I’m going to assume you take your job as a mother pretty seriously. The fact that you clicked on this post leads me to believe you strive to do your parenting best. And because you are spending your free time reading parenting articles I’m willing to wager you are doing a mighty fine job at this whole mothering-thing. But have you ever considered the other parenting role you will one day take on (or possibly already have taken on)-the role of mother-in-law?
I’ll never forget the first time I heard the phrase, “A daughter is a daughter for life. A son is a son until he takes a wife.” As a mother of three boys, this is something I have contemplated & agonized over more than I care to admit. The thought of losing my boys to their future families is both reassuring and devastating. Of course, I want them to be devoted husbands & fathers. In fact, there’s nothing I want more for them. But the thought of not spending every single Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, & birthday surrounded by my men breaks my mommy heart a little bit .
My solution? I’ve resolved to be the very best mother-in-law I can possibly be.
Yes, I understand that my oldest is still over a decade from matrimony but it’s never too early to start planning these things. It’s my hope that by building good relationships not only with my sons but also with the women that they (will one day) love I will be a little more present in their future. I have spent so many hours considering this – obsessed much? Yes, yes I am. Mothers-in-law consistently get a bum rap. You just mention the word mother-in-law & it is almost always followed by grunts & echoes of disgruntled pasts. I do not want to be one of “those” stereotypical mothers-in-law. You know, the control-obsessed, overbearing, demanding women that everyone avoids.
In my attempt to master mother-in-lawing I have spoken to just about every mother-in-law & daughter/son-in-law I know learning the do’s & don’ts behind in-lawing. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on regarding the subject, & I’ve even chatted with multiple family therapists. And I’ve got good news folks, it can be done! You can have a healthy, happy, positive relationship with your child-in-law. I’ve compiled the best tips I’ve come across to help you be the world’s greatest mother-in-law so you can excel at a mother’s other great role.
How To Be The World’s Greatest Mother-In-Law
1. Let go
Once those commitments are made & your child has devoted herself to another person your role as mother shifts. She is an adult, & you must allow her to make adult decisions. Of course, your job as a mother is not over. You will still have opportunities to teach, & guide, & help your child along life’s course. But for the most part, you have to trust that you did a pretty decent job raising her & she is now capable of making responsible & wise choices. Sometimes her path won’t be the same you would take but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong or it needs correcting.
2. Don’t judge
Your child may bring home the picture perfect person, or not. Either way, your response should be the same. Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance. You don’t get to pick who he loves but you do get to pick how you react to his love. And if you respond poorly, with judgment or criticism, then you will only drive a wedge between your child & yourself. There will be times when you disapprove of this new family member. That’s ok. But voicing your opinion will almost always cause more harm than good. Sometimes it may be necessary to speak up but most of the time you’ll be better off keeping your thoughts to yourself.
Do you remember how scary it was when you first met your in-laws? It isn’t easy jumping into a new family. Do your best to ease the transition by welcoming this new family member with love.
Let her know what your expectations & hopes are for this new relationship. Ask her what she expects from you, & what she doesn’t want from you. When you are both open & honest it will make the years so much easier for everyone.
Marriages are extremely fragile these days. More than 40% of all marriages end in divorce. Chances are you don’t want that fate for your child. Do what you can to support her marriage. Show respect & honor for their bond by maintaining appropriate boundaries. Whatever you do, do not get involved in their arguments. No matter which side you choose you will always lose. Rather, offer support & comfort, & allow the couple to figure things out on their own.
6. Be a friend
Everyone wants another friend-especially when you are the new person in a family. Be that friend. Get to know your new in-law’s beliefs, traditions, hobbies, opinions, feelings, dreams, fears, & interests. Treat her like you would your oldest friend and if you are lucky she just may become an old friend.
Get to know your child-in-law’s traditions & interests & incorporate them in your family life when possible. Try out her favorite recipes, play that game he loves, or take a look at that book she highly recommended. Your in-law will feel more at home, & who knows, you may actually discover something you love.
8. Bite your tongue
Under no circumstances should you ever, I mean ever, make rude, snide, or cutting remarks about your new child-in-law. Harsh words are not easily forgotten. If you don’t have anything nice to say, well you know…
9. Don’t compete
I know you want to spend every holiday with your child & his young family. But remember, he now has in-law’s, too. You may not see them as much as you would like but by offering a loving environment for them to return to I guarantee you will get to see them plenty.
10. Don’t gossip
Nothing good comes from gossiping. Especially, within families. Most likely, anything you say will cross your new child-in-law’s ears eventually; so unless you would feel comfortable saying it to his face don’t say it at all.
For the most part, you want to let the newlyweds manage their lives on their own-they are adults after all. But you should be there to lend a helping hand whenever acceptable & possible. That is a mom’s job after all. And who doesn’t love someone that always has his back?
10. Have a Good Time
Be sure to enjoy your time with your family. That’s the best part of being together, right? Make memories doing things that you all enjoy. When you enjoy your time together you will all make being together more of a priority. Yes!!!
11. Move on
You are going to mess up, he is going to mess up. For a healthy, happy, lasting relationship it is best to just forgive & forget.
Now let’s be clear, you don’t have to be a total pushover as a mother-in-law. But you do have to walk a fine line. Be mindful of what you say & do, but in the end, let your love for your child & his family guide you. As long as you have their best interest in mind you will rock this whole in-law-thing!
Do you have any other mother-in-law tips I should add to my list? If so, put them in the comments! I’m always looking for new ways to improve. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor to be the best mother-in-law ever!
For even more inspiration on how to strengthen family relationships, check out these great ideas: