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You Asked: She Thinks My Career's a Crime

You Asked: She Thinks My Career's a Crime

DearSugar --

I have been married for four and a half wonderful years and I have a beautiful little boy. From the very beginning my mother-in-law was the sweetest person ever and she made me feel so welcome in her family, however in the past six months things have began to change. I have recently been working on finishing my Bachelors degree and last year had a change of heart and a change of major. I decided that I should do what I love and so I went back to studying Criminal Justice. This is when my problems with her started.

She made it very clear to me that she doesn't think I should do criminal justice and she's made snide remarks when my husband isn't around. When other family members ask me about my degree, I catch her rolling her eyes. One day at the dinner table someone asked me what I wanted to do when I finished and I stated that I'd like to get a job with a local government agency. My mother-in-law was quick to chime in that she and my father-in-law hate that agency and started laughing.

It has gotten to the point that I can't say anything to her about what I'm doing without it being a complete joke and now I try to avoid visiting her like the plague. I've tried mentioning things to my husband and he says that she probably doesn't mean to be rude. That I'm possibly taking her the wrong way. What do I do to let her know that she's entitled to her opinion but putting me down is the wrong way to go about it? Help! --Demoralized Dee

To see DEARSUGAR's answer

Dear Demoralized Dee --

I know I speak for everyone on this site when I congratulate you on returning to school and making the choice, once there, to pursue your passion. However things with your mother-in-law unfold while you finish your degree, I implore you to remain proud and unapologetic about your decision. Your accomplishments will be a tremendous example for your child, I might add, and I hope you can let the truth of that lighten your spirit during some of these darker moments with your mother-in-law.

As for how to proceed, Dear Dee, I can only offer what you might expect: Invite her over, make some tea, and tell her plainly and gently that you understand she disapproves of your career path. Explain that it isn't her opinion that hurts you -- as you value her opinion -- but rather it's how she's expressing it right now that confuses you. Remember to assure her of your love and admiration. State clearly your hope that, beginning today, she will feel comfortable expressing her feelings to you directly and privately; and, beginning tomorrow, your hope that you can both focus on what you share in common: a strong family, many good memories, and mutual love and respect.

We can't know if she'll rise to the occasion this week or this July, Dee. In the meanwhile, limit your contact with her and quietly leave the room if she begins to mock or demean you. Tell your husband your plan and tell him you need his support. Whatever may come, I encourage you to keep your focus on school, career options, your child, and each person in your life who applauds and appreciates your dream.


Join The Conversation
kendallina kendallina 10 years
Wow, does she think you are going to go set free all of the criminals of the world?! I am a paralegal in Criminal Defense and I constantly have to explain that I don't necessarily think my clients are innocent, but it is my job to make sure they get a fair trial. If your mother-in-law is not paying for your education, it's really none of her business. If you do feel like making an effort to get her to accept it, I'd try educating her on Criminal Justice. People are often fearful of what they do not know. Good for you for realizing that you would be happier with a different major! Good luck!
PJ-PJ-PJ PJ-PJ-PJ 10 years
Dee, I have a mother-in-law who is the same way. She always has something negative to say about any good thing that I do or that happens to me. I have known this woman for almost 20 years & I can tell you that it all comes down to envy, jealousy, & a touch of cattiness. Unfortunately, my husband plays the "let it go in one ear & out the other" card when I ask him to step up. I know that I would never let anyone in my family treat him the way his mom treats me & I know that I would never have this problem if it were not for his family. So, what have I learned from my experience that might help you? *Be aware that speaking to her about it might help, but it might backfire on you. If she is anything like my MIL, she will thrive off of the issue & she will bring it up at a later family gathering. (Mine calls it "enjoying the debate".) No matter what is said, make sure to not raise your voice & try not to get emotional. Remember, you are the one who has to act like an adult even if all you want to do is scratch her eyes out! I've been to that point many times, but I have realized that she is just a bitterly unhappy person inside & there is nothing I can do to change that. I mostly feel sorry for her now. *That being said....Every once in a while, a snazzy come back comment makes me feel better & puts her in her place, but it also results in her feeling better about herself because she knows whatever she said bothered me. You have to weigh the benefits on that one. *Your husband may never stick up for you. Mine has not, even though he knows how much it hurts my feelings. I've accepted that it is just something that I will have to deal with on my own, but it is hurtful. ***Most importantly, do not allow your MIL's actions to change you in any way. Always be the better person & hold your head high. Always try to find the blessings that she offers, otherwise, & focus on those. Congratulations on your new direction! It's wonderful that you will be doing what you love & have the drive to get there, no matter what anyone thinks about it. Good luck!
cubadog cubadog 10 years
I think to some extent bringing your husband into the fold is a bad idea putting him in the middle of two women he loves not a good plan. All she needs to know from him is that he is supportive of your decision. I think sitting down for tea is a great idea not cocktails but tea or diet coke. Have the chat and if she still chooses to act like a snit over it limit your time with her. She like a lot of people probably have a misconception of criminal justice and think you are going to become an FBI sniper or something. Good luck and stick with your passion!
lilxmissxmolly lilxmissxmolly 10 years
Good advice parents always try to force their opinions on me. you should stand strong. **“In my mind, I’ve always been an A-list Hollywood superstar. Y’all just didn’t know yet.” -Will Smith **
Pinkgirl88 Pinkgirl88 10 years
I agree with dearsugar on thsi one!!! Congrats about going back to school!! TINA!
lickety-split lickety-split 10 years
you know what you do, you say nothing. you finish your degree and get the job YOU WANT. it's not her business and you don't owe her an explanation. no one can make you feel bad about yourself unless you allow them to do so. if she isn't supportive of you don't spend time with her. there's a saying "a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still", meaning you aren't going to change her mind. really, why do you care? you are doing everything you want and have a family you love and that loves you. at the end of the day it doesn't get any better.
mandiesoh mandiesoh 10 years
i agree with popgoestheworld. i think you need to sit her down and tell her that its really bothering you, and affecting your relationship with her.
Marci Marci 10 years
This is a tough one because your mother-in-law is going to be around a lot, and that's a sensitive relationship. I agree with grl in the world that you need to have a real heart to heart with your husband about this situation, and hopefully he'll speak with her and let her know he's behind you 100%. She's also got a good point that your mother-in-law just might be a bit envious of your 'having it all'. popgoestheworld gives good advice that you should do your best not to be rude back. That will only make you look bad. Be proud of what you're doing. You should be! And when your mother in law makes her comments or whatever, you can also just laugh and say 'she doesn't agree with it, but I'm loving it!'
rubialala rubialala 10 years
That sucks. Mother-in-laws are a tough breed. If your husband supports you then that's all she needs to know. It's not really any of her business anyway. Good luck to you, and follow your heart. Doing this (going to school) is a great thing for your family, and you should be proud.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 10 years
Whatever you do, don't be rude back. People will immediately see how impolite she's being and you'll end up looking like a saint for putting up with it. And if you do confront her, definitely do it in private - do not make a scene.
grl-in-the-world grl-in-the-world 10 years
Good for you for continuing your education towards an interesting and rewarding career path. So many people don't follow their dreams and they end up bitter about it in the end. Have you considered that she may be jellous of your accomplishments and goals? It's not a very nice thing to think, but it is possible. kendalheart has so good advise, you really need to let your husband know that regardless of his mothers intentions, the result is you feeling bad about something you should be proud of. Hopefully your husband will speak with her on your behalf. If that doesn't happen then Dear is right, start to limit the time you spend with her (maybe she'll get the hint). When your little boy grows up he will be so proud of your accomplishments.
kendalheart kendalheart 10 years
Wow I'm sorry to hear that you are having such a difficult time in being able to follow your heart and your dreams. First off, I want to commend you for deciding to follow your heart because not everyone has the courage to do so. Sounds like your mother in law is in the wrong on this one. I def think that your husband should step in and be the mediator because there is only so far you can go with this. I think maybe if you tell your husband this is reoccurring and that although she may not be trying to be hurtful, she is. She needs to understand that you are not there to make her happy and she should be happy for you in this decision. Most importantly I think you should try to ignore those comments. She obviously is going to give them anyway but don't let it discourage you. Remember, you are doing what is best for you and your immediate family not for her. Good luck!
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