Family living nearby has some advantages: built-in babysitters, no long drives to get to grandma's house -- and free advice. But the convenient scenario can turn into a nightmare with difficult in-laws. If you find yourself hiding every time the doorbell rings, or daydreaming about moving to a faraway place, it may be time to rethink how you handle your too-close-for comfort living situation.
Talk to Your Spouse
Sit down with your partner right away if you're not able to handle your in-laws living nearby. He may not even realize that you're feeling frustrated by his family. If he's close to his family, be careful about how you approach the topic. Instead of screaming, "You're mom is driving me crazy and we have to move NOW!" try, "I'm feeling left out and frustrated when your mom visits daily and takes over with the kids." As a mom, you're used to presenting a united front with your partner when you deal with your kids. You need to use this parenting technique on your in-laws. They're not kids -- even though they might act like it sometimes -- but showing that you're united with your partner in the way you parent and run your household might make your in-laws think twice before trying to manipulate you.
Setting boundaries is another useful parenting skill that transfers well to dealing with in-laws. Are you seeing a trend here? You can't send your father-in-law to a time out if he doesn't follow your rules, but you can let your in-laws know what is acceptable in your house. When your in-laws live nearby, you need to set boundaries right away. Does your mother-in-law show up without fail during nap time -- or at times when it's inconvenient for you? If so, let her know your house is off limits between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m when the kids are napping. Or ask your in-laws to give you at least two hours notice before they visit to make sure you're available. You also need to train your in-laws how to treat your kids. If you don't let your kids have candy every night, your in-laws shouldn't either. If you've decided that only movies rated "G" are OK for your preschooler, let your in-laws know that the "PG" movie they're eying is a no-go with your child in tow.
It's tough to speak up when dealing with difficult in-laws, especially when you have to face them again soon. You don't want to cause drama or hurt your hubby's feelings, but you need to express yourself, too. If you keep your feelings inside, you'll eventually erupt like that baking soda and vinegar volcano you made with the kids last week. It's tempting to make your husband the go-between, especially when it comes to delivering bad news to your in-laws. However, that strategy could backfire because your partner might resent his position -- and your in-laws might lose respect for your tactics. Practice speaking up on little things. If you don't want your little ones eating snacks right before dinner, tell your in-laws that you'll save the homemade cookies for dessert. By starting out small, when something major arises, you'll have the guts to address it right away with your in-laws.
Find Common Ground
No matter how different you are, finding common ground is often the saving grace in living close to your husband's family. It's easy to focus on the negatives, especially when their unsolicited advice doesn't match your values, or if your sister-in-law is constantly taking shots at your cooking. Whatever flaws they have, connect with your in-laws in some way. Unless your partner's family is completely dysfunctional, you likely all have your kids' interests at heart. And after all, you all love your husband. Ask your in-laws to share stories from his childhood, or invite them to your child's preschool musical. In those moments, you might find that you can laugh together and relate to one another.
Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.