The Daughter in Law Rules
By: Sally Shields
The 10 Most Common Mistakes that Daughters-in-Laws Make!
(How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!!!)
Ladies! There are a few simple things you can avoid that will save you from repeat D.I.L.Z. (Daughter-in-Law Zings) that we all experience from time to time (some of us more than others!). Although these exercises started off as a tongue-in-cheek coping mechanism, once I began putting a few of these strategies into practice, I noticed that my MIL’s attitude started to shift. Her softer, gentler, more agreeable side began to emerge and I realized that she actually wanted to be quite helpful and kindly towards me! The bottom line while you’re correcting these “mistakes” is to really and truly learn to appreciate your MIL. After all, she did give birth to your husband and you are forever thankful to her for that! We must try to always give her the benefit of the doubt, and put our stubborn natures aside, Remember, you won’t be able to prevent hurtful MIL comments and misunderstandings overnight. This is a process that must be developed over time. It’s fun once you get the hang of it, and you will be amazed when you develop a genuine like for one-another! Here goes:
Mistake #1 –– Forget to Call Your Mother-in-Law Regularly –– I know it sounds like a harmless enough thing to do, but you will be amazed at how much she will appreciate it when you keep in touch with her, and not just when your husband calls! Strive to have an independent relationship with her, all on your own. Solution: Call your Mother-in-Law! Call her at least once a week (pick a day, such as SUNDAY and mark it on your calendar so that you do not forget. You can also call her during the week if something comes up that she might appreciate hearing about, such as your child took her first step or said her first word. You can keep it short, but if you’re super-busy, aim for getting her machine, like when you know she’ll be at Bingo.
Mistake #2 –– Forget to Frequently Ask Your MIL How She’s Feeling –– I know that asking someone how they are feeling seems like a cliché, but you must do this every time you see or speak to her. Solution: Make sure you take the time to notice how much your MIL’s back has been bothering her, and be extra helpful around the house at these times. Keep in mind that it’s not easy getting older and aches and pains can make even the best of us ornery as all get go! And as an added touch, offer to accompany your MIL on doctors visits whenever possible. You will be amazed at how much she will appreciate that you took the time to care.
Mistake #3 –– Don’t Compliment Her Often Enough ––Your MIL can be self-conscious just like you are. And remember, you are younger and hipper than she is, but most importantly, you have her son! So, you must always remember to make her feel good around you. Solution: Make sure you let her know how pretty, thin, healthy, and young she looks. Say what flattering outfits she’s wearing, occasionally asking if you can borrow a certain item of clothing or a purse. Mention that you love her hairstyle, even if she’s wearing a hairpiece (especially if she’s wearing a hairpiece). In fact, go out and get yourself a hairpiece and you too will appreciate the benefits of “fake hair!”
Mistake #4 –– Forget Your MIL’s Special Days, i.e. Birthday, Anniversary and Mother’s Day ––This sounds like a pretty common sense thing to do, right? You’d be surprised how life gets in the way and you can over look these things. You will be the one to feel terrible about it if your husband forgets as well. In fact, he will most likely forget so you will have to be the one to make sure this gets done, without fail! Solution: On each of the occasions mentioned above, pick out a Hallmark card with the most heart-wrenching sentiments you can find (preferably about a week or two beforehand). Make sure your husband signs it too. Better yet, have him write the note from the both of you, because receiving a note with only your handwritting on it will make her feel incredibly disappointed thinking that her son has forgotten her special day (even if he probably has!) And be sure to call 1-800-FLOWERS well in advance. You want to make absolutely sure that those long-stem roses arrive on time––not three days after the fact ––no no no!!!
Mistake #5 –– Get Defensive with Your MIL –– This is the easiest miskake in the world to make with your MIL! But do yourself a favor and practice not taking things personally, and you will avoid fist-clenching frustration! If for example, you have misplaced an item such as some new teabags you’ve just bought, you may mumble something to the effect of, “Where the heck are those things? I just had them! They must have upped and walked away on their own!” You MIL may mistakenly think you are accusing her and pounce on you with a self-protective, “Don’t look at ME, I didn’t do it!” Solution: Rather than rolling your eyes and glancing askew, uttering defensively, “Look, I didn’t say YOU took them, did I?” simply reply breezily something to the effect of, “Oh, I’m just so forgetful these days! Just last week I found my keys in the fridge––I must be losing my mind!” Then take a deep breath, find your missing item and make yourself a nice cup of chamomile. And be sure to graciously offer your MIL a cup as well ––but make sure you have her favorite tea bags on hand at all times.
Mistake #6 –– Don’t be Objective When Your MIL Criticizes You –– You must always remember your objectivity! Solution: If your MIL tells you your hair looks better the other way, enthusiastically thank her by solidly agreeing how difficult it is to be objective about yourself. Then style it the OTHER way while she is visiting. Of course you can change it back when she leaves, although be open to the possibility that she may actually have a point!!!
Mistake #7 –– Ask Your MIL for Professional Advice –– This is a real no-no, because if you try to get her approval, YOU WON’T! If you’re contemplating starting a home-based business, for example, try not never end a sentence with, “What do you think?” as this will give your MIL a wide-open opportunity to declare something like so: “Oh, I would never do that––what a waste of time and money!” Solution: However, if you do try to get her endorsement for the new Pampered Chef Opportunity you’ve been thinking about and she downplays your enthusiasm, simply say, “Wow, you are so right. I hadn’t thought about that side of things before––I’m not going to give this crazy scheme another thought!” Then, buy all her birthday and Christmas gifts with the 40% discount you get from the new business. Even better, wrap up all the stuff you win from your super-starter incentive bonus packages and “re-gift” ‘em to your husband’s relatives at Christmastime!
Mistake #8 –– Expect Your MIL to Share Your Interests –– If you can begin by never expecting your MIL to appreciate the movies, music, books or TV shows you enjoy, you’re way ahead of the game! For instance, while watching a James Bond marathon on TNT during Christmastime, your MIL may distainfully decree, “How can you watch those silly movies over and over again? How incredibly boring. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all!” Solution: Rather than launching into a diatribe about how each film is an epic masterpiece chock full of brilliantly-casted star ensembles and jaw-dropping action scenes (not to mention the drool quotient from Roger Moore to Daniel Craig), simply respond with something to the effect of, “That is just SO true! I can’t tell the difference between Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton, and all the plots are exactly the same!” (Then fluff up your pillow and hide the remote.)
Mistake #9 –– Don’t Save Gifts from Your MIL For At Least a Year –– When your MIL gives you a gift, make sure you display it prominantly in your home, or wear it a lot when you’re visiting. Solution: If it happens not to be quite your cup of tea, don’t make the mistake of getting rid of it prematurely. There is nothing more humiliating than not being able to produce whatever it may be upon inquiry due to over-hasty re-gifting!
Mistake #10 –– Pick out Presents for your MIL –– Don’t take it personally if your MIL doesn’t like the presents you give her. Although you may have thought yourself to be very clever and picked out a something for your MIL that you are sure anyone would have loved (who wouldn’t?!) don’t be surprised if you find out that the yearly Star Magazine subscription that you’ve been renewing in her name for the last several years has been making it’s way over to the hair salon––unread! (How unimaginable is THAT!) Solution: Just transfer the remaining issues over to yourself. The very best way to handle gift giving is to let your husband do the buying. Even if the responsibility of holiday shopping usually ends up on your shoulders, give him the assignment of this one single thing––it’ll be worth your while to make sure he follows through! Every bit of Sally’s philosophy is designed to make a profound and positive improvement in your life, to intensify your level of happiness, help you live far more peacefully with your husband and mother-in-law.
Please visit Sally “The MIL Manager” Shields on the web at The DIL Rules for contest giveaways, free bonus gifts, The DIL Rules newsletter and more!
Sally Shields is an award-winning pianist, composer, speaker, and author. She graduated with honors from the New England Conservatory and was a recipient of the Boston Jazz Society Award. Winner of the 17th annual Great American Jazz Piano Competition, her articles and transcriptions are featured regularly in Piano Today Magazine and her book, Modern Jazz Piano, is the standard theory manual for several music programs, including Princeton University. Her children’s song “It’s Christmastime, Once Again” was a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and her music is currently featured on the ABC TV daytime drama All My Children. When not traveling and performing around the world—most recently with bestselling author and musician James McBride—Sally (a vegetarian) lives in New York City with her husband (not a vegetarian!) and their two children. Note: Although the relationship with her MIL was rocky at the outset, with the implementation of the devices outlined in The Daughter-in-Law Rules, the two now enjoy a special bond—which got even better, interestingly enough—after her MIL found out she was writing this book!