Is there tension and conflict between you and your son- or daughter-in-law? Is your son or daughter getting married soon to someone you don’t feel is right for your child? Are you as the mother-in-law having problems getting along with your son or daughter’s spouse, so much so that you actually hate him or her? Do family gatherings and special occasions or holidays typically end in fighting, arguing and hurt feelings, followed by days or weeks of silence? Do you want to know how to be just a good mother-in-law, or would you like to know how to be the best mother-in-law, in order to avoid making mistakes that may cause permanent problems?
Some common son or daughter-in-law complaints include phrases like, “My mother-in-law hates me”, “I hate my mother-in-law” and, “I have a crazy mother-in-law from hell”. Some women refer to their mother-in-law as domineering, manipulative, overbearing, meddling and even jealous. Therefore, it’s important to ask yourself some questions regarding your attitude and behavior towards your son-in-law or daughter-in-law.
Are you over-involved? Are you too critical? Are you being judgmental, injecting your opinion into their lives too much? Are you having trouble letting go? Is your son or daughter-in-law’s religion wrong, or his/her clothes not to your liking? Are you upset about how the children are being raised, or how your son-in-law or daughter-in-law does things in the home? Be honest with yourself in how you answer these questions because it’s not a matter of intentions; it’s a matter of how your attitude and actions are perceived.
Tips on How to Be a Good Mother-In-Law
Don’t compete with your son-in-law or daughter-in-law. Don’t try and bargain for time with your son or daughter, but remember he/she want and need to spend time with their parents and friends too, so don’t expect them to spend every weekend or holiday with you. Your son/daughter has chosen and married someone from another family, with other family loyalties and traditions to attend to, merging an entirely different family dynamic with yours. This does not mean you are no longer a mom, but your duties and role as a mother have changed exponentially.
Learn to let go. Your son/daughter is an adult now and you raised him/her well, making his/her own choices and decisions as he/she should, and some of those will not be to your liking. Don’t fall victim to the mindset of thinking of your son/daughter as an eternal child, “mommy’s little boy” as it’s often referred to. Your son/daughter made an adult decision and chose this woman/man to be his/her wife/husband, someone whom he/she believes is best suited for him or her, a woman/man he or she obviously loves and adores and who he/she feels can and will care for his or her needs. Maybe, just maybe, he/she married someone just like you and that is why there is so much animosity between you and your son-in-law or daughter-in-law. He/she can’t be all bad; he or she did make a wise choice in picking your son or daughter to be her husband or wife!
Treat him/her as a friend, not like you are his/her mother. Recognize that your son or daughter-in-law is a person with their own interests, feelings, needs, beliefs, opinions, history and traditions. Don’t look for faults, criticize or call your son or daughter-in-law nasty names. Don’t make snide remarks to your son about his wife and vice-versa, as this will only cause hurt feelings, and drive a wedge between you and your son and his wife or your daughter and her husband. You are no longer responsible for your son/daughter in the same way that you once were. Your son/daughter has taken on new responsibility; your son or daughter-in-law and any grandchildren that may bless their union, and you must respect that.
Treat your in-law as an adult who just happens to be married to your son or daughter. Your son/daughter chose him/her to be his wife or her husband, and you must accept that and respect his or her wishes. “A man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife”, so you must remember that you are a guest in their marriage and in their home. You need to cultivate a loyalty to this new union by holding it in honor and respect, not undermine their relationship. Understand that as man and wife, your son and daughter-in-law need to set and maintain appropriate boundaries for their marital relationship.
They need to discover for themselves how to get along with the in-laws, and it may take them a little time to determine the right boundaries for them. Do not get pulled into arguments between your son and daughter-in-law. Be supportive and take a step back, respectfully allowing the couple to handle and deal with their own problems. Have trust and faith that you raised your son/daughter with the courage and ability to resolve any conflicts that arise in their marriage.
Explore your motives. Do you feel and act critical toward your son or daughter-in-law, wishing he/she were different in some way? Think about the reasons why you feel the need to judge and if you would want to be judged in the same way you are judging your daughter-in-law. Be willing to let your son or daughter-in-law make some mistakes. Let your daughter-in-law grow as a mother and as a wife. You didn’t start off being a perfect wife and mother, so don’t expect her to be perfect from the start either. Don’t presume to be all-knowing in regards to marriage and parenting. Showing respect and restraint is a gift to your son and daughter-in-law, as well as to your grandchildren.
Do not be a gossip. Do not, under any circumstances, gossip with family members, friends or acquaintances about your son or daughter-in-law. Anything you say will eventually get back to her and your son, and will inevitably create a situation where your son will start to feel less close to you and may decide to spend even less time with you than he has in the past. Not only will you be driving a wedge between family members and friends but, those you gossip to will lose trust and respect for you because of your negative gossip and criticism, causing friends and family to wonder what you may be saying about them behind their back.
Honesty and good communication. Develop good communication and reasonable expectations regarding the role you will play in your son or daughter-in-law’s lives. Questions you might consider asking your son or daughter-in-law include: How would you like me to help, and how will I know when you want my help? How will you let me know if I overstep any boundaries? What role would you like me to play in caring for the grandchildren in regards to feeding or discipline? What house rules have you set for the grandchildren so I am sure to abide by them? Be honest but not cruel in how you speak to or about your son or daughter-in-law, talking to and treating him/her as you would want to be spoken to and treated yourself.
Forgive and forget. You will from time to time say and do things that are perceived as wrong, and so will your son or daughter-in-law. At times you may not even be aware of what you did or said that was wrong. While your intention may be to be helpful and show you care, the effect it has on your son or daughter-in-law may be taken quite differently than you may have intended. Be forgiving and patient for any offenses or hurt feelings, so you can try to move forward in your efforts to build a better relationship with your son or daughter-in-law.
For the mother-in-law who absolutely refuses to make amends or won’t even try to get along with her daughter-in-law, author Camille Russo shares this reminder in her book, How to Be a Perfect Mother-In-Law, “Your daughter-in-law may have the final say on which nursing home you’ll be sent to!” There are many great books on being a good mother-in-law to help mother-in-law’s improve their relationship with their son-in-law or daughter-in-law, so don’t miss the opportunity to take the initiative.
Good luck to you in your efforts to build a good relationship with your son or daughter-in-law. If you have any questions or need advice regarding a particular situation you are going through, please leave your comment or question below or contact me privately and I’ll be happy to offer some suggestions.