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5 Ways To Be A Great Mother-in-Law
by Jenna D. Barry

How do you like being a mother-in-law? Is it everything you dreamed it would be? Does your son call and visit as often as you would like? Does your daughter-in-law meet all of your expectations? Are you as involved with your grandchildren’s lives as you would like to be? If not, then perhaps there are some things you can do differently in order to have the best relationship possible with your son, his wife and your grandkids.

Here are 5 ways to be a great mother-in-law:

1. Gracefully step aside from your role as the #1 woman in your son’s life. Encourage him to make his wife his first priority. If you expect your son to make you his first priority, his marriage will suffer and he will be in a miserable position of trying to choose between his two favorite women. He is supposed to value his wife’s opinions over yours when it comes to raising the kids, deciding how often to visit, etc. The single most destructive thing you can do is gossip to your son about his wife, so don’t ever put him in the awkward position of having to listen to you criticize her.

2. Treat your son and daughter-in-law as adults on an equal level to you. It’s time for you to let go of your role as a parent and start treating your son and his wife the same way you treat your adult friends. That mindset should significantly affect the way you interact withthem. If you wouldn’t chastise your friends for watching rated “Rapostrophe movies, drinking beer, dressing provocatively, keeping a cluttered house, or spanking (or not spanking) their children, then don’t reprimand your son or daughter-in-law either. Do you feel entitled to offer unsolicited advice, call at all hours of the day and night, and show up uninvited at your friends’ houses? Would you play a guilt trip on your friends because they didn’t call everyday, visit every week, follow your holiday traditions, name their child after you, or get your birthday card on time? You get my point.

3. Try to see things from their perspective. In today’s hectic lifestyle, it can be tough for a couple to carve out some quality time with each other. By the time they do household chores, balance the checkbook, walk the dog, take the kids to soccer practice, do the taxes, and wash the car, there isn’t much time left for fun. If they get a free weekend every now and then, they may want to go on a date or hang out with friends. From your perspective it may seem like they aren’t visiting you often enough, but if you put yourself in their shoes you will realize they are doing the best they can to juggle many demands on their time. This is especially important to remember over the holidays. They may feel pressured by both sets of parents about where to spend the holidays, and that can take the fun out of everything. You can help minimize the stress on their marriage by being flexible about where and with whom you spend the holidays. Rather than demand that your son and his wife continue your tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving at your house, realize they may want to start their own traditions.

4. Be respectful of their needs. Rather than feeling entitled to call, visit, and offer advice whenever you want because you are “family,apostrophe be sensitive to the needs of your son and his wife. Some wives don’t mind if their in-laws drop in unexpectedly, while others would prefer they call first or wait until invited. Some daughters-in-law think it’s fine to receive phone calls early in the morning or late at night, but others prefer calls within certain hours of the day (especially if they have young children or an unusual work schedule). Some women don’t mind if their mothers-in-law offer unsolicited advice about finances, parenting, wardrobe choices, eating habits, etc. (if offered in a respectful manner); however, many prefer to receive advice only after they have asked for it. When grandkids enter the picture, it may be even more tempting to call, visit, and offer advice, so make sure to be even more respectful to the needs of the new parents. You can help by telling them they are great parents, letting them decide when (and for how long) you can visit the new baby, adhering to their parenting decisions, and minimizing competition with the other set of grandparents.

5. Have realistic expectations. You may want your son to move to your neighborhood so you can hug your grandkids anytime you want. You might want your daughter-in-law to address you as “Momapostrophe and spend hours chit-chatting on the phone. If your son and his wife have the same expectations as you do, then that’s wonderful. However, chances are your expectations won’t be the same as theirs. Rather than choosing to be offended when they don’t do what you think they should, realize they just have different preferences than you do. Sure, you might get what you want if you manipulate them with guilt, but then you won’t have a sincere relationship with them. You are responsible for your own happiness, so don’t depend solely on your son and daughter-in-law (or even your grandchildren) to fulfill all of your needs. Spend time with friends, find a hobby, or volunteer to be a Big Sister.

Remember when you first got married? What was your mother-in-law like? Did she gracefully step aside and encourage her son to make you his first priority? Or did she try to make him feel guilty whenever he put your needs above hers? Did she act superior by being controlling, judgmental, and offering unwanted advice? Or did she treat you with respect and offer advice only when you asked for it? Did she try to see things from your perspective, or did she expect you and your husband to revolve your lives around her? Did she feel entitled to call and visit whenever she wanted, or was she respectful of your needs? Was she often offended by your behavior, or was she satisfied with the amount of attention you and your husband could give her? Did she have realistic expectations about your relationship, or did she complain that you were a lousy daughter-in-law?

If you had a great mother-in-law, then I hope you will follow her example. If your mother-in-law wasn’t so great, then make sure you are not like her. You can strengthen your son’s marriage and show how much you love him by being a great mother-in-law.

About the author:

Jenna D. Barry is the author of “A Wife’s Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husband’s Loyalty Without Killing His Parents.apostrophe For more information, please visit