For her wedding, a friend of mine received a handmade recipe book from her mother-in-law, filled with all her new husband’s favourite dishes. Thrilled, she set to work dishing up lovingly prepared meals she was sure her husband would adore. After a year, the husband broke down and admitted that he hated her cooking. Devastated, my friend revealed that she had been working from the secret wedding gift she had received from his mother. Looking through the book together, they discovered that darling mother-in-law had carefully adapted each recipe to ensure that each contained at least one element that her son despised. My poor, unsuspecting friend was grief-stricken to think of all the time she had spent labouring over meals that were designed to make her new husband unhappy. Fortunately, few mothers-in-law are this demonic. For the rest of us, here are a few pointers on how to avoid being THAT mother-in-law:
The Way to a Man’s Heart
Dear MIL knew that food is central to a man’s happiness. Ensuring that your new daughter-in-law is set up with the best quality cookware, appliances and kitchen equipment is a perfect way to help her make your son happy. Obviously, sharing the groom’s favourite recipes is a fabulous idea, but please, use your powers for good and not for evil, ok?
To Be There, Or Not To Be There
One of the trickiest parts of being a parent-in-law is knowing when to be around and when to step back. The new couple will need and want your help and advice in many ways. At the same time, they need the space to adjust to their new life together. Achieving the right balance without feeling resentful can be like walking a tightrope sometimes. Pay attention to the verbal and non-verbal cues so that you know when to gracefully exit stage left.
You will never be able to replace the bond that a woman has with her mother, but that does not mean that you can’t have a close and loving relationship. Trying too hard be a second mother can often lead to discomfort on both sides. Recognise the boundaries of the relationship and work within them and you will be well on your way to creating a strong, loving bond.
Many mothers struggle with the notion that they are no longer the primary female connection in their child’s life, which can lead to resentment and jealousy. It’s important to remember that just like you can never be your son’s wife, his wife can never be his mother. The dynamic may have changed, but the connection can never be broken, so competing with your daughter-in-law for attention is counter-productive and pointless.
Making time to get to know your daughter-in-law as an individual, rather than simply as your son’s wife, is a critical part of forging a strong and healthy relationship. It can be as simple as a coffee once a month to catch up and get to know each other one-on-one or a trip to the mall for some retail therapy. Bonding together as individuals wIll help you both learn to appreciate each other for who you are as people e outside of the context of the respective roles that each of you play in your son’s life.
No matter what kind of mother-in-law, you are at least you can take some solace that you are almost certainly better than my friend’s. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to forming a stable, respectful and close bond your son’s partner.