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Question On Relationship With Mother-In-Law

Anisha Singh, MD


My husband and I have been married for 10 years. We have a wonderful relationship and I love his family too. I share an awesome relationship with his mother and sister, but there is something that bothers me. When my mother-in-law visits us, she sleeps in late while I give breakfast to my kids, drop them to school, fix my lunch and leave for work. I never even thought two times about the fact that she wakes up only after I leave for work.. But last two times while she was visiting my sister-in-law during her visit, I saw a totally different side of my mother-in-law. I saw that she wakes up early in the morning, makes breakfast for the kids, packs lunch for my sister-in-law and her husband and sees them all off as they leave for breakfast and work. That really hurt me. I never brought it up with my husband or anyone else. Like I said, I love him and his family a lot. I have lot of love and respectfor my mother-in-law too, but now, every time I look at her I see this person who is capable of such partiality. What should I do? 

Dearest Beautiful Soul, 

Your question shows your level of awareness and the love within you. I would first like to acknowledge you for that. A daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law relationship is as complex or as beautiful as we make it to be. You have really been able to see the beauty in the relationship for which I applaud you. 

I also see a mother-in-law who is trying to, beautifully and lovingly, give you space and respect in your marriage. Let’s for a moment step into your mother-in-law’s shoes. She loves her son a lot. All mothers do and Indian mothers even more She has taken care of him, cooked for him all through his growing years and she would love to continue with that but she knows that for her son to be a man to his wife, she has to let him go, she has to take a back seat. Husband, wife and kids are one family circle. All past relationships including parents are outside the family circle. All friends are outside the family circle. When our kids grow up and get married, they move into their own family circle and we become outside their circle. The knowledge of this allows for love, growth, harmony and deepening of all relationships. Your mother-in-law seems to have an intuitive sense of this whether she knows these terms or not. Her son has his own family circle with you. By letting you take the lead in taking care of him and the household, she is allowing, acknowledging and respecting your role in her dear son’s life and also at the same time acknowledging the need for her to step back.

On the other hand though, daughters are very close to mothers emotionally yet our mothers in Indian culture, very easily, are able to accept that their daughters are part of a new family circle the day she gets married. No matter how much the mother may help the daughter at her home, no matter how long she stays at her daughter’s house, in most cases, it is fairly clear to the son-in-law, the daughter and the mother that the mother is helping but is in no way trying to enter the family circle. This is actually strength of our culture. This could be one reason your mother-in-law feels she can help her daughter and not you. 

The other reason may be- your mother-in-law may be helping her daughter ‘cos her daughter may have asked her to help, may have told her in clear terms, ‘mom, it is okay. You can come and help. My hubby will not mind it’ She may have discussed it with her husband if he is okay with that. In the very least, there might have been unspoken energy signals where her mother would have felt safe enough to help without feeling intruding. In your house, the person who can welcome her into the morning time is you. You can through verbal or nonverbal communication indicate to her that it is okay for her to be in the kitchen in the morning, that you would not feel threatened by her presence. Now you may want to think through this before you make any changes. Let me tell you a little bit about my situation. My mother-in-law lives with us. She has for 19 years. I went through, exactly, the opposite issue of you. My mother-in-law would want to do everything in the morning. I felt I had no space, that there were no boundaries. I felt unimportant in my marriage despite the fact that my husband and my kids loved me ‘cos all kitchen work would only be done by her So, I worked on my feelings. One way I do that is through morning pages, which is a form of journaling. I realized, though my deep introspection in my writing, that for my relationship with my mother in law to evolve and grow, I would need to talk with her about this and my feelings around it. I did it in the most respectful manner I could. (It took a lot of courage to not just speak but to express my feelings in a loving manner. Phew!) I told her that even though she had good intentions and the desire to help, I felt left out. I did not turn her into a villain. I focused my talk around my feelings. No problem is ever solved by blaming anyone. It can only be resolved by taking a look into our emotions, our judgments. My mother-in-law was not used to open communication. So she was uncomfortable with any discussion but I needed to do it and do it in a way where I still conveyed my love and respect for her. She did understand. Yeah!!! And today, like you, I do everything in the morning and I LOVE itMy mother in law does everything in my sister-in-law’s house when she visits her and I am totally fine with that but I would not have it any other way Paradigm shift! Isn't is amazing how life is all about our own perspectives? 

So I would recommend you to journal (free form writing) for a week to really look into how and why you would like things to be different, envision the new scene and then when you have a clearer picture of your needs, you can choose to have an honest loving conversation with your mother-in-law. Who knows, you may very well realize that you don’t want to change a thing except your position on it GOOD LUCK! Let me know how it goes. 

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Anisha Singh,MD is a physician/ actress/ certified holistic nutritionist/ certified holistic health counselor. She is a physician with a holistic approach to life. She has done Internal Medicine residency, Women's Health fellowship & is a certified holistic Nutritionist. She is also a certified mindful eating expert and is trained in sexual health. Currently she is doing her master's in Spiritual psychology. 

For all her degrees, what excites Anisha the most today is being true to herself and her inner calling! She is passionate about acting and community service. Her acting career just started this year and she is having a blast:) She is a wellness chair at a non-profit organization ( Asian Community Alliance) and has been instrumental in setting up programs for Indian seniors and Bhutanese refugee community. The love of her life is Manish ( her husband of 19 years) and her 2 beautiful kids and she is most thankful to her mother-in-law for supporting her through all her adventures! They live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her motto in life- 'love is the answer to everything'.

Needless to say, Mrs. Singh is well qualified to answer any question you may have, be it about health, fitness, weight management, diet or on personal life and issues you face in life! Ask here or email at

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