When You Become a Mother-in-law Do You Gain or Lose?

By on September 10, 2014
an empty nest

By Rhonda Caudell RN, CCM, CGCM –

The time of year when kids are finishing their summer and are looking forward to starting back to school for another year, or NOT, always reminds me how Moms are another year closer to it being the last year to send their kids off to school. The last year of high school for my one and only child, a son, was especially memorable for me.

As my husband and I parented our son through the different stages a child goes through usually identified by elementary school years, middle school years, and high school years, we were either intentional or at times unaware about teaching him to be independent and responsible for his own decisions and actions. Early in his childhood he learned the difference between right and wrong and he could not pit Mom against Dad or vice versa, but that we operated as a family with the greatest of love and respect for each other.

fall scents for your home

This final year of high school really grabbed my attention because I knew he was going away, out of town that is, to college for four years. And just as I knew this as truth, I also knew he would never live at home again as our kid. After all that is how we spent 18 years raising him, to be independent and responsible, a definite bitter sweet reality moment.

All of these realizations caused me to consider what the next stage of life for my son would look like. My intuition again kicked in and I knew he would one day marry the love of his life and have kids of his own. I then began to think of all the mother-in-laws I personally knew. A mental list began to form of “good” and “not so good” traits I had seen in these different women I knew. I know no one is “good” at everything all the time so this mental session was not a judgment, only a determination of what makes a mother a good mother-in-law. As I tend toward perfectionism, which I have to battle every day, I wanted to at least be the best mother-in-law I could possibly be and one that my son and future daughter-in-law would love and want to be around. Most of all I did not want to be a source of conflict, pressure, or discouragement in their marriage.

I pursued a quest looking for a perfect example of a mother-in-law. The only perfect person I knew was Jesus, so I searched the stories and truths in the Bible, prayed for examples and answers, sought wise counsel from older women, and anything else that would help me in my journey. I did not just want a list of what not to do, but I wanted to know what to do.

That journey of mine can be summed up like this: “Unconditional love and respect for a couple who are my closest, dearest friends.” What I had to come to realize is, my son is no longer my child, but a man who now belongs to his wife. Thankfully due to the grace of God (and some good parenting!) my son no longer needs a parent and is totally and fully devoted to his wife.

During that college experience my son did meet the love of his life that was one year younger. After his graduation, he began a one year commitment at a job in Asia! What was he thinking?! Miraculously for me, my future DIL had one year left of college and lived much closer to me than she did her own parents. Therefore she spent a lot of time at our home during that last year. It was her get away from school when she needed it and allowed us to get to know one another as girl-friends. My love and respect for her grew tremendously that year. My husband and I teasingly would tell our friends we liked her better than our son.

Ultimately the engagement was official and the wedding date was set. I was about to officially be a Mother-in-law. By this time, I knew what I would do and I looked forward to all the days ahead.

I sent my future DIL a letter to confirm the relationship we had begun to build. The letter confirmed my unconditional love for her, my strong desire to be supportive, available for whatever counsel she may wish from me and continual prayer on her behalf. I committed to do everything possible to add strength, enjoyment, and hope to her marriage. And that I would be careful to respect her privacy, her right to make her own home, to her personal tastes, choices, and decisions. I assured her that I believed in her and had full confidence that she would do what was best for her marriage and her home.

I also cautioned her that there would be dark days mixed with the bright days, but instead of viewing them as the enemy to try to view them as carriers of wisdom designed to add maturity and depth to her character.

Rhonda Caudell familyNow, as my dearest friends celebrate their 11 years of marriage and send their first born son to first grade, their four year old son to pre-school, and their one year old son to follow sooner than they think, I am thankful and blessed to have one of the best relationships one could ever asked for. As I have concentrated on my commitment to them, my love and respect for them, and my prayers for them as a family, it seems the “not so good MIL traits” don’t rear their heads.


Rhonda Caudell RN, CCM, CGCM founded Endless Legacy after years of family care giving and serving families as a nurse geriatric care manager. You can reach her at http://www.EndlessLegacy.com or Rhonda@EndlessLeagacy.com.

About Rhonda Caudell

Rhonda Caudell founded Endless Legacy after years of family care giving and serving families as a nurse geriatric care manager. Her life journey brought her to her passion of improving family relationships and communication through elderly parent care coaching. Showing families how to create a long term care process and plan that their kids and the generations to come will want to repeat is her expertise. She works with families throughout the United States. You can reach her at http://www.EndlessLegacy.com or Rhonda@EndlessLeagacy.com.

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When You Become a Mother-in-law Do You Gain or Lose?