No one will ever be good enough for my son

“No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to please her,” said Wendy Henson, 62, about her late

“No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to please her,” said Wendy Henson, 62, about her late mother-in-law.

“It’s like her wall was up even before I joined the family. I tried so many things to get on her good side but she never opened up to me even until she took her last breath,” Wendy recalled their poor relationship.

Most, if not all, women around the world would identify with the feeling of their mother-in-laws – current or prospective – disapproving of their presence in their sons’ lives. Some mother-in-laws are quite vocal about their disdain – intruding on the personal choices of their son’s spouse, commenting on their behaviour and/or life choices, etc.

Some don’t even say anything, they just choose to give the cold shoulder treatment to their daughter-in-laws, or show a blatant disregard for their opinions.

And some mother-in-laws smile and act diplomatic but according to daughter-in-laws, they feel like the smile is never genuine – and they were onto something. Dennah Scott who is a mother-in-law said,”I never liked my daughter-in-law but what can I do? She doesn’t cook or do anything for my son. All I can do is smile and let him handle it.”

Over the course of their lives, some women tend to find a middle-ground that works for both parties, or they develop a genuine disdain for their mother-in-laws, damaging what could have been a great relationship just on the basis of mis- or non-communication.

The main issue here is that mothers have a natural tendency to be biased towards their own children, particularly, however, in the case of their sons. This is most likely because they tend to ‘baby’ their sons, coddling them so much that they genuinely believe that no one will ever treat their sons as delicately as they have. They don’t believe that their sons will be able to live happily without them.

Dr. Terri Apter has studied mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships extensively, and what instigated this study was – in fact – this same feeling in her own home. Though she could see there was an effort being made from the other side, she started feeling smothered in the relationship, and she decided to study other similar relationships to understand it better. One major recurring problem seemed to be that of mother-in-laws failing to recognise qualities and aspects of their daughter-in-laws that they value highly. This included asking the younger women to give up on their careers even if they were pro-career and working women themselves, or those that hoped the daughter-in-laws would fail at what they were doing so that their son’s life would not be affected.

Another problem is that there is a constant debate of who is ‘mum’ in the family, and this can cause friction. The mother-in-laws believe they have the final say over everything that happens in the family – including children’s upbringing, what should be fed to the family and when, and even how holidays should be planned. This is something that would work best if resolved between the two individuals, as some mothers like to put their sons in a bind by asking them to pick sides. No good ever comes off of a situation like that.

Tell us, what is your relationship like with your mother-in-law?

  1. Linda  

    I had a wonderful relationship with my mother in law, loved her dearly to the day she died and appreciated everything she ever did for us as a family, I think she knew often how hard things were simply because she had also struggled in life, she was a very generous individual where she could be and absolutely loved the grandchildren. She often used to say I do far too much for her son.

    Her own mother in law was a dispicable person who treated her poorly and tried to monopolise every situation in their lives, unfortunately they lived TOGETHER in a family home that consisted of three floors, so there was no getting away from the situation, I believe right up till the grandmother died she was a nasty individual to my poor mother in law. I was obviously a very lucky daugther in law to have someone so special in my life. I still miss my mother in law to this day, she died in 1979.

  2. I loved my Mum in law, she was a fab lady, sadly she died about six months after our marriage.

    By the way, you should be writing Mothers In Law and Daughters In Law ( not Mother In Laws, etc.) Sorry to be the grammar police!

    • Narelle Kay  

      Glad you picked up on that Angela Budden

      • Valerie  

        Me too ….. afraid I have a bad fetish for core to grammar.

  3. Margie  

    I never took to mine. She was, I believe, partially mentally retarded. She was, on some occasions, a simpleton, as she didn’t make ANY decisions’ on her own, even to the point of asking my f-i-l if they could stay to Dinner here, when invited once. She may’ve even had what is now called FAS. Her father was an alcoholic.
    All she could talk about was her three kids’. Boring to bits!
    She was very jealous of the beautiful house in which I lived, & the top-notch furniture my late Mother had in it. My Mother was a Cordon Bleu cook; m-i-l couldn’t cook to save herself. That was the reason my husband used to eat numerous amounts of ‘bread & jam’. That’s what she fed her kids’ on because she was also the laziest person I’d come across.
    She nearly broke up our marriage, over several issues.

    After our first baby was born, although they lived in the next suburb, not ONCE did I get even an offer of help. If my husband hadn’t taken a month’s LSL to help me, I would’ve been totally distraught. My parents’ were dead, & my sister lived 40 miles away, with four kids’ of her own. So I was by myself, basically.
    After one argument, I banned them from our house. I wasn’t going to put up with her shenanigans’ any longer.

    I could write a book, but I’ve not the time, nor definitely the interest. Suffice to say, I didn’t speak to her in her last 15 years. I didn’t attend either of their funerals. If I drive past where she lived til she died, I curse her, screaming. She was the epitome of the ‘snake in the grass’.
    At least that gives me an outlet from the 25 years’ of trouble she caused me.

    • Narelle Kay  

      Wow Margie, She sounds like a right old battle-axe and I am loathe to say it but you sound mighty selfish too. If her father was an alcoholic and her husband controlling (she couldn’t make a decision – your words) do you think she may have beniffited from a touch of kindness from you ( no where in your rant do you say you tried). My ex was an alcoholic and I believe his father was too. I also understand that his maternal grandfather was also an alcoholic, so his poor mother didn’t really have a chance. Originally I thought what a downtrodden woman she was, but she had seven children who loved her dearly and looked after her. We lived 100 kms away, so didn’t seen her often. But when we did, I listened to her, and then did my own thing anyway. It never hurts to “put on a face” and try and be nice. Did you ever ask her for help with your babies, that could have possibly helped your relationship. When my marriage broke down, I went and explained why to “Mum” and she was very understanding.

  4. My first daughter in law decided to not communicate so I was really disappointed. I always thought I’d be a pretty good mother in law. However the marriage did not last and now I have a daughter in law who really loves me and I her. It is such a joy to have this relationship.

  5. My first daughter in law decided to not communicate so I was really disappointed. I always thought I’d be a pretty good mother in law. However the marriage did not last and now I have a daughter in law who really loves me and I her. It is such a joy to have this relationship.

  6. Valerie  

    During my courtship with my hubby to be, my future m-i-l was very pleasant and quite fun. However, once we were married, we experienced some difficulties together concerning mostly our strong personalities. But….. we eventually came to have a healthy respect for one another and now I think of her fondly.

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