My Mother-in-Law Gives Horrible Gifts

Dear Snarky,dear_snarky_logo-1

I don’t mean to be ungracious but every year my mother-in-law gets me the worst gifts. It’s like she goes out of her way to hurt my feelings. From a Cooking for Dummies book (p.s. I went to culinary school) to clothes that are at least two sizes too big. Every present is a slap in the face.

Any advice how to get her to stop or how I should react on Christmas morning when I open an insult disguised as a gift.

Signed, Dreading Christmas morning

Dear Dreading,

Right off the bat, many people would tell you that your husband should put his big boy pants on and tell his mother to stop with the hateful gifts or that you need to have it out with your MIL.
To that I say wrong and wrong. First, men just plain ole stink at telling their mothers off (I have first hand knowledge of this) and second no good ever comes from a holiday screaming match with a relative.
The key here is to not let your mother-in-law get the upper hand and by that I mean you don’t want to give her and her mean-spirited gifts any kind of attention whatsoever.
File this away – if she gets attention she wins. You also don’t want to give her the pleasure of seeing that she’s hurt your feelings. This means when you open these so-called presents you must smile like you’re trying to win Miss Congeniality in a beauty pageant and sell it, really sell it that you LOVE the gift.
For example, if she gives you fat clothes again just say, “Wow, this is great. I love the fabric and the color will look sooo good on me! It’s perfect. Thank you.”  
This reaction is a twofer.  One, you squash your mother in law’s hope that she’s hurt your feelings and two everyone else thinks you are the most gracious person on the face of the earth. You know what that makes you? A much better person and there’s a gift that keeps on giving.
*If you need advice from Dear Snarky email her at

38 thoughts on “My Mother-in-Law Gives Horrible Gifts

  1. Disturbed says:

    I know how she feels! I’ve received used gifts in the past. A potato slicer w/peels still on it, rusted sewing needles in a taped package, stuffed animals. One of the best ones…I got a phone call about how she got a FREE with purchase Snowman platter from buying perfume. Guess what I got for Christmas? I’d rather get NOTHING!

    • been there says:

      Omg yes. My own mother was always a little crazy and a lot hateful so we used to get lots of weird insulting gifts… now she’s become a drug addict and we get gifts like that. Half-filled ketchup bottles, burnt down candles, the sunglasses you left at her house last week… Merry Christmas! They have become less mean and more sad.

  2. Ida Northcott says:

    Gee, Snarky you are much nicer then I would be. I’d pretend to be excited because “I needed clothes for the Church homeless collection next week and wasn’t sure when I’d be able to go and buy something. This will be perfect to donate.” Its appreciative, but clearly points out that you won’t be wearing it.

  3. Bea says:

    Any way to catalogue punch-line presents, and share with the world? I’m thinking something along the lines of cakewrecks or regretsy. You could start a hilarious website and write it all up in a book!

  4. KT says:

    I think we all want to have that “Bam! Bitch goes down!” moment when dealing with mean-spirited people, but this is so much better. Because people will see that this MIL is a witch regardless, but it is up to this woman whether or not she wants to seem petty. She can always keep gift for a time and then give it away later. Fat clothes, tell her she lost some weight and donated to Good Will. Cooking for Dummies, tell her you lent it to a friend after you mastered the chapters. With a cooking school education, it shouldn’t take that long.

  5. Kim Lancaster Furnell says:

    Ever so grateful for a mother in law who has stuck with cold, hard cash for gifts. Everyone gets the same thing, she doesn’t go shopping, it’s the ultimate win-win. 😀

  6. S L JOERGENSEN says:

    That is a hoot. Or just don’t speak to them for 8.5+yrs….because you MIL asks you what you did to give your child Cerebral Palsy. My husband is so normal….guess he got all the good genes. She just hates me because he proposed 10 days after we met…3 kids and 21 years later….LOL.

    I will get you my thoughts on Chapter 4 tomorrow. Had my boobies done and am just resting. Was a piece of cake. My hysterectomy hurt more than this.

  7. Janel Sharp says:

    Why not have a fun “white elephant” exchange with your friends each year? You can wrap your awful MIL’s presents and watch the fun!! This way you WILL be thrilled with each gift she gives you and the extra twinkle in your eye will shine as you think of all the fun you and your friends will have swapping funny stories and exchanging unwanted stuff!!

  8. Donna Myers says:

    I wish I had a MIL to give me any kind of gift. Mine passed away right after my husband and I got married. Second marriage so I never really got to know her and she never had the chance to give me any kind of gift except for the one of her wonderful son. We were both in our 50’s when we remarried after having 20+ year marriages to other people.

  9. Mary says:

    Thank you, thank you! Second year in a row my sister-in-law has given me an article of clothing two sizes too big. Does she really think I am that fat? I thought of sending her my correct size, but love this advice to stay on the side of gracious, write the insincere thank you note and send the clothing on to Salvation Army.

  10. Deb says:

    My favorite MIL Chrostmas gift was the year she gave us two used CD’s of native American music and told us to pick the one we liked because she was giving the other to a neighbor. My favorite MIL wedding presents were a used sewing machine (and I don’t sew) along with a big box of potato chips.

  11. May says:

    The advice is true! My mother in law is a nasty piece of work too. Her goal is to upset you. Don’t let her win. I keep hoping someone will pour water on her and she will melt away but has not happened yet.

  12. DIL says:

    I feel so relieved that I am not the only one in this world with a MIL and her crappy gifts. Thank you for making this page! I can finally talk to others with the same kinds of experiences about this!

    So this is my story: I got very old and used (probably expired too…) nail polishes. More or less, they were all in the same color. Most of them were red, one or two were slightly red. Also, with the old nail polishes, I got some of her used clothes, and I spotted some greasy, oily stains on them. My MIL makes me feel like I’m a garbage bin, or some kind of charity that needs old stuff from people. So thoughtful of her 🙂

  13. Kayla says:

    My MIL constantly buys used junk from garage sales and gives it to us. She’s also the kind of person who has strings attached to everything and gets mad when she notices that we have gotten rid of things that she has given to us. She literally just stopped by unannounced to give me a used Clinique facial scrubber brush. The thing was dirty and had a little yellow crust on it. Probably the last thing I want touching my face. For my daughter’s birthday she gave her a used rodent cage meant for a small mouse or dwarf hamster. It’s way too small for the hamster we have which already has a perfectly fine cage. That used cage was her birthday gift and now we are stuck with it.

    I hate to sound ungrateful but I’m just so sick of the constant gift giving. We don’t need the gifts, she can come over and play with the grandkids any time she wants (with obvious limits of course) but she can come over without having to bring over items to give to me or the kids. She is retired and lives by herself, I know she’s lonely and bored so shopping around at garage sales is her little hobby. I just don’t want stuff sh finds. I don’t shop garage sales and if I did I am a picky person with what type of home this stuff came from. Having it show up in our living room unannounced is not what I want at all. I wish there was a way for her to stop. She is the type of person who gets offended easily and takes any sort of criticism personally. I’m just tired of it.

  14. Anna says:

    I will definitely try this. My MIL is horrible and her gifts are always super passive aggressive: from over sized clothes, to weird beans in a box for a soup, cooking magazines, and…dollar tree cosmetics. 😦 she has said some awful things, like calling me a gold digger when I was on bed rest, or telling my husband to leave and just have a happy life without rules etc. I will apply your advice. Good to know I’m not the only one. She’s such an insignificant part of our lives, that it
    s easy to fake kindness to her and let her boil in her own venom.

  15. WS EG says:

    Every year since I’ve been married to my husband (5 years), his mother makes A BIG DEAL out of mailing WORLD VISION gift catalogues to him and his 3 siblings, and telling us we can spend 100 bucks (of the in-laws’ money) on anything we want in the catalogue (that will be donated to needy kids). She mails the catalogues at Thanksgiving time, and then when we gather on Xmas Eve, she makes a big point to pass out thank you cards to each of us (that WORLD VISION sent her).

    I’m as charitable as the next person, but I’d rather choose my own charity to donate that 100 bucks to. She’s a religious zealot and only donates to evangelical Christian organizations.

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