Moms Columns & Blogs

Making the most of your mother-in-law

Will it be pleasant around the family Thanksgiving table if the in-laws visit for the holiday? That depends, according to a new survey of more than 2,000 daughters-in-law conducted at Galtime.com. More than a third of those surveyed considered their mother-in-law either a ”frenemy“ (23.9 percent) or an outright enemy (12.9 percent).

Daughters-in-law say that their biggest problems with the other woman in their husband's life are:

-- She does not treat them with respect (53.2 percent).

-- She criticizes them to their husbands (45 percent).

-- She criticizes the way they are bringing up the children (37.2 percent).

Daughters-in-laws also complain that their mothers-in-law treat their husbands, at least some of the time, like a child (69.6 percent).

How do mothers-in-law feel about their daughters-in-law? Almost 1,900 mothers-in-law answered a concurrent survey conducted by the website ThirdAge.com. It turns out they have a somewhat rosier view of this complicated relationship.

-- More than 60 percent say they think of their daughter-in-law as a ”daughter“ or a friend and the right wife for their son. Around 10 percent see her as an enemy.

-- Yet while over 50 percent say they like their daughters-in-law ”very much,“ almost 45 percent think she is, at best, just ”okay,“ dislike her some of the time, or don't like her at all.

What may be the biggest problem between the two is the amount of unsolicited advice the mothers-in-laws offer. Almost 60 percent admit they give their daughters-in-law advice, without being asked, about a variety of subjects. One mother-in-law said, ”I give advice on money, kids, jobs, vacations, cars, towel colors, Christmas presents, housekeeping, food, what TV shows to watch, when they need to mow the yard, wash their cars, cut their hair, etc." Another even admitted, ”I am a controlling b***h.“

Almost 65 percent of daughters-in-law acknowledge they are the constant recipient of such advice, and 45 percent complain their mothers-in-law butt into their business too frequently or are just too critical. Many said, ”She gives advice about EVERYTHING!“ And others noted, ”It is always her way or the highway.“

Some mothers-in-laws might deserve to be called ”Monsters-in-law.“ One admitted, ”I want their marriage to fail because I have a young nubile bride for my son,“ and another confessed, ”I am jealous of all of my children's spouses and have tried to destroy all of their relationships.“ No wonder some daughters-in-law said, ”My mother-in-law is toxic“ and ”She is the reason my husband and I split up.“

Still, when the relationship is good, daughters-in-law praise the mothers-in-law for being ”an awesome grandma,“ ”an elderly girlfriend,“ ”a very wise, wonderful woman“ and because ”she defends me when her son is being a jerk.“ One commented, ”I hit the mother-in-law jackpot. Truly, I love my mother-in-law very much.“

And mothers-in-law frequently praise their daughters-in-laws as well, for being ”a great mother“ and sometimes for being ”my best friend.“ A few try to keep a sense of humor about this complex relationship. As one mother-in-law cheerfully commented, ”I am the world's worst mother, parent, grandparent, and have done everything possible to destroy their marriage. Can't see how they lasted 28 years so far.“

The Galtime.com and ThirdAge.com surveys were conducted between Oct. 4 and Oct. 21, 2011 on their websites.

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