One of the most frequent complaints I hear from daughters-in-law is not about how their mother-in-law treats them, but how she treats their husband – The Son.
“She has him stop by so he can get a home-cooked meal and she’ll even do his laundry sometimes. I work fulltime – we both do. But her doing this for him somehow makes me feel inadequate,” one woman writes.
What’s wrong with this picture? Actually what isn’t? Despite the son now being an adult and married, the relationship between Mother and Son has remained unchanged. And therein lies lots and lots of potential problems.
First of all, the responsibility for housecleaning should be a joint decision if not joint effort on the part of the couple. Second, Mom must know that her actions – though born out of love – will undermine the couple’s relationship. And hopefully no mother wants that. Right, Mom? And third, the son/husband knows that he has it made so he’s not about to rock the boat. That is, until someone threatens to jump ship.
I grew up with one sister and so I never understood a mother’s unique relationship with a son. A friend of mine had a very different experience. She was one of six – five girls and one boy. Here’s what she told me when my son was born: “My mother loved all her kids but when my brother entered the room, her face lit up.”
I get it. I know that mothers (me, too) can put their sons on pedestals (and fathers do the same for their little girls). But once those offspring enter a serious relationship, we’ve got to soften our grip and allow them to mature.
I hear from a lot of daughters-in-law who say they started out having a good relationship with their husband’s mom and then all hell broke loose. Some word. Some incident. Some action. And snap – any friendship between the two women collapsed. But is it really over?
After reading and commenting on It’s Either Her or Me, Cindy at www.themommaven.com says she had gotten along great with her mother-in-law for years until, in her words, “…one very dark January day I saw the truth, the curtain was lifted and all of the ugliness exposed. It was so bad my marriage almost ended and to this day, our relationship with my husband’s family is strained and untrusting.”
Like I said, it doesn’t take much for this relationship to crumple.
Amy, who I interviewed in the book, had an experience similar to Cindy’s. Despite initially getting off on the right foot with her mother-in-law, once Amy had kids the relationship between the two women became very tense. So much so that not only did she and her mother-in-law stop talking to each other but her marriage nearly dissolved. Ultimately, she and her husband reached an agreement that in order to save their marriage, which they did, he would visit his family without her. This lasted 10 years.
Then Amy’s own son got married and she reluctantly invited her mother-in-law to the wedding. Somehow in the haze of the wedding bliss, all bad feelings melted away and Amy and her mother-in-law reconciled. It’s now two years later and they are still getting along.
I understand that Cindy cannot imagine liking her mother-in-law again. And in fact, these two women may never recover what they once had. But no daughter-in-law should rule out the possibility that one day the relationship may improve. It may take time – lots of it – and a life-changing event, like a wedding or a funeral, for these two women to let bygones be bygones. But the possibility does exist.
As the mother of two teenage sons, Cindy has a vested interest in learning from her own mother-in-law’s mistakes and one day becoming a great mother-in-law herself. It happens all the time. Honestly!
I know it’s rare to find some woman somewhere who isn’t in some way affected by another woman connected to a male in her life. Even a woman who only has daughters still has to face the mother and/or sister of her sons-in-law. Sorry ladies, there is no getting away from it. But to make you feel a little better, you need to meet Crystal, whose blog (Crystal & Company) is very, very funny. She wrote a book review of It’s Either Her or Me and illustrated it with a photograph of her little boy wearing a T-shirt with the book cover on it. Oh, and he was reading the book. So maybe I’m a little prejudiced. But seriously, Crystal has five sons. That’s right FIVE. And although they are years away from discovering girls (warning: years turn into months, months turn into days, and poof, where did she come from?) she is already considering how to handle her daughters-in-law. She will turn herself into their BFF, take them shopping and offer to watch the grandkids while her as of yet only imaginary daughters-in -law run errands. She’s also already expecting to have to move Christmas from her home to her daughters-in-law, and accept that they may very well move far away, taking her grandchildren with them. But as she says, if she plays her cards right, she’ll be encouraged to visit all the time and baby-sit her grandkids.
With this attitude, Crystal will do just fine.
By the way, besides being the mother of five little boys, Crystal is also the eldest sister of three brothers, two of whom are married and one who is about to be.
So just when you think you have it really tough with YOUR mother-in-law or sister-in-law or daughter-in-law, think of Crystal. And take a look at that adorable little boy wearing the T-shirt and reading the book and you’ll understand exactly why Crystal has already figured it out.
New reviews and giveaways have been popping up left and right, including the rare perspective of a son and husband!
Not Quite Susie Homemaker
Reviews and Giveaways:
Stay at Home Dad (No end date listed, but if you can send Lakers tickets, it’s a guaranteed win!)
Crystal & Company (ends April 19)
Susie Says (ends April 20)
The Mom Maven (ends April 22)
Obsession Reviews (ends April 23)
This, That, and T’other (ends April 20)
Sweeps4Bloggers (ends April 22)
Gaffney’s Gabs (ends April 23)
Jeanne’s Ramblings (ends April 23)
Mommy’s Memorandum (ends April 23)
Double Shot of Espresso (ends April 25)
I’ve had a terrific response to my new blog page, Have Book Club, Will Travel! and so I’ve decided to run it as a blog. Here goes:
Starting in late spring, I will begin addressing book clubs, church and synagogue groups, school and library gatherings, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, junior leagues or any great group of girlfriends on the subject matter of It’s Either Her or Me. (Or how to get along with your mother-in-law, daughter-in-law or sister-in-law without really trying!)
If your group is interested, I will lead a discussion, reading and signing and will either bring copies of It’s Either Her or Me for sale or you can order directly from bookstores or on-line retailers.
Click Here to order It’s Either Her or Me from Amazon.
Since few fun things in life are totally free(!), expenses and fees are as follows: A speaker’s fee will apply to each appearance. In addition, if the event is hosted more than one hour’s driving time from Philadelphia, travel expenses will need to be covered. If the event is within one hour’s drive time from Philadelphia, travel expenses are waived.
My speaker’s fee will be waived for the first 10 groups that sign up!
Email me and we’ll talk. Can’t wait to meet you!
P.S. I’ve been asked if I would do these sort of events for Mom, There’s a Man in the Kitchen and He’s Wearing Your Robe and for Dating for Dads. You bet.