Last Updated on March 23, 2018

My toes are hurting something fierce! I just read in Annie Chapman’s book “The Mother-in-Law Dance” the dilemma that some daughters-in-law have about what to call their “in-laws.” Should it be “Mom,” “Dad,” their legal name, something else?  The “what name” question can become a challenge in an honest desire to cultivate an enjoyable relationship with each other. I can identify.

Honestly, I think  my dear sweet mother-in-law only once or twice, at the most, ever heard me call her Mom or Mother. My love and respect for her was so endearing that calling her Mrs. L just seemed irrational. Yet, I just couldn’t muster the courage to call her mom or mother. I had feelings of disloyalty to my own mother and even betrayal sharing that title with her.  I honored her but I never gave her a name! I would just appear in her presence or on a phone call and start with pleasantries. How silly of me.

As a mother-in-law of two dear daughters-in-law and two fantastic sons-in-law, the “what name” question probably was pondered.  If any of my in-laws had neglected to give me a name disappointment, alienation, or confusion could have derailed our relationship.

In the book the author gives some wise counsel for all parties, especially for the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.  Basically, without divulging too much from the book, everyone deserves a name. It is respectful and honoring. Also, I surmise that the issue is more about the relationship and comfort an agreed name represents.

There was never any discussion on what to call me… but the freedom I allowed made it easy for the in-laws to choose for themselves. Personally, I answer to both Mom and Karen; it is just fine with me. I only wish I was counseled years ago to name my now deceased mother-in-law.

What do you call your in-laws?

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  1. This is a great post! I really appreciate the wisdom provided here. I remember the first time my son-in-law said, “I love you, Mom” and it brought tears to my eyes! In-law issues don’t have to tear us apart, but they often do.

  2. I’m blessed to have a sweet mom-in-law named Jo, whom I’ve always called “Mom Jo” and my daughter calls “Grandma Jo.” I’m her only daughter-in-law and it’s my special name. It seemed to work for the 2 Grandma problem so why not for in-laws?

  3. It was quite awkward at first for me to call my mother-in-law ‘Mom’, but this is how my thinking went. Biblically my husband and I are one… so that means that his parents are my parents and vice versa. She is a parent-figure in our life (as is his dad) and so we need to recognize that and honour it in our speech as well. So I went for the gusto and I call her Mom. Every now and then to get her attention, I’ll call her by her first name (at gatherings there are a lot of moms!) but when I am speaking about her or to her, I almost always say Mom. And I think it also helped me accept that role she plays in our life by using that term as well.

  4. When speaking directly to my in-laws, I call both of them by their first names (I use their self-selected grandparent names with my child). I took the cue from them, watching how they referred to their in-laws. I was fortunate that they were all still living and in the same town when I first got married, so that made it easier.