Mil-what Makes a Good One?

Updated on December 06, 2010
T.H. asks from Albany, LA
22 answers

With all of the negativity about MIL's, Mine has never liked me and has made my life unbearable at times. I am now her caregiver and it infuriates me some days. I was wondering what makes someone a good MIL? I have 4 sons, one that is 20 so just curious what would I have to do or not do to be a good mother in law when the time comes.

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answers from Tulsa on

A good MIL keeps her advice to herself unless asked.
She remembers her son is a grown man with his own family now.
She accepts the DIL as is and treats her as she would like to be treated.

15 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I love my mother-in-law. She drives me crazy at times, but for sillly stuff (same stuff that drive my husband crazy too). She knows when not to interfere- ever! She has one or two crazy daughters-in-law but chooses not to react because she wants to be in with sons and grandkids. She doesn't criticize, or make underhanded remarks. She's lives to help out her kids and grandkids. She never talks bad about others. She is genuine. She's enjoyable to be around.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Honolulu on

Be respectful
Have empathy
Be polite but honest
Don't be territorial with your Son. He is somebody's Husband now.
Know that your Daughter-in-Law should come first with your son(s). That is HIS Wife.
Don't be condescending or stuck-up
Don't be patronizing
Encourage a rapport... positively
Include her in decisions... not just talking to your son and as though she does not exist.
Include her.... and help her feel welcomed
Don't make Daughter-In-Law feel that she is resented or disliked
Don't act as though DIL has to brown-nose you.
Treat her, as you would want to be treated.
Don't put your Son in the middle... of you and his Wife.
Don't create drama. Period.
Don't expect your Son to come to you at a moments notice... unless it is an emergency and always ask, first if he AND his Wife.... are able to do, what you want/need.
Do NOT ever, drop into their home... unannounced... nor expect that their home is yours, too. Always call first.
Don't ever assume... you can stay at their home... for any length of time... per vacations/holidays... UNLESS you ask first... they may have their other In-Laws over... too.
LET your Daughter-In-Law... have her OWN "traditions" with your Son (her Husband) and children... and respect that.
Don't EVER.... expect your Son to side with you and go against his own Wife. For any reason.
Don't tell your son what to do... with his Wife... and don't ever... bad mouth his Wife... to him and then put him in the position to have to cow-tow to you over his Wife.
Don't expect... your son to only please you. He has a Wife now. That is his FIRST priority.

Respect... HER family, too.

all the best,

15 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Be supportive and "like" every girl your son dates, even when you don't. It's inevitable the ONE girl that you try to talk your son out of dating will be the one he will marry, and she will never fully forgive how you treated her at first.

Try to see and appreciate what your son sees in her.

Be happy that he has found someone that makes him happy.

Invite her to family events.

Talk to her directly. Don't treat her like an appendage to your son, treat her like family. Call her, email her, etc. If you want to invite them over for dinner or a holiday talk to her and him.

Don't let him complain to you about her imperfections and fights. All couples have problems... but THEY will forgive each other and move on. He could tell you something that you may having a harder time forgiving or letting go of.

Remember that your son isn't perfect either. Never imply that he could "do better."

Get to know her.

Respect her differences, even if it's something you don't agree with. (If she's vegan, provide vegan options for her and holiday gifts that are appropriate. If she's a different religion send her a card for her important holiday.)

Don't offer unasked for advice.

Don't try to change her.

Remember her birthday - it doesn't have to be a huge gift, just a card or a phone call.

Once they are married - remember their anniversary. Again - call, or card... or if you live close offer to babysit so they can have a romantic night.

Don't try to get your son to choose between you or his wife/family. If you raised him right you will loose. If you didn't HE will loose.

** I try really hard with my MIL, I email her... send her pictures of the kids. She never calls me to talk, always my husband. When she calls the house and I answer it always feels like she's trying to get off the phone. When we started dating she was against it right away. When he first wanted to move down here she talked him out of it by cutting off his personal loan from them for college. After our wedding we had a second reception months later up where they live and she PUSHED about 10x's for him to invite his ex girlfriend. She told him, basically, you never know when he might want a friend to fall back on. (Back up plan??) Needless to say, I don't like her. I could go on and on and on... and on. I wish I had a mother in law I liked, or even loved. :( I try to give my Mom advice for my sister in laws but I know even *I* have a hard time with my Mom. It's much easier to forgive someone you love.

Good luck in the future.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I know I am so lucky to have my mother in law. We have an hour long phone conversation each weekend. She gives me great advice. She understands what it is like to be a stay at home mom. She always asks about her grandson (in fact the whole conversation is usually about him, which of course I don't mind). She asks about things going on with me and her son. I send her pictures of what her grandson is doing throughout the week and she really appreciates them (we live in Oklahoma, she lives in Arizona) and we'll always talk about the photos on the phone. She's just really inquisitive, but not in a pushy way. She just genuinely wants to know whats going on with us. I love her dearly!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Wayne on

Be kind to your DIL. Make her a part of the family. Trust that your sons will make a proper decision on who the will bring into their lives as well as to the family. I am sure that you raised caring and loving sons who know how to treat a woman as well as know if he is being treated well also. Call her and see how things are going dont always do it through your sons. It drives me crazy that my MIL does not call me to find out how I am doing or how dd is doing. Instead she calls DH and still does not ask how I am doing. Even after I gave birth she never once called to see how I was doing. His grandma called me every other day asking if I was doing well. FYI she hates her MIL. you'd think she would see what she is doing to me. anyway just be kind and a friend there is no raising her she is a grown up.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Do things differently than my MIL, lol.
I agree with those who say don't meddle. You may not agree with everything your son and DIL do, but don't get involved. They are adults living their own lives, and don't assume your DIL is making all the decisions that you don't agree with.
Don't assume that you will set the relationship, don't make assumptions about it and get resentful when it isn't what you expected. My MIL thought when we got married, that I'd be her new best friend for shopping and lunches. It didn't occur to her that I have my own friends, and I really don't do shopping and lunch. She had this idea in head that she and her husband would built a house in Vermont, and that her son and his wife and family would come and spend every winter weekend with them. She told me she was disappointed that we didn't have an everybody loves raymond situation where she could walk into our house whenever she wanted and take over. She thought I'd view her as a mentor and role model and want to be just like her. Remember that your daughter in law is an adult, and her own woman, and isnt' looking for you to mold and shape her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

she cuts the cord. if she hasn't cut it before, she should cut it on the wedding night.
don't meddle
don't interfere
don't tell anyone what to do.
treat grandkids the same, equally, and with love.
be nice
and DO remember: if you push your DIL's buttons enough, you will lose your son, and any chance of mending the relationship with anyone in that family.
my MIL is now going through something rough, health-related. considering how she has treated me and my kids over the years, her son has yet to go visit her. no one tells him not to, he has chosen his side. i find myself, so many times a week, thinking maybe i should make him go see her, then i remember how my kids don't even know her, due to her indifference, and how mean and vicious she was to me esp. after my kids were born, i just get rid of that thought.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I absolutely LOVE my MIL! My own mother passed away in 2003 and my MIL has been like my surrogate mom ever since.

I'm sure she probably disagrees with some of the ways I raise my children but she has never once criticized how we have handled our children. It's funny because I ask her for advice quite often and she'll share when I do, but otherwise she lets us do our own thing and is fully supportive.

My family has never been close but my husband's family is exceptionally close. It took a while for me to adapt to that. For example, the first few times she came in to watch my kids so my husband and I could go out, we would offer her money. She flat out refused it and said "My parents watched my kids for me and never expected a dime and neither do we - go out and have fun and don't worry about the kids!" We also had a rough go during the colic months for both of my boys and when we needed a hand, she'd drive 60 miles (one way!) without a complaint or hesitation to help us.

She is just so nice, so understanding, so giving, and expects nothing in return - well, except perhaps for lots and lots of time with her grandkids! Of course since she has made it soooooo entirely comfortable we don't mind leaving the kids in her care.

As a MIL, your DIL might make mistakes with her own kids and that's okay. As long as the mistakes aren't putting the child's health at risk then allow your son and DIL to make those mistakes and learn from them - that's the only way they become better parents. Of course if they ask for help, then offer.

You have a chance to be a second mother, a role model for your future DIL to look up to. I cannot tell you how blessed I am to have such an awesome woman taking care of me. I bet my mother is up in heaven, smiling down upon us and breathing a sigh of relief that someone is there for me.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

Think of the things that your MIL did or said ( or didn't say or do!!) that grated on you and just DON"T do them!!! I HOPE I am a good MIL ( You would have to ask my SIL!!!) I accept him and love him because my daughter loves him...not because of anything he says or does. (Although I DO like him for point is that I don't HAVE to like daughter is the one in love with him!!!) I let him know that I am proud of the husband he is to my daughter and the father he is to my grandson...I treat him as a valued member of the family.
I TRY not to give advice unless it is asked for...and I don't interfere in their lives...I raised my children and ran my house now it is THEIR turn to raise their children and run their home!!!
I don't pressure them to continue the family traditions that we had in our home ( coming home for holidays etc)...because now THEIR traditions are important and they also have another set of In Laws to spend time with.
I have had a rather "difficult" "high maintenance" MIL for 42 years now....and so I learned a lot about how NOT to be a good MIL from her....and you can do the very same thing!!!
God bless you for being willing to be a caregiver for your Mother in Law, when she has been less than loving and caring....just tell yourself that you are a better person because of this. You care teaching your children valuable lessons about being loving and forgiving...and being willing to give of yourself in a less than perfect world!!! My guess is that you will be a great MIL...because as I have had the perfect model of what NOT to do!!! And if you are willing to take care of someone who has mistreated you over the years...then you are a truly good person and will have good instincts when the time comes!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

It already sounds like you will be a good mother in law. With all the pain and disappointment you have endured from your mil, Im sure you would never put your daughter in laws through that. I will never understand how woman can love their sons but have absolutely no respect for someone they have decided to spend the rest of their lives with and create children with. To me, that would be something to respect, but its definitely not a perfect world. :(

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Erie on

I love my MIL! She is so sweet and caring and loves her grandkids to pieces! She has always welcomed me with open arms into her family and never has she made me feel like an outsider. She has always been there to give me advice if I ask for it, but is never pushy. She doesnt overstep boundries and if she thinks she is, she asks us. She would do anything for us and our children, as would my own mom. We are seriously blessed to have them in our lives and Im so so so glad that our kids have such a good relationship with their grandmas (and grandpas). I never had that growing up and it was something I always wanted for my kids and thankfully they have it!

Im so sorry youve had to deal with so much with your MIL....but at least you know exactly how you will NOT treat your future DIL's!

Good luck with everything!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lawton on


My daughter has been married almost four years and one of my sons has been married almost one and I truely love my son in law and my daughter in law.

Basically, you have to learn to love them as they are and realize that even if they are not perfect your own children are not perfect, either. What matters is that they they love each other and make each other happy. My son in law is perfec for my daughter, and my daughter in law makes my son happy, so what more could I want? You basically just treat your son in laws and daughter in laws as you do your children and love and accept them the same way. If you REALLY love them, you'll do fine.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hattiesburg on

Treat your child in law like one of your own, not like an in-law. Don't have the frame of mind that they are taking away your child from you. Don't act like you know best for your child, even though you might. Respect their house like a grown-up's house, not like their room in your house. Don't try to "one up" them, they are trying hard to gain your respect. My MIL always refers to my son as "her baby" but not my daughter, who she claims is just as loved as my son, although she has a different dad. It makes me feel like she is trying to take him away from me, like she believes I'm not good enough. My mom is cool though, and my husband has asked if I would trade...nope...and she asks if my husband has an older brother that she can have. It's funny.


answers from Williamsport on

What I hate about my MIL is that she is rude and belligerent, does not respect me, causes my husband to side against me in things she shouldn't be pushing anyway, doesn't follow any of my instructions regarding the kids food etc and she invites herself and my FIL to stay at the last minute when my husband isn't here, even if I say it's not a good time, and always for longer than they initially agree to, and always way too long, and they're high maintenance (and alcoholics) and cause chaos at every turn.

I figure if I respect my son's and daughter's and their spouse's spaces as adults, do not boss around and belittle their mates, do not feed my grandkids junk food, do not invite myself over to their homes at the last minute when my son/daughter isn't there, do not insist on coming even when the spouse says no, do not drink too much while I'm there and cause all kinds of chaos, and do not stay longer than I say I will, I'll be a decent mother in law!
In other words I've asked myself many times if I'm being too picky and if I intend to act that way when I'm the MIL, and I seriously don't think so!!! it's so unfair, I'm so sorry you've become the caregiver.

Also, I won't want to "try to get into my daughter/son in law's good graces. The reverse should be true. I will be nice and respectful and fun, but a bit stand off-ish enough to let them feel it's a privilege to spend the limited time I have for them. And I hope to keep busy so this is the case!


answers from Rochester on

I also adore my mother in law. She is a wonderful person in general, but has always been very friendly, loving, and welcoming with me. In general, my in-laws have been there when we've needed extra support, whether it was materially or just emotionally/mentally (stress, etc.). They are awesome grandparents. My mother in law was in delivery with me with my two boys and will probably be with my third as well. She also stayed with us for a week and helped me out, mostly sitting around quietly doing some craft unless I needed something, watching the baby while I showered or napped, playing with my older one and making food. She rarely offers advice I haven't asked her for, but we are very like-minded in terms of child-rearing, our outlook, our faith, etc, which makes her easy to love and get alone with. She is also just very practical and thoughtful.

I think that aside from someone liking you simply because you are you, some specific things a future mother-in-law could do would be to let her children live their own lives. Love them and encourage and support them, but only offer advice and such when asked (unless they really are living damaging lives and you are just a worried parent). Be welcoming but not a doormat. Offer help when you can, but let and expect them to take care of themselves. Try to accept a daughter-in-law for who she is rather than letting her feel like she has to pass some kind of test. The only test she had to pass was the one that made your son propose. It sounds to me like you are already aware of what is NOT helpful to a relationship, so I think you'll be fine. I'm sorry you haven't had a great relationship with your MIL. :(



answers from Washington DC on

From my experience, equity across her children and grandchildren goes a long way. Of course this issue of preferring one child over another starts long before a woman enters a family. But it triples in emotion when grandchildren are born. My MIL actually said once that her daughter's kids would be "her's" and hot her son-in-law's mother's becuase a a dughter's children are always more important than a son's. Well, I am married to her son! She tries really hard to be equitable on paper - giving equal gifts etc. But is clear she feels closer to her daughter and her daughter's children. That is very painful for me as a mother. A good MIL doesn't feel that way or hides it a lot better.



answers from Boston on

Good Question. My mother inlaw was awful to me in the beginning so were my sister inlaws. This is what I would have loved. A mother inlaw that excepts me as good enough for her son. I would have like to get to know her as the nice person everyone says she is. I could have gone without all her nasty comments to me, try to brake us up. And never ask is this her grandchild or not. Not GOOD! I would love if she called to invite us over for dinner or even asked me to lunch.......never happened. She never came when I would invite her to lunch or dinner. I would have liked if she acknowledged me on my Birthday. And I would have liked her better if she did not tear down the other daughter inlaws.......I always told her that I did not want to hear this, its not nice. So I know I was never that special that she did not do this to me. This is my experience till this day. So now I know also what not to do.



answers from Texarkana on

All you have to do is think of the things that makes you a good person in general: be kind, giving, loving, thoughtful and courteous. Don't be negative! Don't criticize. Don't be bossy. Give her plenty of love and simple guidance. Be helpful. When the time comes that you have grandchildren, don't show favoritism. Don't keep one of your son's kids more often than another son's kids. And likewise, don't buy some grandchildren more than others. These things will make you the best MIL around.



answers from Biloxi on

When my sons are old enough to marry, I am going to try very hard to be like my great aunt Gladys. She is a caring and sweet person to everyone, not just her son-in-laws. She never offers an opinion about someone's life unless asked, and then she does so in the most caring manner. My MIL is horrible to me and even when she is nice, which is rarely, I do not trust that her niceness is sincere. I will put every effort into never becoming that MIL. I think that the best way to look at it when my sons do get married is that I will be gaining the daughter that I always wanted, rather than losing my son. I think that if I can do that, be kind and always try to be helpful, at the same time holding any judgment to myself, I am more likely to become a second mother than the wicked witch of the west. Again, these are my aspirations, not my reality because my sons are both very young yet, but I do know that life will be better for everyone if I can get along with DIL's. Good luck to us both!!!



answers from Los Angeles on

Wow, that's big of you, she never liked you and made your life unbearable and now you are a caregiver, you are a saint, my dear! I hope she at least appreciates what you are doing for her. A good MIL would be someone who has the capability of seeing her daughter in law as a person, not someone who "stole her son away" or someone who "does not deserve her son". One who is capable of really seeing you for who you are and not behind any other issues she may have, someone who will respect your decisions and respect and love you if only for the fact that you are her daughter's wife. Those are hard to come by though, MILs are typically difficult and it's rare to have one who is genuinely nice and caring and loving. I hope to be a great MIL when my children marry if only for the fact that not having a good relationship with the inlaws equals to not seeing your children. Just be a good person, period and you'll be a good mil.



answers from Birmingham on

The fact that you are working on this subject, shows that you are going to most likely be a good MIL. Both my husband and I love our In-laws. They treat us just like we are their son/daughter and they truly treat us in loving ways. They give advice when we ask but only then. We know if we need them, we can call at anytime. I will try to do the same and not be over-bearing when our children get married.

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