Sometimes one of the most difficult things about being married is not the marriage itself, but the in-laws that come with it. If you have been having a hard time dealing with a critical or overbearing mother-in-law here are some things you can try that might help.
Have Your Spouse Talk To Her The first place you should start is with your spouse. After all, it is their mother. Tell your spouse (if they do not already know) how and why their mother is upsetting you and ask them to discuss it with her. If at first their mother doesn't listen to them, have them get firmer and say things such as "Mom, if you keep disrespecting (your name here) you are not going to be able to come and visit here anymore because this is (your name here's) house. If she still doesn't listen or your spouse is too chicken to confront them, tell your spouse that all bets are now off. Now you are going to handle it your way.
Try and Have Your Own Talk With Her To Clear The Air If this is a fairly new relationship it might be simple misunderstandings that can be cleared up (hey, one can only hope). Rehearse the things that you want to say before the meeting and practice remaining as calm as possible. A screaming match will not help anyone in this situation. Try not to be accusatory by telling her everything she has done wrong but more about how it feels to you when she does it. Such as, "it makes me feel bad when you criticize how the house looks. I work a full time job, at the same time as trying to raise the kids, I am literally doing the best that I can". If you still can't get through to her, she has no interest in talking with you or the relationship is too far gone to consider a polite sit down, you can try these other methods.
Be Polite But Firm When She Tries To Bait You When she gives unsolicited advice or criticism, politely but firmly state" Thank you, but we have decided we are going to do it this way." Say it in a tone that is final, and if possible, leave the room after saying it so she gets the point and doesn't have enough time for a comeback .
Rehearse Your Own Comebacks If there are certain things she continues to criticize you on such as your job, how you keep your home, or how you raise your children, start rehearsing great comebacks. Practice delivering these lines coolly and firmly and in your "we are not discussing this any further" voice. For example, if she complains that you do not keep your house clean enough because of the time you spend at your job, practice saying "Yes, well I do not have the luxury of staying home all day cleaning like you did years ago. You are free to come over here once a week and do it yourself however while I am at work if it bothers you that much." Then again turn and walk from the room. (Note: Only do this if you are pretty sure that she will not take you up on the offer - otherwise that may be another day of the week that you are stuck with her.)
Ignore Her While this might be difficult for you to do at first, it will be even harder for her to have a one sided argument. The next time she states that she "would never let her children eat that kind of junk food" simply turn to someone and ask how their day was or if they got the jacket they had been looking for. Hopefully she will fell silly and get the hint that her comments are having no effect on you.
Stop Seeing Her As sad as it might be, if all the above actions have failed, then this is your final option. Tell your spouse that you have literally tried everything you could, but you refuse to put yourself through this anymore. If your spouse invites her over, be sure not to be there. If she wants your family to visit her, send your spouse and the kids to her house and find something fun to do with your extra time. And if she asks where you are, have your spouse be honest about why you are not there. Let them tell her it is because you are not willing to put up with her behavior anymore. Life really is too short to put up with people like this and unfortunately she will have no one to blame but herself.