Mind over Mother-in-Law // Everything she did was wrong

By: Shifra Cohen

I didn’t really know my husband’s family when we got married. I left my family and friends on the East Coast and moved to California, where my husband is from. I was very fragile at that point in my life, having underestimated the challenges of getting married and moving to a new place at the same time.

My mother-in-law never once called and asked in a real way, “How are you doing? How’s the adjustment going? Do you miss your family?” The one time I mentioned that I might want to move back to New York, she jumped down my throat. I was very hurt, and it felt as if she didn’t really care about me.

On top of that, she was very controlling and critical. For example, when she helped us unpack in our new apartment, she told me which dishes were going to be meat and which were going to be dairy! Whenever she came over for a Shabbos meal, I either made too much or not enough. If I made meat, I should have made chicken, if I made chicken I should have made meat. Or else there was a piece of furniture that would look better elsewhere. I felt like I was never good enough. It wasn’t that any one particular comment was so bad, but the effect was cumulative. I also didn’t think that she really wanted to get to know me. This bred a deeper resentment.

It was therefore only natural that whenever she asked to come over (which she did quite often), it created a lot of tension between me and my husband. Almost every argument we had during our first few years of marriage involved my mother-in-law to some degree.
In the days preceding her visits I would be overcome with dread, and I only breathed a sigh of relief after she was gone.

After I had my first baby, I suffered from postpartum anxiety and depression. My mother-in-law didn’t understand why I couldn’t just get my act together, and she often pressured us to make trips to attend family simchahs. This bred more resentment.

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