Living in the shadow of my mother-in-law

This post may contain affiliate links.

My mother-in-law intimidates me a little bit.

Okay, a lot.

But it’s not what you think.

She’s not one of those aggressive, manhandling, amazon types who drinks too much at family functions and slurs obscenities at me. Nor is she the Susie Homemaker type who greets me at the door with mouthwateringly delicious hors d’oeuvres when I visit. Nope, she’s just your average housewife, and she loves nothing more than sharing a bottle (or 3) of wine with me while filling me in on all the neighborhood gossip.

And she’s such. a. nice. person.

So it should be no surprise to hear I’ve spent the greater part of the last 6 years trying to measure up to her.

Of course, it doesn’t help that she spent our ENTIRE wedding day crying after she witnessed the nightmare that is my functionally dysfunctional family. Sure, she was quick to assure me she ALWAYS cries when she’s happy, but as I have yet to see those so-called happy tears again, I’m not so sure.

And I’ve made it my personal mission since that beautiful August day to prove myself to this woman.

Funny portrait of older woman biting her finger with comic expression

At the beginning, it was really easy to fool her. I owned my own condo, I traveled across the globe for my job, I didn’t have any noticeable piercings or tattoos, I never swore in front of her, I sent her flowers for her birthday and on Mother’s Day, and whenever she and my father-in-law came to visit, I always made sure the place was absolutely spotless.

And then I became a mother.

In those first few months, when everyone wanted to come over and get their baby fix at all hours of the day when it was all I could do to keep myself from drowning in my postpartum hormones, I wanted noting more than to collapse into my mother-in-law’s arms and ask her how she coped when she was in my position.

But I didn’t.

The stiff-upper-lip Brit in me wouldn’t allow it.

So instead, I continued on my plight to prove to her that I’m the next June Clever.

I scrubbed the toilets, made the beds, folded the laundry, and cooked all of our meals from scratch (kind of), and I did everything in my power to be the perfect mother my husband has described to me time and time again. I made my own baby food, I spent endless hours doing flashcards and puzzles with my daughter, I only bought toys that ranked high in educational content (thank you, LeapFrog!), and I made sure to send my mother-in-law at least 20 pictures and videos a day, each capturing how clean, adorable, and well-adjusted my little girl is.

It worked.

She thinks I’m a rockstar.

And while my husband has been telling me for YEARS how much his mother has always loved me, I finally believe him.

Well, I did until she visited us last weekend, anyway.

After spending hours dusting the floor boards, windexing the windows, and steaming the bathroom tiles in preparation for the Royal Visit, I was really excited to show off some of my daughter’s new skills. She recently discovered a love for numbers, and we’ve been making a lot of progress on the counting front.

So after the wine was poured and the croissants were devoured, I set my squirming girl in front of our coffee table with one of her new Melissa and Doug puzzles, and we all started throwing questions at her:

“What comes after 11?”

“Where’s 18?”

“What comes before 10?”

You could almost see the child shake with excitement each time she got an answer correct.

It was glorious.

But then all of the hype got the better of my darling little girl, and she momentarily forgot we had company.

How do I know she forgot?

Because she pointed at her bum and yelled, “I SH*T!”

Mother-in-law: 1, Me: 0.

Thanks a lot, kid.


Gwen is a 40-something freelance writer and social media consultant who has an unhealthy love for makeup, hair, and fashion. She lives with her husband and 8-year-old daughter in Toronto, Canada and hopes to move to a warmer climate someday. Preferably tomorrow.