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An Open Letter to A Mother-in-Law
from Her Best Friend
Source: Where Health Begins, June 2003. Pg 72
Dear Margaret ,

Today, I saw your son walking down the aisle with his bride. He only had eyes for her and looked so happy. But I can't help wondering how you feel, Margaret - now that a new woman has taken centrestage in his life?

Remember the day he was born, how tenderly you held him in your arms? You pledged him all your love and suppotr. How his eyes adored you-you were the only thing he knew then. Since that day, you have played many roles in his life. You have been an excellent provider, giving him the best you could afford. You've taught him about sacrifice, working tirelessly to attend to his every need even when it meant neglecting your own. You were his teacher, instilling in him values of respect, responsibility and love. You were his best friend, there whenever he needed a shoulder to cry on and someone to believe in him.

Margaret, thinking of everything he means to you, I can understand how difficult it is now to let him go and lead his own life with his wife. Your protective, caring motherly instinct wants to hold on to him. Your feelings are perfectly understandable - he is yout baby, and always will be, even if he is 30 years old and managing people twice his age.

The truth is that it is time to take a back seat. He will need the space and the freedom to make choices together with his wife, the very same things you wished your mother-in-law would let you and your husband do.

Remember your frustation when your mother-in-law insisted on how your wedding should be celebrated and who should attend? Then when you were married, how aghast you were when your husband chose to live near his mother, at her request? I remember you being unhappy about the fact she was always hanging around. You were even afraid she could hear the both of you having sex!

Margaret, do you recall the times you used to grumble about how she pressured you to have a baby soon? Gosh, she even decided on the names for your children. How happy you were to spend the first few days at your mother's home after your baby was born. She let you do whatever, whenever you liked.

In contrast, your mother-in-laws behaved like a prison warden, you said. Bossy, possessive, an insecure control freak! Long after she had passed away, you still used to wake up with cold sweat just dreaming about her.

So, margaret, have you decided what kind of mother-in-law you yourself will be? Don't make the same mistake most mothers-in-law: forgetting that their son's wife is a person with a mind of her own. She too wants to feel valued and have her opinions heard.

Don't forget too that you are not competing with your daughter-in-law for your son's love. No one can take that away. Yes, his attention may be focused on her now but doesn't mean he loves you less. Remember that time when he got his first toy car? he was so captivated he didn't look for you for days.

Margaret, I also understand your eagerness in wanting to guide the young couple. After all, you have the benefit of experience and the wisdom of hingsight. But do resist the temptation to give unsolicited advice.

You may also have certain expectations of him. But please also remember that unmet expectations are disappointments that can turn into resentment with time.

So margaret, it look like we need to reflect on how we can show our love without being too interfering. The best way is to respect the couple and give them the privacy they need. This would definitely be an act of love.

By giving them space, you'll also help him to be more independent, responsible and self-reliant. This in turn will help him to become a good husband and father.

Margaret, i know this process of letting go is difficult but it is necessary, both for you and your son. As your best friend, I wish you every happiness and every success in your new role as a mother-in-law.


Love, Janet

Written by Ganesan Ramasamy, Family and Marriage Counsellor/Educator with Atman Counselling and Training Consultancy.

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