I spend 6 hours yesterday as a confidante to a friend. Problem with her in laws. Len, a working mom, leaves her kids with her mother-in-law when she goes to work every day. While this arrangement eases her worries while she's at the office, the downside is -when she gets home her mother-in-law bosses her around as if she has no say in raising her own kids.
With extended families, there's one obvious advantage: more human resource available to ease the pressures and responsibilities of everyday living. Economic and psychological interdependence within the kin network is possible. Expenses can be shared and divided among the working members. Children can be looked after by other adults -reassured of their kids socialization, safety and protection. The disadvantage, however, would be more people to deal with. And when interactions do not work well, conflicts are bound to emerge.
I ask Len, Is there a reason for your mother in law to be so? If there is, is she really the cause of the problem? Instead of looking at it negatively, be tolerant and accepting towards them. If our well-intended gesture or comment is taken negatively, take it in stride to avoid conflict. If she is an overbearing and manipulative mother-in-law, who is usually overbearing to all and not just to the daughter-in-laws then I ask Len to tell her MIL how she feels. Using "I" statements and try not to blame or accuse. The basic idea here is to communicate what Len feels even if to give her MIL the recognition her MIL needs. Lack of communication exacerbate the in-law problems. One thing goes wrong and everybody gets on the defensive, making assumptions about each other. I ask her to let her husband abroad know whats going on and tell him how she feels. Sometimes in-laws motives and actions most probably come from deep-seated beliefs and behavior patterns than from something said or done. In short, don't take it personally.
Each family is unique because of the people that compose it. As such, there can really be no prescribed way of solving family rational problems. We have to find what works best for us. I am lucky with my in-laws, our communication is always open. They call us weekly just to check how we are doing and we do the same.
I guess the best solution here is to move on and find own's new place. After we have done our part and the disagreements still exist and are impairing our functioning, then its time to change tactics. Its not only preserving self-esteem, we also teach our family -independence and self-identity. If all else fails, perhaps on our own might be for the better.