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Pregnant, depressed and hating my mother-in-law

Community Member

Hi I'm new here.

I'm currently suffering perinatal depression and am feeling worse than normal today thanks to my mother-in-law. Unfortunately, she lives with us (granny flat out the back) and is a drinker. She's pretty unpleasant most of the time, but is particularly bad when drunk.

Yesterday, my three year old and I were outside painting. My daughter's hands were covered in paint, so I told her she needed to wash her hands with the hose before going inside. She ignored me and started going inside so I yelled her name. 

Obviously, the mother-in-law heard this, so she wandered out and decided to get involved. As my husband was bringing my daughter back outside to wash her hands, my mother-in-law screeched at my daughter "You bloody well do what you're told!". My husband told her to back off and so she screeched at him that he is too soft on our daughter. My husband told her to go away, and she responded with the famous "Well, I live here too!", to which he replied "That doesn't mean you have to get involved in our parenting". She then yelled at him that our daughter was a disobedient child.

A very similar situation occurred again this afternoon, with her barking at our daughter, telling her what to do, and when my husband told her to leave us alone, she just continued to argue.

The whole situation has left me feeling very miserable. I have started thinking about leaving my husband just so I can get away from my mother-in-law. I Feel so trapped though, because we have our three-year-old daughter together and I am also currently 7 months pregnant, so if I left, I don't know how I could survive financially.

I feel like we can't even use the backyard to play in etc. because she is out there and hears everything we do. It has also gotten to the point where, if my daughter is throwing a tantrum at the the back of the house, I try to move her to the front so my judgemental mother-in-law doesn't hear and feel she has the right to get involved.

I simply don't know what to do. Whenever I have tried to speak up for myself and be assertive towards her, it has caused even more problems because she then spends weeks sulking and manages to have some kind of effect on my husband so that he expects me to apologise. 

I am at my wits end 😞

7 Replies 7

Community Member
Oh dear, more MIL problems.  Why can't they learn to mind their own business.  Your husband at least gave you support by telling her to 'back off'.  To start with, does your house belong to you or MIL?  If it belongs to you and she's renting, I would ask my husband to make sure she understands the boundaries.  You, husband and child/ren need to feel safe in that you can discipline your children without her sticking her 2 cents worth in.  Reading between the lines, obviously she's entitled to her opinions, we all are.  She's raised her kids (her way), did she have interference from her MIL, if she did and didn't like it, remind her (when she's sober) how she felt when it happened to her.  Sounds as though she may also have an alcohol problem.  Perhaps you could ring Al-Anon which is an organization helping families with someone who has a drinking problem.  Al-Anon would be able to give you some guidance on how to deal with the alcohol issue.  I think, though, that your husband is going to have to be more assertive.  I understand how you feel about wanting to leave, don't threaten your husband with that, though.  That will make him feel more helpless.  Is there somewhere you could go during the day with daughter, to get away from MIL.  This would at least give you a break from what's happening, maybe a mother's group where you could meet other pregnant mums who understand your depression too.  You don't have to tell MIL where you're going either, and ask husband to keep it to himself.   Just as a matter of interest, who's idea was it to have MIL live in the granny flat.  I know I wouldn't have it, I don't think my ex would've either.  He has actually said he couldn't live with his mother.  We're not together because his parents abused me and he did not defend me, but that's another story.  As I said before, at least your husband defended you.  You are better off than me, there.         

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Champion Alumni

Dear Betty

Hello and welcome. Beyond Blue is a great place to talk about your difficulties and get help and support.

You are in a very difficult and stressful situation. Anyone living with an alcoholic has all the usual problems of life plus the problems of the alcoholic. Pipsy has suggested some great ideas and I want to add to those. Alcoholics Anonymous is fantastic for those struggling with a drinking problem. Getting someone to attend the meetings is a different story and I have no suggestions on how to do this. However they also have a family support service for those affected by an alcoholic member of the family. Look up this web address. www.al-anon.org  They have information you may find helpful and I understand you can talk to the people there.

Pipsy has asked if you own your home and if the MIL pays rent. It's a good point because unless MIL owns the house she can be asked to leave.  You need to discuss this option with your husband, preferably sooner rather than later. Once your baby is born you will have less time to supervise your daughter which may mean she spends more time indoors. Not really the best option but better than being yelled at by MIL.

It is a tricky situation. Perhaps you and husband can set up the 'rules' of you all living together. Simple things like respecting each other's privacy, how to speak to each other, how to manage the MIL when she has been drinking. I know this sounds very formal or artificial but this is a situation that needs handling well if the whole family is to have a stable and happy life. You also need to decide well in advance how much is enough and at what point sh must leave. Don't wait until you can't cope any longer. Decide now what is unacceptable and when that happens your MIL must leave. I hope I have written that so it makes sense.


At the moment you are feeling fragile and threatened, largely due to your pregnancy I imagine. No surprises there. Having had four children I am aware of the energy needed to care for all of them at once, especially when you would rather have a nap. Having two children at such different ages and needs means you will need to focus on them and not be constantly worrying if MIL is going to get in on the act.

It's a great idea to become part of a play group. Children always enjoy playing with others. My daughters formed friendships with the women who attended prenatal classes and carried this friendship on with playgroups. It's good regardless of the pressures at home.

Thank you for your reply Pipsy 🙂 You have some sage advice and I will definitely look into getting advice and support from al-anon. At her age, the MIL is never going to stop drinking - from the stories my husband has told me, she has been drinking most of his life and he is over 40. 

I don't quite understand it, but she has some kind of emotional hold over him where he feels responsible for her which is why she lives with us. They fight a lot and he generally indicates that he doesn't like her, but he still has this guilt-like feeling of loyalty to her.

The house is ours, and she lives with us rent-free. I don't know her financial affairs really, but obviously the bulk of her money goes towards alcohol which isn't cheap.

She has a sense of ownership over things generally. She also has a general air of superiority and likes to tell people what to do in many different areas of her life - so I'm not the only person she infringes upon.

I work part-time so it's not like I'm stuck at home with her everyday (thank God), and I do have a great group of friends from playgroup/mothers group, but they don't really understand the complexity of the situation 

I've blown up at her once or twice in the years I've known her and it hasn't proved worth the hassle because she sulks for weeks on end and then gets drunk and tells my husband things like she's going to go live by the river or kill herself. Then of course, he feels dreadful and worries she'll really carry through with the threats.

She's just very unreasonable generally - I've never heard her admit to being wrong or at fault in a situation - so even just trying to discuss these things like normal human beings has little effect 😞

Hi Bookworm.  Sounds as though, along with alcohol abuse, there is a touch of narcissism there.  As you said, she has some sort of emotional hold over your husband, perhaps she's used the old, 'one day I'll be dead, how will you feel, knowing you've killed me'.  I'm just guessing that last part.  It's definitely a love-hate relationship there.  Your husband needs to know that no matter what happens to her, it's not his fault.  Is there no FIL.  She's using horrific emotional blackmail, how cruel.  Take it from me, she is not going to kill herself, that's emotional blackmail at it's worse.  Does she have Dementia, is she able to care for herself?  I would gently suggest to your husband that you find somewhere else for her to live, explain that with the new baby coming, you won't have time to care for her.  Your health is important, I wouldn't give him an ultimatum, but tell him that it's for the best that you find somewhere else for her to live.  Let him know you'll support him all the way in finding somewhere else for her.  Ignore her emotional blackmail, not easy for hubby, but better for you and family.  Find out about narcissism and tell your hubby.  He needs to know how to handle her rubbish, that's what it is.

All the best.

Hello Betty

Just read your last post and Pipsy's reply. Pipsy is quite right, your MIL is using emotional blackmail over your man. I can understand his feelings towards her as children general love and care for their parents no matter what happens. It's not a logical thing to do when a parent is playing games, but then where emotions are concerned we are not logical.

My guess is that MIL has always used emotional blackmail on her children which is why your husband feels guilty even now. He can see what she is doing but is afraid to break the bond in case she really does harm herself. It's a hard trap to get out of. I would also guess your MIL has had her share of hurt which is why she takes comfort in trying to to run the lives of others. Plus as Pipsy says, it appears there is some narcissism.

Unfortunately life is usually complicated. Moving MIL elsewhere is a good option but I doubt your husband will be willing to do this. Does he have any other siblings who can take care of her? Ask your doctor about suitable places for her to live. GPs etc usually know the best places.

As I said above, decide now what is the worst you will tolerate from MIL and agree with your husband MIL must leave at this point. It will be very hard on him as he seems to have been brought up to care for her and to fear her. I would feel bad about moving my mom to a home of some sort and I understand the situations are different. Well actually my mom died 15 years ago but I hope you understand what I mean.

It's not an easy decision to make for anyone. When someone is causing so much hurt and chaos it really is time to make a decisive move. If you leave your husband MIL will have him to herself and you will never reunite. Besides, why should you give up your family and happiness because MIL is so self-centred.

Next step, chat with your GP. I often say this but your mental health is as important as your physical health and both are being affected by MIL.

Secondly, I suggest if and when MIL leaves you rent out the granny flat. That way your husband cannot agree to have MIL home "for a short time" in the future. Sounds horrid I know, but you need strategies in place for the future.

Did you contact AA? This is also a good thing to do as they can help you with MIL.


Hi Bookworm Betty

Thanks for taking the time to join us here on the forums. Your situation is certainly a tricky one.

Your health and wellbeing need to be a priority because not only are your looking after yourself, you are caring for your beautiful child and for your unborn baby. But how do you do this when you are faced with your MIL in your backyard? Much of the advice so far has been really useful.

It is important to begin some regular conversations about how things are going to work now and into the future. It sounds like there are some things that your husband is unwilling to say so perhaps you can talk with him about what you can say, how you can pitch it, and how you will manage things over time. It will be important that you and your husband share the same idea about boundaries and how you are going to respond to your MIL. We also wondered whether you could talk openly with your husband about how he responds to his mum, not to criticise him, but to help him understand that how he interacts with his mum has implications for you all. Maybe you could go together to a health professional for some advice on how to approach this in effective and caring manner? 

And what about your health team? Are you  supported by a Gp of health care professional to help you to manage your depression? Having a supportive health professional or health team can make a big difference to your experince of, and recovery from, depression. 

Your MIL also sounds unhappy so perhaps part of this process is also looking at what supports she has. Are there any other family members/friends who could take her out a few times a week? By linking her in with other people and activities it might help her to focus less on your family. Again, talk to your husband about this and see what you think is possible. We would also encourage you to ensure she has a helpful GP and that if she talks about harming herself, or about how unhappy she is, that she sees her GP to talk this through. The GP is there to provide advice on managing how she is feeling, especially if she is having thoughts of self harm. She may not be willing to give up her alcohol but perhaps she can be encouraged to do things a little differently. 

On a final note it's great to hear that you have a solid group of friends who support you and that you can have fun with. It is difficult if they do not understand your situation as you had hoped, but perhaps for now focus on the quality time that you can share with them and their children. Good friendships can certainly help to lift your mood, but it also gives you another avenue to share positive and healthy relationships.

Bookworm Betty please keep talking to us here. Together we can share ideas, offer support and a place to talk openly about what is on your mind. Take care


Community Member

That is a horrible situation!

you poor thing.

she really needs to go though.

I can't imagine how much strain it is putting on your relationship with your partner and also your relationship with the child

having a MIL living with you (or so close) is not good for anyone. Bite the bullet and ask her to leave.