I am lucky enough to have a great mother-in-law, who, since my mom passed away, has really stepped up and played mom to me.  It wasn’t until l I had a son of my own, however, that I realized just how important good mother-in-laws are. It’s the only way you keep access to your sons after they marry!  Since most of my married girlfriends are not nearly as lucky as I’ve been (at least this second time around — my first mother-in-law was more of the MONSTER-in-law type!)  I have come up with 20 rules for daughter-in-laws that can help them survive even the worst mother-in-law.

  • Remember, she loved your husband first, and right or wrong, she feels like you’re the interloper.
  • If she is going to be mean no matter what you do, be extra nice.  At least you’ll have the satisfaction of behaving like the better person
  • She’ll fight for control, so pick your battles wisely
  • Your husband does love her, so every nice and thoughtful thing you can grit your teeth and do will go a long way with him.
  • Do NOT complain about her to your husband.  Find someone who can be more sympathetic, like your mom.
  • Realize that her behavior was probably ingrained in her long before you came along, so don’t take everything she does personally.
  • She is your child’s (or future child’s) grandmother.  If she treats them well, you’re already doing well.  If not, you most definitely have the right to stand up for them.
  • Try to find things you do have in common that you can either enjoy together or have for topics of conversation when she is around.
  • Bite your tongue and let her spout her opinions and advice—listening won’t hurt and you don’t have to do what she says.
  • If there are truly issues that need resolved, approach your husband first.  Knowing that he agrees with you will help, and he may be able to approach her more easily or suggest a good way for you to do it.
  • If your husband is a mama’s boy and he won’t stand up to her, set ground rules with him.  Make sure your husband understands that you expect to be the first priority and that you have limits.  (Limits like no, she cannot stay with us for seven weeks while recovering from surgery, but we can run errands and check on her daily).
  • No matter how much hubby loves his mommy, you and your husband are the primary family unit and that needs to be clear in both of your minds.  If it is not, you have more problems with your husband than with your mother-in-law.
  • Some mother-in-laws are just so awful it’s best just to move far, far away.
  • Be careful what you say in front of your kids.  You could influence their opinion of their grandmother, or even worse, they could repeat your words.
  • Lower your expectations and be realistic about what will happen when she is around.
  • Mother of your husband or not, it is still your house, your kids, your life and you do have the right to do things your way; practice tact for those times when confrontation is inevitable.
  • Be sure where your husband stands on issues like child-rearing and household duties.  If the two of you are united, it will be much more difficult for mommy dearest to interfere.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of petty competition—you own your husband’s heart, his mother is just probably better at inducing guilt.  She’s been doing it all her life, not just since you came on the scene.  You’re the one he goes to bed with at night, you are or will be the mother of his children, and you’ll be the one who is still by his side long after his mother is gone.
  • If your mother-in-law is the type to make under-handed comment (things that sound on the surface like a compliment but really insult you) about you or your abilities, steal yourself for what you might hear before you see her—it will help those comments roll right off.
  • Don’t let her undermine your confidence or your control.  Coach yourself on how to handle the situations you know will set you off—practice counting to ten or walking away before blowing up when things go wrong.

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