Friday, August 17, 2012
The Mother-in-Law’s Manual
Title: The Mother-in-Law’s Manual: Proven Strategies for Creating Healthy Relationships with Married Children
Author: Susan Abel Lieberman, PH.D.
Genre: Nonfiction/Family Matters
Publisher: bright sky press
The Mother-in-Law’s Manual is a wonderfully insightful and at times humorous advice manual for dealing with not only in-laws, but also other family members. Having recently seen a commercial for Monsters-in-Law, with Jennifer Lopez, it was refreshing to read a much more realistic portrayal of mother-in-laws, especially since I am one myself.
Lieberman’s first chapter explains that when our children are young we are afforded an abundance of advice from professionals such as Dr. Spock. But, when our children are grown, leave the nest and marry, we are left to fend for ourselves. Lieberman’s analogy for the marriage is: “They are moving to a new country that they will create together. Yes, we get territorial. Use my bill of rights. Celebrate my holidays. Serve my food. Even if we don’t see it like a competition, we are likely to consider each deviation a loss.”
Situations that never existed before are now ones that can cause hurt, sadness, and even anger, along with satisfaction and happiness. This book delves into all the emotions that come into play. The child who was once yours now belongs to someone else. The author alludes to the fact that this is more of an issue when it is your son and you are dealing with a daughter-in-law. But, whether son or daughter, the dynamics of the family change.
The Mother-in-Law’s Manual is jammed packed with bits and pieces of wisdom. One of my favorite gems comes right after the “10 most recommended rules” for mothers-in-law which are all the same, “Keep your mouth shut.” Lieberman cleverly explains: “Even if we could follow the rule(s) and not say one word that would be heard as contentious, judgmental, argumentative, or critical […] our children would still hear contentions, judgments, arguments, and criticisms.” As a mother and mother-in-law, these are words that ring true. At times it seems you just can’t win. I thought this section was so funny, I had to read it to my husband.
It is difficult to do justice to all the pearls of wisdom in this book. It explains not to fret over the small things, our perceptions and our intent matter, when not to offer advice, and so much more. It even considers the roles of grandparents, children’s relationships to aging parents, and the aging process itself as Lieberman coins as “zippy to droopy.” She even includes a glimpse of her relationship with her own mother, the frustrations and sometimes guilt that is inevitable when a parent reaches an old age or is ill. Having taken care of a quadriplegic mother my experiences are somewhat different, but in some aspects they are the same. When watching your parent age, you wonder if you’re looking at your future.
Lieberman’s efforts produced an impressive book that all family members should read. Her research involved interviews with as many mothers-in-law across the country and from different backgrounds as she could. She even interviewed a number of daughters-in-law and sons-in-law. Many of these interviews are in the book. Some of their stories/advice sounded familiar, others were surprising. But, they all brought another element of enlightenment. Adult children who read this, married or unmarried, will hopefully gain insight into their parents as not only Mom or Dad, but as individuals with a life of their own including hopes, needs and feelings.
One final gem from the book that struck a chord with me is in Chapter Ten: “I understand my children are not my friends, that our relationship is that unique connection between parent and child. But, there is a way in which we are candid and honest with close, old friends, yet show a carefulness, a respectfulness that can be forgotten with parents. As soon as we begin to feel superior to a friend, the nature of the friendship shifts.” Lieberman hit just about every nail on the head with The Mother-in-Law’s Manual. I give this book 5 Stars and highly recommend it.
About the author: Susan Abel Lieberman currently lives in Houston and works as an executive coach. She has written five books, including New Traditions: Redefining Celebrations for Today’s Family. The Mother-in-Law’s Manual springs from the realization that her assumption that anyone would be thrilled to have her for a mother-in-law was off base. Rather than accepting family tension, she put her skills as a researcher and an executive coach to work to improve the situation. Ordained as an interfaith minister, Lieberman also holds a master’s from Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburg. As a wife, mother, mother-in-law and grandmother, she is well-versed in the challenges presented by every stage of family life. The Mother-in-Law’s Manual brings her personal and professional insights together to help mothers-in-law everywhere start a new chapter in their family life.
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