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Mother in Law Advice

Updated on September 13, 2014

Being a mother in law doesn't come with an instruction manual. It can be something that creeps up on you -- not the title of course, but the meaning of the "job".

A definition of Mother in Law is likely to include bad jokes, including the words "bitchy", "manipulative" and "bossy". That can be a difficult thing to swallow for someone who has spent her life being a mom, and who may be looking forward to being a grandmother and hopes to be her child's spouse's friend at least.

What, exactly, is a Mother in Law supposed to do that's positive? She's supposed to relinquish the care of her son or daughter to someone else. She may for a few years host family holiday events. She might be called on for decorating advice, transportation, financial help, child care, cooking tips and recipes, a vacation retreat (if she has a nice home in an interesting location), and toys and gifts newlyweds and parents perhaps can't afford. She is not to visit without invitation, interfere with child rearing, offer unsolicited advice, criticize anything.

And if she sees trouble in paradise -- marital discord, verbal, physical, emotional, drug or alcohol abuse -- it is the brave MIL indeed who risks the future of her relationship with her child's family by bringing this to the light.

A MIL is just another person - with all of the short comings and personality quirks she had before she became a MIL and perhaps the brunt of a bad joke. Some days being a MIL really sucks and the only way to improve it may be to talk with other MIL's and share wisdoms.

(and yes, being a DIL isn't so easy either -- However, I found tons of support out there for those who have us "MIL's from hell", but precious little for those of us who are shocked to find out that's how we're perceived!)

Mood music - Play this while you read! - ..I used to dance to this!

Mother in Law song.. actually, I still love it even though it doesn't apply to my MIL's or hopefully myself!

Mother in law help

What's a mother in law supposed to do?

If you do a search for "Mother-in-Law advice", you come up with a lot of sites with titles that are difficult to read - "I hate my Mother in Law" types along with jokes about Mother in Laws.

Though the title "Mother-in-Law" technically refers to the mother of a woman or man, it seems the most intense problems most often happen between a Mother in Law and Daughter in Law. There doesn't seem to be a similar parallel between a Father in Law and his son in law. Surely someone somewhere has done a case study!

Difficult though it is, I find it is helpful to read what DIL's are posting and complaining about as it can shed a light on their interpretation of something we MIL's are.

I read Terri Apter's advices for that reason.

Other advices, even with painful titles, include:

Mother In Laws Unite A place for advice for the Mother in Law that welcomes Mother in Laws ... about the only one I found, after those posted below. This is the place to go for comfort, to share,hear, listen, be heard and to talk with other MIL's. Being kind to one another and to visitors is the rule.

Mother in Law Hell . I've tried posting for advice on here as a MIL, but was ignored. A strong stomached MIL can lurk about and find out what drives DIL's crazy and ask, "do I do that?" However, I'd encourage you not to spend much time here -- there is little compassion or understanding for MIL's as human.

Cafemom is a group online for all moms, including Grandmoms. It was OK until I found that the "welcome" to MIL's is not quite sincere. But useful place to find out what a DIL doesn't like. Identify yourself as a grandmother, not a MIL.

Dealing with Mother in Law Conflict Reading problems others are having can sometimes bring light to something we didn't realize we were doing.

A group ranting on how they hate their MIL's is perhaps not a pleasant place to visit - but a place to explore and question your own behavior.

Baby Boomer as MIL - how to play your new role and if you like that, go to their blog

I just read it, see my review below -- The Mother In Law's Handbook, . Excellent and God knows, we need some kind of a handbook.

My only response to all the DIL's who seem to assume all MIL's were prefabricated and born this way is to shake my head and figure their day will come. Some day they will be a MIL, and despite their efforts to be the perfect MIL, they may discover it isn't so easy to control someone else's perceptions and misconceptions. It takes a lot of work on both sides. Everybody has to make an effort to see the other person as a loving human being, complete with bumps and errors.

My first reaction when I recently had one of my own DIL's react defensively to me was to site my own innocence, because I know myself and I know my own intentions. But like anyone of us driving down this highway of life, although I have mirrors (for me, that comes from friends since I'm 'spouseless') there's always a blind spot.

One of the things I continually forget is my DIL's perceptions of me. They don't see the me I see -- I don't see myself as a wealth of wisdom in all topics (there are a few where I know a bit). Nor do I see myself as the Head Mama, out to cut anyone down to size. I see myself as just another weary traveler, and when I talk to my DIL's, I'm thinking of myself as me, a friend talking to a peer. I forget that I am THE MOTHER IN LAW. My words may be taken as orders, as superior comments, as 'how you should do this'.

That almost makes me laugh, and it almost makes me cry. I'm only offering my insights - take what you want, and toss out the rest. I've made more mistakes in my 60 plus years of living than you've had a chance yet to make. And mistakes are what we learn from. Also, what might have been a mistake for me might have been right for you, and vice versa. And what was right in 1970 probably doesn't fit anywhere today. Or maybe it's perfect. Who the hell knows?

As much as I try to let my DIL's know me as the mistake ridden human being I am, I think there is still that illusion that the title MIL is taken willingly and that I think it comes with some kind of golden crown. For me, with the nastiness that comes with MIL, I'd just as soon set it aside and be me.

Book Review - The Mother in Law manual

I'm reading Susan Abel Lieberman's "The Mother-in-Law" manual, which I ordered (used because I'm BROKE! LOL) from Amazon with some doubts. How good could this be? When it arrived just a couple of days after I placed my order, I ripped the box open, cracked the book for a sample reading and ended up sleeping with it.

This is a 5 star book - I'm going to give this one to a friend of mine whose son is getting married in October and who is also having some difficulties with her husband's daughters. It's also got stellular sections that are giving me insight to my own difficulties with my aging mother, who I am non-residential caretaker for.

There are pieces of richness in here that will give you help and hope. This is not a book that gives sappy and sweet advices, this is common sense wisdom from Ms. Lieberman and her resources of mother-in-laws and sons and daughters in law. This is a process we are going through, this becoming a mother in law - there isn't enough written about it and, for the most part, society doesn't seem to recognize mother in laws as anything but a bad joke.

She deals with the topic of competition among in-laws, what happens when the grand kids enter, One of my favorite sections offers Mother -in-Law maxims - the 7 commandments, perhaps - of Mother in Lawing.

This is a great gift for a friend, a future mother-in-law, yourself!

Book Review - The Complete Book of Mother In Laws - Luisa Dillner

Looking for a good gift for your mother in law? Or for a friend who just became a mother in law? Or maybe something to cheer you up because you just became a mother in law...

I really would like to recommend this book! I wish there was time and space here to print out volumes of excerpts from this book. It isn't a collection of jokes and stories about evil mother in laws (though there are some mixed in), but some real stories as well as mythical tales and tales from historical figures who had or were Mother in Laws.

Beginning with a prologue about her own mother in law - or mother out of law, as she lived with her husband for ten years before they wed - this book has nearly everything in it about mother in laws from different times and countries.

She delves into mixed feelings about Mother in Laws with a Chapter by that name, Racy Mother in Laws, Mad Bad and Scheming Mother in Laws, and a chapter on How to be a Good Mother in Law.

There's a chapter on Presidential and Royal Mother in laws that does deal with Princess Diana's situation - and of course Queen Victoria and Alexandra. Stateside she talks of Rose Kennedy and daughter in law Jackie, and Eleanor Roosevelt and her mother in law Sara. Alas, it was written before our current President brought the First Mother in Law (more often referred to as the First Grandmothrer) into the White House - one can only hope for a sequel.

There's a poem or two but this isn't a sappy book thrown together for that Hallmark moment -- this is a thoughtfully researched book in which the author has given time and care -- recognizing that many of us who are mothers will one day be mothers in law.

Highly recommended!

Stages of letting go

By the time we find out we're going to become a MIL, it's likely that our kids have already left the nest. (Those of us who become MIL's to teen-agers probably have other issues to deal with that can make things a big more difficult) <--- understatement!

Things a Daughter In Law Can Do - to make the relationship with a Mother in Law easier

Relationships are never one dimensional -- here are some things a Daughter in Law (or son in law) can do to make the relationship better from the beginning.

There's no need to react to the Mother in Law from the start defensively or submissively. Consider yourself an equal, be friendly and straightforward.

If you think you're being criticized, react like you would to any new acquaintance who is criticizing what you do? Would you laugh it off? Would you be startled and ask, "What makes you say that?" Would you listen and then say, "Well, thanks for your opinion. " without giving away the power to upset you?

Don't let your irritations build by not talking about them until something becomes the last straw and you blow up -- if you want your mother in law to call first and she doesn't, let her know. If she drops by, makes a statement - she may be doing what her mother in law did - she may think it's alright with you because she hasn't been told this doesn't work for you. (MIL's, thank God, cannot read minds).

If she isn't listening, I strongly suggest visiting websites and reading A Wife's Guide to Difficult In-Laws (a review is on this page).

...then talk to your mother in law directly, like you would with anyone

  1. Remember you're two women who love the same man. Start from there. Yes, he's yours, but he's also her son. Be nice!
  2. Discuss with her what she wants to be called...rather than calling her nothing or jumping in with some name you think appropriate...
  3. ..and if you don't want to call her that, tell her why....if she wants to be called "mom" but that doesn't work for you, you can explain why.
  4. Act like an equal - though with whatever respect you give to anyone older than you... Just because someone is older than you are doesn't mean they are your superior .... but no need to be defensive about it either.
  5. Don't assume... If your mother in law says or does something off putting, check it out. She may not be doing it for the reasons you think. Or she may not realize she's doing it. Just asking, "Why would you say that?" can put an end to off putting talk.
  6. If there are things your Mother in Law does that you find yourself constantly thinking about - because they drive you nuts - talk to your mother in law before they get magnified so big that everything blows up! Rehearse first with a friend or on a website first to smooth it out.... but don't let it fester!
  7. Try to get your husband to understand -- but do remember, this is his mother. If you and she can work minor things out, that's great. When it comes to the big issues, the vows at the wedding did say ... forsaking all others. Let us hope it doesn't come to that!

Book Review - A Wife's Guide to In-law's - How to Gain your Husband's Loyalty without Killing his Parents

Here's a book for the daughter-in-law written by someone who has experienced the Mother in Law problem firsthand. This book has an understanding of the problems not just from the daughter in law's view, but also from the husband's position and the in-law's. She has sound ideas on how to approach the problem before it escalates into a huge issue and tears the family apart. She uses references to expert advice, but she's the real expert - her humor and experience translate into a wisdom that gives hope to anyone caught in what seems to be a hopeless situation. Very good, Mother in Laws should read this too!

Go to her website and read success stories people have had after reading her book!

Reader Feedback

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    • Millionairemomma profile image


      6 years ago

      I liked this lens!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I'm more worried about getting in trouble as a grandmother (should that take place) than a mother-in-law. That should be your next lens!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Ah, the age-old "problem." I have a great daughter-in-law, and she's a wonderful mother. Could not have asked for better. No, not all is perfect, but asking for perfection is usually where the real "problems" come in. :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thank you for the positive review of my book, "A Wife's Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husband's Loyalty Without Killing His Parents." I have a question for you...could you please contact me at

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What a great idea for a lens!


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