What Your Mother-in-Law Wants Most

What Your Mother-in-Law Wants Most

I once heard that children spell the word “LOVE” like this: “T-I-M-E.” It is the small interactions day after day after day that create strong relationships with our family members. I read this great article below by Miriam Aflalo in this week’s issue of Family First. It’s wise advice not only for healing relationships with our mothers-in-law and children, but also for all of the important relationships in our lives. And what better time to work on spending some “T-I-M-E” with our families than these final weeks of summer vacation?

The following is an excerpt from the article “A Penny at a Time” by Miriam Aflalo of Family First Magazine:

Your mother-in-law is a stereotypical shvigger.

Discussions between the two of you are a dance of politics, diplomacy, and tension. Finally, you decide that you need to do something drastic. You drag all your kids to a professional studio and spend a huge amount of time and money obtaining stunning portraits of each child. You splurge on an expensive album, decorate each page, and add a cute quote from each grandchild.

What bubby could resist such tangible nachas? Your husband is so proud. The mother-in-law is thrilled and flattered. Everyone keeps commenting to her that she has a gem of a daughter-in-law.
But you find out soon enough that nothing has really changed.

You didn’t change.
Your mother-in-law didn’t change.
Your relationship hasn’t improved in a lasting way.

And then there’s your middle child, bitter about his lot in life, caught between the brilliant eldest and the adorable youngest. I’ve got to give him more attention, you remind yourself. We’ll take him out for a special trip—just Daddy, Mommy, and Moishy. We’ll go to the zoo, get him a nice souvenir, buy him ice cream and pizza, and end off the day with a nighttime boat ride. He’ll have the time of his life, an unforgettable adventure, a chance to build a bond.

But the next morning, he’ll still be the sandwich child, stuck between the siblings he resents and envies, craving that extra bit of attention.

…People don’t acquire spiritual attributes through one major action, but rather through a buildup of many small actions…

You have to keep giving. One action after another. Tiny gestures that leave indelible imprints upon the heart. Minute quantities that slowly stretch a character, leaving their delicate marks upon one’s soul. Small deeds that build a man….

Your mother-in-law was thrilled with your gift and with your thoughtfulness. You’ve taken a big step in the right direction—but it was only one step. It’s many small steps, the little advancements, that can dramatically alter a relationship. A warm word, a friendly phone call twice a week, swallowing a sharp retort as she tells you how to raise your kids, complimenting her cooking.

Those honest efforts, deeds that challenge and demand tremendous restraint, that lack all glitter and glory, those are the ones that open pathways for a closer relationship in the future.

Your middle child would much rather spend ten minutes each day with you, as opposed to one action-packed day. He’d rather receive many little reminders of your love rather than an occasional daily dosage.

Day by day, minute by minute, those little copper pennies add up and meld into gold.


  1. this is a perfect lesson for Ellul as well, and changing and refining one’s character in general. “I’ll never do that again” does not work nearly as well–for most people (think…dieting) as slugging away every day doing something small to change one’s habits — it becomes cumulative. when my child said i practiced my instrument nearly an hour today, i said better for you to practice 10 minutes 6 days a week than an hour one day a week…same lesson. i am practicing what i preached…just signed up for the chabura, thanks to you. shabbat shalom!

  2. as slovie jungreis-wolf puts it in her brilliant book, we have to differentiate between “fun” and “happiness”
    sometimes we create a “fun” relationship with our closest persons but it doesn’t heal the soul and it dosen’t bring true joy!
    true happiness comes this ways in small but repeated action and in being a “giver”; giver of time, affection, smile…..

  3. wonderful article!

  4. Very inspiring. It makes it seem more doable to devote ten minutes rather than a whole day. The trick is to keep at it. I keep in mind what you advised about giving your children a blessing each day as they leave for school. I have moved the time frame up to bedtime and bless them for the coming day, since they left very early (even before I was out to greet them.) Now they will wait for me to come back from meetings or classes to get their brocha before bedtime.

  5. I’m looking at this from the other side –
    I just became a mother in law for the first time, b”H! I really want to be a good mother in law, and have a good relationship with my daughter in law, so this was very helpful to me. To give, and compliment, and give some more. I can do that!

  6. I have the mother in law of all mothers in law!

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