbs overweight since the baby, and the house is sort of a mess. My husband is sympathetic to me and says I should just ignore her. He says it is my problem and won’t say anything to her. What can I do about her?
Your mother-in-law is way off base. Her remarks are rude and uncalled for. It is not child neglect to leave your daughter with her dad (unless she is saying her son is dangerous) while you go out with friends. It makes good sense for you to get away for an evening. As well, it is none of her business how tidy you keep your house or how much you weigh. She has no right to be critical of you.
The real problem, however, is not your mother-in-law but your husband. Part of being married is putting your spouse first. Your husband’s first loyalty should be to you not to his mother. It is not really your problem. It is his problem because it is his mother who is being rude to his wife.
He has failed to stand up to his mother. He should have the courage to speak to her and insist that she stop criticizing you. He should take no excuses and then follow up every time she is critical. He doesn’t have to be mean, but he has to be firm. If your husband won’t stand up to his mother, you have some options on how to deal with her.
You can try speaking to her about her behaviour, ignore her remarks entirely or be very firm when she criticizes you.
I don’t think speaking to her will work. She will probably deny she is criticizing you and say she is just trying to be helpful. Because her son is not saying anything, she will assume he agrees with her.
Ignoring can work. If every time she criticizes you, you turn away and ignore her for a minute, she may get the message. If she criticizes you on the phone, you can say “Sorry, I have to run for the baby,” and hang up. In the short run, she will likely increase her criticism and say that you are rude as well.
You could just be firm with her. If she says you shouldn’t go out you can say “I am sorry you feel that way, but I think it is good for a father to spend time with his daughter.” If she says the house is a mess, you can respond “I agree it is a bit of a mess but I think taking care of our daughter is most important.” If she asks you if you have put on weight, you can respond “You know, a woman’s weight is a private matter”. If she says more, just use the same response again and again.
I hope your husband plucks up his courage and deals with his mother. If he does, it may be possible for her to change.