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June 17, 2012 / dcwisdom

Mothers and Mothers-in-Law

Being a mother and a mother-in-law is one of the hardest jobs a woman has.

I think it’s simply amazing that after almost 37 years of marriage, my mother lovingly speaks to Rick, and I still speak to his mother.  Notice I didn’t say that she still speaks to me.  Is that confusing?  I know, too, you probably understand what I’m saying.  Because the daughter-in-law/mother-in-law dynamic is a completely different relationship.   The mother/son relationship cannot, and should not, remain in the childhood phase.

Yesterday, Rick asked me if I talked to Kid#2 Rich this week.  I replied I had not.  When he asked me why not, I stated I did not want to be a meddling mother-in-law.  To me, meddling is calling incessantly, and by incessantly, I mean more than once a month.  Because to a daughter-in-law, if his mother calls the him fairly often, it’s a sign of meddling.  And what is she meddling about?  And what is he telling her?  His mother cannot be too careful.

Years ago, me own mom-in-law and I had a tiff.  She blamed me for his poor plight in life, blamed me for his ‘bad’ decisions.  I told her ‘he’s a grown man who makes his own decisions,’ and she pointedly retorted that if it weren’t for me, he wouldn’t have made those decisions.  Never mind we had children and all five were his choice (because or lack of his decision-making).   She said she raised him for 20 years, and she knows him.  To which I replied ‘I’ve lived with him for 20 years as an adult and have lain in his bed’ and added in a soft tone ‘we both have his best interest at heart and should be on the same side.’  She stopped short.  Without a word, my father-in-law came to me and gave me a one-armed hug.

The entire scenario, in retrospect, portrayed three things:   1) She wanted to blame her unfit daughter-in-law for her son’s circumstances, being the mother bear protecting her (adult) cub; 2) I wanted her to butt out, seeing her as a potential, and very influential, marital enemy; 3) My father-in-law reacted to me either in support or in sympathy.  I still don’t know which.  He took his words to his grave.  Typical.

I discovered in parenting boys that boys generally do not discuss their relationships with their mothers.  Oh, I have tried to engage the conversation, saying things like ‘Son, I can help you understand what is happening here.’  They don’t take the bait.  ‘Oh mother, everything will be alright.’  But, being a mother, I want them to understand their relationship(s).  It would be so helpful to their relationship/marital development.

So, how much of what can his mother say?  I am beginning to believe that to open my mouth with any advice to my married sons is detrimental to my mental health.  Opinions are off-limits and totally misconstrued as meddling.

Meddling is something my daughters-in-law won’t appreciate.  I certainly don’t want to make enemies of them.  You know what happens then.  His mother gets no privileges; no new pictures of the grandchildren; no chicken soup when she has a cold; no call on her birthday…

And then the once-beloved daughter-in-law gets written out of the will.  The promised set of English Spode china is willed to the youngest granddaughter.  I’ve seen it happen.

The line mothers walk is very fine.  The line mothers-in-law walk is almost non-existent.  The once-a-month call to the son is enough.  Or is it too much?  O, woe to be his mother.

God bless all mothers everywhere.  Yes, I know it’s Father’s Day.




  1. debsladybugtexas / Jun 19 2012 12:52 PM

    enough said…I hear where your coming from….I’ve never had a MIL…but I am a MIL…I have to be very careful…and guarded…because of course my son and I have always been close…so now I have to sit on the side lines and cheer on the inside…don’t want to step on any toes…

  2. tanna / Jun 18 2012 6:53 PM

    I hear you loud and clear… becoming the MIL of a DIL this year myself. I plead the 5th. xoxo ~ tanna
    non-existent. yep.

    • dcwisdom / Jun 18 2012 8:20 PM

      Yep. You know. xoxo to you…

  3. Mary / Jun 17 2012 5:35 AM

    I have no sons – only sons in law; but this is definitely a good read for us all.

    • dcwisdom / Jun 17 2012 9:17 PM

      Ah, Mary, you definitely have the best side of the relationship.

  4. jmgoyder / Jun 17 2012 1:04 AM

    I get this!

    • dcwisdom / Jun 17 2012 9:14 PM

      Well, one definitely has to be the mother of a son to understand it. The flip side is being the mother of a daughter, too. Completely different. I don’t know why people say that being a mother is easy, do you?

      • jmgoyder / Jun 17 2012 9:19 PM

        Definitely not easy but then again I only had the one kid!

      • dcwisdom / Jun 17 2012 9:40 PM

        One challenge is enough, friend! You’ll be a wonderful mil. You had a great example in Ina.

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