My wealthy daughter-in-law always treats us very rudely

A mother is fed up with the mode she is treated whenever she visits her son and his family. Mariella Frostrup tells her that its in her interests to induce such relationships work

The predicament < em> We inspect our son a few times a year and each time come away feeling hurt by the attitude of our daughter-in-law.

Since moving to London she treats us very rudely. To be quite honest she is up her fucking arse big time, keeping up with all her affluent pals. We try to be friendly, taking our own towels, a meal, cakes, etc, to not be a burden. I have inherited fund from my mothers so we buy very good presents and meals out. This is in addition to helping with children.

Mostly she discounts us or place us down. She is an obsessive clean, always rushing around with the vacuum and mopping fingerprints off the new kitchen closets. They seem happy for which I am glad, but I appear miserable when we come away. I don’t want to talk to my son about this as he has enough going on .

Mariella replies A perfect Christmas letter. There can’t be a time of year that gets family tension peaking any higher than the season of good cheer, so I’m grateful to you for putting affectionate relations on my affliction menu. Who my children marry got problems I have yet to experience( or should that be “endure” ?) and I can’t say I’m foreseeing it with relish.

There turns out to be two types of people: the individuals who find it easy to rub along with their fellow species and those who can’t help reacting to the foibles of others. As person in the latter category I recognise a knotty being when I see one. You use emotive and at times aggressive expression to describe your daughter-in-law, and she certainly seems to have rubbed you up the wrong way. I’m delighted you’ve been so honest, but you do appear to be concealing quite a bit of anger.

There are obviously strains at play- provoking housework surely specifies the teeth on edge- but your note suggestions at difficulties beginning only after their home move. I’m not so sure. So much of what you are finding insufferable seems bound up with your own vulnerabilities about your position in the social pecking order. Judging your talents on how much you can render, standing cakes like offerings to higher deities, your anxiety is writ large.

Your problem, as you describe it, is largely about your son’s family circumstances, but it’s solely in the character of his wife that you’ve targeted your ire. There are two a position of life where women invariably get the accuse: one is the mistress, on whom ruling tends to fall far more heavily than on the adulterer himself; and the other the daughter-in-law, so often a token of the bribery of the innocent.

It’s surprising how many mothers will do battle with their sons for decades, but as soon as another woman grows up those strifes are forgotten and every misdemeanor is perceived to be of the newcomer’s brainchild. You say your son has ” enough going on”, a level of sympathy and understanding that you don’t seem to extend to his wife. I presume he moved to London gladly, even enthusiastically, and has embraced these” affluent sidekicks” with similar enthusiasm.

Social aspiration elicits conflicting emotions in the middle classes, and is at the very heart of so many of our societal schisms. We display a complex and nuanced relationship with those concentrate on ascending the social ladder, but there’s a hypocrisy to our judgmental posture since altitude is an ambition that most of us, particularly mothers, tends to nurture. Our socioeconomic system is not rooted in socialist standards but capitalist ones and exclusively predicated on that appetite to succeed. It notifies our profession and institution alternatives, inspires our dreamings and motivates us to get out of bed in the morning, yet where reference is look those conspicuously( rather than secretly) committed to the pursuit of social uplift we judge them harshly. So your angers seem disingenuous, if culturally predictable.

Stripping away potential theoretical differences, there’s also all the opportunities that your son has married the status of women you exactly don’t like. In such a situation there’s little I can do apart from point out that it leaves you with few options, the first of which is to look for her good tones rather than rail against the bad, because if you can’t rub along with her you will be the one who ceases up ostracised from “peoples lives”. As a flaw-seeking weapon, I know how easy it is to allow bad relations to fester instead of delving deep into your empathy stockpiles for common ground.

It’s the season of goodwill to all men( and even ladies ), so I suggest that you think long and hard about your own bent to adjudicator and what’s driving your resentments. Hold her a wide berth, tell her hoover to her heart’s content, use all her towels with impunity and ooze simply charm. We’re none of us saints, but we have an enormous capability for accept- and with extended family members it’s often tested to its restraint. Happy Christmas!

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to mariella.frostrup @observer. Follow her on Twitter @mariellaf1

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