Let me start you off with a quick saying, dear reader, to get you in the mood for my story on how to be a good mother-in-law: “Close one eye to keep friends, close both eyes to keep relatives, and close both eyes and your mouth to keep your daughters-in-law.”
There is a houseplant called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (a Snake Plant). Why? From its sharpness and sword-like leaves!
I was widowed and I remarried, therefore, I had the experience of dealing with two mothers-in-law. They both had sharp tongues.
My First Mother-in-Law
My first mother-in-law should have been written up in the Guinness Book of World Records under the “worst of the worst.” And darling, I am not saying this tongue in cheek!
One day, years ago, I gave a woman a ride to an event. We shared a bit of our history on the way to the luncheon. It turned out she knew my first mother-in-law. Out of the blue she said, “You had the worst mother-in-law in America. I don’t know how you survived.” It was true. The saving grace was my late husband. He always sided with me.
My Second Mother-in-Law
My second mother-in-law also had a sharp tongue but she was a hoot. She is the mother of my Ultimate Concierge. Widowed at forty-nine, she became a uniformed Cook County Sheriff in the divorce court and held the position until her mid-eighties.
She told you how she felt. There was no mystery! On one Mother’s Day, I gave her what I thought was a special gift, a Waterford heart-shaped paperweight. The following morning, at 7 a.m., it was returned with a note, “I am returning your gift. I don’t like hearts.” With a smile, I took it in stride because she loved me and I realized she was unfiltered. Darling, I did love her for her openness. I knew she loved me, too, and I appreciated her love for her son, my husband and Ultimate Concierge, Shelly. She taught him well.
I, too, am a Mother-in-Law
I am a mother-in-law to two women. My relationships with them differ. My husband’s son’s wife, Jami, and I love one another. We are kindred spirits. I have a different type of relationship with my other daughter-in-law. There is no friction. Just a respected distance. My relationship with each of them has taught me ways to be a good mother-in-law.
How To Be a Good Mother-In-Law
As a daughter-in-law to two women, and as a mother-in-law to two women, I have gleaned some wisdom along the way on how to be a good mother-in-law. Relationships can be difficult. I hope by applying these tips, you can strengthen your relationships with your adult children and specifically, your daughters-in-law.
In 99% of situations, do not make negative comments
Hold your tongue. In fact, bite your tongue, unless the situation is dire and you absolutely know you must speak up. My rule of thumb: Speak up out of good conscience and then shut up.
Get it in your head that you will never be her mother
Of course, your daughters-in-law will spend more time with their mothers. The way to equalize that situation: become best friends with their moms, darling. And be a delicious and delightful grandmother.
Have an open invitation rule
Birthdays, holidays, and all family occasions are a time of togetherness. If you are invited to an in-law’s home make every effort to attend. Bring a gift to the mother. And, extend yourself by opening your home for family events. Your daughters-in-law should welcome this because the “family that plays together, stays together” and your relationship will hopefully grow closer. Anytime my family wants to gather, I ensure it happens. I really don’t think I am being a PO (push-over), just a woman who loves her adult children, their spouses, and my grands.
Don’t be competitive, be collaborative
Women of all ages tend to compete. Never go there. You will lose.
Take a back seat
It is important to know your position in your family dynamics. My advice is: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Be a visible and relevant woman and have a personal life and know your adult children and grandchildren have their own lives.
When needed, make sure you are on the scene
Prove your commitment to your daughter-in-law. Fly to her side. Open your heart to your son’s wife. Give her your emotional support. This is how you layer positive relationships. If unable to travel to her side, you can Skype, email, or text your daughter-in-law. Quality time matters. No excuses.
Whether it’s mothers and daughters or daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law, there is never 100% compatibility. Accept that they are leading their own lives. I know no matter how conflicted you may be with a daughter, in 99% of cases, daughters will always love their mothers. There is the connection of an umbilical bond. You are her valuable teacher. With your daughters-in-law, it can be a love or hate relationship. I personally pin the responsibility on us. We are older, wiser, and truly have more to lose… like a son and our grandchildren. Enough said?