Dear Snarky – 4 Ways to Mother-In-Law Proof Your Kids

40d640b17d33c77824444cb08e1d270eI get a lot of letters from women asking for help in dealing with difficult mother-in-laws. The letters run the gamut from mothers who still smother their adult children to what I would refer to as the interfering, insufferable witch. My initial reaction when I get these letters is to think, “Wow, you don’t have a mother-in-law problem you have a husband problem. He needs to man the hell up.”

All of these letters and the “man up” issue got me thinking that perhaps the best way to improve the mother-in-law experience is for parents to raise better kids.

Yeah, that’s right I said to raise better kids and by that I mean as mothers we need to make sure we’re raising strong children so when they become adults and marry they’ll be able to stand up to the most formidable of live forces – their mothers.

So that said, here’s my list of 4 Ways to Mother-In-Law Proof Your Kids.

1) Don’t use the guilt trip as your primary parenting tool. When your go to is guilt you’re raising kids who as adults will be susceptible to any and all forms of emotional terrorism. Long-term exposure to guilt makes people weak, fragile and oh so very manipulatable. No parent can possibly want that for their child.

2) Teach your child to be independent, that’s it’s okay for them to slowly learn to separate from you and become their own fully functioning human. I know many mothers like the fact that their kids are clingy and some take it as a compliment as in, “Look my 11-year-old loves me so much she can’t let go.” Fast forward 20 years and it’s not so cute when your 31-year-old is living in your basement with three kids and on her second failed marriage.

3) It’s okay to say no to family. Be a role model, have your children see you putting your immediate family first and not being bullied into doing something just because “it’s always been done that way” or because your husband’s mom’s grandma will get angry if you don’t have Christmas at her house every single freaking year.

4) Know that your long-term parenting goals is to raise an adult who no longer needs you. Sure, they love you, but they don’t need you involved in the day-to-day  minutiae of their lives.

In fact, I believe the best marital advice I can give is when you get married your spouse occupies the number one spot on your “List of Awesome”. When you have kids they start filling up the number 2,3 (and so forth) spots. You, as a mother of an adult child, have to not only be prepared to be bumped from that number one spot, but to be joyous about it for it means you have done your job well.

If you have questions for Dear Snarky “21st Century Advice with An Attitude” please email me at or private message me on my Snarky Facebook page.

Dear Snarky – Still Stuck at the Kiddie Table for Thanksgiving

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I’m going with my fiancé to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving. We have been dating for three years and for the past two years his mother has made me sit at the kids’ table. Hello, I’m 26 years old! This Thanksgiving I’m sure she is going to pull this stunt again. Should I stand up for myself and refuse to eat at the kiddie table (that is not even in the dining room BTW) or do I suck it up and not cause a scene?

Signed, Turkey Trouble

Dear Turkey,

 First off, I feel the need to offer you some premarital advice. Are you sure you want to a marry a man who can’t pull on his big boy britches and tell his mother that his soon to be wife will be dining at the same table as the rest of the adults? Also, your future mother-in-law sounds like a handful so be sure, very, very, sure you’re ready to marry into that kind of drama.

 As for the kids’ table – I would happily sit there and own it! Bring some cute crafts for your fellow diners and have a blast while counting your blessings that you’re not stuck eating with the adults who no doubt are either grousing about the country going to hell in a hand basket or Aunt Shirley’s and Uncle Stewart’s recent couple’s colonoscopies.

 Your bliss (faux or real) at eating with the kids will also show your future MIL not to mess with you because whatever shade she throws your way you’re going to turn it into a rainbow. 

 If you have a question for Dear Snarky – 21st Century Advice With An Attitude – email me at or private message me on my Snarky Facebook page.

My Mother-in-Law Gives Horrible Gifts

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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

Dear Snarky – “Where’s My Mother’s Day?”

5dcf4a30000ab041e9e34119166dad3aDear Snarky,

Why don’t I get a Mother’s Day? I’m the mom to three kids all under the age of 7 and yet every Mother’s Day it’s all about my mother-in-law. We go to church with her, have brunch with her and basically spend the entire day celebrating her. I’ve talked to my husband about this and he just looks guilty and says, “Well, she is my mom.” Is it too much to ask that I get a Mother’s Day?

Signed Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

I’m very torn how to answer your question. You would think that I would go off on your husband for not manning up and taking your side in this Mother’s Day battle. But, here’s the deal I have a son and I can only dare to dream that when he grows up and gets married he will put my wants and needs far, far above his wife’s. (Let’s all hope years down the road I don’t turn into THAT mother-in-law.)

All kidding aside, my peace making suggestion is have two Mother’s Day – traditional and observed. (Yes, yes, I know this sounds crazy, but work with me. The plan has the ability to be a winner.) On the Traditional Mother’s Day, the one on the calendar let your mother-in-law have her moment. Although she is no longer deep in the parenting trenches like you she has been a mother longer than you and deserves some love and if you can’t manage that then let’s call it respect or begrudging tolerance for raising an amazing son – your husband. Plus, for those of us who have aging, frail parents it’s a simple act of kindness that goes a long way in making their day. (I have a friend who recently lost her mother-in-law and while the MIL was a bit of a terror my friend said she never regretted being a role model for her kids about the power of kindness.)

The next Sunday should be your day – Mother’s Day Observed, This is where it is all about you. You can choose to spend the day celebrating with your family or do what I do – declare Mother’s Day a kid free holiday. I treat myself to a matinée movie, a solo stroll through Target and arrive home to a house cleaned by my kids and husband with dinner waiting. (In case you’re wondering they kind of phone in the whole house cleaning thing.) It may feel wrong at first to not get your Mother’s Day on with everyone else, but trust me Mother’s Day Observed is a twofer. You still get your day plus you earn brownie points and add to your karma tally by the simple, but, sort of, painful act, of doing a little gracious kowtowing to your mother-in-law.

Even bigger bonus every time you get in a fight with your husband you can with righteous indignation say, “I even gave up Mother’s Day for your mom.” Bam!

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. 

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.