'Toxic mother-in-law math is having four, five, six grandchildren, deciding one of them is your favorite, and making sure everybody knows loud and clear.'
Recently the term "boy math" has been doing the rounds on the internet to highlight hypocritical behavior. Some of them include men who lie about their height saying they are 6 feet tall when in reality they are actually quite a few inches shorter. Other phrases like "girl math" and "mom math" quickly followed suit but what is "mother-in-law math" and specifically "toxic mother-law math?" TikTok mom Janelle Marie (@millennialmatleave) breaks down what that means in a well-received video that resonated with many people.
“Toxic mother-in-law math is having four, five, six grandchildren, deciding one of them is your favorite, and making sure everybody knows loud and clear,” Janelle begins. She went on to talk about how these type of women single out their daughter-in-law to make tough decisions where family members have to choose "sides." “Toxic mother-in-law math is knowing that your married, adult child has two or more sets of family gatherings to go to and deciding unilaterally that yours is the most important one,” she said. “Or the equation where your grandchildren have in fact two parents, but you decide that the one parent that isn't your child is the one who must be enforcing all of the decisions and boundaries that you don't like very much.” In this way, knowingly or unknowingly family dynamics get disrupted and can affect a grandchild's relationship with their parent and grandparent.
The mom pointed out the many ways toxic mothers-in-law use passive-aggressive methods to assert subtle control and in turn, sabotage their relationships. “Favorite equation of all is not understanding how talking s**t about your daughter-in-law, being mean to your daughter-in-law, doesn't, in fact, equate to her wanting to spend a whole bunch of time with you,” she noted. “And a variable to that equation is that her spouse, your child, may also not spend very much time with you as a result.”
Mothers-in-law need to understand that their children are adults and their relationships with their wives are based on mutual love and respect. She concluded by saying, “Because very often you've also struggled to calculate the fact that your adult child married your daughter-in-law, and then that does equate to them loving her more than anything in the world.” Toxic mothers-in-law seem to forget that their children are adults who have agency.
Janelle also posted another installment of toxic mother-in-law math with a few more examples. She pointed out how such people don't really take the time to get to know their own grandchildren: "And on the heels of that, toxic mother-in-law math is also never making an effort to see your grandkids and then complaining that you never see your grandkids. Or how about knowing that your daughter-in-law shopped for, picked out, and wrapped your Christmas present but you open it and only loudly, proudly thank your son.”
“Toxic mother-in-law math is thinking it's your daughter-in-law's fault that you don't have any real relationship with your grandkids because her family has a relationship with your grandkids, but you make no effort to see your grandkids,” she said.
Many of her arguments resonated with a lot of people online who shared their own stories of dealing with difficult mothers-in-law. @victiiii2 noted, "MIL math is telling your grandkids that you loooooooove them so much and miiiissss them so much but only put in the effort to see them twice a year." @pax_075 added, "Mine likes to brag about our kids while at the same time never seeing them or knowing them at all."