Becoming a Valued Mother-in-law

You, too, can become a valued mother-in-law. Here are some suggestions:

Be respectful. 

Your daughter-in-law comes from her own background—not better or worse, just different. You have an opportunity to acknowledge and value these differences, and therefore her. New traditions and styles of family living all come into play. Recognizing the challenge this entails, one woman half-joked, “I have actually prayed that my son will marry an orphan!”

Jennifer (28) says, “I come from a different family system with different values. I want and need my mother-in-law to respect that. The trouble comes when she expects me to be more like her.”

“If there is trouble,” Jane (55) says, “Fight fair.  Be respectful.  Hurtful words cannot be taken back.” Try to be open-minded and accepting. Overlook minor issues. Maybe there are interesting and fun things you can learn or do together. Appreciate the strong connection your daughter-in-law may have to her own mother and family; your two families are not competitors. Over time, the young couple will sort through their different backgrounds, eventually forming the foundation for their own family.

 Be inclusive. 

Your daughter-in-law is a member of your family now, so treat her appropriately. Being inclusive can require sensitivity. At 57, Janet’s approach, for example, is considerate: “If my daughter-in-law answers the phone when I call my son, I make a point not to ask for him until she offers. I let her talk until she’s ready. I try to be as thoughtful of her as I am of him.”

Change your role and expectations. 

You are – and always will be – your son’s mother; you are not a rival for his affection.  However, and as it should be, you must accept the fact that the #1 woman in your son’s life now is his wife. Adapt to this change in your role. Judy (62) remembers that, at first, “We were fighting over my son because I felt like I was being replaced. ‘Love’ was making me hurt them. When it dawned on me, I knew I had to change.” She worked at becoming a valued mother-in-law and succeeded.

by Kathleen Vestal Logan, MS, MA          May 14, 2018


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