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Mothers-in-law have a special place in our lives. Whether they’re helping with the kids or supporting us when our own parents are unavailable, these “second moms” are always there to help, contribute, and, sometimes, lovingly criticize.
Bringing two families together isn’t easy. On National Mother-in-Law Day, take some time to appreciate the mothers-in-law in your life, whether you have one of your own or know some women who are mothers-in-law themselves. If you have married kids of your own, take this special day to treat yourself!
History of National Mother-in-Law Day
In-laws have, of course, been around as long as marriage has. Until recently, the status of one’s parents and family played an even more important role in marriage arrangements than the relationship between the bride and groom. Society expected that in-laws would have heavy involvement in the lives of their adult children.
By the 1920s, American attitudes toward the in-law relationship shifted. Young people were encouraged to break with their parents and forge their own path as a couple. The stereotype of the “meddling mother-in-law” was born. Since then, research shows that women, in particular, have strained relationships with their mothers-in-law, with 60% of married American women experiencing stress related to their mothers-in-law.
In most countries, in-laws have legal obligations to each other because of their relationship through marriage. Also known as affinity in law and anthropology, the relationship formed by the marriage of family members has been historically fraught, spawning an entire genre of “mother-in-law jokes” and infamous literary and film characters. Bringing two families together, whether in highly intimate or more loosely connected situations, creates feelings of uncertainty and insecurity. After all, these new, secondary relationships affect our primary relationship with an important person in our life.
National Mother-in-Law Day was first observed in March 1934 in Amarillo, Texas, where a local newspaper editor named Gene Howe was inspired by Mother’s Day to create the holiday to acknowledge the special relationship between married adults and their mothers-in-law. Although the term technically just applies to people legally bound through marriage, it’s a great day to appreciate your partner’s mom whether or not you’re married.
National Mother-in-Law Day timeline
The terms “mother-in-law” and “father-in-law” begin to make appearances in English documents.
National Mother-in-Law Day is first celebrated in Amarillo, Texas.
The American Society of Florists declares the last Sunday in October National Mother-in-Law Day.
Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama’s mother, moves into the White House with the family after President Obama’s inauguration. The doting matriarch helped bring a sense of home and normalcy to the White House for the Obamas’ young daughters.
National Mother-in-Law Day FAQs
How can I get closer to my mother-in-law?
The best way to improve your relationship is to talk to them! Give her a call, set up a lunch date, or do a fun activity you both enjoy together. Use that time to ask questions and get to know the person who gave life to the love of your life and who, chances are, has some fascinating stories to tell!
Is there a father-in-law day?
National Father-In-Law Day on July 30th recognizes your spouse’s father annually.
Is there a sister-in-law day?
There is practically a day set aside each year for nearly every member of the family. Unfortunately, there is no National Brother-In-Law Day or National Sister-In-Law Day.
How to Celebrate National Mother-In-Law Day
Thank your mother-in-law
Whether or not you’re close with your mother-in-law, find a way to get in touch and let her know you’re thinking about her today. Thank her for everything she’s done for you and your spouse.
Make her feel special
Take your mother-in-law out to dinner, send her a bottle of her favorite wine, or plan a fun day with the kids.
Send photos of the kids
Nothing brightens a grandparent’s day more than seeing their grandkids. If you can’t visit or get together, send your mother-in-law some recent photos of the kids so she knows you’re thinking about her.
5 Interesting Facts About Mothers-in-Law
Sara Delano Roosevelt
Sara Roosevelt built her son — Franklin Delano Roosevelt, later as the President of the United States — and his wife Eleanor a Manhattan townhouse with an adjacent home for herself, connected with doors on each floor, during the early days of their marriage.
Catherine de Medici
There's no shortage of scandalous stories about the de Medici family, and Catherine's life is no different. The matriarch tightly controlled her children's marriages and ordered killings for political expediency and power.
Unhappy with her daughter Samantha’s decision to marry a mere mortal, the mother-in-law in this classic witch sitcom wreaks havoc on hapless husband Darrin’s life whenever she can.
A powerful figure in 16th century Milan, Bona Sforza is suspected to have poisoned one or both of her daughters-in-law, of whom she deeply disapproved.
Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones
Perhaps the most horrifying mother-in-law in contemporary pop culture, Cersei Lannister makes no bones about her dislike for her daughter-in-law, Margaery. By the end of the epic show, she orchestrates the massacre of, well, almost everyone.
Why Mother-in-Law Relationships Are Important
In-law relationships impact couples
Strain with in-laws can lead to tension between spouses. Having a positive relationship with your parents-in-law can help you maintain a strong marital relationship too.
It can be a fruitful mentorship
Many women develop a strong friendship with their mothers-in-law that benefits them both. Mothers-in-law can provide unique insight and provide mentorship to younger women.
It can enrich family life
Grandparents are an important part of children’s lives, so having a close relationship with in-laws will have a positive impact on the entire family.
National Mother-in-Law Day dates