More Questions and Answers for Mothers-in-Law

Our readers have more probing questions for Susan Lieberman – and her answers have given us all a lot to think about. What feedback would you give to some of the mothers-in-law who have written in? How do you relate to your own daughters-in-law and sons-in-law? What seems to work for you? What doesn’t?

Here are a few more issues that concern MILs:

One reader said she felt invisible and wanted to have more of a relationship with her married kids and their spouses. Another, Whitfield, wrote in that she’d been a MIL for over 20 years and still walked on eggs with her DIL, who didn’t reach out to her.

Susan’s response to “invisible” and Whitfield: Oh my, I so wish I had a magic wand that would give those of use who want more closeness with our children a simple way to find it. Of course, I don’t. What to say to a question that so many women hold?

First, it may be that your children love you deeply but are simply lost in their own lives and that’s the way it is for now. It may also be that while we think we are, well, terrific, our children see our behavior differently.

Is it possible to ask you son or daughter if there is something you are doing that pushes them away because sometimes you do feel there is a big distance. Could you ask what YOU can do that would be good for them…a terrific dinner sometimes with no help expected before or after, some errands, some gardening?

I don’t know if you children have children but as someone noted earlier, grandchildren can open the door to more interaction. When my younger son had his first son, he called to say, “Mom, oh my god, I get it. You love me like I love him!”

Worst case, you have to find surrogate young friends who want what you can offer that your own child cannot appreciate.

Don’t give up. Keep holding the possibility of a better relationship. Keep sending them loving thoughts and doing loving deeds, even if it seems like you are wasting energy.

Another reader asked if it was typical that her relationship was more with her grandkids than her children-in-law.

Susan’s response: Is it typical that relationships change and even improve when there are grandchildren? YES. My observation is that our children see our loving their kids as an expression of our love for them — and, often, love as well that we can help them out. Grandchildren also deflect attention away from the adults and soften potential conflicts.

You are lucky that your children value your contributions, and, in part, might it have something to do with your own tactfulness and willingness to let the parents set the rules?

I watch young people and their lives are so busy. If we lived at a faster pace than our parents, don’t you think our kids are living still faster than we did? You are right that they do not always have so much time for us. My sons assure me that how much time they have for me is NO indication of how much they love me. I choose to believe them.

Again, our thanks to Susan Lieberman for sharing her wisdom about mothers-in-law. Do you have any mother-in-law stories you’d like to contribute here? We’ll keep the lines open for MIL tales, good and bad. Just click on the comment link below or write us at and we’ll bring your voice to the table. Remember, we’re all in this together – working to nourish our relationships.

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