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Dear Dr. Yael,

I just spent Yom Tov with my parents for the first half and my in-laws for the second half. My parents get along well with my husband and are great with my children. My in-laws are also good to my children. My father-in-law is patient and loving; however, while my mother-in-law loves the children and her dear son, she really tends to pick on me. For example, we have five children under the age of ten and two children are under the age of two. Two of our children are still in diapers. All of our children are very noisy and lively. On Shabbos and Yom Tov everybody went to sleep. My husband and I split the naptime so that each of us took care of the children and tried to keep them quiet. I got stuck with the children more since my husband and father-in-law were in shul often. I am very particular about my children and keeping them clean. I change the two youngest children’s diapers often and clean them with appropriate wet wipes for Shabbos and Yom Tov. The babies practically never have diaper rash and I take excellent care of my children and our home. I work part-time as a physician’s assistant, cook fresh supper every night, try to keep a clean house with a cleaning woman once a week and am a very loving wife. We have a great marriage, but my mother-in-law never sees anything good in me. I married her favorite child, and she is forever picking on me. I try to be respectful and thoughtful to her. I buy her gifts, cook food for her, and try to be a caring daughter-in-law. Whatever I do is never good enough. My father-in-law loves me and is always praising me. Sometimes he tells my mother-in-law to learn how to cook from me.

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My in-laws come to us once a month for Shabbos and I always prepare a feast. Baruch Hashem we own a beautiful home which we were able to buy for a relatively fair price before COVID-19. We hardly go to my in-laws even though they have a very large home, a lot of housekeeping help, and are Baruch Hashem well off. My mother-in-law never had to work. Baruch Hashem we are able to live nicely, but we both work very hard.

On Yom Tov my mother-in-law went through the garbage can in our room and counted the diapers that I used to change our baby boys. She said that I was wasteful and that I changed them too often. I spent so much time crying about this relationship. My husband expects me to be the tzaddaikes and always give into my mother-in-law for kibud em. He says that Hashem gave him a difficult mother, but he chose me to be his wife. Therefore, I must work on my middos and give in to her. Please help me Dr. Respler. I spend hours crying and being upset. I wish my husband would stand up to his mother. I don’t want this conflict to affect our great marriage.

A Reader

 

Dear A Reader,

I understand your feelings and I feel that your husband should gently speak to his mother to appreciate you more as a daughter-in-law. However it is unlikely that your mother-in-law will change. It will probably be beneficial to go for help to learn how to respond to your mother-in-law more appropriately so that you do not get upset and maybe even your responses can halt the criticism in the moment. For example, if you said “You are right! I like to change my children a lot to make sure they’re clean and so they never get rashes,” she probably would have nothing to say in response. Learning how to respond without getting upset by your mother-in-law can help you feel better about many situations.

In writing this column, it is difficult to ascertain the entire situation since I am only hearing your side of the story. It would be best to try to seek help from a frum therapist who values the mitzvah of kibud av v’em and can help you process your feelings and answer in a way that will stop the criticisms. Your mother-in-law will likely continue to make comments, however your responses can possibly help in the situation. It may also be a good idea to consult a rav who is sensitive to these issues and could guide you appropriately in how to handle this situation. Hatzlacha in this challenging situation!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.
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