Now that all of my seven wonderful children (ages 25 to 38) are married, I am a Mother-In-Law (Yiddish: a “shvigger”) to seven adults. I just wanted to leave a few observations about making this potentially difficult parent-in-law relationship work well for all concerned.
First of all, please do not make the mistake. A son-in-law is NOT a son. A daughter-in-law is NOT a daughter. This can actually be helpful, as you don’t have twenty-plus years of conflicts and misunderstandings behind you: you start off with a clean slate.
Also there is the RESPECT factor. I can’t emphasize it enough and that is why it is capitalized. You must show RESPECT to your child’s spouse, and to your child’s spouse’s parents. Always speak politely and carefully to a child-in-law. Perceived slights can eat away at your child’s Sholom Bayis.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller zatzal once gave a great piece of advice: keep your purse open and your mouth shut. I actually enjoy talking to my children-in-law, but I never criticize, I always sound positive and upbeat. I try to praise as much as possible, telling my children and their spouses what a wonderful job they are doing raising my grandchildren. Words of chizuk and encouragement are always welcome to struggling young parents (particularly when accompanied by a cash gift to help out with the bills).
If you spend time reading books with three grandkids snuggled up close listening to every word, or take the grandkids out to the swings at the park so your tired daughter-in-law can catch a much needed break, your presence will be welcomed rather than dreaded.
Finally, if there is a special needs grandchild, your continued help and words of encouragement and strength are especially important. Raising a special child is a super challenge to parents, but if the grandparents get involved in a helpful and loving manner, it can make a great difference in making everyone’s lives a little easier. Special needs children adore the unconditional love of their Bubby and Zaidy, and tired moms really appreciate respite time when grandparents visit and entertain the special needs child.
To summarize, it’s not “shver” (hard) to be a great “shver” (father in law): respect, positivity and most of all love (plus an open wallet) will make the parent-in-law relationship work for everyone in the family.