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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 18-Feb-16 17:11:54

Is ours a better generation of mothers-in-law?

Is today's generation of mothers-in-law more understanding than their predecessors? Author Katie Fforde is convinced of it - and here's why...

Katie Fforde

Is ours a better generation of mothers-in-law?

Posted on: Thu 18-Feb-16 17:11:54


Lead photo

"We remember, only too well, how hard it was for us..."

I think my generation are much better mothers-in-law than the previous generation - far more supportive and less critical.

So why is this? I think the previous generation of women felt it was their duty and entitlement to comment and criticise just because they were older. And we suffered! And not only in-laws. My own mother, although extremely loving, did assume she knew more about child rearing than I did and it was her duty to point out where I was going wrong. Which meant she was the last person I'd turn to if I had a problem with one of the children. My generation of women don't criticise and only give advice if it's asked for.

As I see it, there are several reasons for this change. Firstly, we are so grateful to actually have grandchildren. This no longer happens automatically. Not everyone wants to have children, some people have them much later, and some even have them on the other side of the world. Those of us blessed with local grandchildren feel so lucky to be able to see them regularly that we're not likely to frighten away their parents.

My generation of women don't criticise and only give advice if it's asked for.

Secondly we remember, only too well, how hard it was for us. Our children always had to be clean, tidy, polite and doing really well at school. While my children were often all of those things, it wasn't often at the same time. And never after a long, rather sick-making car journey. When my grandchildren have tantrums, or sudden fits of shyness or don't want to hug me, I am sympathetic, not critical. In other words, children are allowed to behave like children in my house, I will not judge.

Thirdly, I consider that in the in-law relationship I am the adult and therefore it is my job to make the relationship work. Back in the day, we had to do all the conforming, do it by their rules and keep our opinions to ourselves (although I did protest when my mother-in-law wanted to give my two year old daughter an enema because she was suffering from a little travellers' constipation.)

So, as the adult, it's my duty to make people feel comfortable. Criticism of child-rearing is out of the question. It's my job to give young parents confidence so I constantly praise and reassure. Thus, when one of the children are being a little difficult, they only have to manage the situation, not me, and a whole lot of unwanted advice.

I'm sure I'm not the perfect mother-in-law because no one is, but I do try. I'm lucky that my children have chosen delightful partners I adore and who I genuinely trust to choose my care home. My friends feel the same about their sons- and daughters-in-law. We're women, we should work as a team and support each other. You'll never hear from our lips the dreaded, 'you shouldn't let them…' Motherhood is tough enough without barracking from the side-lines.

Katie's new book A Summer at Sea is published by Century and is available now from Amazon.

By Katie Fforde

Twitter: @KatieFforde

grannylyn65 Thu 18-Feb-16 17:17:08

I think todays mil's are more aware of the need to lip zipping, even when one is bursting to offer advice!!

Imperfect27 Thu 18-Feb-16 17:51:19

My MIL was a bit outspoken, but my own mother - also a MIL - was not and had a very good relationship with her DILs.

I do feel that older women in my church expected to have most say and to tell us 'young'uns' what's what - but that still often holds true in life smile.

Most of the grannies I know are still working and have to juggle visiting GCs at weekends. They are alive to the pressures on their young families where the parents have to work - perhaps theirs is the first generation most of them did too.

It might sound a little daft to some, but I remember growing up with the awful MIL caricature portrayed by Les Dawson which fed a popular myth that it was the sons who had problems with their MILs. It took me a long time to realise it was more the case that daughters found their MILs difficult, but I hope there is more sensitivity all round these days.

M0nica Thu 18-Feb-16 22:20:42

I think the blogger has an idealised idea of our parent's experience of having young children.

DH and I were born during WW2. Our mothers were left managing on their own as single mothers for two or three years as their husbands were overseas fighting the war. In addition my mother had her mother and sister living with us as my DGM's house had been destroyed in the bombing.

Neither my DM or my DMiL ever offered me unsolicited advice. I know at times they were unsure about some aspects of our child rearing but they never criticised. Mind you, both of them worked. Another myth, that our mothers were all stay at home mothers. Certainly working when you had under 5s was unusual, but both my DM and DMiL worked as did most of my friend's mothers.

Some of my friends did have carping and critical mothers/Mil's, others had parents or in-laws who were difficult for other reasons but I do not think it was any worse than today. Reading the many threads on GN about grandparents and their difficult relationships with their children rather suggests that nothing much has changed.

Synonymous Fri 19-Feb-16 00:37:54

Don't recognise much from the bloggers writing. Nothing much has changed because people are still people and always will be even though aspirations may change.

As for the blogger and her friends all deciding that they are going into care homes and trusting their children's partners to choose one for them that is something entirely puzzling. hmm shock
I really don't think so! grin

Falconbird Fri 19-Feb-16 07:52:53

I am very much aware of how much things have changed since I was a young mum. The changes between me being a child in the fifties and the lives of my own children growing up in the 70s and 80s wasn't all that different.

It's an entirely different world now with Nursery Schools, Breakfast and After School Clubs and reading schemes, and of course IT.

I've put my hands up and now keep to the sidelines. I always ask the parents for advice because they are the experts now.

I am an older Gran - pushing 70 and the grandchildren are all under 8 so I'm happy to step back and help out in a supportive way.

inishowen Sat 20-Feb-16 09:09:27

I didn't have a mother in law as she had died when my husband was just 17. I try really hard to be a nice mother in law. I always ask for opinions and defer to their knowledge.

trisher Sat 20-Feb-16 10:36:32

I don't think things have changed all that much. My MiL and M both looked a bit worried when I put my babies to sleep on their fronts but after asking was I sure it was safe they held their tongues, just as I did when my DiL announced "baby-led weaning". The idea that we were all subjected to being told how we should do things is entirely a fallacy. There always have been, and always will be, people of all ages who will tell you you aren't doing things properly not necessarily your MIL.

Leticia Sat 20-Feb-16 11:24:50

I don't think that it is any different and it is all down to personality.
In many ways it might be worse as some parents just don't let go and let the child stand on their own two feet.
If you read Mumsnet you tend to read MILs as being a massive problem, mainly because no one bothers to post about good experiences. Her place is generally in the wrong - too much contact and interfering, but too little and selfish. You even get threads such as 'what silly things has your MIL said' as if only mothers of sons say silly things and mothers of daughters don't have that problem!

Leticia Sat 20-Feb-16 11:26:29

I think a lot of men have problems with MIL but we don't hear about it.

Lupatria Sat 20-Feb-16 11:35:55

sor5ry, being pedantic here.
shouldn't that be motherS in law???

Lupatria Sat 20-Feb-16 11:36:41

ooops sorry for the spelling mistake - obviously it's time to have my nails done again
as one of them got the row above!!!

harrysgran Sat 20-Feb-16 15:25:12

I hope so mine was horrendous haha I have my own life and they have theirs whereas my mil thought our lives should have revolved around her one thing in particular that I have never expected is the ritual Sunday lunch I still remember the Sunday's I would of loved to just do nothing as a young mother or go on a family outing but this was always out of the question so I vowed not to force this on my children

Welshwife Sat 20-Feb-16 16:19:01

I had a lovely MIL - she was older and she had two other DiLs and due to distance we usually only saw them in the summer but would stay for a couple of weeks. She allowed me to do anything I wanted but she always decided on meals etc and would send me across to the butcher for the meat. ' just say I want to make----' she would say as I went out the door. The first time I visited - before babies - and in the winter - she had no indoor bathroom - so she boiled all the water for me on the fire - closed the curtains stayed guard at the door (sat on the stairs) while I got in the old tin bath - and she had done me special pot of rainwater for my hair. What was there not to love dearly. She was also very generous with the sherry bottle and we had many a merry afternoon sitting in her kitchen! grin wine wine

HthrEdmndsn Sat 20-Feb-16 17:18:19

Trisher. They were proved right though weren't they. I was told to put my first born face down to sleep, advice second time around was completely different.

thatbags Sat 20-Feb-16 20:12:04

Partners you "adore"!??!

Like, love, admire, respect, all fine.

Adore? Come now, don't be absurd.

trisher Sat 20-Feb-16 20:16:17

Yes HthrEdmndsn but give it another few years and somebody will come up with some research to show sleeping on their front is fine! smile.
Baby led weaning terrified me I was convinced DGD would choke on some of the things she was given. But I managed not to say anything!

AnnieGran Sat 20-Feb-16 20:58:01

Our generation is always right, isn't it? Our daughters in law aren't going to tell us the truth - they will struggle on and keep quiet as we did.

We can really only hope we are better than the previous generation, who, in their time, believed they were doing a good job, and were probably much better than their mothers in law. We will all just try to do our best.

grandMattie Sun 21-Feb-16 13:41:47

"Our DsiL aren't going to tell us the truth"? Hah! Although I love them to bits, I find young people rarely put up with unkind/unasked stuff. THey will tell you as it is! Rather like having a young M-i-L wink

Had very little to do with my own MiL, met DH far from them. I was No2 wife in 70s, not a common situation. She only liked me because i made her precious son happy. She usually made disparaging comments comparing me to [horrible] SiL and her [equally horrible] offspring.

She died not long after we got married, so I really didn't have too a bad time - I was also very foreign, educated, etc., etc. she's had a hard time with her own MiL - she was allowed to marry if she worked to pay for the money to buy her own MiL her gin!!!

As MiL myself - i keep my usual foot as far from my mouth as possible; apologise all the time, and hope that I don't rock any metaphorical boats...

Leticia Sun 21-Feb-16 19:01:48

I think that probably the big difference is that we are more equal with the use of first names - but having said that I called my ILs by their first names and my mother is called by her first name. I can't imagine my DIL calling me anything other than my first name.

annsixty Sun 21-Feb-16 19:42:14

The definition of adore is to love and respect deeply. I expect many people feel this way about their partners and may say so.

M0nica Mon 22-Feb-16 11:39:13

Anniegran I think you are being unduly negative. I loved my MiL to bits, no struggling on and keeping quiet on my side. Might have been on hers, but i never had that impression.

DDil gives me tokens for us to have meals out together, which doesn't suggest struggling on and keeping quiet either, we laugh and giggle together. I tell her frequently what good parents she and DS are, which is true.

Oh, and we are all on first name terms - as I was with my Mil.

AnnieGran Mon 22-Feb-16 13:56:14

Monica - you are probably right, I did sound negative. It is hard not to remember my mother in law as someone whose baby boy I had snatched from under her protective nose.

Looking back, without those old lenses, I do remember a woman who truly loved her grandchildren, who loved her back in return. If she were here now I would not be such a brat but put more effort into getting to know her better. She could have been a good friend.

I have three daughters in law and I try to keep out of trouble with them. I make sure they know they have done a brilliant job with my lovely grandchildren. The girls are sweet and pretty and clever and the boys are as tall as lamp posts and funny and clever. What better job could their Mums have done?

SwimHome Wed 24-Feb-16 12:39:53

Possibly worth mentioning that I had what felt like an awful relationship with my MiL, she always came first with son, which was hard to bear, and I couldn't hear her comments as anything other than criticism. Some years after after he and I divorced she and I got back in touch and became such good friends, and agreed that we had been 'set up' in competition with each other and it caused a lot of pain all round. Does anyone else recognise this situation?

thatbags Wed 24-Feb-16 21:29:57

Yes, about their own partners, annsixty, but in the blog the word was adore was used of the partners of offspring: "my children have chosen partners I adore". The adoring kind of love doesn't seem quite right to me in those circumstances. I think it is a bit of writer's hyperbole and a bit silly at that.