"Thank Goodness I Don't Have a Daughter-in-Law"

Columnist Lisa Carpenter explains why having three daughters is a whole lot easier than having one daughter-in-law.

By Lisa Carpenter

Beneath the gentle exterior of many a grandma flows a subtle undercurrent of competition. It’s difficult to resist the nagging desire to be like uber-crafty and clever grandmas. And—as is the case for many long-distance grandmas, such as myself—we often envy the more wealthy, traveled grandmothers their regular visits to see their grandbabies.

I do admit to playing a bit of Keeping Up With The (Grandma) Joneses, myself. Yet there’s one thing many fellow grandmothers have that I genuinely don’t wish for myself, and that’s a daughter-in-law.

Daughter-in-Law Difficulties

I don’t have a daughter-in-law. I don’t want a daughter-in-law. I never have and surely never will. The relationship between a mother and her daughter-in-law is, for many, far too fraught with trials and tribulations, especially when grandchildren are part of the package. And that’s a package—more like a Pandora’s Box—I’m not particularly interested in opening.

I’ve heard too many tales of woe from friends on the multiple hoops they jump through, eggshells they walk on and fine lines they must consider when it comes to their relationships with their daughters-in-law. One friend can’t call her son’s house in the mornings for fear her DIL will object to her “intrusions” so early in the day. Another isn’t allowed to watch movies with her grandchildren, because the DIL—mother to the children—doesn’t like the little ones “sitting around doing nothing.” Even sharing recipes is out of the question for one of my friends, for her DIL takes offense to the (imagined) inference that the she isn’t a good enough cook on her own.

Now, I am a daughter-in-law, and I love my mother-in-law dearly. And I do concede that many women share delightfully warm and wonderful connections with their daughters-in-law. That’s not always the case, though, as the interactions of my friends and their DILs confirm. And considering my overprotective, super-possessive mama-bear instincts, I have no doubt there’d be trouble for all involved if I had to accept another woman taking top spot in my son’s life.

Thank God I don’t have sons, right?

The Difference Between Daughters and DILs

I do have daughters, though. Three of them. And there are so many things I do with those daughters of mine that I can’t see myself doing with daughters that are mine only by law. 

For instance, I can yell and scream and cry at (and with) my daughters. They’ll be mad for a day or two, then we hug and make up. A DIL surely would not be so forgiving. Sharing family stories? Well, there are some extended family stories my daughters know and accept that a DIL would never understand, much less accept – if I had the nerve to share those stories with her, which I wouldn’t. And as watching movies together is our “thing,” if, like my friend, I had a DIL who didn’t approve of the sitting-around-doing-nothing-ness of enjoying a film as a family, well, then that’s no in-law I want sitting around with my family and me anyway.

Why I Love My Son-in-Law

Of my three daughters, one is married. Which means I have a son-in-law. He likes movies, and I like having him in our family. I like him for far more reasons than because of his affinity for films, though. Bottom line is that he’s an excellent partner in parenting, and an excellent partner in life for my daughter. On those two things alone, I accept him wholly into our family, accept him as a son, with no “in-law” label required.

Perhaps it would be the same with a daughter-in-law, if I were to have a son. Not likely, though—due, admittedly, to my own shortcomings and small heart. A son is something I don’t have. Daughters I have in spades. Considering the drama that comes with girls, multiplied by the drama that would accompany a DIL, wonderful or not, who claimed top spot in my hypothetical son’s life, I can’t see myself fitting another daughter of any degree into my life.

Thank God I’ll never have to find out.

Lisa Carpenter is a mother, grandmother and writer of the blog Grandma's Briefs. You can read more of her musings at Grandmasbriefs.com



This article is one view of the MIL/DIL relationship. The reality varies as can be seen in poster comments. In my own life, i have a MIL with serious personal problems including mental health problems. Yet I can see her holding these views, like "OMG my DIL is so controlling, overreactive etc." without ever disclosing or acknowledging her major personal issues (we're talking Jerry Springer, dr Phil type of problems) that negatively effect the family.

There is always another side to the criticism of DILs.

catarinakidd@gmail.com on 2015-03-14 18:27:44

Wow, this article makes me incredibly sad. I'm a DIL who would really love to have a close and happy relationship with my MIL. I would like to watch movies with her or share stories and such -- to feel like a real daughter, not an in-law. My MIL is a sweet woman in many ways and has had many troubles in her life, but I have never felt that we were truly close. To be honest, I just get really confused most of the time. She seems to want to be close emotionally (she is often emotional and upset around me pretty freely), but she also seems to get upset when we (husband and I) don't do what she wants (I mean simple things, not dangerous things). She doesn't fuss at me, but she does get openly upset and angry with my husband, and I just can't stand to watch her do that to him or his sister or father. I try to be polite and respectful and not hurt her feelings -- I was raised to respect my elders, and I do respect her. But often times I don't know what to do when she tells me, sometimes taking up our entire two or three day visit with it, about her problems and anger with FIL (they are not on great terms). This makes my husband and SIL so uncomfortable. I listen and try to offer encouragement, to take the pressure off of them so they don't have to hear these things about their parents. I think maybe she just needs someone to talk to, but it never seems to get better.

A few times I have genuinely become angry with her, which I hate. It only happens because I feel that she pushes so hard sometimes and won't take "no" for an answer. It makes me feel really uncomfortable. I'm not a naturally aggressive person, but I'm not a doormat either, I think. We are having our first baby (the first grandbaby for all four grandparents), and I'm worried that our relationship will become even more strained. I want to bring up the dreaded B word (boundaries) -- I'll be the first to admit, my mom could use some too! --, but I don't want to hurt her or my husband's relationship with her, which I do think is important. I don't even know how to begin to go about broaching the subject of asking her not to smoke in the house around our baby -- I know it's hard for husband because he feels he turned out fine, but I was raised in a smoke-free, alcohol-free house and really don't feel that it's good for babies to be around it.

Sorry for the long ramble. All that to say:

I don't doubt there are many DILs who are controlling and mean (where do you think all the angry future MILs eventually come from!? haha), but there are more of us, I think, who would like to have treasured relationships with MILs. Sometimes it's difficult to know how, especially if MIL seems not very welcoming.

waterpigglet@gmail.com on 2014-09-07 18:44:54

I fully agree with Dotti Twosees (below) and her comments about having a wonderful DIL and SIL, and the absolutely questionable Ms. Carpenter and her very self-centered approach to DIL's. We have a lovely DIL and I mentally congratulate our son in finding and marrying such a grand young lady. They have been married almost 15 years and we (my husband and I) have never had any disagreements, etc. with her............ever. Our SIL was a little difficult when their first baby was born, he being very strongly against my joy in having a grandchild (after 14 years of my very patient waiting). However, over the years he has softened and is now the SIL we always wanted. So, I think Ms. Carpenter's own self-centered attitude would make the life of any DIL a living H--- so it's better that there is none.

Narg on 2014-05-28 15:40:18

i thought my dil and i had a teriffic relationship. till granddaughter, who i love beyond words. but at 10 mos i gave her some of my muffin because she didnt like what she had for breakfast. omg, i put her life in such jeopardy. she is now 2. she got away from grandpa recently and got in the street. omg. she didnt get hurt ,but grandpa cant be trusted and on and on. oh she and i liked to watch beyounce video "put a ring on it" a no no. when they set those rules we do follow them, but i have to remember not to make a big deal out of it.

sharrein49 on 2014-04-06 00:32:19

Compatibility Horoscope

How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?

Find out here.