when mothers-in-law have the blues | EUROtoday

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LOn the eve of a weekend, it's at all times the identical apprehension, the identical story. “When I know they will be there, I start to feel bad,” describes Aude, 42 years outdated. They are her companion's two daughters, aged 5 and 9. In a relationship for 4 years, the girl who can be the mom of two boys struggles to comprise her tears.

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“At the table, the girls don’t speak to me. It’s as if I were invisible, that I didn’t exist,” stammers this mother-in-law. Before utterly collapsing: “I wanted to play a role, to consider them as my own children, but I don't have the space and I feel that they don't necessarily want it. »

“Marriage breaker” or “stepmother”: cussed prejudices in regards to the mother-in-law

It's a discomfort that many ladies really feel, generally expertise daily. From a banal love story, their lives took a flip after they grew to become stepmothers. Some profit from it, others testify to a every day life crammed with difficulties and tensions, generally endangering their relationship. They all additionally elevate questions on their place throughout the household and society: how can we outline it when this very position is invisible? Aude sums it up like this: “There is a Mother’s Day, a Father’s Day… but no one thinks about mothers-in-law. »

Yet there are hundreds of thousands of them in France. At least 215,000 according to the INSEE census in 2020. “At least”, as a result of public statistics don’t account for all blended households. Mothers-in-law with out youngsters, dwelling solely partially with these of their partner, aren’t a part of the image.

If some are hidden, others are well-known for the mistaken causes. In tales, “stepmothers” are frequent – from Cinderella has Snow White Passing by Hansel and Gretel – and contribute to fueling unfavourable well-liked imagery linked to those feminine figures. And the clichés die onerous. Even right now, mothers-in-law have a nasty repute. They can be, to select from: “the couple breaker”, “the bad mother”, “the bad girl”, “the rival”, “the stranger”, “the witch”… Stereotypes which many would discover tough to eliminate .

The mother-in-law confronted with contradictory injunctions

“When I fell in love, I took ‘the lot’,” laughs Véronique, 50 years outdated. Separated from the daddy of her two boys for ten years, she thought she was “finally freed from the mental burden of the role of mother”… earlier than assembly a “youthful love” once more. “Very quickly, my partner asked me to live with him, and after the euphoria of the meeting, I found myself a stepmother to two boys, now aged 11 and 18,” says She. Since then, the fifty-year-old has admitted to “walking on eggshells”: at dwelling – “that of her partner, that of her dad” – she doesn’t dare to “say things”, for concern of “taking on an educational role which is not not the [sien] » and sometimes suffers “the whims” of his stepsons.

Like her, different ladies additionally endure the contradictory injunctions that their position entails. “When we are concerned about education, some people think we are overstepping the bounds. When we don't want to get involved, others criticize us for not being present enough, says Adèle, 40 years old. We are rarely listened to and understood. We are, on the contrary, constantly judged. » Mother of a boy and a girl, step-mother of two girls, she also confides the difficulty of “distinguishing things” between “two different forms of education”. And the jealousy that generally arises from his stepchildren.

Being a dad or mum is typically thankless, being a stepparent is much more so.

“An episode also changed my relationship with them,” stories the girl who was, initially, “very present” for her companion’s two daughters. “I found a letter, written by one of them – she was 9 years old at the time. It was written: “Dad, I think you are still in love with mom, I suggest you leave Adèle so that we can be together,” she remembers. And there it was an actual slap within the face: what's the purpose of investing if I'm in an ejection seat? If I can get thrown away like a tissue? It was very violent, and I nonetheless haven't digested it. »

It can be in opposition to her that the adolescent disaster is directed. “Because it’s so much easier not to get angry with either mom or dad,” she says. The mother-in-law is the one who’s exterior, so she is the one who’s attacked. » And what extra are you able to do than roll with the punches when these youngsters aren't yours? She admits: “Being a parent is sometimes thankless, being a step-parent is even more so. »

For children, a conflict of loyalties

Lily, 41, finds herself, despite herself, at the heart of a “conflict of loyalty”. “With children, we hear “Mom does it like this”, “Mom does it like that”, so you must take it upon your self and never beat your self up,” she concedes. In her blended household of 5 youngsters – two are her boys born from a primary union and three the “daughters of her lover” – the forty-something has at all times identified set the boundaries: “I always have to feel in the right place , with the right commitment, without being constrained by other people's children, which can be difficult to achieve. »

The line is thin, and the discomfort remains great. Is a comfortable position within the home impossible? “In society, mothers and mothers-in-law are often placed in situations of rivalry, both with their spouse or ex, as well as with sons or daughters from a first union,” explains Sylvie Cadolle, sociologist. And the overwhelming majority of moms have little or no tolerance for his or her mother-in-law to “usurp” from their youngsters what’s, in keeping with them, their place. »

This is the case for Amandine, 37 years outdated. Mother of two younger youngsters, she will get alongside very properly together with her companion's two youngsters – “I never made a difference between the children” – however the relationship with the ex-wife is just not straightforward: “ We haven't had contact for a year now. » She admits, sometimes, to having the feeling of being “not considered”. “I often say it to my husband: I will always be second,” she breathes. The second lady you liked, the second you married, the second you gave youngsters to. »

How to revalue mothers-in-law?

Added to those generally difficult relationships are gender variations. At dwelling, home duties are erratically distributed, even after they concern the stepchildren. “We only exist when we are useful,” says Adèle. As a mother-in-law, we are able to simply discover ourselves within the position of recent maid, babysitter and firm. We are solely thought of in relation to revenue for the calculation of alimony. »

She, like a number of mothers-in-law interviewed, pleads for better recognition and higher standing. “When I go to pick up the children from school, I am not in the “parent” class however a 3rd occasion,” she says. I've been caring for the little ones for ten years, however I'm nonetheless a patchwork. »

Harsh phrases shared by Lily. In his eyes, revaluing mothers-in-law additionally means questioning the social representations surrounding ladies and men in heterosexual {couples}. “It is not up to mothers-in-law to bear all the burden of the children-in-law, but they must be shared with the father,” she says. And it’s not as much as them to bear the accountability for the separation of a pair – and thus be seen as the house wrecker – males should additionally take their half and assume {that a} love affair begins at two. »