I’ve Kept My Child A Secret From My Snide Mother-In-Law. Should I Tell Her?

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my 20s, raising a newborn. For two years now, I’ve been married to a man who is 15 years older than me. My father-in-law passed away several years ago. I haven’t told my mother-in-law about my pregnancy and the birth of our first child.

When I visited my husband’s family, my mother-in-law made snide comments about me, asking, “Do you even know anything about my son?” She also proudly told me that she had been brainwashing my husband since he was a child.

My husband even took out a loan to pay for repairs to his parents’ house, saying that he owes them for raising him. I’ve tried my best to get along with my mother-in-law, but I’ve worn myself out.

When I was pregnant, my husband told me he wanted to tell his mother. After much thought, I asked him not to. It appears that he hasn’t contacted his mother since then. His sister, who doesn’t get along with my husband, visits their mother every weekend with her child.

Should I tell my mother-in-law about our child? I know that not doing so may be seen as ignoring social norms, but I want nothing to do with her.

— E, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. E:

I believe your in-laws are becoming more discontented with you and your husband, so it may take time to return to a normal visiting relationship.

Having said that, you did marry a man codependent with his parents in his middle age. You must have anticipated that something like this might happen.

Had you turned the other cheek and brushed off whatever your mother-in-law said to you, things might be different. However, given your young age, an outcome like this may have been unavoidable.

After much contemplation, you made the decision not to tell your mother-in-law about the birth of her grandchild. From her perspective, it’s terrible, but your husband must have realized how deeply it worried you. I don’t know if he actually did cut off contact with his mother, but he must have realized that he would be in an awkward position.

A severed family relationship can often be reconciled in unexpected ways. Illness, an accident, or some other event may compel them to set aside previous conflicts and confront the issue.

If you want to come to terms with your in-laws before such a situation arises, consider writing a letter to your mother-in-law to apologize for not being in touch. Can you do it?

You’ll be fine if you’re willing to take that step. Regardless of what she might think, the important thing is to show that you’re truly willing to reach out.

— Hazuki Saisho, writer