The Mother-in-Law Situation

Will I like the woman he chooses?


It was at least a year ago when I was scrolling down my news feed on Facebook and noticed a post.  My friend said that she had just received a phone call from her mother-in-law.  She was calling to thank her for being a wonderful wife to her son and mother to her grandchildren.  I was taken aback at how strange that sounded and thought, “I’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell of that ever happening to me.”  After mentioning this to my friends, I’ve found that a large number of them have a strained relationship with their mother-in-laws.   They are fantastic mothers and love their husbands deeply.  They are talented, smart, interesting, compassionate and hard working women.  How is it that their husband’s mother doesn’t recognize that as well?

I suppose it starts the instant that little boy is born.  I remember the moment my son was placed in my arms, it felt different than with my daughters.  Patrick and I have had a special bond ever since.  He is mommy’s little guy and has already promised to love me forever.  I have a beautiful photo of him as an infant sitting in my lap and we are both smiling.  I showed it to an acquaintance and she said, “You should show this to your future daughter-in-law to remind that bitch that you were here first!”  That struck me as extremely harsh, and I began to wonder if maybe mothers of sons need to mentally prepare early for the eventuality of having a daughter-in-law.   So here are a few things to consider:

1.   She won’t be the person you imagined for him

This is not a good or bad thing – she’s just going to be different than you pictured.  And, she’s probably going to be very different than you.  Instead of judging her, try embracing the differences and expand your horizons.  Show a genuine interest in her.  Ask her questions and listen to what she has to say.  Learn about her upbringing, her likes and dislikes.  Continue to show this interest as the years go on.  Don’t make her feel like, “That woman he walked down the aisle with.”  Remember that he chose her – this is what he wants.

2.  She will raise her children different than you raised yours

The best way to run her away is to tell her what she is doing is wrong.  Support her choices and follow her rules.  If she says no sugar for the kids, do not keep a bag of lollipops in your house.  If she chooses to keep her child in a carseat until he is 6, don’t tell her that all of your kids survived without seatbelts.  Offer to help with the kids.  Most mothers can use a break and appreciate the help.  But don’t have her come home to a child with bangs when she wasn’t dropped off that way.  Finally, do not offer advice unless she specifically asks you for it.  Anything else will be taken as a criticism, plain and simple.

3.   She will take your comments very personally

She may not admit it, but she wants your approval.  As the mother of her husband, you are important.  I’m sure there are things she has said to you that have cut deep.  Just remember that your words can also cause pain, even if they are meant innocently.  Right after I married my husband, my mother-in-law came to congratulate us, but had to mention that she needed to excuse herself so she could cry alone.  Instead of celebrating her son’s new life, I felt she just told me she was in mourning.  This was a little more extreme example, but even a simple comment about wallpaper or duvet covers can really hurt a daughter-in-law’s feelings, so be careful.

4.   She will want to spend time with her family

Don’t demand that every holiday be spent with you and don’t spend a lot of time making sure there are equal hours spent with each side of the family.  That stresses out your daughter-in-law and your son.  Express your desire to spend time with them, but be flexible.  Develop a friendship with her parents if possible so holidays can be shared.  This may not give you the “exclusive” time you may desire, but really takes a lot of pressure off your son’s family.

5.   She doesn’t need to be best friends, but quality time is important

Don’t overwhelm her with invitations to go out all the time, but a little effort will go a long way.  Go shopping together or have lunch.  Do something where you talk and listen and there are no distractions from your son or the grandkids.

6.   She wants a good relationship too

Most brides don’t dream of a life of tension and fighting.  It may hurt to see your son love another woman so deeply.  You need to know that he still loves you, but you need to let him build his new life.  Welcome his wife with open arms.  Make her feel like part of the family, not a person who is tolerated so you can see your grandkids.  Be kind and be helpful.  Most importantly, tell her what a good job she is doing.  Be that woman who makes that amazing phone call – it will go much further than you can imagine.  Remember that a good relationship with your daughter-in-law is a gift to your son.

2 Responses to “The Mother-in-Law Situation”

  1. Angela says:

    Great post! Loved your examples… =) Hope you guys had a fun time in MI!! See you Friday!

  2. Karen McCasland says:

    Great advice, not sure I will ever need it, but just in case I am going to print this out and save it 🙂

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