I’m trying to get to the bottom of this: what is it about in-laws? It seems to be a nearly universal phenomenon, that no matter how congenial they are as people in and of themselves, in-laws as in-laws inevitably annoy. Caro wrote about this recently with an eloquent economy, while Tara has also documented some particularly difficult moments.

What has caught my attention about this phenomenon is how differently T. and I feel about the same objective events, but how similarly we feel about what is categorically similar overall. In other words – I quite enjoyed having my parents around for a month (by and large), but he was on the verge of going postal about two weeks in. Conversely, he quite enjoys sharing the baby with his parents, while I basically can’t wait for them to leave.

This despite the fact that, generally speaking, our respective in-laws are good people, and nobody (so far) has done anything particularly objectionable. In fact they’ve all tried very hard to be as helpful as possible and respectful of our space. It’s just having them around that pleases the one partner while annoying the other.

My theory at the moment is that this has to do with the attachments we form with our own parents as infants and small children (I’ve been reading a lot about attachment parenting), and how at a very profound level these persist through adulthood. I find comfort and peace in the presence of my parents just through the complete familiarity of their voices, faces, mannerisms. I imagine that T. feels the same way about his parents, a thought which helps me deal with the irritation.

How well do you get along with your in-laws (if you have them)?

p.s. I’m wickedly amused by the fact that I wrote this post while they were sitting across the room…and feeling appropriately guilty since the fact that they were holding little V. freed me up to type with both hands…


8 Responses to “In-laws”

  1. Caro Says:

    It is mostly the in-laws that annoy although S admitted that his parents annoyed him too. I loved having mine around for 2 weeks though – I can’t remember the last time I spent so much time with them.

  2. tara Says:

    yes, i think the familiarity & expectations have something to do with it. what my family defines as “helping out” makes sense to me & can irritate aaron & vice versa (although a is sometimes seriously annoyed by his p’s too)

  3. Rachel Says:

    My in-laws drive me nuts, not so much because they do or say stuff to me, but more because they don’t. We have a very polite superficial relationship. It has improved since having LG though because now we have something in common.

  4. Dr. Grumbles Says:

    My MIL drives me nuts sometimes! I think it is rather universal.

  5. Phoebe Says:

    I loved my MIL, but sadly, she passed away at the ripe old age of 91 two years ago. She told me she loved me much more than my own mother. It was a wonderful opportunity for me, but I had a hard time accepting it.

  6. Grad3 Says:

    For me it’s about being able to speak up if I don’t like what they are doing. I am still not confident in my mothering skills so standing up to my MIL is very hard while it’s much easier with my own family.

    My in-laws are good people but I wouldn’t choose to spend time with them if we weren’t related. They are starting to grow on me though since having Lil’ P…

  7. decemberbaby Says:

    Are you sure you want me to open up this can of worms? 🙂

    My in-laws drive me nuts, and I’m pretty sure that it’s me, not them. My MIL is so careful to ask me exactly what I want her to do with Kali… when and how to feed her, whether it’s ok to take her for a walk… what kind of stroller she should buy to keep at their house. It drives me nuts, and I feel like saying, “did you have your own children? You already know what to do. Do whatever works for you.” DH says they’re afraid of getting on my bad side, but oh, how irritating it is. She’s also very into seizing the “teachable moments” very explicitly, which I find annoying and condescending, even to my six-month-old. Her first full sentence to my daughter, at the tender age of one day, was “your ears are getting attuned to the English language!”

    But I shouldn’t complain. They’re happy to take her whenever we need a break and they bend over backwards to follow our wishes… although sometimes all that bending gets them a very twisted result. Which part of “don’t use hot water to warm up the breastmilk” was hard to understand?

    Okay, I’m done now. Sorry for the hijacking.

  8. niobe Says:

    Sadly, I don’t really have in-laws. L’s mother died many years ago. His father (who left L’s mother when L was very young) has never shown much interest in us and I don’t think we’ve seen him for four or five years. I wish I had in-laws — even annoying ones.

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