10 Tips For Being The Daughter-in-Law Your MIL Wants

mother-in-law Image via Shutterstock

Dear Daughter-in-Law,

I’ve seen all the do-this-don’t-do-that lists for mother-in-laws, and I do try to abide by them. But if you and I are truly going to get along, then there are some handy little “rules” that you need to follow as well.


1. Don’t tell me how I “am welcome any time” and then rant on your social media thingie about how I am “always at your house and up in your business. If you don’t mean any time, then don’t say it. I didn’t realize I’d need to make an appointment to see my own child and grandchildren, but if that’s what it takes to keep us copacetic, then that’s what I’ll do. I fully realize that dropping by without calling first is rude, but for some reason, you never seem to answer the phone. So…

2. Answer the damn phone! I am not a telemarketer trying to sell you carpet shampoo. I am the mother of your spouse, grandmother to your children, and you could at least give me the respect of picking up the phone, if only to say, “Sorry Diane, I’ve got my hands full and can’t talk right now.

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3. As much as I adore my grandchildren, I am not your free ticket to eternal childcare. Contrary to what you may think, I do have a life of my own. If you want me to watch the kids for you, I’m sure I’d probably be delighted. But you DO need to ask first with plenty of notice, so that I can rearrange my schedule if needed and stock up on groceries. If you expect me to respect your time and space, (see #1), please extend me the same courtesy. I promise to answer the phone when you call.

4. Act like the adult you purport to be, and don’t bitch about me behind my back. I’m sure that my child doesn’t like being put in the middle any more than YOU would, so if you have a problem with me, put your big girl panties on and come talk to ME about it.

5. Passive-aggressiveness is still aggressive. (Not to mention rude.) Don’t tell me how nice my house looks, followed immediately by some snide comment about you would rather take more time to enjoy your children instead of cleaning. You have toddlers. I don’t; I did my time. It’s a pretty simple concept. My clean house is not an automatic slam against your housekeeping skills in your own house. Defensive much?

6. Don’t buy me clothes or decor for gifts, if they are drastically different than what I own. I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I think it’s pretty clear that we shop from radically different catalogs. Gift certificates or something the kids made is perfectly acceptable and appreciated. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my kitchen doesn’t have a single red rooster in it, so I’m not exactly sure where you expect me to put all this barnyard memorabilia you keep buying me…

7. It’s my money, so please let me spend it. If I want to lavish my grandchildren with gifts, it’s because I love them and I have the ability to do so. It’s not to shame you for not being able to match me dollar for dollar.

8. I want my son/daughter to be happy and have a happy marriage, but know this: I am the mother. I will always be the mother. If by death, divorce, or desertion, you two were to ever be separated, I will still be here to pick up the pieces. Your own children will grow up one day, and you will understand this.

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9. Speaking of, you DO realize that I successfully produced an offspring that grew into such an amazing adult that YOU decided to marry and have children with…right? I may not be up on all the current parenting trends and psychological research, but by your own standards in mate selection, I must have done something right. You don’t have to hang on every word I say, and please forgive me if you think I’m overstepping with the unsolicited advice, but I have YEARS and YEARS of experience. It’s got to be good for something. Maybe you could at least try to listen to some of it every once in a while.

10. Contrary to what you might think, I am not trying to control you or judge you. Ok, well, I might judge you a little bit. I can’t help it. Really, though, I’m trying not to. I just want my son to be happy and have a good life, and I want the same for my grandchildren. Your spouse may be your spouse, but he’s still a son and a brother and an uncle and a nephew and a father, all rolled into one. You’re going to have to share, whether you like it or not. Might as well learn to be gracious about it. I had to.

Sound doable? I hope so.

And how about I watch the kids this weekend so you grown-ups can have a night out? Just promise me you won’t spend the whole evening complaining about me… ok?

Related post: There Can Only Be One First Lady


The Scary Mommy Community is built on support. If your comment doesn't add to the conversation in a positive or constructive way, please rethink submitting it. Basically? Don't be a dick, please.

  1. 1


    I agree with everything but gifts. A grandmother can buy whatever she likes. That is true. However,a parent has final veto power on what they allow in their home and allow their children to play with. I am glad that the grandparents usually confer with me before buying for the kids.

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    • 2

      run bek says

      I told the grandparents they are welcome to buy any toy/present they wanted as long as said toy stays at their house. Suddenly that swing set my baby needed wasn’t really a necessity :)

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    • 3

      Jen says

      Thank you! I totally agree. Also, even if its not “on purpose” or to sow the mother up…if you’re buying my kids gifts that are bigger/better/more expensive on every birthday or Christmas, that sucks. Every mama wants to be the one to wow they own kid and get something the child really loves, because that’s some of the fun parts of being a parent. We don’t buy our kids new toys often…I will scour yard sales, ect…but in bdays and Xmas, I like and put lots of love and thoughts into my kids gifts…I don’t want to be shown up, even if it isn’t intentional, regardless of if the family member in question “has the money to spend”…..if they have that kind of cash, a nice, appropriate gift will do, and if they want to spend more, there are always college funds …which is thoughtful for later for the child without being flashy !

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      • 5

        Lisa says

        Any time MIL asks us what gifts we’d like. We ask that she please put $ in their college fund. This rarely happens. MIL is generous, but bad with managing $. We are just going to ask for gift cards, use them on our needs, then take that same amount of money and put it in our children’s college fund. Really, they have plenty of toys.

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    • 7

      Liz says

      And please don’t tell them the lavish Christmas presents at your house are from Santa! No parent wants to answer questions about why Santa leaves better presents at Grandma and Grandpa’s

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    • 13

      Catie Kidman says

      For #9, in my case, my spouse became an amazing person *despite* his terrible, abusive upbringing. So this point is completely lost on me. The way he turned out was not due to the love and nurturing given him! Free with earlier posters, this article is snarky, not helpful at all.

      #10: a complete lie. “No judgment” is a total lie! Some MILs feel threatened by a younger woman. My MIL is competitive, mean-girl type. There IS judgment that has little to do with wanting son to be happy and all about how she feels about herself: inadequate and threatened.

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  2. 41


    Or how about this. Just be yourself and if she doesn’t like you then just be polite.Your spouse loves you the way you are. If she doesnt then you shouldnt feel obligated to change the way you are for her. What this doesnt mention is the fact that some (SOME, not all) Mother in laws do things like buy lots of expensive gifts for their grandkids to make the mother feel bad for not being ‘good enough’. Yes, we know you gave birth to him and you’ll always be his mother, but in the end when you pass on we’re going to be the ones that hold him when he cries. You are his mother by birth, we are their wives by their choice. Not saying this to start an argument, just putting my opinion out there.

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    • 45


      My MIL buys my daughter gifts all the time against my wishes and it infuriates me to no end! Sorry I don’t want a spoiled brat feeling entitled to things she didn’t earn. Doesn’tmmatter who’s money it is. If someone asks you not to do something with their kids, then just respect the parents wishes!

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    • 50


      Just hope you judge your own mothers as harshly as you do your husband’s. These responses prove why this was written. One day your sons will grow up and marry and you will be the MIL. Hopefully you will get DILs that don’t think you are the biggest annoyance to her family.

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      • 52

        TillyMomma says

        I think that in reality – a lot of us do. I certainly have come to grips with my mother’s fallibility just as much as my MIL’s and so it goes for all of my family, including myself. My husband has done the same thing. Blending our families has not been an easy thing to do. My parents are so vastly different from his that barring us marrying – the probably wouldn’t choose to be around each other normally. My MIL isn’t someone I would have as a close friend. Our ways of being are just too different. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t care about her. It just means that there are, for the time being, limits to our relationship. Limits that I have had to repeatedly enforce and lead by example – which isn’t any fun as a DIL. I can understand the author’s perspective but the way she comes across is entirely inappropriate and does NOTHING to encourage a civil a working relationship.

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      • 53

        Susan Crook says

        Why yes, I do expect my parents to treat my husband with decency and respect. Because that is what spouses do for one another. My exhusband didn’t expect that from his parents. When I would tell him there was a problem, he’d say but what about your parents, to which I’d say, did my parents ever…..

        1. Tell me “you can get a new spouse, but not new parents!, so we come first!”
        2, demand equal rights to parent our children?
        3. Ask for money?
        4. Drive our child around without a carseat, thereby risking his life?
        5. Tell you that because you were wearing a red tshirt you were clearly a tramp?
        6. insist that we had to do all the driving to visit, because “it’s such a long way to drive!” (and it is somehow shorter with babies in the car?) and initiate all the phone calls (because phone lines run only one way?)
        7. insist that a 120 dollar set of artisan made sterling earrings were “cheap crap” and sell them at a yard sale for 50 cents?
        8. Demand to go on vacay with us and expect us to pay for it?

        See my point? My parents acted decent, did none of these things and treated my ex like the son they never had. He treated them like dirt, and when his parents did every one of the listed things -several of them repeatedly- I was informed I was lying, crazy, and just hated his parents for no reason. To this day he insists that I am persecuting them, and denies that my problem actually is that he allowed them to mistreat me and our children. Moreover, I am accused of brainwashing our kids to hate the paternal grandparents. Doesn’t matter how hard a person tries sometimes, and I tried for 20 YEARS before I left that man in the dirt. He still insists I did nothing to get along. Yeah, nothing but be stomped on, berated and abused for insisting that I had the right to raise my own children, go on a vacation with them and my husband, that I shouldn’t have to pay the bills for two people who have college degrees and are by no means disabled.

        Nor does he understand that I didn’t brainwash my parents to hate him, they treated him well all that time and only refuse to speak to him now because he beat me when I was pregnant, and accused them of lying.

        Don’t tell us we don’t have standards for our parents. We do. In most cases you hear about bad MIL’s, it’s the husband’s mother being a biatch, not the wife’s.

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        • 54

          Lisa says

          I’m sorry you had to go through that. My paternal grandparents didn’t like my mom. It affects the way I view them. If you don’t treat my mom right, then I won’t have a connection with you no matter who you are.

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          • 55

            Susan Crook says

            Thank you, Lisa, and you’re right, a lot of gp’s miss out on their grandkids being around them because they have mistreated the mother.

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      • 62

        Stephanie says

        In the same boat. Because we live out of state, my kids are never acknowledged but the other 14 grandkids are. When I called her out on it she told me it was too expensive to send up a gift or card at Christmas and accused me of being materialistic. I told her it wasn’t the gift it was the idea of being acknowledge by their grandparents.

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