By Deb DeArmond
As my book on mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships prepares for release this November, I spent some time searching online for appropriate photos to use in articles and press releases.
Using what I thought were reasonable search terms (mother-in-law) I was stunned at what I discovered. Here are just a few of the photographic examples: monkies in fur coats, angry women with rolling pins, a wedding cake topper with room for three – with mama in the middle.
And honest, this image came up under the search “mother-in-law.”
From Fred Flintstone’s embittered relationship with Wilma’s mother to the long-suffering Debra Barone whose MIL seems intent on running her life, it appears that mothers-in-law need a better public relations campaign.
How is it possible that without skipping a beat, a groan is the first utterance when we hear the word mother-in-law? As much as I hate to admit it, cliches and stereotypes emerge when there’s some kind of pattern that flips that switch. The whole MIL experience has become an urban legend. Movies, TV and even songs herald the horrible-ness (not sure that’s a word) of having one, unless she lives on Mars—or is dead.
It shouldn’t be so. So what are some top tips to make sure your face doesn’t end up on the next website mother-in-law mosaic? Here are three bite-sized chunks to chew on:
1. Remember that although your son will always be your kid, he’s not a kid anymore – and neither is his wife. They are adults and deserve to be treated as such. No dropping in unannounced, no looking through the stack of mail on the counter, and no snooping through their cupboards when you are babysitting the grandchildren. Respect their privacy. Please.
2. Unsolicited advice is unwanted advice. “But I’m just trying to save her from making a big mistake.” No matter how well intentioned you may be, it won’t land well. My DIL, Sarah, once said, “You know what I appreciate about you, Mom? You don’t have an opinion about everything we do.” I nearly laughed out loud. “Of course I do,” I replied. “I’m just not entitled to share it with you unless you ask me or God nudges me to tell you.” Let them build their experiences on their own without trying to step in and you might just be surprised when they ask, “So, Mom—what do you think?”
3. See your DIL as family, but don’t ever forget, she already has a mother. Being the back-up singer in the band may not seem like a good gig, but it can be. I’m incredibly grateful that after raising three wonderful sons, to have daughters in my life. We are family, not just friends, but if you try to trespass on her mom’s turf, don’t be surprised when you are asked to step back. There’s room in her life for her mom and for you, too. Among my good friends are the moms of my daughters-in-law. They did a great job raising these young women, and I am a beneficiary of their work. Let them know you appreciate what great daughters they raised.
Three quick tips, all gathered in the process of writing Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships. Although the book won’t be out until November of this year, you can get a head start on establishing, maintaining, or improving your image—and your life—as a mother-in-law!
And in case you think the younger women in the MIL/DIL equation are getting a free ride, stay tuned. Watch for the second part of this post. What goes around, may come around…