One of the greatest gifts we get in life are relationships. We choose our friends and partners. These connections can bring us a lot of joy. However, we don’t get to choose our in-laws. Chances are you’ve had struggles with an in-law. Maybe your friends have, and you’ve heard about their conflicts or, if you’re like me, you’ve done couples therapy work to help navigate through in-law challenges. Let’s be honest, it can put stress on a marriage.  Matt and I have been together for almost 19 years, and married for 10. Families are not perfect. Conflict is inevitable–it happens. Like the quintessential mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship, for example. I asked my mom friends and Instagram community to open up about their MIL relationships. There were common bothersome occurrences that can be avoided with communication, compassion, and consideration. A therapist friend once said, “If you name it, you tame it.” So perhaps if we talk more openly about it we feel less alone, and can move forward mindfully to resolve issues. I’ve compiled a list of “dos and don’ts” to help recover from MIL missteps. 

RELATED READING :: Goodbye In-laws, Hello Happiness

Before you read further, let’s check in with ourselves. The words “Mother/Daughter-in-law” may be triggering for some. So before you start reacting, I want you to take a moment to pause. Do the following as needed: 

  1. BREATHE. Take several deep breaths in and out.
  2. LET GO. Mindfully release any tension you may feel on the exhale.
  3. BE OPEN. If you’re a MIL reading this and something is stirred within you, let that be an invitation to explore that feeling more without judgement and proceed to listen and read with compassion. You want to be a collaborative grandmother, not a complicated one.

Mother-in-Law DOs and DON’Ts:

Your Daughter-in-law’s Appearance:


  • Tell her she is beautiful and/or share a positive compliment about her appearance.  During pregnancy and early postpartum months there are hormonal changes and sleep deprivation that may make your DIL feel uncomfortable in her body so only say things that uplift her.


  • Comment on weight gain, weight loss, or telling her “you look tired”.  
  • Assume she is pregnant or ask when the next grandchild is coming.

Kid’s Birthdays and Family Events:


  • Ask what your DIL wants or needs for the baby.  
  • Use the registry lists.  
  • Ask how to help with the event or what to bring.  


  • Buy the biggest, brightest, and loudest toy that may not fit with their decor or inside their house. 
  • Bring a dish that she didn’t request. A menu may already be set for the occasion.
  • Invite your friends or other family members without asking.   

Mother’s Day and Other Holidays:


  • Accept that your DIL may want to celebrate a holiday honoring her own family traditions.  
  • Be flexible by celebrating on a different day or part of the day.


  • Assume that this is your day, and your day only. You may be the matriarch of your family, but she is now the matriarch of hers. 

Dissagreements, Conflict, and Opinions: 


  • If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing. Hold back in sharing your opinion especially if it’s something that cannot change or it’s clear that your DIL feels strongly about. If you’re not sure if you’ve done something wrong or you feel like there’s a distance between the both of you, kindly ask her about it.  
  • Listen without interrupting. Hold yourself accountable for your actions. Even if you mean well, it’s possible to be offensive.  
  • A sincere apology goes a long way. It will show your DIL that you are considerate of her feelings.


  • Have a passive aggressive comment. Just because you didn’t outright say it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t said.  
  • Assume you did nothing wrong.  
  • Expect your child or other family members to take your side, and go against your DIL.



  • Respect your daughter-in-law’s parenting style. With the generation gap, there are new studies, research, and resources.  
  • If you’re babysitting (and want to babysit often), follow your DIL guidelines and instructions without hesitation.
  • Give advice, ONLY if she asks you. An overwhelmed parent may simply need your support and not to fix anything.
  • Ask permission to give your grandchild treats, toys, or screen time.  
  • Offer to take a grandparent course or read the parenting resources that your DIL is interested in to keep you up to date with modern parenting. 


  • Compare how you raised your children to her.  
  • Have a negative reaction or response to how your DIL mothers.  
  • Give unsolicited advice –  it may cross a boundary. Just because you did it and it worked, it may not work for her.  
  • Give any food, drinks, toys, screen time, etc. that your DIL does not allow.

Respecting Space and Body Boundaries:  


  • Schedule your visits in advance. Ask how long they want company over.  
  • Accept that your DIL will feel more comfortable with her family after the baby is born.  
  • If you DIL is nursing, she may want privacy.  
  • Ask permission for your grandchildren’s affection, “can I have a hug/kiss?” and accept that they may decline. Build trust by respecting her space so she’s more willing to welcome you in her inner circle of support with open arms.   


  • Come over unannounced or stay for too long.  
  • Assume your grandchildren want to show affection.  
  • Feel entitled to be anywhere or do anything because you’re the grandmother, especially places like the delivery room or spending the night. 

Accept Your Place:


  • Accept that after your child marries, your DIL is the #1 priority. Recognize that this marriage holds precedence over you. If this brings up insecurity in you, reflect on it with professional support. Therapy is cool!


  • Try to compete with your DIL.  
  • Feel threatened.  
  • Think that you have been replaced –  a mother is different than a wife.

Some of this may seem like common sense, but mistakes happen. Without holding ourselves accountable it can leave a bruised relationship. So instead of keeping things awkward, or feeling like you’re on thin ice let’s mend these missteps. This will not happen overnight. This is a practice that will cultivate harmony and ease.

Did this resonate with you? I would love your insight. What are your dos and don’ts?  Please leave a comment below.   

Photo Credit :: Jules Kennedy Photography

Carla Jian Primero
Carla Jian Primero is the founder of Carla Jian Wellness. CJW is a platform and space for women to move, breathe, and to find their calm in their busy lives through mindful self-care practices like yoga, sculpt, and meditation. Carla’s lifework is to be of service to other women, especially those that are coming into a whole new world or stage of motherhood. After years of healing she has found the harmony in the hard times and she is passionate about holding space for other mothers to do the same. Whether it’s teaching a meditation class to let go of anxiety or sharing a candid messy motherhood moment on Instagram, Carla wants to be that reminder to other moms that they are not alone. Carla is an ambivert and a classic Leo. She has been with her husband, Matt (also a Leo!) for about 19 years and have two children, Mason and Bianca. They moved to Austin from Chicago in August 2021. When they’re not exploring their new city, they are having lots of at-home dance parties and movie nights.


  1. I’ve heard or experienced many of the don’ts with my MIL. I would also include, don’t make your own decisions on what shows or movies you think are ok for the grandkids to watch. Don’t make negative or judgemental comments about teammates, no matter how loud or under the breath, while at sports events for their grandkids. Do not give your out of town besties a tour of DILs new home when she has stated she will be gone and is not comfortable with that. Do acknowledge when you’ve been ‘caught’ violating trust or specific boundaries. Do not make side noises when grandkids talk back or have a fit with their parents, it doesn’t help at all to have a peanut gallery in the midst of that parenting stress.

    • Thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry that you’ve experienced all of this. You’re definitely not alone. I hope you and your MIL can come to an understanding and clarity in boundaries.

  2. This is not only a “gentle course” on being a supportive mother-in-law, but these points also justified my own feelings with how my in-laws should treat me and my family. So it makes me feel better that I’m not being too demanding or unrealistic with my boundaries, how I feel about certain actions, behaviors, and comments. So thank you for not only educating the mother-in-law’s out there, but also making us daughter-in-laws feel we aren’t being unreasonable or unrealistic.

    Another takeaway I have is if my daughter decides to have a family of her own, I will keep these close to my heart for her journey as a mother. Thank you for that.

    One thing I will add is don’t ask “why?” we as moms are doing something. We may be winging it, trying something new, or have already tried 64 other things where we are at our wit’s end just trying to do our best.

    Thank you Carla!!! Beautiful writing.

    • Thank you, Michelle! My sister and I have a pact that we will not be “that” MIL. That we will call each other in/out if we get mindless on our behavior to our future in-laws. And AMEN to the “why” – please, just let us mother the way we know how. I appreciate you taking the time to read and write down your thoughts!


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