Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Mother-in-law exacts emotional toll for her child care services

Carolyn Hax on

Dear Carolyn:

My retired mother-in-law graciously provides day care for my two daughters while my wife and I work. With child care in our city being practically unaffordable, it's a huge help to us and beneficial for the children, we feel.

But she exacts a toll for her efforts. Mainly in the form of constantly haranguing and lecturing my wife on her deficiencies as a mother -- i.e. doing anything differently than she did because she was obviously the perfect mother.

Mainly we put up with it quietly, but the latest rant really bothers me. My wife and I wanted to celebrate our fifth anniversary and my mother-in-law basically told us it's selfish and self-centered to do anything as a couple, as your focus should be entirely on your kids. It took all my nerve not to shout at her that maybe that attitude is exactly why your relationship with your husband is terrible (they barely speak).

My wife just wants to move on and not do date nights because of it.

How can I explain to her and her mother that doing things as a couple is essential to a healthy marriage and not "selfish"?

-- Really Bothered

When you say day care is "practically unaffordable," you're just talking money.

But you can't afford your mother-in-law's care emotionally -- not for much longer.

I suppose if you had no other work or day-care options, or if it were just a matter of counting to 20 during "Milly's" judgmental rants and then politely ignoring her to do as you see fit, then it would make sense to keep paying her toll.


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