I have been married for four and a half wonderful years and I have a beautiful little boy. From the very beginning my mother-in-law was the sweetest person ever and she made me feel so welcome in her family, however in the past six months things have began to change. I have recently been working on finishing my Bachelors degree and last year had a change of heart and a change of major. I decided that I should do what I love and so I went back to studying Criminal Justice. This is when my problems with her started.
She made it very clear to me that she doesn't think I should do criminal justice and she's made snide remarks when my husband isn't around. When other family members ask me about my degree, I catch her rolling her eyes. One day at the dinner table someone asked me what I wanted to do when I finished and I stated that I'd like to get a job with a local government agency. My mother-in-law was quick to chime in that she and my father-in-law hate that agency and started laughing.
It has gotten to the point that I can't say anything to her about what I'm doing without it being a complete joke and now I try to avoid visiting her like the plague. I've tried mentioning things to my husband and he says that she probably doesn't mean to be rude. That I'm possibly taking her the wrong way. What do I do to let her know that she's entitled to her opinion but putting me down is the wrong way to go about it? Help! --Demoralized Dee
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Dear Demoralized Dee --
I know I speak for everyone on this site when I congratulate you on returning to school and making the choice, once there, to pursue your passion. However things with your mother-in-law unfold while you finish your degree, I implore you to remain proud and unapologetic about your decision. Your accomplishments will be a tremendous example for your child, I might add, and I hope you can let the truth of that lighten your spirit during some of these darker moments with your mother-in-law.
As for how to proceed, Dear Dee, I can only offer what you might expect: Invite her over, make some tea, and tell her plainly and gently that you understand she disapproves of your career path. Explain that it isn't her opinion that hurts you -- as you value her opinion -- but rather it's how she's expressing it right now that confuses you. Remember to assure her of your love and admiration. State clearly your hope that, beginning today, she will feel comfortable expressing her feelings to you directly and privately; and, beginning tomorrow, your hope that you can both focus on what you share in common: a strong family, many good memories, and mutual love and respect.
We can't know if she'll rise to the occasion this week or this July, Dee. In the meanwhile, limit your contact with her and quietly leave the room if she begins to mock or demean you. Tell your husband your plan and tell him you need his support. Whatever may come, I encourage you to keep your focus on school, career options, your child, and each person in your life who applauds and appreciates your dream.