When my daughter was born, a friend shared a comment that stopped me in my tracks. She said: “If you’re only going to have one child, I’m glad you had a girl, because daughters never leave you. Sons do.”
I nodded knowingly, but I didn’t really have a clue what she meant. But as the years have passed, and friends’ sons have married, I now understand.
Sons do leave. As they should. When a son marries, mom is replaced as the #1 woman in that boy’s life. The permanent change in rank can easily lay the foundation for strife…or at least lifelong tension…between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.
From the daughter-in-law’s perspective, it’s easy to feel as though she will never measure up to expectations. A common refrain is: “Would anyone be good enough for that woman’s son?” Whether it’s in her cooking, homemaking, parenting or entertaining skills, it’s easy for a daughter-in-law to feel “less than” her accomplished (and assumed judgmental) mother-in-law.
And most mother-in-laws I know feel as though they are walking on eggshells with a daughter-in-law, never sure of what she can say without being perceived as a two-headed monster. Adding to the concern, the mother-in-law doesn’t want to alienate her son and lose what little contact they now have.
Anyone for talking a stroll through a minefield?
Mother-in-laws…this advice is for you: Make it a priority in 2015 to write an affirming letter to your daughter-in-law. Tell her the things about her that you admire. Encourage her in the ways she loves your son and parents your grandchildren. Let her know that you love her, that you believe in her, and that you are grateful for the unique and wonderful way she is made.
Make your letter sincere. Affirm the qualities you admire and overlook the rest. Let her know that she is unconditionally loved. Tell her that she is more than enough.
You might think your daughter-in-law never wondered about whether you approved of your son’s choice for a bride. In 99.9% of marriages, the daughter-in-law wonders. Don’t assume she feels secure in your love and acceptance. Tell her…in writing!
Recently, a friend used the simple methodology in my workbook to write a letter to her daughter-in-law for her birthday. Here’s what she shared: “I had wanted to let her know how important she is to our family and that I truly love and admire her. Leave Nothing Unsaid made it much less daunting to put my feelings into words.”
Here was her daughter-in-law’s amazing response to the letter: “I’ve only just read your beautiful, gracious and thoughtful letter and I’m so glad I did. Thank you so much. I’ve bragged more than once about what a pleasure (and relief!) it has been to have joined your family. I love you and your husband and brilliant kids and consider myself very fortunate that you are not only wonderful parents (and made the perfect man) and make up a wonderful family, but also that I truly enjoy my time with each of you.”
I can’t guarantee that you’ll get that type of reply after writing to your daughter-in-law. But I can guarantee that your sincere, affirming words can do nothing but strengthen your relationship with your daughter-in-law.
You’ve invested two decades in raising your son. How about investing an hour or two in writing an affirming letter to his wife? That simple, loving act could have a lifelong impact on your relationship.
She’s not just your son’s wife. Let her know that she is also your “daughter-in-love.”