The Mother-in-Law Battles: How Does She Really Feel?

Mother-in-Law© Hemera/Thinkstock

There are millions of mother-in-law jokes around, but how do these supposedly terrifying figures feel about their daughters-in-law? Actually, according to a survey of 1,868 mothers-in-laws and 2,000 daughters-in-laws, conducted jointly by, the largest site for baby-boomer women, and, an online magazine for women, they seem to like them.

Among the mothers-in-law who answered the survey, more than 60 percent see their son’s wife as either a daughter, a friend or the right woman for their son. Just 10 percent see her as the enemy. On the other hand, when asked if they actually like their daughter-in-law, the numbers change a bit. Over 50 percent said they like their daughter-in-law, but another 45 percent think that she’s just OK, dislike her some of the time, or don’t like her at all.

And daughters-in-law had some negative views of their mother-in-law. A total of 23.9 percent considered their mother-in-law as a “frenemy,” with 12.9 percent seeing her as an outright enemy.

What’s causing the friction?
Most of the time, it seems to be unsolicited advice. Almost 60 percent admit they give their daughters-in-law advice, without being asked, about a variety of subjects. One mother-in-law said, “I give advice on money, kids, jobs, vacations, cars, towel colors, Christmas presents, housekeeping, food, what TV shows to watch, when they need to mow the yard, wash their cars, cut their hair, etc.”

Some do deserve the term “Monsters-In-Law.” One admitted, “I am a controlling bitch.”

Still, when the relationship is good, daughters-in-law praise the mothers-in-law for being “an awesome grandma,” “an elderly girlfriend,” “a very wise, wonderful woman” and because “she defends me when her son is being a jerk.” One commented, “I hit the mother-in-law jackpot. Truly, I love my mother-in-law very much.”

And mothers-in-law frequently praise their daughters-in-laws as well for being “a great mother” and sometimes for being “my best friend.” A few try to keep a sense of humor about this complex relationship. As one mother-in-law cheerfully commented, “I am the world’s worst mother, parent, grandparent, and have done everything possible to destroy their marriage. Can’t see how they lasted 28 years.”

Here are the survey’s specific questions and answers:

Do you consider your daughter-in-law to be like:

  • 38.8% A daughter
  • 28.3% An in-law
  • 23.4% A friend
  • 9.8% An enemy

Does your daughter-in-law ask for advice and follow it?

  • 55% Sometimes
  • 41.4% Never
  • 3.6% Always

Do you offer unsolicited advice?

  • 50.4% Sometimes
  • 42.6% Never
  • 7% Always

Since their marriage has your relationship with your son changed?

  • 57.4% it’s about the same
  • 22.3% it’s gotten worse
  • 20.3% It’s gotten better

Since their marriage has your relationship with your daughter-in-law changed?

  • 46.9% It’s about the same
  • 33.5% It’s gotten better
  • 19.6% It’s gotten worse

Has your daughter-in-law ever…(answer all that apply)

  • 51.4% Asked you to take care of the grandchildren
  • 40.5% Praised you to your son
  • 30.9% Criticized you to your son
  • 17.9% Kept you apart from the grandchildren
  • 16% Asked you for money
  • 14.7% Criticized the way you brought up your

Do you spend holidays with your son and daughter-in-law?

  • 28.2% We trade off with the other grandparents
  • 27.9% Yes, at my house
  • 18.3% Yes, at their house
  • 12.8% No, she wants to be with her family
  • 12.8% No, it just isn’t possible

Do you like your daughter-in-law?

  • 53.9% Very much
  • 23.7% She’s OK
  • 13.3% Sometimes
  • 9.1% Don’t like her at all

Do you think she is the right wife for your son?

  • 60.6% Yes
  • 19.5% No
  • 19.9% Don’t know

What is your biggest criticism of your daughter-in-law?

  • 44.7% She’s great, I have no criticism
  • 15.7% She bosses my son around too much
  • 11.5% She has tried to keep my son away from me
  • 10.8% She is a bad housekeeper
  • 5.4% She keeps the grandchildren away from me
  • 9.5% She spends too much money
  • 2.5% She is a bad mother

How close do you live to your son and daughter-in-law?

  • 50.6% Very close
  • 19.2% 500 + away
  • 15.6% 50-100 miles away
  • 13.6% 100-500 miles away

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2 thoughts on “The Mother-in-Law Battles: How Does She Really Feel?

  1. You need to do a survey here online. According to those who I speak with and some other women on line, those numbers are off a bit. 10-23-14

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