In 2009, "The Boston Globe" featured an article, "Senior Games," about grandparents competing with each other over the love and affections of their grandchildren. It reported that many grandparents of the baby-boomer generation were one-upping other grandparents by doing things like buying more toys and spending more on private schools. Whether or not your mother-in-law is taking part in this baby-booming behavior, she may feel the need to compete with your mother for a variety of reasons. Luckily, you can foster a healthier relationship between the matriarchs of your family in a way that is good for everyone involved.
Determine the Source of Her Insecurity
Your mother-in-law may seem to be competing for the sake of the game, but usually there is some insecurity underlying her actions. Tony Fava told "The Boston Globe," for its article, "Senior Games," that he dressed in more youthful fashions and played sports with his grandkids to try and keep up with his son-in-law’s younger parents. Your mother-in-law may feel like she needs to compete with your mother if she lives further away from your family and therefore sees you all less often. Or perhaps your mother has more money to spend, and your mother-in-law feels she needs to provide just as much. Try to figure out her possible motivations instead of assuming that she’s naturally competitive.
Talk to Your Spouse
The topic of your mothers might feel like a strained one, especially if kids are involved. It’s important for you and your spouse to find solutions together instead of fighting over them. After all, if your mothers begin competing with each other to the point where they can’t come to the same events, as some grandparents have done, it’s going to affect the whole family. Ask your husband if he’s noticed some one-up-manship and get his perspective on it. Brainstorm ways you can address the situation as a team.
Confront the Problem, Create Solutions
If you and your spouse think that maybe the problem is that your mother sees the family more often than does your mother-in-law, determine a way to see your mother-in-law more often to show her that she is an important part of your lives. Alternatively, ask your own mother to tone down the gift-giving for a while, and vice versa, if that is the source of the issue. If the competition is a major problem, you and your spouse should sit down with both grandmothers, either separately or together, and remind them that you’re all adults who need to create a harmonious situation for the overall health of the family.
Don’t Choose Sides
It’s likely that you’ll feel partial to your mother’s side, and your spouse may tend to take his mother’s side. Try to be objective and acknowledge where your own mother could be less competitive and more helpful, as well. Remember to see your mother-in-law’s point of view. As Maureen McKay pointed out in the 2009 “Reader’s Digest” article “13 Things Your Mother-In-Law Won’t Tell You," many mother-in-laws fear that if they don’t do and say the right things, their daughter-in-law will find a way to cut off the relationship. Assume that your mother-in-law has the best interests of everybody at heart and that she just needs some direction as to how she should direct her energy.