Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mother-In-Law...I Need To Tell You Something

"A daughter is a daughter for life. A son is a son until he takes a wife."

I remember the first time I held my son just moments after he was born. I stared at his perfect little face, counted his tiny fingers, kissed his head and thought of this saying. I realized at that moment the count down clock had started. I only have a few years as the primary woman in his life, and those years are flying by.

When your son gets married your role in his life drastically changes. While you are still a very important person in your son's life, your role does change and you do have to take a step back. There is just no getting around that fact. This right here is I believe one of the main things that can cause friction between mothers-in law and daughters-in-law. You now have two women competing for the primary role in one mans life, and since there can of course only be one, problems arise.

I have spent some time looking around online at different books and writings that address mothers-in-law and how they should handle the relationship with their daughters-in-law. Most of them sound a lot alike! There seems to be a lot of "Just butt out" conversations going on, but that just doesn't seem very helpful to me. So I decided to try coming at this from a bit of a different angle. It's always helpful to know where someone is coming from when you are in conflict with them but chances are, your daughter-in-law would have a very hard time telling you some of these things. So for all you mothers-in-law out there, here are a few things it seems that many daughters-in-law would like for you to know...

1. By marrying me, your son has taken on a new family focus.
While I fully understand that you and your family are still very important to your son, I am now his primary family and therefore his focus does need to be on us and our family. I need you to respect my role as his wife and honor his focus on our family.

2. I do things different than you. Not wrong, just different.
We are two different women with two different backgrounds so of course we handle things differently. There is nothing wrong with the fact that I do things different and I would rather you not point it out every time. I appreciate how you clean your home and cook your food, but please understand that I may do a lot of it different. It is ok! While I do appreciate your concern, I feel that the best way for us to be close is for you to let me do things my way in my own home.

3. I have different traditions.
I do have different traditions when it comes to holidays and birthdays, and your son and I will take on some of those traditions. Please give us the freedom to do that. Understand that we do want to be with you and your family on those important days but we do also want to have our own traditions and they may clash with some of your traditions. Again, it is ok. We are forming a new family and with that comes new traditions. Please allow us that freedom.

4. Your son does make his own decisions and opinions.
I know that it may seem like I make all of his decisions for him but trust me, I don't! He is a grown man and does a great job of leading our family and making decisions that he feels are best for us. Please don't be so quick to brush it off simply because it is a different decision than you expected him to make.

5. How you raised your children is not necessarily how I want to raise my children.
We do come from different backgrounds and because of that I am going to raise our children different than you raised yours. You had the freedom to raise your children how you felt best, so please, please give me that same freedom. Please respect the fact that I am their mother and am doing the very best that I can. As much as you may think you are helping by offering advice regularly, please try to hold back on the advice unless it is asked for. That may sound harsh but the truth is, the constant advice only makes it seem like you think i'm not doing a good enough job.

6. Honor my rules and instructions with my children.
I will at some point make rules for my children that you may not agree with but it is so important for you to honor them anyways! I am not asking you to agree with me, but when you are around them I have to be able to trust you to honor me as their mother and respect my instructions for them. If I can't trust you it will be difficult to have them around you.

7. Remember how it felt when you were a new daughter-in-law.
I'm sure that at some point you had conflict with your mother-in-law. Please try to see where I am coming from in these situations! Instead of pointing out what I need to change, please take that time to simply pray for me and your son. We are both doing the very best we can at building our family. While I may not always do a perfect job, I do love your son more than I love any other person in this world and am always doing the very best I can in this role of his wife.

I have just a couple of things to say to both mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and then i'll be done with this subject. At times it may feel like the two of you are in a war over this one man, but you need to remember something. You are fighting over the very thing that brought you together! You both love this man in a very unique way and you both want the very best for him. Both of you need to learn to respect the role you each have in his life and in your family.

Also, I don't care how bad the problem is, it was not caused by one person and can therefore not be fixed by one person. It is not possible for one person in a relationship involving at least three people to fix things all by themselves. It will take all of you working and sacrificing your way and opinions to make it work.


Holly said...

Jamie, this is such great advice!! Every married woman, especially newly married women, need to read this.

Jamie said...

Thanks Holly! It really is such important information that I wish i'd had in the early part of our marriage.

Brenda said...

This was so well written. I will store up these words for when my son gets married, he's only 16 so I've got a few years, especially since he's convinced he will remain single for life!! I'm thinking that will change one day!!

Deanna said...

It is so precious to have the Lord in our lives....when relationships fail, He is there to pick up the pieces and hold us together. Though I had wanted a good relationship with my in-laws they were not ready to turn loose of their son when he married. This has caused so many conflicts through the years. It's so important to remember who you are married to and honor your husband before trying to fit into a family that doesn't want you there in the first place.

The Mother-in-law may not listen.

God will help us through it all.

Keeping the healthy boundaries may be a work! God bless,

Mrs. V. said...

I too was raised being told the saying, "A daughter's a daughter all her life, a son's a son till he gets a wife." And don't think that didn't cross my mind as well when I first held him. It still does and he is 13 now. I know my time in the spotlight is dimming. Rightfully so. There is a time when it is appropriate for a mother to let go and step back. Fighting that natural, God ordained pattern will only lead to problems.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I must say this is and was very insightful. I am now divorced for some of these very reason. So, I also think the man in the middle plays a role as well. He has to be able to tell his mother that his role in her life has changed as well as act accordingly so that his wife does not feel threatened in that area.

Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said...

Very good advice! I am the mother of three teen sons and find myself thinking and praying about the type of MIL God wants me to be more and more. My MIL and I are not close and I need to open my heart to the women God has prepared to be the wives of my boys.

Angela said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I wish I could send it to my mother-in-law!

Anonymous said...

My mother in law never butted in. Always there if we wanted to ask for advice. We never did live near our families, though, except for a very brief period of time, and my mil was very helpful. Older ladies have a lot to teach us. My sons are grown now, but I am not a mil yet.

Mrs Random said...

This is great advice!

I am blessed with a great relationship with my mother-in-law. From the day we were engaged, in fact, on the very day we told his parents about our engagement, she made me feel welcome. She told me that if I ever needed anything, or if her son wasn't treating me well, to let her know (and she would 'straighten him out'). She told me that I would always have a have a place in her home, no matter what. Her immediate willingness to stand by me made me feel that she was never going to be an adversary, but a friend, a confidant, and a supporter.

Christy @ One Fun Mom said...

This is great. I've watched many women become mothers-in-law, and the main thing I always want to tell them as they cast blame and complain to me about their daughters-in-law is: "Your son made his choice! She didn't put a spell on him! Respect him!"

Many mothers-in-law focus on what they perceive their daughters-in-law are doing wrong, rather than on the choices their son willingly has made.

Heather said...

This is great advice. I don't live near my MIL, so that naturally cuts out a few of these things. And I think she's done her best. However, I do believe every MIL should read and apply. Thanks!

Joyce said...

Interesting, and much truth.

I am a new mother-in-law. I now remember my mother-in-law and how as a new wife I wanted to prove myself and claim my husband. Now I understand that she was giving and sharing with me her baby boy, though "grown up". Sorry girls, somehow, in our heart of hearts, that man you love is still his mother's baby boy! Oh the memories!

"It is okay"? Give us a little break. As much as we give away our sons, we are aware that a daughter-in-law (as we are or once were) is a new "species" to us.

How nice to have a new daughter, especially those of us who only have sons! And yet, a "daughter-in-love" or a "daughter-at-heart", is a gift most of us long for and cherish, realizing this is a gift which may be given, but not claimed by law. And yes, the relationship takes time. Many of us feel quite fragile. We do not want to make mistakes, to hurt you or to cause our sons grief. We are just trying to find our way, gingerly, knowing we may be misunderstood and make mistakes. Please be patient!

And yes, we know most of you already have a mother! We don't expect to take her place, even if we feel some jealousy!

I remember a visit from my mother, who lived a distance away. My mother-in-law was so concerned for me when Mom left. She had been separated from her mother by many miles and had such empathy for me.
My mother-in-law was in my life for just a few short years! I wish now I had been more patient...

Love! Love the woman who gave you your man! Please!!!

Jamie said...

Joyce, thank you for bringing the perspective of a mother-in-law to this.

I'm very sorry if you felt in any way that I was trying to belittle the role mothers-in-law play in families. That was not at all my intention! Before writing this post I actually talked to daughters-in-law about not doing that very thing here ( but then felt the need to come at this relationship from the perspective of the daughter-in-law.

I do think a lot of times mothers-in-law don't feel it is ok for their daughters-in-law to do things different than them. They are older and have done things this way longer and therefore they see it as the way it should be done. I feel that as a different person, coming from a different family, and someone starting out a new family, freedom should be given to them to make those decisions for themselves.

I am in no way advocating a mean-spirit towards your mother-in-law! But I do believe that very early on in this relationship lines need to be drawn by both ladies in order for them to have a good relationship. It's a very tricky and often times difficult relationship. But I believe with God's wisdom and patience it can be a wonderful relationship!


Joyce said...

Dear Jamie,
Isn't it too bad that in-law relationships can be so difficult?! I would have liked to have written just such a letter when I was a young wife!

Isn't that true-ism sad? Why should we accept that there would be a fight over the man (husband, son) or the loss of relationship as mother?

When we marry a man, we also marry the family. Over the years, after many hurts and frustrations, I am so grateful for my husband's family. They are some of the best parts of my marriage and my life.

Mothers-in-law often feel abandoned when they would still like to be of use. Mothers-in-law can be great resources. There are things about my husband's childhood that I never got around to asking my mother-in-law. But there are also many things I learned from her as I was the city girl who moved to the family farm. Believe me, moving across the country away from my family...

We can also diffuse trouble by talking and getting to know each other as persons, hopefully even as friends, not just as the husband's mother and the son's wife. It can be more than a matter of roles. We each have a story to tell!

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Rom. 12:18)

The one thing we all need is respect for/from each other. I hear horror stories from both mothers-in-law and from daughters-in-law, and disrespect is the problem. I have regret myself for an incident of disrespect towards my mother-in-law. I would never have spoken to anyone as I did to her! Looking back, I realize she had meant no harm. She carried that hurt with her till her death, and I really didn't get it! We really need to "pick our wars". Some things really do not matter. Sometimes we each just feel insecure and hurt. And the tension can build up. If it isn't illegal, immoral or harmful, we do better not to go there.

Has your mother-in-law read this letter? Does this letter do more to help mothers-in law or daughters-in-law? Most of us do not want to be "a mother-in-law from Hell"! Most of us just don't know how to please you. I know, there are exceptions!

I found a good website with advice for all of us. The URL follows.

Blessings on your life with your beautiful family. What a lucky mother-in-law you have!

Jamie said...

Joyce, again, thank you very much for the perspective of a mother-in-law. I think it is sad that this is so often a difficult relationship and so often an area of strife in families. It seems that in so many cases each person looks at themselves as the innocent party and the other person as the only one in the wrong. I believe the biggest key to fixing in-law relationships is simply owning up to the part you play in the relationship. If each and every person would do this it would go such a long way in fixing things. But it does take both people doing that and working to keep peace.

I absolutely agree that respect is also key! Without it I don't know how any relationship can grow.

As for my mother-in-law having read this, I believe she has but i'm not positive. And I do think it helps both daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law. It gives voice to many daughters-in-law who would never be able to say any of these things to their mother-in-law and lets them know that they're not alone in the feelings they may be having. But it also shows mothers-in-law a side of things that they may not have seen because their daughters-in-law haven't been able to talk to them about it.

As I said before, this was not meant as an outlet to bash mothers-in-law everywhere! It's simply coming at it from a bit of a different angle. "Just butt out" has never accomplished much of anything, so this seemed to be a more productive way to address the situation.

Oh and thank you for that link, i'm going to check it out right now. :o)

Kathy said...

I have 4 sons. I often think of "losing" them to their new families. It doesnt feel that way with my daughter.