Mother-in-Law Day: How To Get On With Her

Today is Mother-in-Law Day believe it or not.

The website Days of the Year says “Mothers-in-law get a pretty bad deal. Do they deserve the reputation they have for hounding son-in-laws, and always being a witch? Mother-In-Law Day gives you and your mother-in-law a chance to get to know each other, and to get away from all of those horrible preconceptions. Why not give your mother-in-law (and mothers-in-law everywhere) a fair chance – take them out for a nice meal, buy them flowers, and get off on the right footing?”


The Irish Mammy-in-lawI have to admit that this illustration (in my Would You Marry A Farmer Book?) was inspired by the description of Maguire’s mother in Partrick Kavanagh’s poem The Great Hunger:

Maguire was faithful to death:
He stayed with his mother till she died
At the age of ninety-one.
She stayed too long,
Wife and mother in one.
When she died
The knuckle-bones were cutting the skin of her son’s backside
And he was sixty-five.
O he loved his mother
Above all others.

Poor Paddy Maguire, a fourteen-hour day
He worked for years. It was he that lit the fire
And boiled the kettle and gave the cows their hay.
His mother tall hard as a Protestant spire
Came down the stairs barefoot at the kettle-call
And talked to her son sharply:  ‘Did you let
The hens out, you?’ She had a venomous drawl
And a wizened face like moth-eaten leatherette.


Imagine having a mother-in-law like that? Any potential bride ran a mile I’m sure. I did hear recently of a farmer’s wife who worked hard on the farm, milking cows and more. Every Thursday, she was handed her housekeeping money by her mother-in-law. Not wages but her housekeeping money. I’ve heard of another lady being told she is a gold-digger. No wonder mother-in-laws get a bad name. What’s interesting is it seems that those who got the brunt of it from their own mothers-in-law dealt out a tough time in their turn. A case of poacher turned gamekeeper??

But what about most mother-in-laws? Are the majority really like that?

Well, I devised a sliding scale – which one reflects your mother-in-law or perhaps you if you’ve reached that stage in life?

1. She is grateful someone married her son as she had given up on him. She might think you are mad to have married him so will welcome you with open arms.

2. She is over the moon to have a daughter-in-law (particularly if she has all boys) and is excited about the prospect of grandchildren.

3. She isn’t happy with anything you do and lets everyone know.

4. She wants to maintain the ownership (and keep the income) of the farm, and requires her son to work for a pittance. She expects you to work off farm and yet help out in your “spare time”. She might even call you a gold-digger if she believes (or wants to believe) you are interested only in the value of the farm.

5. She seems determined to set her children against each other and views any input from you as unwelcome interference.

What do farming in-laws expect from a perfect farm wife? Here’s a sample: 

  •        Create a meal in minutes if contractors or visitors arrive unexpectedly.
  •        Help out with various community events (their family was always heavily involved and they don’t want you letting the side down).
  •        Bring in an income yet be free to go and collect tractor parts if necessary.
  •        Be hardworking and never stay in bed later than 8am.
  •        Never leave clothes hanging out for more than two days.
  •        Be a good baker (but not, of course, as good as your mother-in-law).
  •        Be thrifty and certainly not spend “his” money on “unnecessary” modern conveniences or lots of new clothes.

But don’t worry, if you can prove you’re a ‘perfect farm wife’, you will have them eating out of your hand.

Here’s some tips for getting on well with your mother-in-law:

  •           Consider your mother-in-law to be a useful ally rather than an adversary. Ask her for advice and tips and she might enjoy sharing her knowledge with you. She might even share some baking tips.
  •           When building a new home, ensure each house has some privacy. Just because you are in-laws, it doesn’t mean that you have lots of things in common. Life would be great if you did but you’re still going to need your own space.
  •    Unless she actually tells you you’re a gold-digger, she probably means well by her “helpful comments” – in her own way. As a result of being attached to the farm, she may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms and doesn’t want to let go her ties to it.
  • Don’t feel you have to be a carbon copy of your mother-in-law. Find your own place on the farm by taking on a role you enjoy.
  • It’s a fine line between doing things well enough to get her approval but yet not surpassing her abilities.
  • Develop a thick skin. Just assume every helpful comment in a compliment to your efforts.
  • A caring mother-in-law makes a wonderful grandmother and they are usually delighted to look after the children after school or when you want a few hours off to go shopping. Work with her, appreciate her for what she does and reward her for her help. Buy her a bunch of flowers today for ‘Mother-in-law’ day!
  • Always remember you might be a mother-in-law some day!

How To Be A Perfect Farm Wife For more tips (and some laughs), you’ll find them in How To Be A Perfect Farm Wife – available on this website, on Amazon (ebook and paperback) and on (with free shipping abroad).

Hope you have a lovely Sunday.


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