Family Tension

  • My wife’s aunt has been a godsend to our family. She comes over everyday to look after our kids and does it for no charge. She spends a fortune on gas, helps out with food shopping and dotes on our girls as if they were her own. Despite her very close relationship with my wife, my aunt does things that either intentionally or unintentionally drive my wife bonkers. I often try to make my wife look at all the positives involved with her aunt’s constant presence, but lately my wife is hitting the boiling point. Help!  --Chris, Strongmoms facilitator

  • Well i think that it could be because your wife is on maternity leave right now so she isn't really getting a break from the constant presence. not to mention your hormones still run pretty wild for a while after the baby is born so i'm sure that is a contributor. Have you taken your wife out at all since the baby has been born? maybe she just needs a breath of fresh air and to clear her mind. I know if i had 3 young girls and a new baby i would be a little out of sorts trying to adjust, and if i had someone who was always around who i felt is just a little too helpful i would probably aggravate me too. Maybe the two of you need to sit down and thoroughly discuss what is bothering your wife and come up with a gentle way of telling her obviously awesome aunt that she needs some space. maybe spin it as a vacation for her or something like that.... That's pretty much all i have for now. if all else fails you can take my fiances approach and "grin and bear it".

  • I think it's a great idea to get mom out of the house.  Is it possible that she could leave and have an hour or more of "me" time when your aunt is there.  This would be so healing for her, she might feel a lot better about things and so the whole family would benefit.


  • I think with ANY family member (especially one you spend a lot of time with) you can have habits and tendencies that drive other people crazy. Is there any kind of ability to talk to her about some things in a gentle way? Is that not the kind of relationship you have with her? I agree that sometimes you need to look the other way but other times it's better to say something to preserve the relationship. 

  • I agree with Julie that it's best to have open communication in all relationships.  But wow-it's HARD to tackle those sensitive issues!  I find that sometimes the easiest way to approach these things is to "go round to the back door" so to speak.  So instead of saying "I'm frustrated" (which is also ok), it might help to open the conversation by asking her how she is feeling about things.  You may find that you two have the same frustrations and by going about it this way she won't feel attacked.  

    This is hard stuff no matter what.  Let us know how things are going!


  • Great advice by all but here are the extra dynamics! My wife feels like her aunt treats her like a child at times, and does things when we are out like re-arrange baby's clothes drawer etc. Things that to Dad aren't a big deal but to my wife infuriates her. Her aunt would do ANYTHING for us, but she is very sensitive/emotional and despite my desire to have a conversation, my wife insists any discussion would deeply wound the aunt. My wife has begun to cope by resuming going to the gym for an hour when her aunt is there, but she spends the whole time at the gym worrying about what is going on at the house. The reality is that I am a guy stuck in the middle between two women who love each other and want to do best by our kids. Just trying to keep the fuse from being lit!

  • HMMMM... That is quite a predicament you are in. it seems like the aunt is trying to make things easier, but like most women it sounds like you wife likes things in her house to be a certain way, i can't say i blame her frustration, because i would be right there with her. I have everything in my house in a certain place for a reason (that reason usually being ease and efficiency); nothing is just placed somewhere for the heck of it. even the drawer where i keep diapers and wipes has been strategically placed so that during a diaper change with my wiggling toddler i can reach everything i may need with one hand and without struggle. So I hate to say it but is sounds like you have two options 1) grin and bear it until it passes. 2) Light the fuse and let them hash it out.

  • I just wanted to check in and see how things are going for you.  Would love an update.


  • Hi Jess... The updated is nothing has been resolved. Since confronting my wife's aunt would be devastating, we are just trying to go by day by day and avoid the fuse being lit! I am taking a more active and assertive role in communicating our wishes but the tension is never all the way gone.

  • Oh gosh, I'm sorry to hear that.  I totally respect that there is great value in picking your battles.  I certainly do that in areas of my life.  Let me know if there is anything else I can do, or if you just need to vent.  

    Take care,


  • I have some advice for you that may work. Like many moms...I like being in control. What is upsetting your wife so much is a perceived lack of control. I found that I needed to put some things in perspective or I would be aggravated all the time at family members who mean well but take some of that control away from me. 
    Get her the book "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" is wonderful because it helps to remind us that it really is all "small stuff". Your wife may benefit from this unique and refreshing perspective. Hope this helps.  

  • Great suggestion... we are familiar with that book and I do try to give her perspective. Things have gotten better lately, but it is a daily battle for her to bottle her feelings and try not to lash out. My wife is the nicest and sweetest woman I have ever met, but for some reason this situation is very trying for her and I am the venting source.

  • So perhaps the solution shouldn't be for your wife so much as you.. If she insists she can't talk about this with her aunt and you are getting stressed out because you are the one who is caught in the middle (i'm usually in that position too) then maybe you need to do something that you really like so you can clear your head and relax a little. The middle is a tricky spot to be in.


  • What your wife needs to figure out is what exactly is bothering her. Another words....behind everything that irritates us is a driving force. Does it irritate your wife because she feels like her aunt is belittling her or doesn't take her seriously...or does she feel like her aunt is saying that she doesn't think your wife is a good mom..etc. Whatever the feeling is BEHIND the helps to figure that out and realize that. Then maybe she can talk to her aunt in a constructive way. Instead of blowing up or saying something harsh, she could say...." Auntie, I know that you love me and the girls, but when you say this it makes me feel like you don't think I am a good mom." Maybe this will help open up communication between the two of them. It is a tough situation, but you are doing a good job.

  • Great advice from everyone. Her Aunt was a convention planner and so is meticulous about planning ahead, yet never had kids of her own. My wife and I are pretty disorganized, especially with four young kids! Where I need to help is to keep us organized, take more control of the communication and run interference!