Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mothers-in-Law Speak Up

Our recent Stepping Stones newsletter generated a flurry of readers' comments - not surprising since the topic was mothers-in-law. That's been a hot-button relationship since the beginning of time. We appreciate hearing from our readers and decided to open the discussion about in-law relationships to all of you on our blog this week.

You'll find a sampling of the responses below - feel free to weigh in on them yourselves. And send in your personal stories about getting along with your own mother-in-law or about your relations with your daughters-in-law and sons-in-law.

We focused the May newsletter, in honor of mother's day, on getting along with sons-in-law. A prime example is Marian Robinson, who made news by living under the same roof - in the White House - as her son-in-law, President Obama. Yet many of issues we talk about and the tips we provide in that newsletter apply to daughters-in-law as well as to sons-in-law.

One young woman thought she recognized her own family dynamics in some of the tips: "I felt like my husband was an example of the what to do/not to do with a mother-in-law. Interesting timing for such an article given some of the recent joys and tensions we've experienced."

A mother-in-law also wrote that she found the newsletter topic timely: "Interesting I could read this just now. My daughter-in-law has a less than stellar attitude about me. We just sent the kids some fun gifts for their anniversary. My husband said we shouldn't force our attentions on them. I said that her attitude shouldn't influence how we naturally are. So we sent them. I don't know how she took it, but we got a call from our son. He appreciated. So, GO for it, Mrs. Obama's mother! I hope she does something good for us all."

We were especially touched by the following comment: "I love receiving your online newsletter and enjoy the ideas, suggestions and articles. In this current newsletter you talk about being a 
mother-in-law. I would like to encourage more "inclusion" when you address 
this and future such topics. I am a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians 
and Gays) mother and extremely supportive of my Lesbian daughter and her 
new partner. I have a new daughter-in-law and I couldn't love and 
appreciate anyone more than I do her. Thanks for considering my point of 

We would like to hear from other mothers of gay and lesbian children about your experiences with your children's partners. We'll talk more about this during the week. 

Another woman with a daughter-in-law wrote in asking for more tips about how to improve their relationship. "I'm a new mother-in-law ... to my son's new wife! I'm a little surprised that your advice in the newsletter on becoming a mother-in-law is only focused on becoming one to a male spouse of a daughter."

If you are also wondering about getting along with a daughter-in-law, you can find an article we wrote about this by clicking on the title above. It will take you to our website, and an article in the Expanding Family section of Nourishing Relationships entitled, "From Baby Boomer to Mother-in-Law: How to Play Your New Role." It talks about the issues that commonly come up in the relationship with a daughter-in-law and gives some tips about relating better.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

After re-reading the May newsletter, I would say that ALL of the issues and tips apply to both daughter-in-laws and son-in-laws, and that could have easily been addressed by referring to your 'offspring's' or 'child's' new partner instead of designating a sex.

Becoming a new mother-in-law last August, I would say that there are subtle changes in a mother's relationship with her child as well as that child's new spouse. Basically, the focus for them becomes their relationship with each other, and this changes the relationships with their families of origin. As parents, we must recognize this fact and respect their new challenges and priorities.

It may be painful in ways to release a primary relationship with one's child -- almost like 'empty nest' again -- but I don't believe being married lessens their love, just their priorities. I know I will miss my time alone with my child, but I can also make occasional efforts to arrange some special time, knowing that possibly my child would also occasionally appreciate some private time with me.

I often reflect on how I felt in relation to my parents after getting married -- and this gives me new insights into how my getting married affected them! It boils down to experiences and emotions every generation shares.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a wonderful relationship with the partner of my gay son, but my other son is having a much harder time accepting him. I wish I could do something so that he would welcome his brother's partner into our family.

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that my daughter's partner has allowed and even encouraged our daughter to see her parents in a new light. Our new daughter-in-law loves and appreciates who we are and this has given our daughter a new love for the people who raised her.

To the mother with the gay son: I know the other son will come around. We have friends with a gay son whose oldest son was quite discriminating at first and who now loves and understands his younger brother. I am learning that change takes time and patience.

9:47 AM  

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