Dear Daughter-In-Law-To-Be, I Promise You This

I have been given many gifts in this life, but none so cherished as the gift of three sons, who made me forever and always a #boymom. I have always known that my children were not mine to keep, and honestly, I don’t want to keep them, not because they are boys, but because all of our children need to grow up and live their own lives.

My heartfelt wish for each of them is to find a partner with whom they can build a life of purpose, love, joy, and companionship. 

My oldest son is soon to be married. We welcomed his partner with arms wide open and quickly got to the point where she was part of the family. If he loves her, then, of course, we do too. And in her case, it’s easy. She just fits.

As the wedding draws near, I wonder how to establish realistic expectations and relieve unrealistic disappointments in what can sometimes be a tricky and often maligned relationship. So, while I can’t promise my daughter-in-law-to-be that on the day she marries my son, she will instantly become my daughter, I have some aspirational promises that I think are attainable.

Here’s what I can promise my daughter-in-law-to-be. (Helene Wingens)

Here is what I can promise my daughter-in-law-to- be

I will not ask her to call me mom. She is welcome to if she’s comfortable with that, but it’s her call, and there will be no pressure from me. None. She has a mother. I get that.

If there comes a time when she is raising children, I will not judge her parenting or say I did it this way or I would never do it that way. I don’t believe there is only one correct way to parent. I had the opportunity to raise my children. She shall have hers.

And if she decides that motherhood is not for her, I will respect that choice.

I am happy to listen to both sides, but I will not become the flashpoint in an argument between her and my son. As a couple, they have to work through their differences. I’m a person with opinions, and if solicited, I will share them, but then it’s up to them to decide what works for them.

I think it’s understood that the bond between a mother and the child she raises cannot be replicated, and that means that I love my son in what is probably an irrational and unreasonable way. However, I realize he is not a paragon of perfection, and I will not behave as though he is.

I will take an interest in her as an independent person and not solely as an extension of my son. 

I will always be in their corner, which is the corner most conducive to their successful relationship.  

I will be generous with my words, my time, and my help but not my criticism. 

I will try to help ease the daily burdens of her life when asked, whether that is picking up dry cleaning, cooking a meal, or just lending an extra hand. I remember all too well how exhausting life can feel as a young woman with a demanding full-time job, a new husband, and maybe someday a family. 

I will listen and listen and listen and try to be thoughtful in my responses. Having an older woman in your life, who loves you and is on your team, can be a true gift. I am no more intelligent than she is, but I have some hard-earned wisdom. If she wants to complain about work, recount her day, or think out loud, I am here for all of it. 

I will try hard to find the balance between mother-in-law, mentor, and friend. 

I hope she knows I am doing my best to find the sweet spot in this relationship that is as new for me as it is for her, but I am confident that together we will figure this out.

My grandmother called her daughter-in-law her “daughter-in-love.” I like that. In fact, I love it.

More Great Reading:

To The Woman Who Will Keep My Son’s Heart Someday

Marriage Advice From a Mom to Her Son and His Bride

About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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