It’s so true that when you get married, you marry your spouse’s family as well. No matter what, you'll see your in-laws time and again at family gatherings, holidays, and birthdays--and even more regularly if you live close. Your relationship with your spouse's family can be wonderful, but even the best relationships can have tension.
Take the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship: You’ve got two women who love the same person fiercely (albeit differently), and it can lead to weird, unnecessary competition. Add in the fact that you (a younger generation) are figuring out how to do things your own way, and comments from your mother-in-law can seem judgmental, even if they come from a good place. Likewise, she (an older generation) can feel like her experience and knowledge isn’t taken seriously when you want to do things your own way or act against her sage advice.
A little open communication and understanding can go a long way when it comes to this relationship. So can remembering what brought you into that relationship in the first place: love. In that vein, mothers-in-law, here are just a few of the things your daughters-in-law want to tell you.
Relationships with the in-laws can and should be wonderful. Remembering what you have in common with your mother-in-law rather than focusing on your differences can go a long way. When in doubt, open communication and getting a second unbiased opinion can help in emotionally charged situations.
- We value your opinions, but we’ll make our own decisions. We know you have years of life experience on us, and we do value your opinion. But we’ll still make our own decisions as a couple and as a family, and it’s not a personal affront to you when those decisions don’t align. We’re doing what works best for us.
- It’s not a competition. You do things your way, I do things mine. Differences make the world go ‘round. It’s not about being better or being the favorite. You’re my spouse’s mom and my kids’ grandmother; they will love you for that, just as they love me for being the wife and mom that I am. You don’t have to try to one-up me to win their affection.
- I don’t care what you eat. Yes, I eat healthy most of the time, but I don’t analyze what you’re eating. I don’t need to hear how healthy you usually eat as you’re eating a piece of cake. Own your food decisions, just as I own mine. I’m not judging; just enjoy your cake!
- Take a hint. If we suggest repeatedly you limit your stays to five days or less, that doesn’t mean you can book for a week or longer and hope we’re OK with it. Because we’re not OK with it.
- Stop with the housekeeping digs. Yes, I’m sure that new vacuum you’ve got—the one you’ve mentioned 20 times and offered to buy me—is great. But I’ve got one that works, too. Sure, I might not use it as often as you think I need to, but commenting on it nonstop only makes me want to boycott vacuuming even more than I already do.
- Respect our family's food rules. If we have kids (especially young ones), respect our food rules. Many parents are particular about when they want to introduce certain foods to their babies, and it’s our decision to make it for our kids—not yours. Just because your son had cake before age one and you want to be the one to introduce sweets to your grandchild doesn’t mean that it’s your job to do so. Respect the rules of the house; when in doubt, ask before serving any food. (Pediatrician-recommended guidelines about foods and allergens have changed a lot since your children were babies.)
- Give us warning. Don’t do surprise visits. We might have sleeping babies or be having the rare romp while the babies are sleeping. The last thing we need while in a romantic embrace is a doorbell ringing followed by crying kids.
- If I need help, I’ll ask. You’re very helpful, and I appreciate every second you watch the children so your son and I can eat at a restaurant that doesn’t have kids menus. I appreciate every minute of help you give me cleaning up after dinner. But unless I ask you, don’t assume you have free reign in taking over the kitchen or rearranging drawers because it works for you in the short time you’re at our house. Likewise, if I need help folding laundry, I’ll ask. I’m not being stubborn or a martyr; I’d just prefer not to have my mother-in-law folding my underwear.
- Your son isn’t perfect, and I love him anyway. Sometimes he’s wrong and we have disagreements, but it’s our disagreement to work out, and we don’t need interference. I still love him to bits and pieces and appreciate that you’re part of the reason he’s the man he is today.
- We value your relationship with the kids. You’re a wonderful grandmother and a wonderful mom. We appreciate everything you do for the kids and for us.
What would you tell your mother-in-law if you could?