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“Mother-in-laws” have always been a ready source of comic material for jokes, sit coms and stand up comedians but of course not all mother-in-laws are the monsters they are made out to be and many have fantastic relationships with their daughters-in-law and sons-in-law too.
So if you are a mother-in-law, how do you go about making sure you have a good relationship both with your child and his or her spouse. Before I set out some guidelines for those that really need help, just think about your own mother-in-law and whether that relationship was good or bad. You can certainly learn from that. Were you treated like you thought you ought to be. Now put yourself in your own daughter-in-law's position and see if there are any similarities. There is a very old quotation – it used to be on my wooden school ruler when I was a child! It said “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”.
Apply that same quotation to any tricky relationship and you won't go far wrong.
Recognize that your daughter-in-law is a person in her own right, with her own interests, history, culture and traditions. She has had experiences you'll never have, and she certainly knows some things you'll never know. When you are the mother-in-law, in a way you are going to have to prove yourself and make no mistake, nine times out of ten, your daughter-in-law is just as anxious to prove herself too.
But the bottom line is that you are not her parent and she is not your child and you have to accept that and resist the urge to act as a mother! Your daughter-in-law has a special relationship with her own mother, and although she is not going to feel the same way about you, in many instances daughters-in-law do grow to regard their mother-in-law as a second mother. If that happens to you, look upon it as a bonus.
In the meantime work on having a mutually respectful, pleasant relationship and treat her with love and care.
Forget about any criticism or judgement – they are unimportant.
Some mothers-in-law fall into a habit of thinking of their sons as eternal children. Remember that your son chose his wife just as your husband chose you. You should want to do everything possible to ensure a long and successful marriage for your son and your daughter-in-law. So step aside and let him live his life with his new partner. It is their time in their life to adjust to each other and experience things together.
If you ever feel tempted to criticize or gossip about your daughter-in-law, let yourself imagine your daughter-in-law is a good friend (which hopefully she will become anyway). Real friends treat each other with kindness and respect in spite of differences. They are there for each other in times of need too.
Today's young women have their own friends and interests, and might not wish to spend too much time and energy on family “get togethers” so respect that and don't force the issue.
Remember that loving, unobtrusive and well-mannered mothers-in-law are a cherished treasure, a gift not only for daughters-in-law or your grandchildren but for the whole family. Becoming this cherished treasure might be difficult to achieve but it is worth working on.
I hope you have a great relationship with your daughter-in-law. I like to think I do with mine!
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