Managing Your Mother-in-Law

How to deal with your partner's mom during your pregnancy


The changing dynamics of pregnancy can deepen any existing cracks in your relationship with your partner's mother, but following these four rules can help you nurture the mom-by-marriage bond.

DO: Give her an active role. If your mother-in-law is domineering, give her control—over one project. Maybe make it a task you're dreading, says psychologist Terri Apter, Ph.D., author of What Do You Want From Me?: Learning to Get on With In-Laws (W.W. Norton). "Perhaps let her choose a car seat from all the models available and sift through the safety advice," Apter suggests.

DO: Encourage your partner to get involved. If your husband says, "Well, I was hers first," encourage him to reconnect with her—and then sing your praises to her. "Try to ensure that your partner does his part to show his mother that he respects your approach to caring for yourself and your baby," says Apter.

DON'T: Lose all perspective. "Remember, you both love the same man," says clinical psychologist Aviva Samet, Psy.D., co-author of The Daughter-in-Law's Survival Guide (New Harbinger). With this as a bonding starting point, focus on establishing a dialogue before the baby is born. "Once the baby comes, these talks will be less neutral and harder to navigate for the first time, more likely leading to conflict," says Samet.

DON'T: Expect a miracle. If you and your mother-in-law have been like oil and water since "I do" (or even, "Hello"), don't expect to turn into BFFs just because you're pregnant. "If she was irascible and disapproving before, chances are she will still be," says Samet. But don't give up, if only for the sake of your joint project as mom and grandma: "Your child will, hopefully, get the best of both of you and see the best between both of you," says Samet.

— Amy Levin-Epstein