The Chat: Laying down the (in-) law

JEN: I know this is going to sound crazy of me, but I'm already worried about being a mother-in-law. I get that I'm being neurotic. My kids are 11 and 14, and this is not going to be an issue for quite a few years. But I have boys, and you know what that means.

TRACY: What?

JOY: It means you get to have daughter-in-laws! I love my DILs!

JEN: It means that if they get married, they're going to spend all their holidays at their wives' parents' houses.

TRACY: Oh boy, Jen.


JEN: I know how this makes me sound, but it's what happens! It is. Ask around.

JOY: I don't agree with that. We share holidays between all our in-law families, or sometimes we actually celebrate with them.

TRACY: But there are some families that have a very hard time with this.

JOY: That's true. It's not easy for everyone.

JEN: It does look easy for you, though, Joy. Apparently, you're the coolest MIL ever. I've seen what your daughter-in-laws post on Facebook. They adore you.

JOY: Oh, stop it. We get along well and I love them dearly.

JEN: Let me in on the secret — how did you get to that point? Teach me!

JOY: It's all in your attitude as a parent and potential in-law. Some people are very protective of their kids and they may feel threatened by an "outsider." You need to be open and welcoming to potential partners of your kids.


TRACY: I am not thinking about it! When my kids get there, I plan to remind myself that I raised them to have their own families, so why freak out when they want to BE with those families?

JOY: Having daughter- and son-in-laws is just adding to the family, and adding to the love and the fun. It's not taking anything away — at least hopefully not.

TRACY: I have a friend who advises that you have to love your kid's spouse. Even if you don't like them, you have to love them!

JEN: Years ago, I was talking to a mom with three grown boys. My kids were both still in grade school at the time, but I was drilling her on being a MIL. (Clearly, I have issues with this.) I'll never forget that she said, "My daughters in law are perfect and always right … even when they're not."

JOY: That's an interesting philosophy.

JEN: I think there's something to it. Of course, that could be because I'm a daughter-in-law myself!

TRACY: A few years ago, a friend who was in his 60s was still having headaches from his mother and mother-in-law fighting over who was going to go where and when at Christmas! This is a guy who was a grandfather himself, but still had to deal with a mess each year. I decided then and there that I wasn't going to please everyone, so we would do our own thing. Sometimes it's with family; sometimes it's not.

JOY: Very healthy, Tracy — those lifelong battles over Christmas are such fun-wreckers. Our kids are really ours only temporarily. We raise them to grow up and be independent. They are not here to hold our hand 24/7 for the rest of our lives. We have to let them go.


TRACY: Cue the sappy music!

JEN: Joy, you're killing me! I know we have to let them go. I mean, I actually have coached my kids to move somewhere really fun to visit: Preferably one to Europe and one to a tropical island. I think my real fear is that they're going to go not physically, but emotionally.

JOY: As much as I love my kids and their spouses, they are not on this earth solely to make me happy. We each need to find that within ourselves. And that ultimately makes us better parents and in-laws — and maybe even helps the kids want to come and spend time with us.

TRACY: That's the secret! Jen, memorize what she just said and you're all set.

JEN: Honestly, if we keep unlocking all these life secrets and keys to the world in this column, we're going to become too big to be in this paper anymore.

TRACY: Cue the "take on New York" music!

JEN: Well, Joy, you are clearly doing this parenting thing right. I hope I'm as cool a MIL as you are … many years from now.

JOY: Gosh, thanks. I certainly don't have all the answers, but we really do have a lot of fun with our kids and kids-in-law.


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Jen Koski is a Post-Bulletin columnist and associate editor at Rochester Magazine. She and her husband, Jay, live in Rochester with their 10- and 13-year-old sons.

Tracy McCray is a longtime Rochester resident, but she's a South Dakota farm girl at heart. She can be heard on Mayo Clinic Medical Edge Radio and on 1340 KROC-AM. Her podcast and columns are found at

Joy Larson is a nurse, wife, mother and mother-in-law of three, and grandmother of seven. She is also a freelance writer, foodie and perpetual learner.

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