Woman Breaks Down Examples Of Toxic 'Mother-In-Law Math' & Many Wives Can Relate

There's nothing worse than a toxic mother-in-law who cannot understand boundaries.

mother-in-law and daughter-in-law daughter cooking in kitchen Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock

We've all heard of the viral concepts "girl math" and "boy math," but a woman has now introduced "mother-in-law math."

In a TikTok video, Janelle Marie, a mom-of-two and communication coach from Canada, has elicited strong reactions from other women — especially wives and girlfriends — after listing some of the ways that mothers-in-law drive a wedge between themselves and their daughters-in-law.


Marie broke down some examples of toxic 'mother-in-law math.'

"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," Marie began in her video.

Some of her other examples include a mother-in-law deciding that for any holiday gathering, she wants her adult child to visit her, completely disregarding their spouse's familial plans. 

"Or the equation where [her] grandchildren have two parents, but [the mother-in-law] decide[s] that the one parent that isn't [her] child is the one who must be enforcing all of the decisions and boundaries that [she doesn't] like very much," she continued.




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Marie explained that one of her favorite mother-in-law equations is when said mother-in-law talks badly about her daughter-in-law, is mean to her all of the time, and then doesn't understand why that daughter-in-law doesn't want to hang out with or spend any time with her outside of family obligations.

She pointed out that sometimes the tension bleeds into the spouse and results in the husband not wanting to spend very much time with his mother either.


"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," Marie said.

In a follow-up video with more examples, Marie shared that toxic mother-in-law math also encompasses the mothers-in-law who blame their strained relationship with their grandchildren on their daughter-in-law instead of looking at their own behavior.

"Toxic mother-in-law math is thinking it's your daughter-in-law's fault that you don't have a real relationship with your grandkids because her family has a relationship with your grandkids, but you make no real effort to see your grandkids," Marie said. "On the heels of that, toxic mother-in-law math is never making an effort to see your grandkids and then complaining that you never see your grandkids."



Listing some other examples, Marie claimed that a toxic mother-in-law may accuse her daughter-in-law of spending her son's money whenever she bought something for herself, without taking into consideration that the family decided together that she was going to stay home with their children.


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"Toxic mother-in-law math is thinking that you would get visibility or opinion on your adult child and their spouse's finances at all," she said.

Many wives either related to some of Marie's examples or provided their own stories about their toxic mothers-in-law.

"Toxic mother-in-law math [is] when they think they should come before their sons' wife. And he should drop everything when they call and need help," one TikTok user shared.

Another user added, "Toxic [mother-in-law] math is telling the mom how ALL the baby’s good traits were inherited from their side of the family, and any flaw the baby has, is from her."


"Toxic [mother-in-law] math is saying you don't want her in the delivery room and [her] then complaining for 9 months that she can't be in the delivery room," a third user chimed in, while a fourth gave the example of, "gossiping about your daughter-in-law and wondering why your son won’t share personal details of his life."

Unfortunately, dealing with toxic mothers-in-law is a universal phenomenon that many women have experienced in their lives.

In a study obtained by TODAY, researchers found that "60% of mother/daughter-in-law relationships — compared to just 15% of son/mother-in-law relationships — are strained." Words like "infuriating," "depressing," and "awful" are often used to characterize these strained relationships.

The toxic mother-in-law reality has nothing but damaging effects on a family dynamic. However, it's not just the mother-in-law that is at fault, but also the husbands who refuse to speak up against their mothers, and defend their wives and children who are caught in the crossfire.


A mother-in-law having both this type of codependent relationship with her son and finding invisible faults with her daughter-in-law is only furthering the divide between a mother-in-law and the family that her son has cultivated.

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.