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Judi's avatar

How can I be the best Long distance mother in law?

Asked by Judi (37152 points ) June 29th, 2011 from iPhone

I have 2 son in laws that live near me and that I adore and who love me. Although they think I’m crazy sometimes.
My son recently married his girlfriend (and mother of my grandson.)
They live 1000 miles away.
My son is bi polar, so he does not always present me in the most favorable light. (Although his memory is more favorable now that he lives so far away.)
I know she already has some false assumptions about me, as well as the natural apprehension most daughter in laws have about their mother in laws.
What I really need, are ideas for ways to communicate love, acceptance, confidence and trust that are not sappy or over done.
I really do love her and I think she is doing a great job with my grandson. I know that my son is not the easiest person to be in a relationship with and I want to be a to support her without her worrying about my being judgmental.
Any ideas for things I can do from 1000 miles away that will build trust? I would love to build a loving relationship with her and love her like a daughter.

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12 Answers

poisonedantidote's avatar

longer distance?

soz, could not help my self

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Living 1000 miles away puts you in the top 10 MILs! XD jk
Maybe you could get skype and talk that way.She will see in time,what kind of lady you are just by your actions.No matter what your son says.
I would just be friendly and welcoming,taking an interest in her and her life too,aside from your grandson.
I’m sure it will be a nice thing for everyone:)

KatawaGrey's avatar

While I am not married to my SO, I may have a few insights.

Until recently, she and I did not get along. I’m not sure how much of it was because of my boyfriend I don’t think much, his mother is very odd but what started it was the lovely, useful Christmas she gave me with a sweet card. She gave me a sweatshirt and scarf set. They are not personal gifts, but they are useful and I was touched that she thought of me at all.

Additionally, she invited me to her daughter’s baby shower. I know it’s not feasible to do anything like that, but she gave me an official invitation with both her phone number and her e-mail so that I did not have go through my boyfriend to respond. This showed me that she was thinking of me as a separate person from her son, not just her kid’s girlfriend whom she felt like she had to invite.

I would say call the house when you know your son won’t be home but don’t let on that you knew he wouldn’t be there and talk to her directly. Maybe use what you know about her to strike up a conversation. If you don’t know much about her, and you’re feeling bold, ask her about herself. Say something like, “I think it’s too bad that you and I don’t know each other too well, maybe we can fix that.” If all else fails, talk about your son. He is the one thing about which you both know a lot and you can compare notes. I love talking about my boyfriend with his mom, because we both see completely different but equally important sides of him.

You might even be able to find some handy excuses to talk to her and get to know her yourself. Maybe you are planning a unique gift for your son, so you need her help to complete it. You’re putting together a photo album and you want to know if she has pictures you could use. Maybe your son’s favorite band is playing near them and you want to buy tickets for him, but you need her as a co-conspirator to make sure he has the time off work and if he’s available. She’ll be flattered that you want to include her and you will prove yourself to be an excellent mother to her husband which is really the most important thing.

YARNLADY's avatar

Ask if she wants any of Sonny’s favorite recipes, or maybe prepare a photo album of his life before her.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Do call specifically to talk to her. I would call whenever (not when he’s not at home), so it doesn’t seem fishy, but ask to talk to her and find out more about her. Maybe you can find a tv show you both love, and can Skype and watch it at the same time so that it doesn’t seem like they’re so far away.

Don’t try to verbally correct your son’s views of you, especially if they’re a matter of opinion. If he’s saying you’re allergic to strawberries, and you aren’t, that’s one thing. But if he’s saying you’re inflexible, then that’s just how he perceives you, and even if you disagree, neither one of you is “right”. Plus, she’s his wife first, so any “Well, the bipolar makes him think less of me” will come across as you just trying to skirt responsibility for any mistakes you made as a parent, and as bashing her husband in front of her (probably the opposite of what how you want to come across).

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Aethelflaed: I think call the house when her son isn’t home is a good idea at first because if her son lies about her and has been feeding these lies to his wife, he may not let @Judi speak to her or he may pressure her to hang up right away. His wife also may not feel like she can speak freely to @Judi if he is there making her think Judi’s a terrible MIL.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@KatawaGrey Well, if he has, then she’s probably not going to talk to @Judi when he’s not there either. Calling when he’s there lets both of them know that @Judi respects their relationship, and isn’t calling to do the same thing she’s worried her son does. The DIL has to want a relationship with @Judi. If @Judi wants to be trusted, it will probably help if she doesn’t immediately come off as having no trust in her son or the DIL. Plus, most people don’t have a problem excusing themselves to a different room in order to talk to someone on the phone. But I suppose phone etiquette is on the decline :)

I guess the real question becomes: Do you want the DIL to still have a relationship with the MIL, even if the son is really uncomfortable with it? Even if the new MIL/DIL relationship creates problems in the marriage?

Ellis1919's avatar

Skype, phone calls, care packages, gifts on holidays/birthdays, or just a plain and simple card in the mail just letting them know that you’re thinking of them. Make sure you address everyone, not just her or him or how you’re grandson is doing. A simple card or phone call to her stating your feelings toward her would be a great first step.
“I really do love her and I think she is doing a great job with my grandson. I would love to build a loving relationship with her and love her like a daughter.” -You need to tell her this. Also tell her that you’re happy that they’re together and that you hope you can keep in touch and be a part of their lives even though they are so far away.

Jeruba's avatar

Things I wish my mother-in-law had done:

•  Send or bring special little presents to her grandsons now and then
•  Make an effort to know something about anything at all that I was interested in
•  Spell my name right
•  Not ask whenever I answered the phone (regardless of time of day or night): “Were you sleeping?”
•  Tell me stories (nice stories, affectionate stories) about my husband as a youngster
•  Give me or the boys something that was his when he was a child
•  Invite the boys to do something with her once in a while

Some of these things would work only if you’re close by (she was only 20 miles away), but others could be done from anywhere.

I think she loved her grandsons, but they were pretty much out of sight, out of mind. She and my father-in-law extended their conspicuous and unabashed favoritism toward their other son to the other son’s wife and children, and so we were always in the shadow.

My mother, on the other hand, paid lots of attention to my boys from 3000 miles away, taking the trouble to write them letters and speak to them on the phone, and carefully choosing birthday and Christmas presents that were just right for them, and they felt very warm toward her even though they seldom saw her.

JLeslie's avatar

I like a lot of the suggestions above. Here are some of my favorites:

Call whenever, and if she picks up chit chat before asking to talk with your son.

Tell a cute story about your son when he was young if the opportunity presents itself.

Share with her something about yourself. It does not have to be very personal, but along the lines of girl talk. I know stories my husband doesn’t know about his mother. Well, he knows once I tell him, it isn’t that it is a secret. I love when I can picture my parents or his parents young and doing something funny or whacky. My husband never knew his parents impulsively got married without telling their own parents until after it was done. A week later they had a church wedding at her mother’s insistance. My MIL told me the story smiling and talked about how they were impulsive and young. I asked my husband why he never told me that story, and he said because he had no idea it happened that way. She just told me the story about a year ago! So my husband found out when he was 43. She told it like it was something everyone knew.

Call on her birthday. My mom sends me a check on my birthday, and my husband one on his. But, she has always been a check writer not a gift giver. My MIL always calls me on my birthday.

I am sure it goes without saying to remember your grandson’s birthday, on Christmas, etc.

Maybe mention something new you bought at the grocery store that you think your son would really like. Remember smile while talking on the phone, be happy in your voice that she answered. A good trick is to look in the mirror while talking if you don’t naturally sound up beat.

My MIL shares her recipes with me. I think it started with my husband telling me what recipes were his favorites, and if I would try to male them. So, initially I had approached her.

Hopefully she will be talkative and you will learn quickly things you have in common.

Do you think she would want to facebook friend you? If she hasn’t already? That might give you more insight about her.

Judi's avatar

Thanks for the great ideas. @JLeslie, we were facebook friends, but there was a little family drama between her and one of my daughters and she unfriended all of us. My son has told me that it’s nothing personal and I am choosing to accept that.
I did call her today. My grandson is having GI problems and I encouraged her to trust her instincts. I told her she was a great mom and that it was ok to be an advocate for her son.
She doesn’t talk much. My son can be a bit controlling and she said once that she waits for him to speak because she’s not sure what we want to hear. I resisted the urge to say, “just the truth,” because I know my son and he sometimes needs to keep his stories straight. :-(

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