Reflections on Daughter-In-Law and Mother-In-Law Relationships

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This past summer I took my son to a week-long surf camp on Folly Beach, and while watching him ride waves, I bonded with moms of other kids in the surf camp. One of the topics we talked about was the relationship between a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law. This conversation got me thinking about my relationship with my mother-in-law.

I recalled the first time I met my mother-in-law.

It was a beautiful day, back in 2006, and we gathered at the field near the Charleston Aquarium to watch my now-husband play in an adult men’s league soccer game. She and my father-in-law brought chairs for us to sit in, and after we settled in, we started to get to know each other. I remember thinking they both seemed so genuine and thoughtful. We shared stories about where we grew up and about our families. They even brought a photo album and proceeded to show me photos of their daughter’s recent wedding.    

Since that first encounter on the soccer field, I have grown very close to my mother-in-law. We have so many memories over the years, including our countless shopping trips, baking and cooking delicious meals, dancing at family weddings, relaxing on the beach, telling stories around a fire, enjoying the simple pleasures of the holidays like carving pumpkins, and sipping craft beer with sugar cookies (a combination we both agreed is hard to beat).

She has always been there for me, even when I didn’t know I needed her.

Just a few weeks ago my mother-in-law was listening to me talk about how hectic life has been. I told her how I was frustrated for not having enough time to visit my grandparents, and how upset I was when my library apps both stopped working due to a balance I owed.  My busy schedule and the library’s limited weekend hours have made it difficult for me to pay my balance. Not long after I vented to her about these issues, she asked my father-in-law to watch my kids, and she took me straight to the library, paid my overdue fees, and then brought me to see my grandparents.

As the years have progressed, our relationship has had complications.

Despite our fun memories and the important role my mother-in-law has in my life, our relationship has encountered some complications. She and I are both very strong-willed women, and our personalities have clashed on numerous occasions.

The first complication came during the planning for our wedding. To accommodate both my husband’s and my large extended families, we had to limit the number of friends we could invite. As we were struggling with an already too large guest list, my mother-in-law had no problem asserting that several distant second cousins we didn’t plan to invite would need to be added to the guest list.

Then my husband and I bought our first house together. Although she meant well, my mother-in-law seemed to take charge with housework during her visits over holidays or long weekends. One day she told me she would crochet a new dish rag for me so we didn’t have to use a sponge to wash dishes. She said, in her opinion, a sponge could easily grow bacteria and should not be used for dishes. Even if she had a point, her tone felt condescending and it was difficult for me to be told what to do in my own house.

The most recent complication came when my husband and I had children. It was such a joyous time when we welcomed our first baby into our home. My mother-in-law loves babies, and she was such an amazing help to us. However, she seemed to give off the aura of “this is my territory and I know all there is to know about babies”. She and I disagreed over small decisions like if we should put a onesie on the baby under his pajamas. I wanted to respect her opinions, but sometimes I would dismiss her advice in favor of my own instincts.

Hearing different perspectives

Most of the other moms at surf camp had similar experiences as me with their own mothers-in-law. However, one of the moms shared a different perspective based on her relationship with her soon-to-be daughter-in-law. Her oldest son recently met a girl who he plans to marry. Upon meeting the girl, this mom could see why her son fell in love. The girl was beautiful and kind. She said her son calls less frequently now that he has a serious girlfriend. Even though she is happy for her son, she is sad to no longer be the most important woman in her son’s life. It seems from a soon-to-be mother-in-law’s perspective, gaining a daughter-in-law can feel complicated too.

I enjoyed hearing from these other mom’s and I enjoyed the chance to reflect on this topic. In the end, when I think about my love for my mother-in-law, or even my future daughter-in-law, I believe the complications that come with a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law relationship are so worth it.

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Lauren is an easy going, fun loving bookworm who developed a fondness for writing. Lauren left her home state of Connecticut and moved to the south to attend Clemson University. After earning a degree in environmental engineering, Lauren moved to Charleston where she met and fell in love with her now husband Robby. Lauren spent most of her career working as a project engineer, and after earning her MBA she began to dream of starting her own business. Recently she fulfilled that dream by opening a residential real estate business to help families relocating to Charleston. Lauren enjoys spending time outside with Robby and their boys (5 and 7), catching up with good friends, or getting lost in a good book.