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Mother-in-law, Mother-in-law: Satan Should Be Her Name

mumandmeRemember those song lyrics? If she would leave us alone, we could have a happy home.

 The song may be old but the sentiment remains in a Reader’s Digest piece about the “The dreaded mother-in-law!”  The list of things a mother-in-law won’t say focuses on an array of unspoken thoughts. Some are heart-breaking: Sometimes I weep. I’ll think, how could my child who I loved so much marry someone I don’t understand at all?  Others are heartwarming: I want you to need me. I want to feel valued, respected, and loved.

 The list of bad behaviors moms can do to annoy, provoke, and manipulate focuses on the mothers of sons.  Perhaps that springs from the cliché thinking that when a son marries you lose him forever to his wife, but when your daughter marries she is always your daughter. 

 Some mothers of sons, it seems, “spent a couple of decades being the leading lady” but are “downsized to a character role”—and an evil one at that—when they become mothers-in-law.   Most likely it would require counseling to work out some of the issues wrapped in those quotes.  Yet others could be happily resolved.   

 Most of us are not good at mind-reading but recall being a young parent, juggling babies and limited finances.  Maybe we should try for some one-on-one time with our daughters-in-law. How about leaving the son at home and treating your daughter-in-law lunch or a manicure or movie? And instead of all-about-me, make it all-about her. A little empathy can smooth over a lot of mixed feelings.

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  • Vivien Orbach-Smith October 14, 2009, 1:35 am

    My mom’s dear friend’s daughter got married a number of years before I did, and I still remember her blunt advice to my folks on how to be a good in-law: “Open pocketbook, closed mouth.”

  • Debbie October 14, 2009, 2:23 pm

    I have a great relationship with my daughter-in-law of five years, mother to two grandchildren. We have the “official” relationship, and we are also friends, sometimes chatting about books, clothes, the Rachel Zoe Project, True Blood. I think we both know we are still learning: she to be a daughter-in-law, a mother, a working mother; me to be a mother-in-law, a granny, and a person who did not raise her children in the 21st Century and who still has things to learn.

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