How to get along with your mother-in-law
The proverbial witchy mother-in-law can be a thing of the past by following these simple but effective guidelines for a positive relationship.
Countless jokes belabor the image of a critical, overbearing mother-in-law whose visit everyone dreads. But a mother-in-law is your spouse’s parent, so for better or worse, you need to at least try and have a positive relationship.
It really isn’t as hard as it may seem. Here are a few guidelines to consider.
1. Your mother-in-law is your spouse’s parent. She brought your mate into the world and understandably may crave occasional visiting rights. Work out a plan with your spouse for appropriate visiting and telephone times. While you don’t necessarily want to hear from her on a daily basis, nor do you want her dropping in without warning at any time of the day or night. Plan regular visits ahead of time, if possible, so everyone knows what to expect. If you must cut it short, do so graciously: “I’m so sorry we have to run, but Alice has a dentist appointment at 4:30.”
2. Encourage your mate to spend time with his or her parent alone sometimes. In other words, give your blessing to their having dinner or shopping together, as long as it doesn’t occur often enough to interfere with family plans. Understand that before you were in the picture, the two of them had a long-time relationship that still needs to be nurtured at times.
3. Don’t get in the way of your partner’s helping a parent with a house repair or errand, especially if the other parent is no longer around. In fact, it might be a nice gesture to help out sometimes by sending along dinner or coming along to lend a hand with cleaning the attic. If such requests come too close together, urge your spouse to spread them out a bit or see if the two of you can help the in-law plan a budget to pay for extra help. If she can’t afford it, perhaps you two can, at least once in a while. The spent dollars will make up for the shared time you can have together without one of you running off to help a parent.
4. Don’t expect gifts of money or time from your mother-in-law. She probably doesn’t want to spend all her free hours babysitting, nor is she likely to have endless sums of money to lend, especially if she is retired, widowed, or divorced. She may actually want to spend some of her time and money on herself.
5. Teach your children to send thank-you notes to their grandparents (and anyone else who sends a gift) and to show respect to these relatives and their possessions when visiting. If you and your spouse have problems, don’t put your mother-in-law in the middle by using the children as a pawn to get her to do things for you or against her child.
6. Do something special for your mother-in-law occasionally. Take her out to dinner (minus your spouse). Buy a special “mother-in-law” or “second mom” card for her. Send flowers for no reason. Forgive a thoughtless comment. Call and check on her.
In general, treat your mother-in-law the way you want your mom to be treated. She may not be perfect, but then, neither are you. A spouse’s mom can be a special provision for helping us to develop an even better character!