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Could Someone Please Teach Me How To Be A Mother-In-Law?

By Beverly Stern
Oct. 2, 2012

Everyone I know says I am an incredibly kind, empathetic and caring woman. I would rather do for and give to others than do or buy anything for myself. I will admit that my mouth sometimes gets me into trouble, but only by those that do not know and love me already. Even strangers find me engaging and likeable—all except my daughters-in-law. And, I have been blessed with two of them and I wish they could say that they were blessed with me!

In my years as a mother-in-law (MIL for short), my daughters-in-law (DILs) have never called me once. Not to see how I have been during illness or surgeries, not to thank me for gifts, and certainly never just to chat. Ten years has been my longest tenure as a MIL and almost seven years in the other MIL role. In all honesty, I have not called them either, but whenever I do speak to my sons, I never fail to ask about them. I would bet that the converse was not true.

What I have come to consider from my experiences and education is that the MIL/DIL relationship is difficult by nature. After all, two women are in love with the same man, albeit a son. Having had a wonderful relationship with my sons as children and teens, I never expected that the MIL/DIL relationship would be so contentious as long as the DILs knew that I believe with all my heart that my sons should have a closer relationship with their wives than with me.

I just don’t understand why we can't all get along. I have two terrific grandkids that live far away (no thanks to both my son and DIL). I never had a daughter and when my sons married I fantasized that these lovely ladies would become my daughters too. When that didn't happen, I figured that the problem would have been resolved IF my sons had married orphans. Perhaps, that wouldn’t have worked for me either.

When I see my DILs in person, the room gets a chill in the air! One doesn’t talk to me except hello, thanks (we treat for meals) and good bye. The other, who is the mother of my grandkids, says little unless I offer a suggestion or discussion regarding the grandkids. I know that is the kiss of death for me, but sometimes, I just can’t keep my mouth shut. I do, however, keep the suggestions and discussions open ended so it does not appear that I am a know it all. I just figured that since I have been a mother over 45 years and have had education in many child development courses, I might just have something valuable to offer a novice.

Did I say novice? Well I should bite my tongue. With the internet, magazines and TV, there's nothing that one can't learn and thus my dear DIL thinks she has much to teach me. However, I really do try to do what I can to help my sons and DILs. There’s nothing I wouldn't do for them—and we not just talking about money and advice.

I just wish that somewhere in my higher education courses, one would have offered me a class on how to be a mother-in-law. You know, a guidebook or even a book called MIL Guide for Dummies. I have even thought of using super glue on my lips when I am around my DILs and sons. Can't they just accept me as I am and not make me change to suit their needs? After all, I have my needs too. One of my most important needs is to be loved and cared for by my family. When I went on the internet to a grandparent's site where they had a forum on in-laws, I was horrified to learn that I am not alone in my dilemma. The MIL/DIL is adversarial period. Can anyone help me? Or am I beyond hope?

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About the author: Beverly Stern has a M.S. degree in Counseling from Johns Hopkins University. She writes a blog at http://www.menopauseandmarrige.blogspot.com and welcomes your participation and comments.

Email: bstern101@yahoo.com


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