How to be a Mother-in-law

Jan 7, 2016

Yes, of course you become a mother-in-law when your son or daughter marries. What my title is actually hinting at is that it takes quite a skill-set to be successful at it.

Not every marriage comes with a mother-in-law attached. And not every mother-in-law is – or even needs to be – dreaded. However, as with every relationship, work may well be needed.

Here are some tips for mothers-in-law that may help preserve the family peace – and even foster a good relationship with those relatives.

  • Try to avoid favouritism. Include both your offspring and the in-law on any anniversary or Christmas card. Send each of them a birthday card at the appropriate times. This applies also to  natural grandchildren as well as those you ‘inherit’ through your off-spring’s marriage.
  • Visits ought to be pre-arranged and should be limited. The couple is entitled to some free time for  themselves, even though family time is important and desirable. Fit in with what the couple wants. By all means, phone (and expect calls), but be moderate. Don’t expect to come and live in the couple’s house for weeks at a time (trust me: one week is pushing it!). They shouldn’t have to drop everything and fit in with you . That said, you have a perfect right to want contact, but just be moderate and reasonable!
  • Respect the couple’s house rules and preferences, including not spoiling grandchildren too much (of course, a certain amount is absolutely fitting). Don’t go mad on presents for the grandkids either – this can be embarrassing for the parents too. They may disapprove of, or be unable to afford, such largesse.
  • Be appreciative of the family your child has married into, especially if they make an effort on your behalf. And don’t go complaining about them to your own offspring! In fact, keep clear of disputes and also of side-taking.
  • Offer to help, particularly if your stay is an extended one.
  • Avoid interfering, unless your participation is invited.
  • Be prepared to compromise. The couple may need to accommodate the other set of parents, especially at festivals and the like, so you  may have to wait your turn.
  • If you feel aggrieved or left out, however, raise the matter (amicably!). The concern may easily be resolved. Don’t ignite situations needlessly, but don’t let real (or perceived) slights fester.

Relationships of all kinds need to be worked at, but there’s no need to follow stereotypes and become the mother-in-law from hell. Most of these tips are really quite painless! Moreover, you’ll usually find that, if your attitude is positive, it won’t take long before you receive the positive response you surely welcome.