Best mother in law

Table of Contents

By Dr. Deanna Brann.

Making the most of the relationship – how to be a good mother-in-law.

Your son is getting married (or he’s seriously settling down)! You’ve met your future daughter-in-law a few times, but you realize you do not know her all that well. You feel you get along with her; you find her to be pleasant as well as nice, and yet, you also find yourself feeling somewhat tentative around her.

And then you start to wonder, Is this normal? Is there something I should be doing (or not doing)? Does she feel the same way? You then find yourself believing (hoping) that eventually you will shift away from this tentative feeling and into a rhythm with her that is comfortable for both of you.

Mothers-in-law face a difficult and often confusing challenge particularly with daughters-in-law. You struggle to try to figure out where you fit into this new “family plan.” He’s my son so does that make her like a daughter? What do I want our relationship to look like? How do I interact with her? Can I be completely myself with her?

No one has an instruction guide on what a mother-in-law is supposed to do or say to make her relationship with her new daughter-in-law a comfortable one. No one talks about how to make this relationship work between two virtual strangers. And because of this both the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law often fumble and stumble while they figure out how to make this unique relationship work for them both.

When my son married many years ago I was, what I considered anyway, a “young” mother-in-law. I was in my 40’s. I felt privileged to not only have my daughter-in-law as part of our family, but I also felt privileged to be part of their new family. I had always been close to my son, and now I felt wonderful that I also had a closeness with my daughter-in-law. And maybe because of this, I did not put much thought into what being a mother-in-law entailed. I assumed it would be an evolving process that I would “grow into.”

In hindsight I realize I was a bit naïve about the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. This relationship doesn’t “just happen,” nor does it always flow comfortably and easily. The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is a unique relationship that relies on a delicate balance of appreciation, respect, and patience.

Although it took me some time to understand this, I was eventually able to smooth out the bumps and wrinkles that had cropped up between my daughter-in-law and me. Between the two of us we created a relationship that fit well for the two of us—one of which we have been proud.

Getting off on the right foot with your daughter-in-law helps both you and your daughter-in-law build a strong, solid foundation for the years to come. It also allows your son and his bride to focus on what is most important to them—the two of them.

Here are some tips to help you start this new journey into the world of in-law relationships; tips that will help you come from a place of knowledge, openness and willingness:

  1. Get to know your daughter-in-law for who she is – Develop a relationship with her that is independent of your son. Get to know what she likes, dislikes, her hobbies, and so on. What do you have in common; what are your differences? How can you work with the differences so that you do not allow them to hold you back in building your relationship with her? The more you cultivate this relationship the easier it will be for both of you to be who you are when you are together. It creates a deeper level of involvement than just “She’s my son’s wife or my daughter-in-law.” or “She’s my husband’s mom; my mother-in-law.” This does not mean you have to be best friends or another mother to her. It is about creating a real relationship. One that is based on a solid foundation.
  1. Identify what your expectations are for this relationship – Keep in mind when you think about expectations, you need to base them on who your daughter-in-law is, not who you wish she was, or who you hope she will become. Not all daughters-in-law are the same, nor are they exactly as we might like them to be. Having realistic expectations is key to creating a healthy, comfortable relationship with her.
  1. Be willing to look at your own behavior – As difficult as this may be, doing so will go a long way to resolving the issues and concerns that come up between the two of you. Everyone plays a role in how our interactions play out. It is your responsibility to empower yourself. Looking at what or how you may be able to do some things differently to make things better is the first step in going from feeling like a victim to feeling empowered.
  1. Do not focus on who is right and who is wrong – All relationships experience misunderstandings, miscommunications or disagreements. Often these difficulties arise due to our different perspectives of a situation. How you handle these times are what makes the difference between a good relationship and a difficult one. Focus on the bigger picture. Her perspective is as valid to her as yours is to you. What is more important – Having a relationship with your son, grandchildren, and daughter-in-law or being right?
  1. Accept that your relationship with your son is changing – Letting go of your son happens on many levels. The privileges you once had as his mother are no longer applicable. Your son is a man and a husband. He must create his own family, his own way. Trust that you have taught him well and that he will make the decisions and choices for himself that work best for him. You are still a part of his life, but in a very different way. Allow him to show you how and where you fit.
  1. Understand you did not gain a daughter when your son married – Your daughter-in-law is coming into this relationship with you as a woman in her own right. Respect that her own family dynamics, personal history, and life experiences have played a role in who she is today. Give her a chance to show you this person and be open to any differences between you.
  1. Remember your son loves this woman – There is a reason why he chose her to marry. Yes, your understanding of her will be based on the interactions between the two of you. However, if you take time to learn his reasons for choosing her and then incorporate them into your opinion of her, you will gain a better understanding and more rounded view of who she is.

By using these tips you can make this transition easier for you and for her. It just takes a bit of forethought and reflection on how to fit the pieces of this new expanded family puzzle together. You are on a new path, a new journey and the power to create what you want is just beginning.

You may also like Building confidence through changing limiting behaviours and Job search age discrimination – rejection letters from the young.

Deanna Brann, Ph.D. has over 30 years experience in the mental health field as a clinical psychotherapist specializing in communication skills, family and interpersonal relationships, and conflict resolution. As both a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, her personal experiences led her to research the subject. Her first book, Reluctantly Related, began the discussion of examining and bettering the MIL/DIL relationship and is followed by her newest book, Reluctantly Related Revisited. Brann holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Psychobiological Anthropology. Connect with Dr. Brann at and on Facebook or Twitter.

How to be a Good Mother-in-Law

Everyone knows a joke about mothers-in-law, but what are the golden rules you need to become a popular one? The authors of this pioneering guide, first published in the 1930s, aimed to dramatically improve relationships for all the family with sound advice which is as relevant today as it was in the early twentieth century: ‘If your opinion is not sought, don’t volunteer it.’
Practical tips are given on a range of issues, such as how to visit a married daughter, how best to interact with grandchildren, how not to pass comment at the dinner table and what degree of independence should be granted to married sons. The guide even contemplates living with the married couple and offers advice on how to negotiate this situation, as well as giving examples of how not to behave on your son or daughter’s wedding day.
Packed with amusing scenarios of provocative behaviour as well as pithy advice, and illustrated with contemporary line drawings, this charming guide will win over both novices and veterans in this much maligned role.

  • Hardback
  • 96 pages, 115 x 88 mm
  • 9 black and white line drawings
  • ISBN: 9781851240821
  • Publication August 2013

14 Things Your Daughter-in-Law Wants to Tell You

Go Back To All Inlaws and Others Articles

Good mamas want their kids to have good marriages.

By Mary May Larmoyeux

Something happens the moment a bride says, “I do.” Not only does she get a husband, but in most cases, a mother-in-law as well.

Bonds between some daughters- and mothers-in-law are sometimes compared to the close friendship that Ruth and Naomi enjoyed (Ruth 1:16). But far too many women describe this relationship as fragile, tense, and even competitive.

Recently I asked some friends a few simple questions about in-laws. I was amazed by the number of replies I received about mothers-in-law. I also was surprised by the depth of their emotion.

One woman told me about her in-laws’ first visit, more than two decades ago. Her memories are still painful. As a new bride, she served a festive Thanksgiving meal of turkey, chestnut stuffing, canned cranberry sauce … “the whole nine yards.” When the family sat down for dinner, the new bride was quite pleased about how everything had turned out. Until … the topic turned to how many turkey dinners the in-laws had eaten in the last two months and how much better homemade cranberry sauce is than the canned version. Then the mother-in-law asked, “What are these lumpy bits in the stuffing?”

I received a three-page response from another daughter-in-law about an overnight visit from her mother- and sister-in-law. At one point, the mother-in-law was lying on the couch with a migraine as she directed her own daughter to clean the house. The young girl complained that everything was already clean. “I felt like the worst wife and housekeeper in the world,” my friend wrote.

Another woman poured her heart out to me. Although she and her husband have been married for more than three decades, she still feels that, no matter what she does, she will never measure up to the standards of her mother-in-law. “I simply wish that she would accept me for who I am.”

And then I finally read an encouraging response: “My mother-in-law is a gem! She loves Jesus with her whole heart and that is what makes her so valuable. … She is thoughtful and generous.”

From these and other stories, I realized that daughters-in-laws want to say a lot! Here’s a selection from their answers to my question, “What do you wish you could tell your mother-in-law?”

1. Cut the apron strings to your son.

“Know that your input is no longer the primary influence in your son’s life.”

“Understand the leaving and cleaving part of Scripture (Genesis 2:24). Love unconditionally but also understand your correct place in the relationship with your child.”

“Don’t expect your son to do what you want him to do anymore. Expect and encourage him to consult with his wife.”

“Encourage your son to build, develop, and define his marriage role. Don’t fight for position by grasping and grabbing for your son’s time and emotions. Good mamas want their kids to have good marriages.”

2. Pray for your daughter-in-law.

“Hope and pray that the marriage of your son will be successful. Don’t sit in the background and hope for your daughter-in-law to fail.”

“Rather than question or criticize your daughter-in-law, bring issues to God and pray.”

“Ask God to show you how to love your daughter-in-law as your own daughter.”

3. Talk with your daughter-in-law about hard things.

“If you are a family, act like one. Families fight, they discuss their issues and that’s how they get resolved. This can be done lovingly and constructively. It doesn’t have to be a he said/she said/you said situation. Tiptoeing around the problems and acting like they don’t exist doesn’t help anyone, it only hurts everyone in the long run.”

“Ask your daughter-in-law to let you know if/when you offend her. Remember that Satan wants to destroy your relationship.”

4. Compliment your daughter-in-law; never criticize.

“Honor your daughter-in-law in the presence of your son. Compliment your daughter-in-law; never criticize.”

“Make an effort to applaud, praise, and thank your daughter-in-law. Tell her how much you appreciate her positive influence on your son and why you think she’s a good mother.”

5. Only give advice when asked.

“Do not volunteer information unless asked.”

“Be quick to encourage; don’t question, criticize, or give unsolicited advice.”

“Be aware that sometimes a mother-in-law’s desire to be helpful can be heard by the daughter-in-law as a threat or criticism.”

6. Your daughter-in-law may be different from you. Accept her for who she is.

“Realize that your daughter-in-law wasn’t raised the same way you raised your son and maybe doesn’t have the same standards you have. … Try to understand her mindset and the way her family operated.”

“Do not try to change her into who you would like her to be.”

“A good mother-in-law doesn’t make the wife feel like she doesn’t measure up, or give the impression that she wishes her son would have made a ‘better’ choice. A good mother-in-law encourages, accepts, and loves unconditionally.”

7. Do not put expectations on your daughter-in-law.

“Do not say things like, ‘You’ll be here for Christmas, won’t you?’ “

“Do not have expectations for visits, phone calls, etc.”

8. Remember that your son has always had faults.

“Your child was not perfect before she married him.”

“You love your son, so does your daughter-in-law. Every change that you see in your son is not her doing.”

9. Accept the goals your son and daughter-in-law have for their lives.

“Be interested in the things your daughter-in-law and her family are doing even though you don’t agree with them (i.e., homeschooling, international travel, etc.). Show some interest in the things that are most important to them … even if you think they are making wacky decisions.”

“If we don’t do or say things the way you would, just love us anyway.”

“Allow your daughter-in-law to disagree and know that it isn’t something personal. Don’t be offended if a daughter-in-law does not share your tastes, dreams, and values.”

10. Try to understand.

“Remember that all good relationships take work and a willingness to seek understanding.”

“Do not assume that you know why ‘she said that’ or ‘she did that.’ Particularly if your assumptions tend to assign negative or mean motivations.”

“Ask questions to understand. Don’t tell your daughter-in-law how things should be.”

11. Allow your son and daughter-in-law to make mistakes.

“Respect the decisions of your son and daughter-in-law, even if you don’t agree with them. Know that if their decision is a mistake, it will be a learning opportunity for them.”

“We all mess up sometimes, but your daughter-in-law really does want to get along with you.”

“Look for positives to applaud even though you see room for improvement.”

12. Cultivate a relationship with your daughter-in-law.

“Let her know the qualities you see in her as a person apart from being a wife and mom. … Realize that it takes time for your daughter-in-law to feel like you are a mom to her. Start out as a friend and let the mom role take place over time.”

“Tell your daughter-in-law about decisions you faced as a mother of infants, toddlers, teenagers, young adults, etc. Talk about more than superficial things.”

“When you call your son, and your daughter-in-law answers the phone, visit with her before asking for your son.”

“Spend time alone with your daughter-in-law doing things you both enjoy. It encourages her when you ask her to go shopping and then ask her opinion about a purchase. Show your daughter-in-law that you truly appreciate her input and enjoy being with her.”

“Develop a true friendship with your daughter-in-law.”

“Get to know your daughter-in-law for the person God created her to be. Then, come alongside her to mentor, encourage, and build a relationship so that if/when you need to give loving input or direction, it is not taken as meddling.”

13. Think the best of your daughter-in-law.

“I wish I could tell my mother-in-law that I know that I’m not perfect; I don’t expect her to be perfect; but let’s both try to assume that the other is doing the best she can. The comment that she may hear that sounds rude to her, or the action that may come across as hurtful (like a missed birthday card) is usually the dumb stumble of an imperfect person (me). I often feel that every action is interpreted in the worst light as a personal affront against her.”

“If your son and daughter-in-law can’t do something you want them to do, realize that it’s not because they are angry with you or don’t love you … it has nothing to do with you at all. Do not analyze and try to figure out what you did wrong.”

“Know that your son is in good hands and that your daughter-in-law is grateful for all that you taught him in the earlier years.”

14. Take the initiative to connect with your son and daughter-in-law.

“I wish I could tell my mother-in-law to come visit us more often rather than expecting us to travel during this busy time in our lives. She and my father-in-law are retired and have nothing else to do. As long as they are healthy and can travel, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to come to us rather than us loading up four busy people who have jobs, school, extracurricular activities, etc.? Come be a part of our lives.”

“Offer to take care of the grandkids so your daughter-in-law can have a day to herself.”

“I wish my mother-in-law would spend more time with the grandkids. I don’t want to always be the one asking. I would love it if she’d call and say, ‘Can I keep the kids on Saturday?’ … I personally want the kids to know their grandparents well.”

Okay, mothers-in-law, there’s the list. What are we going to do about it?

In 2017, I wrote an article for NextTribe about my son getting married. Paul and I had always been close. When he was younger, I’d even written a book about the mother/son bond. Would his upcoming marriage to his long-time sweetheart Afroz drive us apart, I wondered? Would I be losing my son?

I was confident in my prediction—we would stay close. Paul is a wonderful son, and I assumed he’d be a wonderful husband. Love was not a zero-sum game. It would be easy. Of course all this bravado belied a basic truth: I knew exactly nothing about being a mother-in-law.

When my story appeared, I was struck by the wide variety of comments, some of them describing heartbreaking estrangement between formerly close mothers and sons. A few wondered how it turned out after Paul was married. Well, the answer is: I’m still learning.

Back then, Paul and Afroz hadn’t even picked out a wedding venue. And as the wedding plans progressed, I started to understand my … I was about to write “diminished” role, but that’s not accurate. My “different” role is a better description.

The Run Up to the Wedding

The author, Paul and Afroz on their big day. Image: Liz Stewart

The two of them wanted to plan their own wedding. What’s more, they wanted to pay for it. Many friends told me that was the point at which I should have fallen on my knees and simply said, “thank you.” But I’ll admit to feeling a little left out. Fair is fair—if they were footing the bill, they were entitled to control. But it might have been nice to be part of the cake tasting or to check out various sites.

In fairness, Afroz did invite me to go wedding dress shopping with her, an extremely sweet gesture. I was excited about joining her for the bridal salon appointment. Sadly, I couldn’t make it, as my dad was suddenly hospitalized. Accompanied by her best friend, Afroz tried on some lovely white gowns and sent me photos of each one from the dressing room. It was bittersweet, opening those pictures at my father’s bedside.

But that wasn’t the real wedding dress trip, more of a fun outing by a girl who’d watched more than one episode of Say Yes To The Dress. In the end, Afroz opted for a traditional South Asian-style gown, in a gorgeous red, with gold trim and a stunning veil. For that, she shopped with her own mom and her sisters.

When it came to wedding planning, I’ll admit to feeling a little left out.

As the wedding plans progressed, my husband and I mostly watched and listened. The wedding would be small, mostly family. We could invite maybe two couples who were friends. The ceremony would be interfaith. Paul and Afroz did ask if any particular wedding rituals were important to us. All I could come up with was the mother-son dance. Afroz, I assumed, would want a father-daughter dance. “Oh no,” she explained. “We would never do that. But feel free to have one with Paul.” In the end, my only decision would be my mother-of-the-groom dress, and I was to coordinate with Afroz’s mom on color.

We’d met Afroz’s parents, who live across the country, only once, six years earlier at the kids’ college graduation. Of course I’d called Afroz’s family family when she and Paul got engaged. Now her mom and I texted regularly—we agreed that a jewel color would work for our outfits and settled on blue.

Here Comes the Mother-in-Law

Kate and Paul embrace after their Mother/Son dance. Image: Liz Stewart

Fast forward to the wedding—it was a dream. Paul and Afroz did an amazing job. Somehow, my blue dress with silver trim perfectly matched the blue and silver sari that Afroz’s mom wore. All of the wedding rituals emphasized the joining of the two families. Paul and I danced alone to “Here Comes The Sun,” which I always sing as “Here Comes My Son.” The wedding was beautiful, intimate, and filled with love. As for all of our friends—we threw a party two months later so they could celebrate the married couple.

And now I am a mother-in-law. Am I as close to Paul? Yes and no. We still have long, meandering talks on the phone every week. We talk about how our careers are going. We compare notes on handling stress. We despair about the state of the country. We talk about the food we’ve cooked and trade recipes. We talk about the family.

What’s changed? Well, during those long phone calls, Paul and I don’t talk about everything—certainly not his marriage. Nor would I want to, any more than I’d share with Paul my feelings about my own marriage to his father. That’s in the privacy zone. Nor do I see Paul as much as I used to because holidays are split between two families, and when they can snag a few days off from their respective jobs, they like to go away together. And, of course, I’m not Paul’s number one go-to for help or consultation on anything.

A rift with her would almost certainly result in a rift with my son.

Yet none of this seems like a lessening of closeness so much as a transition, one appropriate at this stage of Paul’s life. The biggest difference since their marriage is my relationship with Afroz. A son’s girlfriend is one thing. His wife is another. I’m deeply committed to nurturing the relationship with my daughter-in-law. I know we love each other, but more than that, her good will and respect mean a lot to me. A rift with her would almost certainly result in a rift with Paul.

Of course, right now, I have no big disagreements with my daughter-in-law. Perhaps we’ll always get along as well as we do now. But let’s face it—I’m not even two years into being a mother-in-law, so I’m a rank beginner. And I do know I’m incredibly lucky because Afroz seems to feel the same way I do. She, too, goes out of her way to nurture her relationship with me. Last week, I had a long, catch-up FaceTime with her. If I’m under the weather, she checks in. I get handwritten notes, thanking my husband and me for embracing her into the family.

Are things different than when Paul was single? Sure. But in most ways, they’re better.


Kate Stone Lombardi has been a journalist for more than 25 years. She work has appeared in the The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Ladies Home Journal, Parenting Magazine and other national publications. Lombardi is the author of The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger.

To My Mother-In-Law: Thank You For Being More Than I Ever Expected You To Be

I know you wondered about me, and the kind of person I might be. You probably feared that I was some interesting piece of work; a newly divorced, mystery woman that you’d have to grin and bear for the sake of your son. I’ll admit I was afraid myself. I was afraid that I wouldn’t measure up, and that you’d think I wasn’t good enough for your son. Through a year of dating I heard about you, but hearing and knowing is never the same thing. You cannot imagine the relief that washed over me after that first lunch together, after realizing you were kind, not intimidating at all. From that day forward I felt lucky in regards to our relationship, and that feeling has never stopped.

There comes a moment when one realizes just how blessed they are. I am blessed in love, health, friendship, and especially family. I don’t take my family for granted, and when it comes to my family by marriage, I’m just plain grateful. I’m grateful that my brother-in-law, who’s been a friend since high school, had nothing but good things to say about me when I started dating his brother. I’m grateful I was welcomed by a new family as though I’d always been a member. But most importantly, I’m grateful for you, one of the kindest, most loving, and supportive individuals I’ve been lucky enough to call “my people.” It isn’t often one feels completely confident about the relationship with their mother-in-law, and I’m proud to be one of those fortunate individuals with two moms who love me unconditionally, flaws and all.

Everyone’s heard it. The horror stories about the tumultuous relationships between a mother-in-law and her daughter in law. The stories are always something along the lines of mom not approving of her son’s intended as no girl is ever good enough, or Mom can’t seem to help barging in to the house, the relationship, and virtually every issue possible, constantly rocking the boat. Poor mom is horrified at how disrespectful and rude her daughter-in-law is, and hates how she’s never allowed to be involved in her son’s life, or the lives of her grandchildren. It’s a story one hears quite often, and it’s a woeful one. Family is so important. While it’s heartbreaking so many can’t work out their differences, failing to find the good in one another in order to come together as a loving family unit, I’m not placing blame. Sometimes it’s just really difficult to get along with other people, as people have different personalities, viewpoints, values, judgments ETC. I’m not alien to this unhappy dynamic. I’m sure most women have experienced it at one point, which is why I’m so extremely grateful for you, my other mother, my mother-in-law.

I want to thank you for listening to me, and offering guidance whenever I need it. You laugh at the things I tell you, and don’t judge me harshly for saying something others may think inappropriate. I can be honest with you about concerns, and complaints, because I never worry that you don’t think I’m doing my best. I can make a snarky comment about something silly my husband has done, and you will laugh about it with me instead of getting defensive, because you know him best, know neither of us is an angel, and know I say it with love! In short, you let me be me. It means the world watching my daughter’s eyes light up when she sees her Nana, and the fact that she will always have you nearby, in her life through every stage. You never tell me I’m doing something wrong, or push your opinions about childrearing, or barge into our home like a scene from Everybody Loves Raymond (though sometimes we wouldn’t mind some barging!). You know our family is happy, and you encourage this happiness without ever picking apart the little details others seem so keen to attack, or attempting to fix things that really aren’t broken.

I look forward to spending all the future holidays with you, standing with you as my daughter performs in dance recitals, celebrates birthdays, graduates from high school, and with any luck, marries into a family equally as welcoming as yours, ours is. I know in this life it’s important never to take things for granted, and this is my way of saying you are appreciated, and very loved. For every time you’ve responded to a frantic SOS, been present through family highlights, told me your son is lucky to have me, and for being everything you are as a friend, confidant, mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother, I thank you. From a daughter-in-law who is fortunate enough to be a part of your mom tribe, thank you for being YOU.

1. Accept that your son/daughter loves their partner more than they love you. Well, when we say more, we mean in a different way and that is a good thing. It means they are happy and in love – which is what we all want for our offspring, right?

2. Remember that people with young children are busy and stressed all the time – and people in love are busy but not stressed all the time. When your kids say they are too busy to visit – they think they are. The thing making them busy may be a nice trip away for the weekend with their friends, but bear in mind that they probably spent the weekends either side of that one standing on a rugby pitch watching son number one get beaten or in a smelly municipal pool watching daughter number two in an ALL DAY gala.

3. Show up with food and drink. Yes, it would be nice to have a daughter or son-in-law provide for you and have organised a three-course banquet, which you imagine is how Jools Oliver’s Mum gets treated when she turns up for the weekend chez Jamie – but she is the exception not the rule.

4. Never compare your situation with that of your friends. You don’t know the full story. Yes, Rose’s son-in-law has a big job in the City and treats her to first class flights for a family trip to Barbados but maybe once they all get there he takes to his bed for three days leaving her to look after his kids.

5. Give them space to make mistakes. It is their life and mistakes will enrich it for them, but they have to learn how to deal with those mistakes themselves.

6. Offer to babysit. Truly the greatest gift of all for new or even new-ish parents.

7. Organise get-togethers and don’t be offended if they say they can’t make it. Try and try again. Accept that a refusal to come to that family lunch you’ve planned at a local gastro pub will only be because they are busy (see point 2) and they might well turn up if you organise another one in a few weeks time. Try not to take it personally.

8. Remember that your daughter is not Amal Clooney or Kate Middleton – and you cannot rely on her to marry someone to impress your friends (Oscar winner/royal etc). Most of your daughters/sons-in-law will be ordinary – they may even be a bit boring and/or irritating. That’s fine, as long as your child loves them. (Who wants Xmas at Balmoral anyway?)

9. Focus on you. Try to think about the positives around your children going off and having their own lives. It means you can have your own life, too.

10. Never advise on child rearing. It will end in tears.

You see – that’ll show those 1970s comedians! Mothers-in-law are fabulous don’t you know.

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12 Things Your Mother-in-Law Wants to Tell You

Go Back To All Inlaws and Others Articles

I am not perfect. Let’s both assume that the other is doing the best she can.

By Mary May Larmoyeux

The second year of my son’s marriage, he and his wife had Thanksgiving with us. My daughter-in-law made a delicious sweet potato casserole. My mother and I complemented her on it and asked for the recipe. “It’s a family recipe,” my daughter-in-law said. “So I don’t give it out.” —Anonymous mother-in-law

Whoa! I had thought that daughters-in-law were the ones with the in-law stories. Well, apparently mothers-in-law have their share of stories, too.

Recently I asked some friends a few simple questions about in-laws. In my unofficial poll, I asked women of all ages several questions, including: “What makes a good daughter-in-law?” and “What do you wish you could tell your daughter-in-law?”

One mother-in-law sent me an e-mail that brought back memories. “That little boy that brought me dandelions and messy hugs,” she said, “is now a grown man with a family of his own. I need to fully release him so he is allowed to change and adapt to his wife and adult life. I don’t want to be a parent who says or does things that grate in the mind of my daughter-in-law. She is the one who knows my son best now.”

Yes, a mom relinquishes her title of “first lady” in her son’s life on his wedding day. Perhaps that’s why some have described the relationship between a mother- and daughter-in-law as fragile or tense. God certainly didn’t intend it to be that way.

Here are 12 themes that emerged from the responses I received:

1. Although my relationship with my son has changed, remember that I am still his mother.

“Even though you are the woman in my son’s life now, be considerate of the fact that I used to be the woman in his life.”

“The most important thing that you can do for me as your mother-in-law is to love my son unconditionally. … You’ve now taken my spot as my son’s biggest fan.”

2. Accept me for who I am.

“Don’t try to change me.”

“Accept my eccentricities.”

“Realize that I may do things differently in my home. Try to understand my ways.”

3. Please respect my age and experience.

“I would like to know how to share some of my experience with you without offending or intruding.”

“Respect my past experiences and realize that I understand the personalities in the family.”

4. Talk with me about hard things.

“If I have offended you, I may not know this. You have the freedom to say to me, nicely, ‘Remember when you said ______. Did you mean _____?’”

“I am not perfect. Let’s both assume that the other is doing the best she can.”

“If you are feeling hurt by something I did or said, find a way to gently bring it up. You may even want to ask me if you could have done something differently.”

5. Try to understand.

“When there are problems in family relationships, each person needs to overlook with grace when possible, and when not, address the issues kindly.”

“Reject bitterness.”

“Don’t judge. There are two sides to any story.”

6. Remember, we are family.

“I really appreciate it when you tell me about some of the family’s funny stories.”

“It’s nice to be invited to events with your parents, brothers/sisters, etc., … sharing as one big family.”

“Please include me in some of the family activities and traditions.”

“I love it when you ask me to go shopping. I think my son likes the fact that we share this common bond together.”

7. Communicate with me.

“I once felt totally distanced from you and did not know why.”

“I wish you would ask me for my opinion about some things.”

“I’d love to tell you more about my son’s childhood—please ask me.”

“I wish you would pick up the phone and call me just to chat.”

8. Get to know me as a person.

“I am a person with feelings, beliefs, and ideas, and they are not just an extension of the man you married.”

“Find things that we have in common, and let’s enjoy them together.”

“Please don’t compare me to your parents and how they did things.”

9. Express expectations clearly.

“I wish you would express some guidelines that you expect in your home.”

“Sometimes you interpret my desire to be helpful as criticism of you. I certainly do not intend this. It would help if you would tell me the best ways that I could help you.”

10. Help me know my grandchildren.

“Your children need their lives filled with Grandma and Grandpa.”

“My only grandchild lives hundreds of miles away. When you regularly share pictures of him with me, it means so much.”

“I have tried to communicate with you how much it means to me to keep me informed about my grandson. I hate to keep having to drop hints. You did it for awhile when I let you know that my son didn’t tell me normal everyday activities and other things grammies want to know. You didn’t realize this and kept me posted for a short time. But it’s back to hearing nothing again.”

11. Take time to express gratitude.

“When you and my son visit, it means a lot to me when you offer to help with the meals and with clean up.”

“It meant a lot to me when you posted on your Facebook page: ‘I am thankful for my mother-in-law! I am so grateful for our great relationship. It is so important! And ever since I got married our relationship has become so natural and I love spending time with her!’”

“Please take time to express your appreciation for a gift by writing a note or calling just to say, ‘Thanks!’”

12. Thank you!

“Thank you for believing in my son and encouraging him to stay connected with us.”

“You truly are the wind beneath my son’s sails and I really appreciate and love you. You understand my son far better than I do, and I thank God for you.”

“I’ve got the best daughter-in-law God could give. I am so blessed.”

“You are perfect for my son. How much we enjoy you for who you are!”

Some mothers- and daughters-in-law form close friendships very quickly. For others, this may take years. But most mothers- and daughters-in-law do want to connect with each other. They want to find common ground. They want to know each other as individual women with feelings, beliefs, and ideas.

It’s been years since the feelings of that one mother-in-law were hurt on Thanksgiving Day over a sweet potato casserole recipe that her daughter-in-law didn’t want to give her. Today they understand each other much better. They appreciate one another, enjoy being together, and truly love each other.

That mother-in-law shared with me what I believe is the secret to any God-honoring relationship: We’re still “growing together … offering grace.”

How to Be a Great Mother-in-Law

After decades as a mother, it’s safe to say you’ve mastered your role. Then, after a few I dos and a nice party, you became someone’s mother-in-law overnight. What are the rules associated with this new title, and how can you be the type of mother-in-law your new son or daughter is proud to call family? Consider the following tips, which will help you create a long and loving relationship with your child’s new spouse.


Recognize that your role in your child’s life has been downgraded.

You may have been the most important person in your son or daughter’s life until now. Once they’re married, though, their spouse assumes that role. Accepting this is a major step toward a healthy relationship.

Sound happy and positive when talking to or about your new daughter- or son-in-law.

Negativity will sour any relationship, so why not keep things focused on their good qualities? It may be hard to ignore their less-than-stellar traits or behavior but for the sake of family bonding, staying on the bright side is a must.

Remember important details from their life.

Whether it’s a job promotion that was up in the air or a half-marathon they planned to run, show you care by following up with them on things you talked about in your last conversation. They’ll be touched that you remembered.


But don’t be nosy.

You don’t need every detail of their experience. You could simply ask, “How did the marathon go?” then let them speak. When they’re done, say something encouraging like, “Even though you weren’t one of the top finishers, it’s a wonderful achievement that you ran the whole race.”

Play fair.

If you give your son a cashmere sweater for the holidays, don’t give your daughter-in-law a pair of goofy Santa socks. That will send a message of inequality. Give your daughter-in-law a gift of equal value and taste.

Avoid choosing sides.

If the newlyweds are having a fight, stay out of it. You’ll always be on your child’s team anyway.

Keep your opinions to yourself.

Think they should give up their pricey gym memberships and save for a house? Even if you have their best interest at heart, keep mum. They don’t need your permission or approval, and challenging them will only make them annoyed or defensive.

8 Things you should never do as a mother-in-law

Mothers-in-law are the source of endless mirth — as the butt of jokes, unfortunately. Of course, those jokes deal in stereotypes and caricatures, but there can be a germ of truth in them; plenty of young wives lose sleep over meetings, dinners, or holidays with their mothers-in-law.

I decided to ask my friends, acquaintances, and relatives about what bothers them, worries them, or simply annoys them about their mother-in-law’s behavior. I also searched internet forums and social media groups focused on difficult relationships. My goal wasn’t simply to collect a bunch of complaints, but rather to offer mothers-in-law a well-founded guide to some behaviors they should avoid in relationship to their sons- or daughters-in-law.

Don’t criticize their clothing

Let’s start with a light topic: commenting negatively on the appearance or clothes of your daughter- or son-in-law. It shows a lack of tact on your part. You wouldn’t tell any other guest in your home that they’re dressed inappropriately, right? It’s also not very nice to point out all the changes (especially the negative ones) in your daughter-in-law’s appearance. For example, commentaries along the lines of, “Oh, you still have some pregnancy weight to lose,” should be kept to yourself.

Don’t call every day

Yes, I know, it’s a sign of caring and shows interest, but daily phone calls to your son/daughter become a nuisance, sooner or later. Moreover, it’s a sign of an uncut umbilical cord if parents ask their children for a report on their activities that frequently. Of course, a caring mother (especially if you have an only child) doesn’t feel that way, but to a grown person trying to set up his or her own life the way they want to, it can be awkward and even annoying.

Don’t judge their decisions and life choices

Suggesting that your son’s or daughter’s decision concerning their life partner was a poor choice is utterly inappropriate. That was a choice made by an adult, and autonomous person, and you have to respect that. “My mother-in-law has indicated multiple times that her son must be very unhappy with me because, in her opinion, I give him too many responsibilities. I don’t expect anything more than usual engagement in our family life. The fact that, in her time, cooking dinner and cleaning was a woman’s job, doesn’t mean that it has to be like that in our family,” complained one women I spoke with.

Don’t comment on the division of responsibilities

This is another taboo topic: judging the division of roles and responsibilities in your son’s or daughter’s family. Just because you did things one way in your marriage doesn’t mean that’s how it’s going to be in your son or daughter’s family. Your son is not necessarily unhappy because he changes diapers or takes care of the laundry, and your daughter may not be unhappy because she’s made a decision to work outside the home or be a housewife, whatever the case may be.

Don’t impose yourself

Mothers-in-law have more life experience under their belt and naturally often want to share their wisdom or advice — even (or sometimes especially) when they are not asked for it. Of course, knowing that you can rely on your mother-in-law when you need her is very lovely — but wait to be asked, don’t impose. Offers worded like, “I’ll do it because I’ve already done it,” or “I have connections,” “I know better,” could have the opposite of the intended effect.

Don’t challenge parenting methods and decisions

The arrival of grandchildren opens a real treasury of phrases that should never come from a mother-in-law’s mouth. First of all, don’t question the parents’ decisions or their parenting methods, especially with grandchildren present. Of course, you can disagree with them, and you can talk about it (calmly) with your child and their spouse, but remember, they don’t have to accept your advice. Another thing: don’t question the rhythm of the day worked out by the parents for their child (meal times, when and how often they brush their teeth, naps, etc.). Indeed, spending a few hours with a grandchild does not authorize you to undermine what the parents have been working on for weeks if not months. In the end, it’s their child and it’s their business how they manage that time.

Don’t create a good grandma — bad parents scenario

Some grandparents can’t understand that the rules the parents have worked out with their child are sacred and untouchable. If the parents decided that the child can’t watch TV (or watches it only for 15 minutes), or can’t go out by himself, or can’t play with certain toys or devices, then that’s that. Grandma will not be the best grandma in the world if, during the time the grandchild spends at her house, she will let him do all that is forbidden at home. That undermines the parents’ authority. You might think this will help you have a better relationship with your grandchildren, but that’s an illusion.

Don’t offer food the parents don’t allow

Another rule, quite similar to the previous one, concerns foods that the parents — for whatever reason — eliminated from their child’s diet. Perhaps it’s meat because they decided to be vegetarian. It could be sugar because they consider it harmful. It could be anything they suspect the child might be allergic to. Whatever the food and reason, all you have to do is to follow the rules. Do not fall into the temptation of thinking you’ll be “super grandma” by disobeying the decisions of the parents. It will end up having the opposite effect.


The best thing you can as a mother-in-law is to take care of your own life, and support your children’s decisions about their own families. Remember years ago when you had no time because of the kids, work, or a million other reasons? Take average of this time now, don’t meddle, and be flexible. Most grown children want their parents and in-laws to be involved in their lives and they will happily welcome your advice, help, and love if you are sensitive about how to give it.

Read more: In-laws driving you crazy? Here’s what you can do

Ask my son to put me before his wife.

Maskot/ Getty Images

A few of my girlfriends and I have developed a sacred vow with regards to our future mother-in-law status that goes like this:

If I ever behave like that, please punch me in the face – and I promise to do the same for you.

We created this vow because over the years, we’ve observed patterns of objectionable behavior in mothers-in-law … patterns that we very strongly do not wish to repeat when our own sons grow up and marry.

So I’ve compiled a list of 15 of the most obnoxious mother-in-law behaviors for which my friends and I would happily invite violent corporal punishment should we ever stoop so low as to commit them:

Once my son is married, his wife comes first. I am already emotionally preparing myself for this inevitability. I demand to be punched in the face if I dare throw a hissy fit over the fact that my son is putting his wife ahead of me or loves her more than me. He damn well better love her best, as she will be the mother of his children. This is the way of things.

Ask my grandchildren to keep secrets from my son and daughter-in-law.

Parents rule. There is no such thing as “grandma privileges,” other than the ones stipulated by the parents, who are in charge. Always. There is no wavering on this rule whatsoever. Please don’t let me piss off my daughter-in-law and lose babysitting rights over a forbidden bag of candy. Stab me with a hot poker first.

Try to mediate my son’s marital disputes.

Mothers-in-law don’t get to have the inside scoop on the young marriage. Ew! If you catch me trying to involve myself in my son’s arguments with his wife, give me a stiff uppercut to the jaw.

Rearrange my daughter-in-law’s house.

Clearly the coffee mugs should be stored in the cabinet over the coffee maker. Any idiot can see that. But it’s not my kitchen, so I don’t get to decide where the coffee mugs go. If you see me reorganizing my daughter-in-law’s kitchen, or any other room in her house, for the love of all things holy, punch me. Hard.

Fold my daughter-in-law’s laundry without her permission.

There is something sweet and generous about helping without being asked. But there is also such a thing as period underwear. Tie me to a post and flog me if I ever get up in my daughter-in-law’s lacy thongs without asking her first.

Buy my daughter-in-law clothes only I would wear.

Clothes that are clearly not my daughter-in-law’s style, but I obviously have some creepy secret desire to turn her into me, because if my son loves his wife when she dresses like me, then that must mean he also still loves me. No. Water board me if I ever try to pull a stunt like this.

Think my son is perfect.

Also known as: “Daughter-in-law is always wrong.” Not. Cool.

Think my daughter-in-law is perfect.

This might be even worse than thinking my son is perfect, because it sets the stage for bitter disappointment once the poor daughter-in-law slips up and reveals her humanity.

Enter my daughter-in-law’s bedroom without knocking.

Lots of mothers-in-law think a light knock on the door is all that is necessary before barging into a bedroom or a bathroom. WRONG. I can only hope that if I ever invade my daughter-in-law’s privacy in this manner, I find her butt-ass nekkid, riding my son – just to ensure my corneas are permanently scarred and I am thus forever cured of the compulsion to enter someone’s personal space without permission. This psychological trauma is a more just punishment than any kind of physical torture one could endure, don’t you think?

Offer unsolicited advice.

Please, please push me down a flight of stairs if I give my daughter-in-law unsolicited advice. And afterward, while I’m recovering in the hospital, remind me that no one, no one likes unsolicited advice, but especially not daughters-in-law.

Show up unannounced.

Like number 9 above, this situation could get embarrassing in a hurry. Please, if I forget my manners and start appearing on my daughter-in-law’s doorstep like she’s my best friend – roll over me with a bicycle a few times.

Criticize my daughter-in-law’s cooking.

This includes surreptitiously dribbling hot sauce on things that don’t ordinarily require hot sauce, like spaghetti, or slyly adding salt and pepper to the soup my daughter-in-law has been slaving over all day. She cooked it how she likes it. She thinks it tastes good. She worked hard on it, and even if she doesn’t admit it, she wants to impress me. If I don’t gag that shit down with a sincere-looking grin on my face, make me walk barefoot across a pile of my grandchild’s Legos.

Expect my son to mediate a dispute between my daughter-in-law and myself.

Just. No. I can’t even. Get out the frying pan. And make it a good one.

Behave passive aggressively.

What woman doesn’t love a good ol’ underhanded cut-down while deep in the trenches of social warfare? I know; it’s delicious. But this conduct has no place between a mother and daughter-in-law. If you catch me behaving in this unbecoming manner, I will give you a sledge hammer and carte blanche on my kneecaps.

Compare myself to my daughter-in-law’s parents.

Perhaps I believe my son and daughter-in-law prefer spending time with her parents. Maybe they have a higher social status, more money, better educations, a bigger house, or healthier family relationships. If I ever mention any of this in front of my son or daughter-in-law, please … well, you know.

Many of the items on my Punch Me in the Face list are considered faux pas in any situation. They are a hundred times more egregious when put in the context of a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. I don’t know why these behaviors seem so prevalent in the elder, supposedly wiser generation, but I do know I will keep this list at the ready lest a friend one day feel that ominous tug, that devilish whisper in her ear that falsely emboldens her to put her nose where it doesn’t belong.

So I can give her a good, hard punch to the face.

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