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mother's day

Mother-in-law: love her or hate her?

Mothers are honored and revered on a hallowed day this month. Mothers-in-law are tossed into the celebrations, too, along with grandmothers, step-mothers, god-mothers, aunts, sisters, and other meaningful female elders.

But leave mothers-in-law unto themselves, and the sentiments would more likely be found in the Rodney Dangerfield section of the Hallmark store. Witness these jokes and their intended butts:

I saw six men kicking and punching the mother-in-law. My neighbour said ‘Are you going to help?’ I said ‘No, six should be enough.’ — Les Dawson

Just got back from a pleasure trip: I took my mother-in-law to the airport. — Henny Youngman

My mother-in-law had a pain beneath her left breast. Turned out to be a trick knee. — Phyllis Diller

They say the definition of ambivalence is watching your mother-in-law drive over a cliff in your new Cadillac. — David Mamet


Just like all mothers are not angelic, not all mothers-in-law are demonic. There’s an entire Facebook page devoted to I Love My Mother-in-Law. Some people create video tributes to their mothers-in-law. There are avatars and t-shirts to proclaim one’s love for one’s mother-in-law.

Or take my mother in law, for instance:

  • Lisa always sends me a Mother’s Day card, acknowledgement for my contribution to her son and her grandchildren, as well as her love for me.
  • When she visits, Lisa turns our house into a self-cleaning home. Voila — messes disappear while I’m bathing a child or weeding a garden.
  • Lisa delights in her grandchildren and gives her son and me Date Nights whenever she visits us or we visit her.
  • Lisa raised her son to be curious, hard-working, witty, compassionate and gentlemanly. She taught my husband good manners and thusly he remembers to put the toilet seat down. Most of the time.
  • Lisa adores her son and I do, too. We share that special bond.

But wait. I’ve been using the wrong verb tense.

Three weeks ago after a year-long battle, lung cancer took my mother-in-law’s life. For the first time since my marriage, I am mother-in-law-less. And this is my first Mother’s Day where I am not looking for a card to send to Lisa.

On this day devoted to mothers, I hope Lisa somehow knows how much she blessed my life.

Image: Ambro /

How have you celebrated Mother’s Day, mother-in-law-wise?

Lori Holden
Author: Lori Holden

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  1. I really lucked out with my mother-in-law. Not only is she amazing with my kids but she’s so respectful of my role as a mother and never oversteps her bounds. A real gift, compared to some.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. 🙁

  2. Lori – I am so sorry for your loss. I am very lucky with my mother in-law too. She is a real gift and I am blessed to have her in my life.

  3. Lori, I’m so sorry for your loss. I, too, lucked out in the mother-in-law department (in the in-law department in general). Mine is awesome! In fact, she’s more involved positively in our lives than my own mother. It’s sad, but true.

  4. I adore my mother-in-law, and yours as well. Little-known Lisa trivia: she was my “understudy” Godmother. My “starring” Godmother lived in El Salvador and couldn’t make the christening. Lisa reminded me of that every time I saw her 🙂

  5. Thank you, Amber, Susan and JoAnn. Things are getting easier, thanks to all this blogging — err, processing.

    So glad to know that your MILs defy the comedians’ stereotype.

    Rosemarie! So glad you chimed in. I didn’t know that story. I do, however, remember seeing your mom in Lisa’s wedding photos. I’m so glad we share a love for her.

  6. My mother in law is pretty great too. A few things I’d tweak, but compared to some horror stories – I hit the jackpot!

  7. Aww what a touching story… its the opposite of what I thought this story would be about. This a wondeful and sentimental take on mothers day. Happy Belated Mothers Day

  8. This made me tear up, Lori – I am sorry for your loss. I too love and get along with my mother in law – my husband married his mother-very similar in many ways to his mother. Sounds scary I know but tis true. She is one smart lady and I feel lucky to have two mothers that I can celebrate this Sunday.

  9. So sorry to hear of your loss. Hope this sunday isn’t too hard for you.

  10. Lori, what a lovely tribute to your dear mother-in-law. I am so sorry for your loss. What a great example she was and will continue to be.

    My MIL is a great woman. No complaints. I hope I’ll be a good MIL someday and not one of ~those~.

  11. Beautiful tribute, Lori. I’m also blessed with a great MIL.

  12. Sooo sorry to hear about your loss! Brings tears to my eyes imagining the day when that comes around.

    In my first marriage I was cursed with a monster in law. When I signed the divorce papers, I actually divorced them both – thankfully!

    My marriage now is so much stronger and I was blessed with an amazing Mother in Law. I respect her to no end and of course love her because she too created an amazing man and was a wonderful mother to him and her 6 other children.

  13. Lori I hope you have a beautiful day on Sunday. Maybe you can plant something in honor of your mother in law, so you can have a beautiful reminder of her.

  14. Denise, that is a lovely idea. I was going to do some gardening this weekend anyway, and now I’ll do it with Lisa in mind.

    We may not all have “good” MILs, but we can each one day become one, lol.

    Or not.

  15. Lisa sounds like she was an incredible woman. I’m sorry for your loss.

  16. I’m sorry for your loss Lori. It sounds like you really lucked out when you gained your mother-in-law.

  17. After reading all these lovely letters about daughters in law who love their mothers in law,I feel blessed. It is a pleasure to read the comments of grateful in law children. I am a mother-in-law. I am convinced that most mother-in-law problems are due to our culture’s lack of understanding of true respect. Respect is not just being civil to someone when we know we should, but it is desiring to know the person, acknowledge their contribution to the life of the person one marries and accept that she may have much to offer because of her years of experience. Valuing a mother in law for her years of dedication to caring for and training her child to be the person you married, can go a very long way in building a loving relationship with the mother of your spouse. Keeping track of special days, sending thank you notes for gifts and calling just to chat, can melt the heart of any mother in law. When these things are neglected the mother in law is deeply hurt and feels left out. She may become cold and distant because she feels unwanted, or tolerated. We were raised in a generation that was very careful to be kind and respectful to our elders, it grieves me to see the way the young women are speaking about their mothers in law. They would never speak this way about their own mothers. If we love our spouses we will foster a good relationship between the two families as well as considering the father in law. If the mother in law is hurt, the father in law is also hurt, and so is the son. The daughters in law have a great deal of power over the dynamics of the extended family relationships. She can be sensitive, petty and selfish causing splits in families, or she can work to foster love, kindness and devotion to her husbands family, adding to the happiness of everyone.

  18. Lori,

    This is a great story. I am putting together an anthology of stories about mother-in-law / daughter-in-law relationships. I would love to include this.


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