Family Money Values is primarily concerned with generations of family members passing their values and assets on into the future. In order to do that, a family has to have some future generations – meaning your children, their spouses and their children. Successful relationships are key to your ability as a family to build across generations. You never think of yourself as an in-law though  – right?

Are you female? Do you have kids? Are they married or do you expect them to get married some day?

If so, guess what, you WILL be a Mother-in-law.

After all those years of mothering, teaching, worrying and caring, suddenly you become the evil MIL! Comedians really come down hard on mother-in-laws – portraying them as demanding, controlling butinskies. One came down so hard that she was sued by her mother-in-law!

I’ve been one now for over 11 years. We just tacked on our second daughter-in-law last November.

The funny thing is, I don’t think of myself as a mother-in-law. I see the girls my sons married more as the daughters I finally got.

So, when I hear myself referred to as mother-in-law, it is startling and conjures up emotions like the old 1961 Ernie K-doe “Mother-in-law” song:

“Mother in law, Mother in law

Mother in law, Mother in law

The worst person I know

Mother in law, Mother in law

Mother in law, Mother in law

If she’d leave us alone

We would have a happy home”……..

and so on and so forth.

Being a mother-in-law can sometimes feel like a real balancing act – between staying involved and remaining distant from your child and their spouse. It’s kind of like walking a tightrope!

How to walk the mother-in-law tightrope.

In my mind being a successful mother-in-law (or father-in-law for that matter) is one and the same as being a successful parent of your adult child. I only hope that I am succeeding at it!

Here are some things I try to keep in mind.

Although I like to think of my son’s wives as my new daughters, I am not their Mom.

I will not be offended if they never come to me for advice, turning instead to their mom.

I do not demand or request that they address me as ‘Mom’ (but it is ok if they want to do so).

I will not come over unannounced.

My own mother-in-law (89 and going strong) never did this to me and I greatly appreciated it!

I will not inflict my presence on them for long periods of time.

Fish and visitors stink after three days – imagine how a mother-in-law visit would smell after 15 or 30!

Words and actions can be easily misconstrued.

My housecleaning habits may not be the same as those of my children. If I get to visit them in their homes and offer to dust or sweep – that may very well be construed as criticism of their cleaning habits – even if my intent is just to help them out. Heck, if I even let my eyes roam the room, it could be misconstrued!

I try to focus on their faces and the conversation – unless of course they are proudly showing off some new feature of their home.

I will try to share my children freely with their other parents.

Sometimes it is hard for parents (including me) to see their children spending time with parent-in-laws – especially if it seems like they spend more time over there than in your company. Jealousy does no one any good. Bite your tongue and arrange for some fun things to do with them and understand that they have their own very busy lives to live – just like you did when you were younger. Remember, the other set of parents is most likely feeling the same way about you!

I will probably not be in the frequent flyer phone group.

Mom’s of daughters are. Mom’s of sons are not – for two reasons a) sons don’t call as often as daughters and b) the daughters will naturally turn first to their own Moms.

This is OK and expected. If I want to talk to them, I will call them!

I will not offer unasked advice. Ever.

Sometimes I fail at this one, but truly, my children (sons and daughters) do so well with their lives that I don’t need to offer advice, I am blessed. I do, however, let them know when I am proud of their accomplishments. Both of my daughter-in-laws went back to school and graduated as nurses! I’m busting buttons for each of them – that course work is extremely difficult! Both of them are great Mother’s in their own right – and I think they are actually doing a better job raising their kids than I did with mine.

My values and life experiences are different than theirs.

It takes time to discover the nuances of a person’s values, beliefs and understand how life has affected them. Each of us bring unconscious expectations and hopes to each and every relationship we have, in law relationships are no exception. Something I consider right and natural may be stupid and low class to my daughter-in-laws. Something they consider normal, may be way out of my comfort zone. Be flexible and take time to get to know each other.

Remember the old saying: a daughter is a daughter her whole life, a son is a son until he takes a wife.

You are not the prime female in your son’s life anymore – so don’t try to be! Some psychologist claim that daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws competing for the son’s attention is a recipe for a bad in law relationship.

Daughter-in-laws, what do you wish from your mother-in-law? Mom’s of daughters – has your mother in law experience been different with son-in-laws?

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