After 8 years of sweaty hands and heart palpitations before packing up a car for a visit to my MIL’s house at holiday time, I figured enough was enough. How could this little old lady with the rheumatoid arthritis and wig cause such fear and trepidation? Coming up with some strategies was an essential move. What was the most surprising part of the trip that year? The approach actually worked wonders!

Note: The bottom line while you’re implementing these tips, is to really and truly learn to appreciate your MIL. After all, she did give birth to your husband and you are forever thankful to her for that! So, although there will always be problems because of a general lack of commonalities, goals and cultural pursuits, we just sort of have to give up that fantasy and let our MIL be herself.

The Seven Top Tips for Daughter-in-Law Survival

Top Tip #1 –– Be Aware That your MIL’s Mood May Be Directly Affected By the Weather and Act Accordingly!

At the slightest hint of a cloud be prepared for your MIL to label the entire up and coming 24 hour period as “A disgusting waste of an excuse for a day!” She may then plop herself down in front of the tube with an expressionless glare for the next 8-10 hours. Make sure you pack a great book and whatever you do don’t bother her. Just kind of tip-toe around until the sun peeks through the clouds (at which point only your shadow will be at risk!).

Top Tip #2–– Keep Quiet When Watching Quiz Shows with Your MIL!

Try not to shout out any answers or questions correctly when watching “Jeopardy!” or “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” with your MIL. You have observed her biting off the head of her better half for doing so. She’ll be certain to surprise you, however, in the category of Pop-culture as the E channel is often running in the background all day long. When she nails the answer to the question, “What was Courtney Love’s favorite dog’s dessert?” marvel at her knowledge! And you will be truly impressed, to be sure!

Top Tip #3–– Be Conservative with the TP!

If you’re not careful you may accidentally use too much toilet paper and your MIL’s plumbing may get plugged and you will hear about it. “Now I have to change the @$%^&# seal!” she’ll caterwaul. Make sure to follow green-minded Sheryl Crow and only use a single square each time you go.

Top Tip #4––Hide all Toiletries in your Suitcase!

…especially if she’s expecting company, or Mom will do it for you by simply stuffing them under the vanity night after night (even if you take care to organize them meticulously). So, avoid this recurring routine by making it a policy to conceal all your cosmetics and store them in your suitcase after each use.

Top Tip #5––Be Prepared to be Enticed by Lots of Sugary Temptations!

Even though you have recently committed to losing that last ten pounds and removed all treats from your pantry and have implemented an exercise program that you are sure to stick with THIS time, once and for all (!) your MIL will further sabotage you with phrases such as, “I made TWO chocolate pies last night” and “There’s a couple of Collacchi on the counter!” several times a day. Who can maintain a healthy regimen in a war-zone such as this? NO ONE! So you don’t. Strategy? Throw a couple of five pound weights in the car and some sneakers so you can take a walk around the mall or if she has a dog, offer to take it for a walk ––a lot. Any excuse to get you out of that house! Just don’t beat yourself up and you can get back on track as soon as you return home.

Top Tip #6––Steer Clear of Religion and Politics When Dining with your MIL!¬¬

If she does happen to make a real doozy, DO NOT RESPOND. Just ask her to pass the salad and then find out exactly how she makes her dressing––was it two parts vinegar to one part oil, or the other way around?

Top Tip #7––Avoid Flatulating Around Your MIL

If you do accidentally let one escape from your nether-regions, your MIL may wave her hand furiously in front of her nose, contorting her face as if she had just ingested prune juice and tuna and yell, “OH MY GOD, [insert your name here]! THAT WAS SOOOOOOO DISGUSTING!!!” Apologize profusely and quickly exit the room affecting the most horror and shame you can possibly muster. Next time, hold it in if Mom is within the radius of a football field. Actually, never mind––let ‘er rip and just blame it on the cat.

Then write a book called “The Daughter-in-Law Rules” and get your own URL at Soon you will have 101 of them and she’ll be your best friend. After all, who else are you going to commiserate with when your husband sleeps in, forgets to take out the garbage and misses your daughter’s first ballet recital?!!!

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Author's Bio: 

Sally Shields is an award-winning pianist, composer, speaker, and author. She graduated with honors from the New England Conservatory and was a recipient of the Boston Jazz Society Award. Winner of the 17th annual Great American Jazz Piano Competition, her articles and transcriptions are featured regularly in Piano Today Magazine and her book, Modern Jazz Piano, is the standard theory manual for several music programs, including Princeton University. Her children’s song “It’s Christmastime, Once Again” was a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and her music is currently featured on the ABC TV daytime drama All My Children. When not traveling and performing around the world—most recently with bestselling author and musician James McBride—Sally (a vegetarian) lives in New York City with her husband (not a vegetarian!) and their two children.

Note: Although the relationship with her MIL was rocky at the outset, with the implementation of the devices outlined in The Daughter-in-Law Rules, the two now enjoy a special bond—which got even better, interestingly enough—after her MIL found out she was writing this book!