The boundaries for a mother-in-law to respect are not clearly defined. That’s why mothers-in-law can sometimes get confused, flustered, and have high expectations of their married sons, their wives, and their entire little family.
This is not an article about the nice peacemaking mother-in-law type of woman, but it is clearly one for daughters-in-law who have and suffer from a nosy, interfering, and annoying mother-in-law. It is for those brides (and there are many!), who wonder and just don’t get why their mothers-in-law act as if they have just stolen and married their husbands, rather than sons.
This list is to be taken with a grain of salt and nicely communicated to the mother-in-law in a kind and civilized manner, without hurting her feelings or causing more damage. In the end, the daughter-in-law is expected to be respectful and good to her mother-in-law, as it is someone who matters a lot to her spouse.
List of boundaries for a mother-in-law:
1- If she’s not willing to work as a team, the two of you won’t work together at all:
The daughter-in-law is expected to be obedient and respectful towards her mother-in-law but this is not always easy.
Sometimes, she may have a tough time adjusting to her new family and she may feel like she’s being treated unfairly by her in-laws, which can lead to a lot of tension and hostile reactions. That’s why it’s important that both parties understand and respect each other’s points of view and work together as a team.
In any case, a mother-in-law should be well aware that she cannot always have authority over her son’s wife, boss her around, and make her do things her way. Either she works as a team and comes to an agreement that pleases both herself and the daughter-in-law, or the latter will have to enforce rigid boundaries.
2- She cannot live a second life through you:
Authoritative commands on how to live your life and what to do or not to do in your marriage and family life are clearly not welcome. It is none of your mother-in-law’s business and not her place to be telling you anything or demanding that you do anything in a specific way.
This has to be clear and spelled out to her if needed. She has had her time and done what she wanted in her own marriage and youth and now it’s your turn to do the same. Nobody can be so greedy as to expect to live two different lives: their own and another one through their daughter-in-law.
We only have one life and one body, so when it gets old, deteriorates, or perishes we understand that our time on earth is close to an end and we work on leaving behind good memories.
Even if your mother-in-law didn’t have her fair share of deciding for herself, her own marriage, her kids, and family life when she was younger then it is not your problem. You’re not responsible for paying that debt by letting her take over your life.
3- She should not barge in, come unannounced or disturb your routine:
A mother-in-law should not barge into her son’s home without prior notice and permission. Also, she should not impose her opinions on his wife on what to do with her time.
Some wives feel that their mother-in-law has been given too much power and this leads to tension in the marriage. Others may feel that they are being given too little power over their own life and marriage which can lead to resentment.
Either way, the daughter-in-law can set her own boundaries and make it clear to her mother-in-law that she is not allowed to barge in or do certain things. To any entitled and daring mother-in-law, this can come as a shock and as an unpleasant surprise, at first. But later on, and gradually she will respect her son’s wife more for it.
She will think twice about what she has to say before saying anything in the future, rather than just walk over the poor thing and think she won’t ever stand up for herself.
4- She should not interfere with the couple’s parenting decisions:
Boundaries for mother-in-law are important for a long-term relationship. One common boundary is not to interfere with the couple’s parenting decisions. For example, she should not make decisions about what the children eat or how they are raised.
She should only follow the kids’ mother’s instructions on how to do things for her grandchildren, without trying to impose her own opinion.
It is important to respect boundaries when it comes to parenting. It is a delicate balance between grandparents, parents, and children. The grandparents should not interfere with their daughter’s or son’s parenting decisions, even if they disagree with them.
That’s why it is important for her to give her son and daughter-in-law space to do what they think is best for their own children.
5- She should respect her daughter-in-law’s friends and family:
Mothers-in-law should keep their negative opinions to themselves and not interfere with their daughter-in-laws’ decisions about friends and family.
The mother-in-law should always respect her limits when it comes to her son’s wife’s relationships. She should not have an opinion on her daughter-in-law’s work, friends, or anything else that she does when she walks out the door.
It is important for the mother-in-law to respect her daughter-in-law’s friends and family. She should never criticize them or be rude to them. This is not just a one-time thing. It is an ongoing process that she should do to show her daughter-in-law that she respects her loved ones and wishes the best for them.
6- She should not intrude on the couple’s private time:
She should not intrude on the couple’s private time and should be respectful of their decisions. A good mother-in-law is someone who supports her daughter and son, helps out around the house, and doesn’t interfere with their marriage.
Some mothers-in-law are intrusive, which can be a source of tension in the family. They should not intrude on the couple’s privacy and they should respect the couple’s right to have some alone time, especially when they all live together.
In the end, the mother-in-law is not the couple’s minor child and does not need to spend her life living with them or being under their supervision.
If they want to include her in their day-to-day life, then it’s up to the couple in the end. And, obviously, she’s not going to gain that privilege by being manipulative, demanding, and aggressive.
7- She should have no expectations of you:
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to your mother-in-law is that she should have no expectations of you. She is or is going to be your mother-in-law, not a part of your couple or little immediate family.
You are not going to be able to provide her with the same level of attention as you would with your spouse or kids and that should be understandable.
She has raised your spouse and that is an accomplishment that you cannot be ignored. However, this doesn’t mean that she can expect the spouse of her child to also worship her and submit to her authority and dictatorship. Even strict authoritative parents lose the battle of being close to their own children.
So this is a clear direct way of explaining how a strict, angry, and authoritative mother-in-law will only end up shooting herself in the foot.
That’s because, in all honesty, a daughter-in-law has no duty towards her mother-in-law. If she is not going to be polite, kind, and smart in trying to befriend her daughter-in-law, then she’ll have space in her life. But, she cannot force close contact or a close unbalanced relationship on you where she holds most of the power.
8- She should not stay for a very long time when visiting:
There are many reasons why a mother-in-law should not spend a very long time when visiting. First and foremost is that the son and his wife should be able to enjoy some quality time together. Secondly, people have appointments, commitments, and other timed events to attend to. They cannot forget about it all and just decide to entertain their stubborn, never-satisfied, and demanding guests.
Mothers-in-law are often retired and have nothing to do, which is why some also happen to have a favorite time-pass in the form of spying on their son’s marriage and his wife. This is obviously an exaggeration and not always true, but it is to some extent a reality for many couples.
The mother-in-law should understand that people have things to do and cannot forever sit with her in the living room, answer her questions and reassure her. She has to accept that people are lives and have their own daily routines and schedules.
9- She must stop thinking she is entitled to enjoy her son’s financial income:
This is very common. In many cases, the reason why a mother-in-law feels she can even barge in and just show up whenever she feels like it is the old-fashioned idea that “it’s her son’s house”.
This implies that because her son is the breadwinner or the main provider in his household, he is also the person who even allows his little family to have the home they live in or the lifestyle they have. So, her being his mother makes her think that she’s entitled to enjoy whatever income or lifestyle her son can offer today because she’s the one who raised him and who gave him an education.
However, this is a very childish and immature type of thinking. Just because her son was raised by her doesn’t make him bound for life to pay her back financially for her efforts. If she is in any financial struggle then her son can help her in the way he sees fit. But, she cannot impose her (unpleasant) presence on his wife all the time, as a price for the education she gave her own child.
Motherhood in itself is very rewarding and many good mothers just wish to see their children succeed and be able to provide a decent life for themselves and their families.
Whether your spouse is a good provider for his family or not, this doesn’t automatically invite or uninvite his mother from coming and enjoying the little luxuries he can afford. In the end, everyone is expected to do for their kids alone.
It is how life works and how the world is made. if your spouse’s mother cannot contribute financially to bettering your little family’s life, then the least she can do is be happy about whatever he can afford for his family on your own!
10- She must not invade your privacy and keep her distance:
If you are living with your mother-in-law, then it is important to have an understanding of what she can and cannot do. She should not invade your privacy, and she needs to keep her distance. Check out our article on what the pros and cons are of living with your in-laws, if that’s what you intend to do.
The family dynamics in a joint family household can be tough to manage. The extended family will sometimes live together in one house with several generations under the same roof. In this case, it may be difficult for the daughter-in-law to establish boundaries with her mother-in-law.
The mother-in-law is an important figure in the family, but it can be difficult to deal with a mother-in-law who doesn’t know how to keep her distance. And that’s especially the case when everyone lives under the same roof.
A mother-in-law that lives with you should try to respect your privacy and give you a lot of space from time to time. This will help both of you to maintain a healthy relationship.
11- She should not listen to what her poisonous and jealous daughters have to say about her daughter-in-law or their own brother:
A jealous sister-in-law is a common trope in many cultures, and it’s not surprising that this type of situation can happen in any family. If you are dealing with a mother-in-law who is against you because of the whispers of her own daughter, then you need to understand the root cause and address it accordingly.
The first step is to find out why your spouse’s sister doesn’t like you. Is it because she doesn’t like your personality? Is it because she feels threatened by your presence, youth, beauty, and existence as another young female in the family? Is it because she feels that her brother should have married someone else?
Once you know the reason behind her dislike for you, then try to make your mother-in-law see that she will lose her son and his little family, if she lets herself get influenced by her daughter or daughters.
If you found yourself in any of these scenarios, then check out our article on how to survive the first argument about in-laws.
Some mothers-in-law are just happy to see their children happy, but some see their daughter-in-law as a threat, sadly. And that’s what starts family drama. Check out this article if you just don’t know why your mother-in-law hates your guts…