How to succeed at being a good mother-in-law (by really trying!)
Mothers’-in-law tend to have a bad reputation (similar to that of landladies)!
Are mothers’-in-law really so problematic?! I know that I personally had a less than ideal relationship with my own mother-in-law (to put it mildly) and in my individual and couple counselling many of my clients report that relationships with the parents of their spouses can be fraught with problems. However, it was only when I became a mother-in-law in my own right that I found that I could totally sympathise (and empathise) with both roles of daughter, and mother-in-law.
(For the purposes of this article I will stick to the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship as this is, in my opinion, the relationship that tends to be particularly sensitive and potentially problematic. Why would this be the case? It is invariably difficult for a mom-in-law to accept, after a life-time of being the no.1 woman in her son’s life and the one who calls the (domestic) shots in the household , that another woman has now taken up that position (through no fault of her own except that she loves a mother’s son!). Where does this leave the mom-in-law? She has to carve out a new niche for herself, and this is where the challenge lies!
So what do I suggest?
For mothers’- in-law:
First – remind yourself continually that, for your child to be happy, his marriage needs to succeed. Therefore your role essentially should be to facilitate and help to strengthen their mutual bond. Thus diplomacy and the fostering of goodwill between you and your daughter-in-law should be the order of the day!
Work on accepting your daughter-in-law wholeheartedly and unconditionally, even if there are aspects of her personality or behaviour with which you disagree or regard as contrary to your own views, priorities or values.
Try to disinvest from believing that you are right and that you know best, especially when it comes to relationships and to parenting (and grand-parenting). Wait to be asked for advice rather than providing it unsolicited.
Be supportive and available (within reason) and not overly demanding and needy. Give your child’s relationship with his partner/wife room to breathe!
If your child comes to your for a listening ear or for advice and support when issues arise in his marriage, don’t allow this to colour your relationship with your daughter-in-law! Be careful not to voice any criticism of your daughter-in-law as, once they have made up, this may remain “hanging in the air” between you and your son, which won’t be good for your relationship either!
Understand that the dynamics between you and your mother-in-law can be complicated and in many cases difficult to negotiate. Be sensitive and empathic!
Allow your partner/husband to enjoy one-on-one quality time with his mother if this is important to them both. Their relationship also deserves to be acknowledged and respected.
Mothers and daughters-in-law can be a wonderful source of love and support for one another, especially when there are children to be parented and grandparented. Therefore I believe that every effort should be made on both sides to strengthen this relationship!