Communication with adult children can be challenging. Communication with adult children-in-law can be even more challenging especially daughters-in-law. Many grandmas may relate to the mother-in-law in this story:
A brand new grandma is standing in her daughter-in-law’s kitchen protectively cradling her tiny granddaughter. She’s in pure rhapsody as she drinks in the yummy smells of the newborn baby girl, imagining her saying: Grandmom, I know you and love you already.
Then her daughter-in-law shatters the euphoric mood by screeching: “Don’t hold her like that!” and grabs the infant from grandmom’s arms, placing her in her infant seat.
It doesn’t matter that the woman had raised four children of her own, or that she would sacrifice every part of her being for this new child, or that she had purchased the seat that now substituted for her embrace. This woman knew there was nothing she could say because once you become a grandmother, you will find yourself virtually speechless. To alienate your daughter-in-law might result in losing access to your grandchild.
This scenario is from Ellie Slott Fisher’s book, It’s Either Her or Me: A Guide to Help a Mom and Her Daughter-in-Law Get Along, which I reviewed in a blog post about the mother and daughter-in-law relationship.
The mother- and daughter-in-law relationship can be fragile or tense when the grown man in the middle must show his loyalty to his wife and put his mother second. If the mother-in-law can accept that her son’s wife is now the primary relationship, then she will succeed in building a mutually respectful relationship.
What Mothers-in-law Want
Writer Mary May Larmoyeux of Family Life asked her friends “What do you wish you could tell your daughter-in-law?” Here are the themes that emerged from their responses:
- Although my relationship with my son has changed, remember that I am still his mother. Be considerate of the fact that I used to be the woman in his life.
- Accept me for who I am. Realize that I may do things differently and try to understand my ways.
- Please respect my age and experience. I would like to be able to share some of my experience with you without offending you.
- Talk with me about hard things. If you are feeling hurt by something I did or said, find a way to gently bring it up.
- Try to understand. Don’t judge. There are two sides to any story.
- Remember, we are family. Please include me in some of your family activities and traditions.
- Communicate with me. I’d love to tell you more about my son’s childhood—please ask me.
- Get to know me as a person. Find things that we have in common and let’s enjoy them together.
- Express expectations clearly. It would help if you told me the best ways that I could help you.
- Help me know my grandchildren. I want to be a part of my grandchild’s life and love it when you regularly share pictures.
- Take time to express gratitude. Taking the time to express your appreciation for what I do means a lot to me.
- Thank you! You understand my son better than I do and I thank God for you.
Some mothers- and daughters-in-law form close friendships very quickly. They realize they share a common bond in loving the same man. For others, this may take years. But most do want to connect with each other. They want to find common ground. They want to know each other as individual women with feelings, beliefs, and ideas.
Mothers-in-law should be available, but not interfering and respectful of their daughter-in-law. And the daughter-in-law should realize that in this vast world, few people will ever come close to loving and caring for her child the way she does — one of those people is her mother-in-law.