26 Things Your Mother-in-Law Is Secretly Thinking

Build a better relationship with his mother by remembering these things she'd like to say but won't (you hope!)

It hurts to be downsized


I spent a couple of decades being the leading lady; now I have a character role.

I know he's your husband now


But he’s still my son.

You don't seem very confident about yourself


The littlest comment from me is taken as a criticism, so I’m very careful what I say around you.

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A little gratitude wouldn't hurt


Every year, I send you a birthday present, but you never even pick up the phone to thank me. This year, I said, “That’s it. No more.” Yet look at me: I’m about to send another present. I guess that’s how I am.

I want the best for both of us

iStock/Steve Debenport

We mothers say to our children, “I want you to be happy.” And we mean that. What we don’t say is, “But I would like to be happy too.”

I know a little something

iStock/Drazen Lovric

I’ve bought and sold 13 houses in my life. Why won’t you ask for my advice?

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When I visit you, I'm just coming to see the family


I’m not coming for a "white-glove inspection.”

I've got his number


When I really want to talk to my son privately, I don’t call your house. I call his cell phone.

I'm truly appreciative


I’m so happy that you allow my son—your husband—to visit me on Mother’s Day. It’s a long trip and a big expense.

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I have a dirty little secret


I’m afraid that if I don’t get this right, you’ll cut me off.

I'm in competition with your mother

iStock/Susan Chiang

She takes you on vacations every year and buys things I can’t afford. All I can do is love you and babysit for you. I hope that’s enough and that it’s appreciated.

I'm lucky to have you!

iStock/Dean Mitchell

Whenever I stay at your house, you always have my room ready, my towels, everything. You do all the right things.

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You know me well


I cherish the refrigerator magnet you gave me: “Age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill.”  

You don't have to call me Mom

iStock/Michal Krakowiak

But it would be nice if you did.

I really want to make you happy

iStock/&#169 Giorgio Fochesato

If you hate that green sweater I bought you, please, please tell me.

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Thank you for making my child so happy


If I haven't told you that very much, it's because I'm afraid you'll think I'm sucking up.

I desperately want to ask you:


When are you going to have children?

I so wish I could talk to you about it

iStock/Predrag Vuckovic

Sometimes I watch you making choices that I so fear will lead you to difficulty. But I bite my tongue.

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I'm aware that my time on this earth is growing shorter

iStock/Willie B. Thomas

I want to spend it positively. I don't want to waste it by fighting.

Talk to me


If you think I can't give good advice because I don't have the full picture, well... paint it for me.

I really want to give my grandkids a gift now and then


But you forbid me to do it. That's painful.

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I want us to be closer


The last time I was at your house, you hardly even spoke to me. I can't understand why.

I thought you'd be thrilled to have me as your mother-in-law


I thought that you'd think, Wow, I'm so lucky! It kills me that you don't.

Some mothers-in-law will say anything


I try not to. It's not wanted, appreciated, or believed.

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When I call you on the phone at 8 in the morning on a Saturday...


I hope you're not secretly saying, "Damn. Why is she calling here so early?"

I've actually led a rich, interesting, complicated life


I wish you'd see me that way. I feel a little resentful that suddenly my whole life is seen through the prism of "the mother-in-law." Sources: Susan Abel Lieberman, PhD (The Mother-in-Law’s Manual), Jane Angelich (What’s a Mother [in-Law] to Do?), and anonymous mothers-in-law in four states.

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