Dating

By Hannah Joseph

It is officially April and that can only mean one thing. Wedding season is upon us. For brides-to-be, April is all about flower arrangements, dinners, seating charts, and of course, the dress. With all the planning and preparation, however, it can become easy for a bride to overlook the one thing that has the power to haunt her for all of her blissfully married days: her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law is like any other family member. She’ll give you unsolicited advice, judge your appearance/behavior/cooking skills, demand visiting hours and expect you to conceive on your honeymoon. She can be annoying, overbearing and exhausting, but you have to play nice. Thankfully, we found a book to help you do just that.

The Daughter-in-Law Rules, 100 Surefire Ways to Manage (and Make Friends with) Your Mother-in-Law! by Sally Shields is a fun little how-to book on your favorite subject, mother-in-law (MIL) management. Shields covers everything from sending your MIL birthday cards to including her in your baby preparations (sans the conception, of course). For convenience purposes, we summarize her rules with three simple steps to success: self-preservation, flattery and reassurance.

Self-Preservation:
Rule no. 27: Do Not Expect Your MIL to Appreciate Vegetarian Food.
When in the presence of a particularly critical MIL, it’s best to conform to her ideals of normality. That means no funny food or eccentric clothing and keep your really personal stuff to yourself. It’s like playing one big game of hide the weird. Weird is ammunition and the best way to win a war is to disarm the enemy. You’ll avoid minor confrontations and save your own feelings. Self-preservation also demands preparation. Prior to a MIL visit, go shopping for whatever items she might need, you might need, the kids might need, extra sugar in case the neighbors drop by … You get the point. Playing the role of the gracious host will definitely earn you major points. You can always lose your mind later.

Flattery:
Rule no. 57: Let your MIL “One-up you” on Things
This one is a no-brainer. Flattery gets you everywhere with the MIL. This step includes compliments to the point of obnoxiousness and a touch of self-degradation. Preferred topics include, but are not limited to: cooking, house décor, child rearing and all things related. Just try to keep a straight face in the process.

Reassurance
Rule no. 1: Call your MIL “Mom”
The Beatles knew what they were talking about when they sang, “All you need is love.” The biggest strain on the DIL-MIL relationship often occurs when the MIL feels like she is not a welcome member of your immediate family. And while I don’t think calling her “mom” is utterly necessary (because there is nothing like a maternal mother’s wrath) you should do your best to show your affection and encourage her active participation in your life. You can accomplish this through weekly conversations, cards, invitations to events and frequent visits, if possible. Also, you’ll want to show her that whatever she’s giving, whether that entails advice or a coffee table lamp, you’re taking. Discarding presents is one of the biggest forms of rejection, so don’t do it – get that ugly coffee table lamp out of storage when she visits! Once the MIL feels secure and loved, it will be easier to establish personal boundaries without causing permanent harm to the relationship.

By following these simple three steps and Shields’100 rules and you should find yourself happily within your mother-in-law’s good graces. Good luck and don’t forget to call your mother!

Originally published April 2009
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