Melanie arrives in my tormented office. She tells me that her mother-in-law is spoiling her time with her family, that she interferes in her interventions and does not leave her space. At the thought of getting in touch with her, she realizes that she is on the defensive.
When we become parents, those around us are heard. The advice, the presence, and sometimes even the insistence, are sometimes too frequent and this alters our relationships with others. The elders want to share their experience with us and on the one hand it reminds them of their own memories (and sometimes their difficulties), on the other hand they want to do well and seek to spare us certain challenges.
It is then difficult to make your own place, to create space for yourself and to be able to be yourself, facing your parenthood brand new.
Nothing more than clumsiness
The first thing I think is essential to remember: often, it's just clumsiness. The entourage certainly wants to help us, love us and support us! When it's emotionally charged, we rarely have the right distance to position ourselves near those who need us.
When you remember that the other is not malicious, it is easier to accept the relationship and it becomes more obvious to name what matters most to you.
Having children raises expectations; this is also the case for the family in the broad sense. All want to transmit its values, sometimes cultural, generational or even religious. The whole family changes their social status and your mother-in-law in turn becomes a grandmother. That's a lot to absorb and digest!
You should know that it's often a lot of upheaval for her too. It turns out that the reality surely differs from his aspirations. In order not to lose what she has learned, she will sometimes tend to be too present or even invasive… but she seeks in fact, above all, to define her own role.
How to react?
Our primary reactions are to defend ourselves, to feel attacked, therefore to respond with aggression or passivity, and to justify our actions and choices.
If we are interested in the needs of the other, then he finds himself at the center of our concerns. This will reduce conflict areas. " What is troubling you? », « what matters to you? ", " what do you need? ", " What are you afraid of? “… These questions bring a certain distance that will allow us to no longer feel too persecuted by the words, but to regain an egalitarian position in the relationship. If you show empathy and openness, your mother-in-law will surely be morerelaxed and more alert to his invasive behaviors.
Communication is key
The principles of nonviolent communication developed by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s consist of talking about oneself, one's needs and one's emotions without condemning or pointing the finger at the other. Thus the relationship becomes lighter and our interlocutor will not feel attacked.
We all care about the welfare of our children, so it's important to remember the mission. Even if this remains a common mission, everyone has a distinct place.
- Any situation must be able to be observed without judgement, in an objective way
- Identify your emotions and learn to express your own feelings
- Expressing deep needs
- Simply state what is expected of the other
Everyone in his place. There is no need to compete. In order to avoid power relations, it is important to draw the role of each. We can name our need to be supported but not infantilized, to be able to remain ourselves, in our role as a parent.
Validate our skills
We are generally afraid of judgment, especially from people we value. This is even stronger when we are vulnerable.
Parenting is a sensitive subject because it is an evolving position, and we are often questioning ourselves, so it is more difficult to impose our way of thinking. We also have the fear of no longer beinglike. We all have in mind the perfect fantasy relationship with our mother-in-law and when this relationship is in danger, it is difficult to realize that conflict can jeopardize family harmony.
In order to become a solid parent, we also need to be validated by the other and the recognition of the mother or the mother-in-law are fundamental figures for the good balance of generational transmission.
To break away from this heavy and conflicting relationship, it is possible to refocus on the essentials: do not doubt your instincts and believe in yourself as much as possible.
Three keys to listening better
- Believe in your feelings and listen to your emotions
- Remember that our choices are valid
You are the experts on your children. The entourage can gravitate around but you are at the center of the relationship! Believe in yourself! This will give you the energy you need to stay focused on the essentials, building a peaceful relationship with your little ones.
To go further…
- Raising our children with kindness, by Marshall Rosenberg, published by Jouvence, ISBN: 9782883535572, 8, 95$
- There is no perfect parent, by Isabelle Filliozat, published by Marabout, ISBN: 9782501084925, 11, 95$