What about the husbands parents?
I read the letter and your response to “Loving but Distressed Daughter“, and I have a follow up question. Does the same advice hold if it is the husband’s parents who are visiting and not your own?
Dear Deb W,
The term you use, “the husband’s parents” seems to me to be code for mother in law so I will address that. It seems worth mentioning that since the world is made up of many different personalities there are some in law relationships that are very close and dependent, but there are also ones that are fraught with tension.
When a husband’s parents come to visit, it is not the same as the situation described by the distressed daughter for many reasons. Generally, parents of daughters have a different dynamic than those of boys. While Mother/daughter relationships can be volatile they are usually candid and direct. As girls mature, marry and have children, they frequently turn to their mothers for support and advice.
Additionally, girls manage to successfully assure their fathers that they are still their “their one and only” and continue to enjoy their father treating them as “the apple of his eye”, even after marriage. Boys do not make the transition with their mothers as gracefully.
When parents visit, it is an extremely important point who will be spending time with the parents, how independent the parents are when they come to stay and that routine activities that need to be done with them are not a burden. When the daughter in law is expected to drive the husband’s parents around, keep them company and serve them meals, with him nowhere to be found, there will be tension and resentment.
Mothers should understand that the relationship they had with their son will change and they need to evolve with it. Many parents want to retain control over their core family unit but there is a new person and she MUST be taken into account. Newcomers to a family add value and enrich the family, they do not threaten the continuity of the family.
Obviously, every parent expects to be treated with respect and if they are not it is hurtful and creates a very uneasy family situation all around.
The basics of what to be cognizant of as a Mother in Law:
1. Do not overstay your visit.
2. Never criticize your daughter in law to your son.
3. Minimize advice. Offers to help with housework, laundry or ironing can be perceived as criticsm.
4. Do not try too hard or be too polite. Just be authentic.
5. Say thank you.
What to be cognizant of as a Daughter in Law:
1. Be firm but not disrespectful or aggressive. Do not be confrontational and jump right to conclusions or assume that an offer of help is criticism or that their position is contrary to yours. Most helpful words are, “That’s interesting, but I prefer to do this my way.”
2. Do not expect equal treatment like their son.
3. Say thank you.
4. Remember that you will be an in law one day, step into her shoes and be compassionate.