…In 10 Easy Steps
Oh, the Mother In Law!
The butt of every comedian’s joke and the bane of every married couple’s life. Whereas the Father In Laws just get categorised as one of the Seven Dwarves (Grumpy, Sleepy, Dopey), your partner’s mother is hard work. Of course she is, you are married to her child and she has something to say about it. Even more so if you have also given her grandchildren!
Well it needn’t be like that – mine treats me like the daughter she never had. Am I lucky? Did I just get the good apple in a barrel of worm-infested windfall. Maybe. Or are you missing a trick?
Remember your Mother In Law was there first, it’s YOU that has to fit in when you become her son’s other half. Be smart about it because a Mother In Law who actually likes you is not only going to make your life easier and your marriage stronger, but she’s also the greatest weapon in any relationship…
So before you file for divorce or start Googling ‘Is Arsenic detectable in Earl Grey?’ here are my top 10 tips on how to love your Mother In Law and tame that dragon. My suggestions are mainly for women, but most of them also apply to men and their wive’s mothers.
That’s right, your mum is a pain in the arse too!
1. Accept her
When you marry a man, you marry his entire family. Mediterranean women like me already know and accept that, you need to too. That means that you can’t and should never ask your man to choose between his past (his family) and his future (you). Before you walk down the aisle ask yourself ‘can I have these people in my life? Around my dining table? At my beside after giving birth?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ then crack on… you’re half way there. If not, then you are already on the rocky road to problems and need to dedicate yourself to points 2-10!
2. Get to know her
What do you actually know about the woman that gave life to your man? You need to get to know her pretty damn quick because this will help you in the long run.
What does she love and what does she hate?
Once you know her well then talking to her will be easier and you will find common ground. This isn’t about brown-nosing, this is about having the decency to get to know a woman who (whether you like it or not) is going to be in your life forever. So be the first to make the effort.
3. Convince her
She loves him, always has done, but she doesn’t love you. Not yet. But if she’s not a total beast she will respect that her son has good taste and she will give you the benefit of the doubt. But you only get that chance once.
Don’t see her as competition – see her as a future ally.
My husband always laughs that the first time I met my MIL I exclaimed at the deliciousness of the potatoes she had cooked and inquired if they were organic. Naturally she beamed at my compliment and insight into her preferences, and my other half appreciated the effort I was making (actually they were pretty amazing potatoes, I wasn’t lying)! But like anyone you want to impress, it’s the little things. Does she enjoy knitting? Well bring over a knitting magazine next time you visit. Let her see that you care about her – and she’ll soon care about you.
4. Involve her
This will start on your wedding day, so give her a little job from the onset… even if it’s just choosing the flowers. Your mum will be all over this so try not to leave out the MIL too, she will be just as excited as your family. Then when you have children that’s when the fun REALLY starts, because again – your mum will be chomping at the bit to be the Number One Grandma. So make sure your MIL gets a look in and your children get to bond with her as much as they do with your own mother.
Why wouldn’t you involve her? Surely two mums are more useful than one when you want to escape one night kid-free?
5. Listen to her
I know, it’s hard enough taking advice from your own mum without having to listen to your MIL too. But be clever about this, because who else knows your husband as well as his own mother? Take on board her suggestions on marriage, child rearing and how many doilies your sitting room needs. You don’t have to act on any of her suggestions, but at least hear her out.
6. Respect that she has a life
Too often I hear my friends moaning that their mother or MIL doesn’t help out with the kids enough, when the week before they were complaining that they interfere too much. Be respectful. Just because your Mother In Law’s weekly Bridge club or morning cycle seems insignificant and unimportant to you… it may be the highlight of their week. So is it really fair to guilt-trip them into dropping their own interests to look after their grand kids or give you a hand?
The chances are most MILs will jump at the chance to be asked to help, but the least you can do is acknowledge it is still affecting their routine and plans.
7. Set boundaries
On the flip side, some Mother In Laws are, simply put, TOO involved. And that’s when being firm but fair helps. If they keep pestering you as to when you are having another child, tell them you are not happy to discuss that right now (or explain that you would love to but their precious son can no longer get it up… also works a treat). Explain to them what time of day works best for phone calls instead of ignoring all their answerphone messages. Ask them to call in advance if they want to pop over (which also means answering their calls).
8. Get her on your side
The best way to get what you need out of your man is to get his mum on your side. And if you have followed points 2-7 then you have more or less done that.
Being friends with your MIL is sometimes the only way to manage your husband. Last year my man wouldn’t go to the dentist about an abscess, it (and he) were driving me mad. So I casually mentioned my concern to his mother who, in a way only a mother can, booked him an appointment and made him go… tail between his legs. Yeah it was a sneaky move, but it works.
You think your husband is going to act like a prick if there’s a chance of his mum finding out? Trust me on this one.
9. Don’t forget her
I know she’s not your mum and she won’t take the place of your mum… but if she hasn’t any daughters of her own then you really need to step up. I always get mine a lovely bouquet on Mother’s Day, I then call her and see if she liked it. She knows it was me, I know she knows it was me. She’s not daft. So tell her that yes, her son is so important and busy at work that you helped out a bit as you wanted her to have the best (when you just want to scream that the lazy bastard wouldn’t have even remembered and you felt too guilty to let him learn the hard way). Because he will appreciate it and so will she, you’ve made her feel like a second mum and in turn she will respect you like a second daughter.
Mission complete. And lastly…
10. Show him she is as important to you as she is to him
Because every little boy loves his mummy more than any other girl in the world (until he has a daughter).
See! She isn’t so bad. She’s just another woman like you and me. She’s been married, had kids, worked, lived and learnt. She wants what’s best for her child the same as you do. Give her a chance.
After all, your Mother In Law did create a pretty amazing person that you chose to marry… so she can’t be all that bad? Can she? Let us know how you get on…