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Dear Carolyn • My mother was a stay-at-home mom while Dad worked a traditional 9-to-5 job. Now that I am married, my mother has been projecting into our life quite a bit. My wife is a wonderful mother and a busy ob-gyn. For many reasons that I support, she works full-time. My mother has a tendency to point out things like "Store-bought Halloween costumes are cheating" and "It isn't a homemade dinner if the chicken came precooked from a store." My wife and I typically nod and smile and say something neutral. But I've noticed that as my children can understand more adult conversation, my wife is getting increasingly upset when my mother says these things. What kind of conversation can I have with my mother to stress that I appreciate my childhood but not her meddling into my parenting skills?
Can't Be Martha Stewart
Dear Can't Be Martha Stewart • Full disclosure, your question made me adrenaline-surge angry. Self-calming techniques employed. I suggest a conversation that isn't a debate about your wife. Instead, make two key points: (1) When your mother makes these comments, she denigrates your choices. You and she run your family as equal partners, and you're proud of the way you're doing things, and the way your kids are turning out. (2) When your mother compares your family life to the one she created for you, she's entering cats in a dog show. Right now, roughly two-thirds of moms with kids under 18 are employed. Snark-attackers like your mom aren't just scoffing at what they see; they're also defending themselves against it. That your wife is a doctor arguably makes her Uber-Intimidating to your mother, or at least easy to reduce to a symbol of the kind of power Mom never felt she had. So don't treat your mother as a silly anachronism. Do say that you appreciated your childhood, and consider adding that if you and your wife were raising kids when she was, you might make similar choices. That's why the purpose of this conversation has to be about the universal. All parents reflect their times. All families do better when different generations support each other.
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