Nothing Received // How do i deal with my resentment towards my mother-in-law?

By: Shani Goodman

Dear Editor,

I have a dilemma, and I would really appreciate some advice.

Baruch Hashem, I am happily married to a wonderful husband, and we have five beautiful children.

When I was growing up, my parents had money for what we needed and a few extras, but not much more. However, there were always gifts for birthdays, graduations and other milestones. My grandparents were an active part of my life and showered me with gifts for every occasion possible.

I got married with an assumption about what is normal in terms of gift-giving, and I looked forward to celebrating all my milestones with my new in-law family. I remember going to Eretz Yisrael for our honeymoon with a list of gifts to buy. I was so excited to be able to get something for my mother-in-law! When we got back and I gave her the gift, I got a very neutral thank-you, and that was that. No more.

My birthday was about three months after our wedding. I thought my mother-in-law would buy me something, but all I got was a text wishing me a happy birthday. I thought that was strange, but I told myself that I wasn’t her daughter and that she didn’t really owe me anything. When my husband’s birthday rolled around a couple of months later, she also sent him a happy-birthday text…no gift.  

Baruch Hashem, we have celebrated many milestones over the years—births, birthdays, anniversaries—and most
of the time we did not receive any gifts from my in-laws. I can count on one hand the number of times the kids received gifts or toys from their bubby and zeidy.  

Besides that, I have a good relationship with my mother-in-law. I know she likes me because she truly seems happy when we are together, and she has a great deal of nachas from the kids. We don’t see each other often, but when we do, we all enjoy the time we spend together. You might think she compensates with other things like babysitting or making meals, but we live so far away that we don’t get together that often, and she is not involved much in my day-to-day life.

Ironically, my husband is not like his mother at all. He is extremely giving and gains real happiness from buying gifts for the kids and me. Therefore, I want to stress that it’s not the gifts per se that I need—it’s the bond that gift-giving creates in a relationship that is lacking here. 

We recently celebrated my eldest daughter’s bat mitzvah. It was wonderful to come together with family and friends for a beautiful simchah. There was a corner at the side of the hall for people to leave gifts. At the end of the night, I realized that all the gifts came from my side of the family! There wasn’t even one gift from the other side. I wanted to cry.

Are my expectations too high? Is that why I keep getting disappointed over and over? 

How do I deal with my feeling of resentment towards my mother-in-law? I would like to be at peace with the way she is and accept her for the person she is, but it’s just not happening. What should I do?

Giftless Daughter-in-Law

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