Daughter-in-Law from Hell
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Daughter-in-Law from Hell
Dear Emuna

Daughter-in-Law from Hell

Emuna’s difficult advice to a desperate mother-in-law.


Dear Emuna,

My son has been married for four years. From the planning of the wedding until now, it has been difficult. I was blamed for things that happened before the wedding which were not true and I just find my daughter-in-law to be very cold. According to my son she had a list of 11 things I did wrong before the wedding. The wedding was difficult as I was completely ignored. She never calls me or emails me. My son said she is not that type of person. He said she doesn't email her best friend. They come to my house occasionally for holidays. I was never invited to their home as he said the house was too small. They now have a son. I gave her a beautiful shower and nice gifts. Everyone got a thank you note but me. I cry a lot over this. I tried talking to my son and he says she is not outgoing. Her parents live out of town and come occasionally and spend the night. I feel hurt and left out. I cannot talk to my son anymore. He says I am too emotional. I think too much about things. What do I do (other than pray which I’m doing already)?

Hurting Mother

Dear Hurting Mother,

You’re not going to like my advice. It’s not that I don’t empathize with your situation; it’s just that your choices are limited. You can’t change your daughter-in-law – that’s a fact.  And if you keep complaining to your son and push for more of a relationship with his wife you risk losing your son (an unpalatable alternative) or destroying their marriage (a less likely but equally unpalatable alternative).  At the moment it just is what it is.

So don’t ask for anything (especially don’t ask your son what she thinks of you – you shouldn’t even know about those “11 things you did wrong”).  Be kind and loving and giving.  Invite them over to your home and keep smiling, whatever their answer. (I realize this is not easy to do.) Perhaps once the daughter no longer feels the burden of your expectations and needs, she’ll come around.  But perhaps not. It is out of your hands.

And keep praying. It is the one thing you are doing that has the potential to make a positive difference.


Dear Emuna,

I have been working for the same non-profit organization for the last 20 years.  I don’t want to reveal details other than to say that it is a very worthy cause that helps the Jewish people.  But I’m starting to feel burnt out.  While the cause is important and I do know that I am helping people, no one I work with ever says thank you or tells me I am doing a good job. I’m not doing it for the applause but I am human and would like some acknowledgement.  I’m not sure I can keep going…

Dear Burning Out,

Well, I certainly know exactly how you feel.  Your plight is the plight of almost every parent in the world! 

The Torah teaches us that burying someone is a particular type of kindness called the kindness of truth because there is no ulterior motive and nothing to be received in return.  I believe that actually most acts of kindness should be like that (especially parenting adolescents).

It is certainly wrong of your employer not to recognize and acknowledge your valuable contribution to the organization.  It is poor character as well as being a poor business decision since it destroys motivation and morale.

But you (we!) need to be kind and do good just because it’s right, with no expectation of thank you or any other tangible this-wordly rewards.  The act of kindness should be a pleasure in and of itself.

This isn’t easy, especially in some charitable organizations (and I’ve been involved in enough to know). But like everything in life, we have to keep our eye on the ball, on the end game and not on our emotions of the moment.

If the cause is truly important, supporting it is worthwhile, in and of itself.  Take a little vacation, make sure you’re giving yourself some ‘me time,’ and go back to the office refreshed.

Mistakes in Parenting

Dear Emuna,

I made a real parenting mistake the other day. I was tired and I let my frustration get the better of me.  I told my six-year-old that he couldn’t have any hot dogs if he didn’t stay in his seat. Boldly ignoring me, he got up, grabbed a hot dog and started eating it. My baby started crying at that moment and I didn’t have the time or energy to deal with the hot dog situation. I just let him eat it and was glad I didn’t have to worry about his dinner. I know it was a breakdown of discipline but I’m not sure how to rectify it. Any suggestions?

Wishy-Washy Mom

Dear Wishy-Washy Mom,

I understand your predicament. We have all been there at some point – dinnertime, baths, homework and everyone clamoring for attention. It’s hard not to make some mistakes sometimes.  Everyone does. So my first piece of advice is: Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s impossible to parent without many mistakes and very few of them are irreversible. 

Begin by identifying what the behavior is you want to change – sitting at the table, better listening, more self-control.  Then establish a system of rewards for engaging in the desired behavior.  “Every time you stay in your seat until dinner is over, you will receive a star on your chart.  After 14 stars, you will get ________ as a prize. After 28 stars, you will get _______ as a bigger reward. Make sure your son is clear about the system and excited about the prize.

Then you need to have a talk about the situation.  A six year-old is capable of understanding how inappropriate his behavior was. Let him know how disappointed you are.  Explain that sometimes mommies are busy but that he isn’t allowed to take advantage.  Maybe he thinks you didn’t really notice.  You need to make clear that you have high expectations of him and that you are counting on him to behave like a mensch. It may not immediately change his behavior but the message will definitely get through.  Our children are always watching and listening.  The worst thing we can do is ignore them.

Published: December 28, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 48

(33) Anonymous, March 11, 2014 11:58 PM

Don't take it

Know what mother-in-law's going through, I think it would be polite to her but I don't think just accept however they treat you, no respect I don't know what's wrong with this generation but they definitely say whatever they want I wish the sons could learn to stand up to The wife

(32) Ilana, February 20, 2014 6:44 PM

Dear Emuna, I think that your answer was wrong for a few reason.
1. the son should from the beginning demand respect to his parents . I am sure that his relationship with her parents are different.
2. In america grandparents in many cases put aside, they do not have any rights if the parents of their grandchildren choose to. It is time that the american sociaty understand the important of the older generation for the benefit of both sides.
3. what about the Honor your mother and your father?

(31) Anonymous, February 18, 2014 8:26 PM

mom-in-law was treated disrespectfully by daughter-in-law, and she too would do well to apologize. why are we so scared of the kids? And yes, when my mom-in-law did not get the name she was hoping for, she got a sincere apology instead. Everyone counts!

(30) Anonymous, January 14, 2014 11:33 PM

Never tell a kid you're disappointed with them

I respectfully disagree with the wording and would not recommend telling a child you're disappointed with them. I have seen adults who still apologize to this day with, "I'm sorry I disappointed you." It's a hard burden to bear thinking that you let people down every time you stumble and make a mistake.
The message parents want to give is, "I love you but I don't love your behavior" and "I love you, but I like you better when you..." and then once the message is the foundation for the discipline that follows, you can continue with reward charts or other logical consequences that match the behavior.

(29) Anonymous, January 13, 2014 12:09 AM

Response from a daughter-in-law from hell

I am a daughter-in-law from hell. I didn’t set out to be the monstrous entity that destroyed my mother-in-laws perfect family, but that’s non-the-less how I ended up.

I could tell very plainly from day one that my future MIL viewed me as an intrusion. Her son was pushing 30 at the time, and she was in no hurry for him to be married. During our six-year courtship, she tried to set him up on blind dates and encouraged him to keep looking and date as many women as he could before he settled down. She viewed this as practical, and I viewed it as a betrayal to the love and affection that I felt for her son.

Every time I was with my MIL, she would appear to enjoy my company. She’d laugh at my jokes and seem to be interested in my life. I learned quickly that the other shoe always fell. After every single meeting, she would call her son and report to him all of the ways that I failed to meet her expectations.

To my mortification, my husband also told me that she vents about me to his siblings, and aunts and uncles. If his relatives didn’t find fault with me initially, they certainly did after hearing her grievances. I learned to keep my defenses up around his family for self-preservation (and because I’ve been painted as an evil, son-stealing viper.)

It’s come full circle in many respects. She cast me in this role, and I’ve become a willing participant. I’m paranoid over the gossip about me so I try not to talk to them at all to avoid arming them with fodder for the cannons. She openly refers to her “family” as being their nuclear unit; not including me. This is all going on while she’s complaining that I’m too cold to form any kind of a bond with.

…But, on the bright side, I have a wonderful marriage with the man that I’ve been in love with for over a decade. As the years of our marriage pass, our bond only grows stronger. But it’s still disheartening to be so in love with a man, and so very NOT in love with his family.

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