Gransnet forums

Ask a gran

Come and talk to us (and Mumsnetters) about the MIL/DIL relationship

(83 Posts)
KatGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 02-Jul-14 12:53:24


As lots of you will know, we have a sister site, Mumsnet. And we've been having a think about topics that GNers and MNers have in common, or might be able to share info on in a useful, supportive and hopefully interesting way.

Last month we collaborated with Mumsnet on this thread (and here) about the perimenopause, which we know they really appreciated.

So we thought we'd take a step into a slightly more controversial area (at least according to 1970s comedians): the relationships between daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law - and top tips for how women can work together, inter-generationally, for the benefit of each other and for the DCs/GCs.

If you have a great relationship with your DIL, what advice would you pass on to others for achieving this? What's the one (constructive grin) suggestion you'd make to anyone who finds their DIL or MIL (from experience or now) a bit difficult?

If you could really speak your mind (perhaps you already can), what one thing would you say to your DIL - good, bad or indifferent? What does she already do that's amazingly thoughtful or joy-bringing or quietly constructive? And/or, what's the fly in the ointment?

And if you find your DIL difficult, and your relationship with her has broken down (or is close to doing so), is there anything either of you could do or say to start building bridges? Or are some relationships best left alone?

We should stress we're not trying to foment discord here; studies show that grandparents en masse give up huge amounts of time to help with childcare and/or give financial and emotional support to their children and their partners, and lots of parents know the joy of handing over their precious darlings to the grandparents and running away having a few hours/days off.

And we're not excluding fathers-in-law or sons-in-law, either - as ever, feel free to tell us about those relationships too. But of course the MIL/DIL demographic is likely to emerge strongly from a GN/MN crossover. And we thought it would be interesting to break through the pop culture perception of MIL/DIL relationships and see how you think the land really lies (in a completely unscientific way). Of course, you may even think the whole issue is hugely overstated, and that millions of MILs and DILs all over the country are just quietly getting on with enjoying their relationships and running their lives.

There will be a parallel thread running on Mumsnet about the same issue, and we'll be copying and pasting comments between the two - so if there's something you'd like to ask a community of DILs, now's your chance. And of course do feel free to get yourself a Mumsnet log-in and pop over to say hello.

Aka Wed 02-Jul-14 13:18:00

My son and my DiL have been together for 20 years and married for 13 of those. They have two young children that I look after on a regular basis.

I've never argued with her about anything. I'm a firm believer in keeping my mouth firmly shut unless I have something positive to say to or about her.

Elegran Wed 02-Jul-14 13:24:38

My DiL is the third daughter I would have had if I could have had my way and had three sons and three daughters, instead of the one son and two daughters that I was blessed with. She has blended into the family while keeping her own faith and traditions, and she is exactly the right girl for my only son. She goes to her parents for their festivals and observances, but she has made Christmas dinner for ten, although Christianity is the antithesis of her beliefs.

My two son-in-laws are as different as chalk and cheese, but they each suit the daughter they married, and my relationships with them are excellent.

Of course, they all come from families with different life patterns to ours, but each couple has amalgamated their upbringings to make what fits their lifestyle, not mine.

I think that I expected to get on with them all, because I got on well with my own inlaws, and my parents got on well with both their sets of inlaws.They know I like to see them, to see my grandchildren, and to join them sometimes for school events, to be at my grandson's Uni concerts or my younger grandchildren's sports days. I see someone most weekends, and speak on the phone to others.

But I do not expect to be consulted about everything they do, or to have them constantly dancing attendance on me, or to be included in every moment of their lives. One of my grandmothers was a "difficult" woman (orphaned at 11 so she made a lot of demands on her family) Even as a child, I noticed that when we visited her, her first words were often "Well, I've seen nothing of you for three weeks!" I made up my mind never to say anything of that sort to my family when I had one.

I brought them up to be responsible adults and then set them free to live their own lives. I am happy and flattered that those lives include me.

KatGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 02-Jul-14 13:38:35

Over on the Mumsnet thread these posters have said...


"My relationship with MIL isn't bad, I just don't really have one tbh. I'm certainly just the person who is married to her son - she'd never text or phone me. But then she doesn't contact dh either. They go on holiday from Easter to mid July, and in that time they have phoned once and made a couple of fb comments. The phone call was for ds's birthday.

I'd like the PIL to take interest in their son, and grandsons life. We strongly get the feeling that they've been there, done that as dh's brothers are much older and had their children younger and the contrast is marked. They had the other GC to stay, babysat, went to school plays etc. Ds has been with them on his own for about 16 hours in his life - he's 8, and that took a lot of dh badgering them.

I'd like PIL who were genuinely interested in our lives, and who made the effort to know us and ds. Even if they didn't want to have him on his own, the odd offer of 'we saw x in the paper, fancy a day out' would be lovely"


"I have a lovely MIL. She is a good friend and I would miss her terribly of I didn't have her in my life. She rings me just to see how I am. She always brings me into the kitchen for a little treat (like a baileys or something)

She is very grateful for us visiting. As mil is elderly, we don't have practical support from her but that's ok with me. The way I see it, she's done her time of minding others.

One thing that works is we don't live on each others doorstep. I wouldn't like a mil who commented on the fact I batch cook so take a break from cooking, or knew how much I spent on things. Mil isn't nosey and is intuitive so she doesn't pry but I know she is there if I need her.

She often tells me how lucky she is to have m in her life too."


"I'm really lucky - my MIL is lovely and really kind. She adores her son and has really welcomed me into the family. She does have rose tinted specs where he's concerned ("Oh no, your DH didn't have a single tantrum when he was a child, not one...") but she's got a massive heart and she's always been really considerate about respecting boundaries, to the extent that I wish she wouldn't so much!

We both love her son / my DH more than life itself and I know that she's going to be a wonderful grandmother. I think it's mainly about finding something in common with them and trying not to be hostile or feel that they're intruding into your life. My DH was her son first, so I don't think it's odd that she still wants a relationship with him. I'm just glad she includes me.

PS: I also make a real effort with her - I'm going to be a MIL one day and I hope my DIL does the same! It takes just a couple of minutes to hav ea quick chat on the phone or send a funny text but the rewards come back threefold. Families should see each other as support and friends rather than intruders."


"I think that a lot of MIL-issues in reality are DH-issues in disguise. If DH's are clear on priorities and boundaries a lot of MIL-issues would be nipped in the bud and only amount to small episodes to laugh at."


"I'm fortunate enough to have two terrific DILs. For my part, the fact that they are the chosen life partners of my children makes them VIPs in my life. I believe that taking a genuine (non-nosey) interest in them as people is an important part of developing a good relationship - talking to them about their friends and family, likes and dislikes and comparing notes. In this way we get to understand each others' values and standards, which is very useful when grandchildren come along.

I'm not sure whether my experience is down to me being a stupendously wise, sensitive and insightful person or to the DILs being remarkably tolerant, welcoming and humorous women ... perhaps a little of both! smile"


"I have a fab MIL, whom I love dearly. She is v kind, supportive, non-judgemental and funny. She's put up with a lot in her time mostly her twat of an ex-H and still does things like drive 150+ miles to babysit DD overnight every eight weeks or so, letting DH and I have a night out together.

I try to let her know how much I appreciate her, I contact her outside of her relationship with DH (badly worded, but you know what I mean), and I always get her one extra, special DIL to MIL pressie at Christmas and birthday usually a saucy book and posh chocs.

She's always been lovely to me, from the first time I met her, and frequently tells me how pleased she is to have a daughter at last. I proper luffs her! smile"


"My MIL died a few weeks ago and I've realised that I had no relationship with her at all.

She had fixed ideas of the type of person she wanted her DS to marry and I didn't fit them. She tried to stir trouble between us as soon as she knew I didn't fit her ideal and did her level best to make sure our wedding was as difficult and awkward as possible.

She never got over it and, about ten years down the line, I am ashamed to say I gave up making an effort. I organised the family visits a few times a year because DH would never have made them happen by himself and I insisted we invited her to join us for Christmas (enormous mistake) the year after FIL died. That is it.

I feel rather sad that I have absolutely no feelings of grief, only relief that I no longer have to arrange the visits and help her with paperwork, bills,etc. I sorted all her affairs after her death on my DH's behalf and felt a total fraud every time someone on the other end of the phone offered their condolences. It brought it home to me that others have something I didn't.

I am determined that I will never make my future SILs feel this way. I hoe I'm successful because I never want anyone to feel this way about me and I desperately want to be a part of my DC's lives and their DC's lives too.

Time will tell."

annodomini Wed 02-Jul-14 14:25:22

I knew both my sons' partners before they finally settled down to home life together and I always got on very well with them. In fact, we were and still are good friends, despite the obvious age gap. Both of them are busy working mothers and I do wish I lived close enough to have been a helpful granny. Still, they do say that 'distance lends enchantment'! I go on holiday with DS1 and family in their caravan and have never felt like excess baggage. DS2's partner and I have a lot in common and speak the same language - I'm SW Scottish and she's Northern Irish!
Best advice I can give to any prospective MiL is: NEVER give unsolicited advice!

Tegan Wed 02-Jul-14 15:00:02

Think I must be the odd one out here because I'm always there when needed, never interfere in their relationships with each other or the children and keep quiet 99.9% of the time. Yet I always feel as if I'm treading on eggshells. Could it be that there is the extra complication of not being with their father [he left] and being with a partner who also doesn't get involved other than to help out sad? Sometimes I'm scared that any grievances will just burst out of me one day if I drop my guard.

grannyactivist Wed 02-Jul-14 16:34:52

I adore my parents in law and count my mother in law as one of my closest friends; and I know that she regards me in the same way. It could all have gone pear shaped though because her son is ten years younger than me and we married when I was a divorcee with three children.

After meeting me for the first time (I joined them on a family holiday where I was accompanied by just my youngest child) I could tell that his parents liked me, but they were patently worried that the relationship was obviously a serious one and they certainly wouldn't have chosen me as their son's wife. His mother wrote to me after the holiday and expressed her reservations - and to be truthful I shared them all, but I believed that her son was an exceptional person and between us we could make the relationship work. His dad had a heart to heart talk with his son a few months later and promised him that we would have his (and his wife's) support if it was decided that I was 'the one'.

Fast forward and we have now been extremely happily married for almost 28 years. My husband's parents made a conscious decision to take me and my children to their hearts and have never wavered in giving us love and support. For my part I took time to develop the relationship at a pace we were all comfortable with and was determined to demonstrate that I am the 'right' wife for their son. (It wasn't hard - he really is my 'other half'.)

I can, and do, talk to my mother in law about anything, we're very close. My father in law is a very special man too and he and I also have a wonderful relationship.

I have two sons in law and one daughter in law. I love them all and hope to have the same relationship with my daughter in law as I have with my mother in law - so far, so good. She's my son's best friend and as they've known each other since they were seven years old and were best friends from the age of fourteen I think our relationship is on solid ground. My husband has good relationships with our sons in law (me too) and hopefully they will continue to develop over time.

ninathenana Wed 02-Jul-14 16:41:56

My MiL died when I was 6mths pregnant with her first GC. I didn't have a relationship with her. Until we were engaged DH lived 50miles away from me so we spent alternate weekends at his or my parents houses. He then moved to my area, so we only saw my PiL 2-3 times a year. Consequently I didn't see enough of her to get to know her. Although she was always pleasant to my face grin.

My only son isn't married. DD relationship with her MiL is best described as 'strained' smile

ninny Wed 02-Jul-14 16:51:09

I love my DIL and treat her like a daughter and she calls me Mum.

mcem Wed 02-Jul-14 17:38:22

Dd1 has had a couple of disastrous relationships and I didn't see either of them as a son in law. She's now with someone who looks promising so we'll see! DS won't take much longer to give me a lovely DiL, I suspect.
The really exciting bit is that I'll get my first official DiL in 2 weeks time when my daughter and her fiancee celebrate their civil partnership. She lost her mum a couple of years ago so I do feel an extra responsibility. I'll love and support both of my girls but am well aware that I can't take the place of her mother.
They are at the nervous and twitchy stage right now but all will be well.

HollyDaze Wed 02-Jul-14 17:39:56

I can't stand my DIL - I have tried on 3 separate occasions to get on with her but she always slips back into her old, selfish, self-centred, disrespectful ways. My son is aware that she behaves this way but seems to think that I should put up with it; I disagree. She ignores me and I ignore her and it seems to work fine for us.

mcem Wed 02-Jul-14 17:41:02

Oops sorry - not clear that it's Dd2 that gets married this month! Dd1 will be in attendance with new man!

whenim64 Wed 02-Jul-14 17:47:00

I have two great DiLs now - both couples are engaged and one will marry in a few months. I think we're doing ok - I get to socialise with DiLs independently of my sons. One is very funny, open and able to engage in banter, but struggles to ask for help and even when I offer will say 'oh no, you do enough.' Then my son will ask and she can let herself accept help - maybe over time, she'll be able to ease up - she is very busy and insists on doing massive amounts of housework, ironing several baskets worth including my son's, who is well able to do his own, washing dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher. I'm really happy that my son has met her - his ex-wife was a complete nightmare and caused terrible trouble, and DiL's ex was irresponsible and uncaring, so they both really appreciate what they have now, as do I.

My other DIL is lovely - quiet and reserved, obviously cares deeply for my son, and is a kind, thoughtful person. She is gradually easing into our family and learning that she can lean on me if she wants or needs to. We have much in common and I feel confident that as we spend longer with each other we'll have a good relationship. I feel lucky. smile

rosesarered Wed 02-Jul-14 17:52:32

I get on very well with my DIL, and try not to offer advice [though sometimes it just pops out.]She is a very capable woman and gets on with things. Haven't done much babysitting yet , just the odd time, but she and DS know we are here if they need us. She is good with children, and a good cook [and bakes] so am pleased our Ds has found somebody not only to love, but is looked after [and he is a great husband and Father too.]

MiceElf Wed 02-Jul-14 18:22:06

I love my DiL to bits. She's a lovely woman, and a brilliant mother. She's a wonderful conversationalist and is very open and very caring. She's been the best thing that ever happened to our son. We do a lot of grandparent duty and it's been lovely getting to know our grandchildren so well.

Our SiL is lovely too - he's our son's closest friend and DD and he met at DS's wedding where he was best man and she was bridesmaid. Very Mills and Boon!

annodomini Wed 02-Jul-14 19:11:35

Isn't it good to hear so many tributes (apart from one obvious exception) to lovely DiLs? Usually we only hear about them if there is a complaint!

KatGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 02-Jul-14 21:00:29

Over on Mumsnet, Mrsantithetic has said:

"Mine is awesome. She has raised a very loving and fair son who is a marvellous partner and dad. His annoying traits are so obviously his father it's even funnier because we can compare notes and eye rolls!

She has been my go to person for advice for dd and is completely and utterly supportive in everything we do. I love her to bits.

If I had to pick a fault I would say she can be a bit of a martyr. She still runs herself into the ground cooking Sunday lunch for 14 every week, running after dp younger siblings who are late 20s when her age snd health says she should be taking it easy.

Ds is coming along any day and if I can be half the mum she is I'll consider that a job well done."

HollyDaze Wed 02-Jul-14 22:07:23

(apart from one obvious exception)

Who would that be

Tegan Wed 02-Jul-14 22:16:25

There's me as well Holly sad.

HollyDaze Wed 02-Jul-14 22:20:46

Sorry Tegan, I'm not aware of your situation. I do commiserate though if you don't get along with your daughter-in-law, I know how that can feel. As they say in law: if you can come forward 'with clean hands', at least your conscience is clear. We can't get on with everyone smile

Tegan Wed 02-Jul-14 22:28:26

It's not a DIL but sons, daughters, SIL's etc in general sad.

HollyDaze Wed 02-Jul-14 22:31:15

You don't get on with any of them?

Tegan Wed 02-Jul-14 22:37:45

Yes I do [I think] but there are undercurrents that eat away at me sometimes.

HollyDaze Wed 02-Jul-14 22:40:16

Anything specific or is it just 'feelings' that you have?

Tegan Wed 02-Jul-14 22:51:38

It's all related to one incident that happened a few years ago that has never really resolved itself but I can't talk about it [nothing sinister!].