Tag Archives: daughter-in-law

Insert foot into mouth

I received a  hilarious but serious text from my friend (let’s call her Clara) that read,

“Hi dear. Would love to see you and have a little happy hour. Also, I did a mother-in-law f*ck up and will need some coaching on this. xo”

I chuckled and then wondered what had gone down. You see, Clara has three adult children, one is married and has a new baby, and I knew Clara was returning from a recent visit with her new grandchild.

We met up and before I could ask what happened with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandbaby, Clara told me we would be needing a whole bottle of wine, maybe more.

Uh oh!

During Clara’s visit, she offered to watch the baby, so the new parents could have some alone time. (Nice. So far no faux pas.) The daughter-in-law is nursing the baby and has a very set schedule on when the baby should be fed. Clara nursed her kids on demand and really didn’t understand the need for the scheduled feedings, so she said she would try to comply.

The new parents wanted the baby to be put down for a nap at a certain time. Clara did not try to meet this “demand”. She was enjoying the baby, playing with him, rolling on the floor, and being in full grandmother mode.

When the parents returned home, Clara had an “oh shit” moment. She was concerned the couple would be upset the baby wasn’t napping, but they completely overlooked that. The couple wanted to know why the baby was so bubbly, giggly, and completely enamored with Clara.

Clara’s response, “Well, I was actually playing and interacting with him.” (Oh wow, Clara, you said WHAT?)

The new parents were immedidately upset and started to tell Clara all the playful things they were doing with their new baby. The new mother, Clara’s daughter-in-law, had the  most to say since she’s at home with the baby full-time.

Clara’s response, “That’s momentary play. When I observe you all, the baby is on a blanket with toys while you all are on the computer or doing something else. That’s not playing or interacting.

When I heard that last line, my face must have gone all wick wacky because Clara looked directly at me and said, “By your reaction, I can tell I really f*cked up, huh?

Me, “Yes you did, but this not as bad as you think, this time.”

I tried to explain the delicate nature of in-law-hood and how that dynamic can become positively stronger or painfully weaker once grandchildren enter the picture. Gen Xers are an interesting crew as they are the most educated (sometimes overly) generation of our current history. For Gen Xers, sometimes parenthood is approached as a way to get things “right” since the 70s, when most gen Gen Xers were born, were pretty much chaotic, experimental, and just nutty. Many Gen Xers intellectualize parenting and feel they can reason their way in and out of daily parenting duties. Gen Xers typically do not want to be martyr parents and often have clear lines on when they are parents and when they are just themselves. When they are devoting one-on-one play time with their kids – that should count for a lot and Gen Xers want their credit.

Clara kept sipping on her wine as I talked.

She said, “Your generation sounds way too complicated. But what should I do?

Yes, she is right. Gen Xers are complicated and we don’t plan on making any shifts in the near future. I told her the question, from her son and daughter-in-law, was loaded and she should have kept her response simple. I asked her to think back to when she was a new mother and if she was sensitive-to-overly sensitive about comments made about her as a new mom or her parenting skills. Then I told her to imagine being in the same position with all the news, internet, message board, etc. – that also make comments about new parents.

She said, “You’re right, it is complicated and I should have kept my mouth shut.”

I told her mother-in-law’s and grandmothers are great resources for new parents. My mother-in-law was amazingly supportive of me when both my kids were born; and of course with her living with us – she continues to be a great and supportive resource.

I told Clara to remember the follow items so she does not find herself in the hot seat again – or in the near future:

  1. Keep it short and simple.
  2. Ask clarifying questions before responding to potentially loaded or controversial questions.
  3. Stay in your own business.
  4. Don’t compare (Well when I was a new mother, I would…).
  5. Remember your own relationship with your mother-in-law (positive and negative aspects). Then put yourself in the position of your daughter-in-law when you interact.
  6. When you screw up, say you’re sorry, and try better next time.
  7. Forgive yourself and each other.

images 1, 2


Mother-in-law “how-to” list

I recently came across Dr. Susan Abel Lieberman’s website about her book, The Mother-in-law’s Manual. I have not read the book, but I did enjoy reading Dr. Lieberman’s blog post entitled What Mother-in-Laws Want and How to Get It.

I thought Dr. Lieberman was clear and honest about the needs of mother-in-laws (MIL) and how MILs can potentially navigate the often complex mother-in-law/child-in-law relationship.

Dr. Lieberman’s list was informative and serious.

I took some time to put my spin on the “wants” and “how to get” sections – from a multigenerational and daughter-in-law lens.

Disclaimer: I did not write this specifically about my own mother-in-law. I wrote my responses in an honest and funny voice. My mother-in-law and I are at the advanced level of multigenerational living. We tackled and conquered this list in 2007-2008!

What Mother-in-Laws Want and How to Get It In a Multigenerational Household

What Mother-in-Laws want: Daughter-in-laws response

TO BE LOVED: We absolutely love you, which is why you were invited to move in with us. ‘Nuff said.

TO BE INCLUDED: My to-do list is huge. I’m happy to share it with you.

TO HOLD ON TO FAMILIAR TRADITIONS: We love parties and family traditions, so bring them on. You do know this means you’ll have to coordinate said traditions and activities, right?

TIME ALONE WITH AN ADULT CHILD:  Not a problem at all. You hang out with your son while I go to Girls’ Night Out. It’s totally win win.

:  If I ask you for advice, then please bring your A game. If I don’t like the advice and I tell you why I don’t like, please do not catch an attitude. You asked to understand why.

TO BE TREATED AS SOMEONE WITH A BRAIN: If I’m treating you like a fuddy duddy, call me on it. This may mean you and I need to go to happy hour and drink it out.

TO HAVE OUR NEEDS CONSIDERED: I can only be aware of your needs if you tell me. You can tell me face-to-face, call me, sent an email, send a text, post something on Facebook, or send me a tweet. If I don’t understand your needs after that, then I need a time-out.

TO HAVE FUN: Agreed! Let’s have fun and eat bad food while laughing at bad reality TV.

How Mother-in-Laws can get what they want: Daughter-in-laws  response

STOP JUDGING:  Don’t start none, won’t be none.

REDUCE EXPECTATIONS: Yeah, we can all stand to get over ourselves and take it down a notch.

BE INCLUSIVE: We’ve got this covered in the multigenerational household. Sometimes the daughter-in-law can be too inclusive and you want her to stop prying into your online activity.

BE FLEXIBLE: Just come to yoga and/or reformer class with me. No, it won’t hurt and we’ll both become more flexible (and smokin’ hot!).

REMEMBER THAT LOVE IS NOT QUANTITATIVE: Move in with us and you’ll see the busy love in full effect. Things and surfaces will be sticky, but the love will be in abundance.

GIVE UP CONTROL:  We’re all a bit out of control. Yeah, that sums it up.

MOVE FROM SMART TO WISE:  We all need to work on this. I think we should check-in with Oprah, get some tips, and try to get on the last season of her show.

HAVE FUN:  What about some Jell-O shots and scones?




Everybody Loves Raymond

B. & L. Bush


Facebook confessional 1: To live or not live with your mother-in-law

I attended a fun party in late August and had the chance to meet some new people. I love people and I love to network. I think it’s fun to meet new people, find out who you know in common, learn about shared interests, and drink a bunch of good wine.

At this party, I was talking to a spunky woman who had on gorgeous shoes. She grabbed a great bottle of Pinot Grigio to set near us so we didn’t have to pause our conversation for refills.

When we got to “so what do you do”, she wanted to know how I appeared so balanced and not worn around the edges with kids, a traveling husband, and my own job. I explained my multigenerational living set-up, and she stared at me like I was speaking in tongues.

HER:  WHAT? You let your mother-in-law live with you? What is THAT about?

ME:  We enjoy it. It helps hubby and me focus on work as needed. We have more time to spend with our kids after work. My mother-in-law helps makes the house run well, and you know, the kids get to be with their grandmother.

HER:  Hmmm…Well how long will she be there? I mean did she just show up and not leave?

ME:  We invited her to live with us in 2007 when our youngest was born. I’m not sure how long she will live with us. We haven’t discussed that.

HER:  There is absolutely NO WAY my mother-in-law could live with us. NO WAY! You let me know if you need help getting your mother-in-law out of there.

At that point, I was pretty much done with the conversation. I politely excused myself and seriously thought about taking that bottle of wine with me as I went to find another person to gab with.

I reflected on this exchange some weeks later and I wanted to know what others thought about living with their mother-in-laws. So I posted a question on Facebook.

The responses where humorous, honest, shocking, emotional, and all over the place.

I came across an interesting study about how family communicate about their in-laws and with their in-laws.

“In one component of this study, the researchers asked daughters-in-law to report on positive and negative aspects of their relationship with the mothers-in-law. (Summary table)  One interesting aspect of these findings is that there are characteristics in this relationship that are listed as positive (i.e., linked to greater satisfaction) and negative factors (i.e., linked to less satisfaction).  This demonstrates that daughters-in-law have different “tastes” when it comes to what they want in their mother-in-law relationship.  For instance, some daughters-in-law felt geographic distance was a barrier to a more positive relationship whereas others believed geographic distance was necessary for a positive relationship.”

Click here to learn more about Dr. Christy Rittenour’s study.

If anyone is considering multigenerational living, they have to make sure this decision is right for them. Effective communication needs to be established when discussions first start and when the multigenerational living arrangement becomes a reality (or not).

Effective communication is essential in developing, maintaining, and strengthening relationships. Here are my top recommendations for communicating with your mother-in-law and in a multigenerational household:

  1. Practice (yes practice) active listening. This is a skill a lot of people do not have.
  2. Be honest and specific. Stick to the facts and do your best not to overgeneralize.
  3. Respond to what is being communicated instead of reacting.
  4. Adjust your communication style to the situation, age/generation of the other person involved, and the circumstance.
  5. Use common language. Speaking over your mother-in-law’s head (or anyone else’s) leads to unnecessary miscommunication and frustration. Your goal is to have the receiver understand, accept, and apply what you’ve communicated.
  6. Admit you are human and that you make mistakes. We all have stories to share when things are going well or when things are disharmonious. Showing you are human communicates your level of care for the other person involved.
  7. Love, respect, and forgive each other.

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