PDA

View Full Version : An issue with my in-laws


Drygon
12-17-2008, 09:54 AM
I've been married for about 2 1/2 years now, and I have this tiny problem with my in-laws. I have no idea how to address them.

Soon after I proposed to my wife I made the earth-shattering mistake of calling her dad by his first name. Evidently, this is a major no-no. Her mom completely freaked out and said that I was never to address them by their first names, and how rude it was, and other such things. I was taken aback by how extreme her reaction was. She told me that I had to call them Mom and Dad (which is how they both addressed their in-laws).

The problem with that is that I already have a Mom and Dad. I really don't feel comfortable calling my in-laws Mom and Dad too. When I told her this, she freaked out again and told me that since we were family, I had better get comfortable with it. She also thought my compromise of Mr. and Mrs. [Last Name] was rude.

Now, this was about 4 years ago, and I still don't feel comfortable calling them Mom and Dad. In fact, as far as I can remember, I've never directly addressed either one of them. I've gotten around it by using "you," "him/her," "your mom/dad," "my wife's mother/father," and other workarounds.

My preferred option is still to call them by their first names (which seems to be the normal way of referring to one's in-laws), but I've been too chicken-shit to bring it up again. Recently it's been bothering me quite a bit.

I was thinking that since we're going to try for kids soon, I could just hold off and use Grandma and Grandpa. However, this seems like a cop-out and would probably still bother me.

My wife is no help because her usual method of dealing with a freak out by her parents is to permanently avoid the topic that brought it about. My parents aren't any help either. I figured the SD might be able to help. So, after all that rambling, here's my questions:

What do/did/would you call your in-laws (or reasonable facsimiles thereof)?
Any suggestions how to talk to them about this (hopefully with exponentially less freaking out)?

Kalhoun
12-17-2008, 10:09 AM
I had a similar issue. I asked the other "outlaws" what they called them, and was told everyone calls them Mom and Dad. So I (not being terribly bugged by it) did the same. However, my family had a very mild shit fit, saying that I already had parents.

Too bad, I says. That's the way it's done. Fortunately, it's not much of an issue since the the two parental groups have only met once and when I refer to my mother in law, I call her "Mr. K's mom".

May I make a suggestion? How about calling them "Mother Jane" and "Father John"? Maybe it will roll off your tongue a little easier. You would, of course, insert their real names. ;)

Shayna
12-17-2008, 10:18 AM
My recommendation is to let it go. There are so many important things to be concerned about, and so many problems one can have with in-laws, that I just can't see why, 4 years later, you're still making a big deal about a name. If I were you, I'd consider myself fortunate to have in-laws that embrace you as family and want you to use the more familiar terms to address them.

They're just names.

Sigmagirl
12-17-2008, 10:20 AM
My parents are long since deceased, and my husband asked his parents (unprompted by me) what I should call them. They said I should call them by their first names, so I do. It leads to confusion because my husband is named for his dad, and we always have to clarify which "Bob" (not his real name) I'm talking about. I think "Mom Jane" and Dad Dave" would sound good.

Ferret Herder
12-17-2008, 10:24 AM
I call my inlaws "Mr. and Mrs. (Lastname)." I've ranted about my father-in-law a number of times here, so I'll spare the details and just say he's often an utter jerk, abused his kids growing up, is still sometimes verbally/emotionally abusive, etc., so I couldn't bring myself to call him "Dad." The others who married into the family call them the same thing, so I went with that. I heard my father-in-law mentioning it when talking with one of his daughters, about how Brother-In-Law "Smith" calls him that, but really, we all do, so I think he was trying to be subtle and hint that we shouldn't do it.

My husband refers to my mother as "Mom (Herlastname)" sometimes, though I'm not sure he actually calls her that now that I think of it.

Ferret Herder
12-17-2008, 10:30 AM
My recommendation is to let it go. There are so many important things to be concerned about, and so many problems one can have with in-laws, that I just can't see why, 4 years later, you're still making a big deal about a name. If I were you, I'd consider myself fortunate to have in-laws that embrace you as family and want you to use the more familiar terms to address them.
But the inlaws were really nasty and rude to have a fit and dress him down for him daring to actually use their first names as if they were all equal adults. They could have done much better by saying something like, "We're a bit old-fashioned and prefer you not use our first names; 'Mom and Dad' would be what we're used to." It may well bode poorly for other incidents in which he dared to not be psychic and discern what they expected out of his behavior, and at the very least it doesn't do much for establishing that "embrace you as family" feeling.

That being said, I'm not sure what I'd do in this situation. Considering how your wife doesn't want to go against her parents or even discuss problems like this (not a good sign if it continues for worse problems, and definitely don't buckle if it comes to interference in your lives the next time something happens), and they are utterly against any alternatives, I also don't think that "Mom/Mother Jane" and "Dad/Father John" would work.

WhyNot
12-17-2008, 10:32 AM
Can one have more than one Brother? Sister? Child? Why not Mom and Dad? (says the girl with two Moms and two Dads even before she got married...)

My in-laws "hoped" I'd call them Mom or Dad, and to their faces, I try to do that, although I'll admit it doesn't come all that naturally. It's not a name, it's a title, and short of "Lord Superdick of Lower Trenton on Avon", I try to use the titles/names that people request of me, no matter what's on their birth certificate. In the third person, when not in front of them, I use their first names for clarity, and when talking to my husband or his siblings, "your mom and dad" works just fine.

CrazyCatLady
12-17-2008, 10:32 AM
A lot of people my parents' age and older aren't very comfortable with someone a generation younger than them calling them by their first name, so I can see them being a little wigged out but still wanting something less formal than Mr./Mrs. Theirname. Of course, there's no way in hell I'd call my husband's parents Mom and Dad, even though I call his grandmother Mamaw. Too weird.

Maybe some variant of Mom and Dad that you never use for your own parents would be a good compromise. When I was still young enough to be uncomfortable calling my friends' parents by their first names, I called my roommate/de facto sister's mother Ma. (If they freaked out that badly, though, I don't foresee them being all that amenable to compromise.)

delphica
12-17-2008, 10:56 AM
I'm sure there is a mature solution to this.

On the other hand, for almost 10 years I have managed to call my in-laws nothing for similar reasons. I have avoided every situation where I need to vocalize a name when speaking to them. It's a little ridiculous, but totally possible. At this point, it's second nature and not difficult at all.

I do have a vague worry that some day they will be standing in the middle of the street, and a Mack truck will be hurtling toward them, and they won't realize it, and I won't be able to yell "Hey get out of the street, <name>" so I'll have to go find someone else, preferably one of their blood children, to shout out Mom! Dad! and by the time I get back, all that will remain is a pile of carnage on the asphalt. But really, they will have brought it all on themselves, don't you think?

Rocketeer
12-17-2008, 11:51 AM
I call my mother-in-law Pat.

Drygon
12-17-2008, 12:26 PM
Thanks for the responses, all. I might try to talk to them again over the holidays. Maybe it'll be one of those funny things we laugh about later on. (Or maybe my mother-in-law is the She-Hulk and will rip me limb from limb...)

Death of Rats
12-17-2008, 12:49 PM
I'm sure there is a mature solution to this.

On the other hand, for almost 10 years I have managed to call my in-laws nothing for similar reasons. I have avoided every situation where I need to vocalize a name when speaking to them. It's a little ridiculous, but totally possible. At this point, it's second nature and not difficult at all.

I do have a vague worry that some day they will be standing in the middle of the street, and a Mack truck will be hurtling toward them, and they won't realize it, and I won't be able to yell "Hey get out of the street, <name>" so I'll have to go find someone else, preferably one of their blood children, to shout out Mom! Dad! and by the time I get back, all that will remain is a pile of carnage on the asphalt. But really, they will have brought it all on themselves, don't you think?

This would, however, be a solution to the problem; albeit a rather extreme one. :)

I call my in-laws by thier first names, mostly. Both of our mothers refer to themselves as "Mom" to both myself and my wife.

Atomicflea
12-17-2008, 01:00 PM
I use first names. I would let them know why you're doing it so that hopefully the discomfort is diffused.

You: Hi, Jane!
Jane: WTF!? Call me mom, for chrissakes....
You: (Regretful grin) Sorry, my mom objects to that. Wouldn't want to hurt her feelings. Can I call you Mother Jane? Something else?

At that point, she'd be rude to insist and if she does, stick to your guns, but nicely. It'll cease to be an issue at some point.

Caricci
12-17-2008, 01:06 PM
I was married like 9 years before I ever called either of my ILs anything. Now it's either nothing or mom and dad. But, oddly, I never call them mom or dad, I just refer to her as mom or him as dad to the other one. They weren't jerks about it like the OPs MIL or anything though.

CookingWithGas
12-17-2008, 01:17 PM
People have a right to be called what they want to be called. The old-fashioned etiquette rule is that you should never call anyone by their first name unless they invite you to, but most people don't embrace that anymore. Maybe your in-laws do. If they want you to call them Mom & Dad then you should just suck it up. You'll probably get used to it. It's very common and does not mean you have renounced your own parents.

I'm on my second marriage, and have called all the in-laws the same thing that my spouses have called them. Same thing for how my first and current wives call my own parents.

MLS
12-17-2008, 01:21 PM
I had the same issue with my MIL, whom I grew to hate. I could NOT call her any maternal name. After about 9 years, when we had children, I then referred to her as "Babushka" which means "Grandmother." She loved that. I still detested the woman. Few people knew how much, including the children.

tdn
12-17-2008, 01:24 PM
Old fashioned? I have always called my SO's parents by their first names, and they ranged in age from their 50s to their 80s.

Contrapuntal
12-17-2008, 01:26 PM
People have a right to be called what they want to be called.No, they don't. And they especially don't have a right to demand to be called something they are not.

Atomicflea
12-17-2008, 01:41 PM
No, they don't. And they especially don't have a right to demand to be called something they are not.
While I agree with the point that people should be able to label themselves in theory, it doesn't always work in real life. For example, I'm 33. I had an employee who was 27 and called me "m'am". I hated it. I invited her several times to call me by my name, or "Ms. Flea," and she insisted it made her uncomfortable, so I didn't insist and just put up with it. Eventually I ceased to care.

The in-laws have the right to ask, but he has the right to refuse if he doesn't feel right doing so. In this case, they have to both be content with a compromise.

burundi
12-17-2008, 01:49 PM
People have a right to be called what they want to be called.
I can't really agree with this, especially when it comes to being called Mom and Dad by someone who is not their child. That's a bit different than saying, "My name is Elizabeth, but I go by Liz."

Contrapuntal
12-17-2008, 01:53 PM
The in-laws have the right to ask, but he has the right to refuse if he doesn't feel right doing so. In this case, they have to both be content with a compromise.And his offer to call them Mr. and Mrs. X was completely reasonable. Their refusal to accept it is ridiculous.

pbbth
12-17-2008, 01:57 PM
I call my mother-in-law Pat.

This is an excellent solution. Just call them Mr and Mrs Pat! Or just call them Sir and Ma'am. Though you may just decide it is easier not to directly address either of them since has been working pretty well so far.

CAT=^..^=
12-17-2008, 02:00 PM
Do you have kids yet? That might solve your dilemma.
I the same problem for about 6 years until we had a child. I just couldn't quite call the in-laws by their first names, and also wasn't comfortable calling them mom and dad. My own parents went by Ma and Pa, so I wasn't used to calling anyone mom and dad. Also the mom of the equation is new, so even my husband doesn't call her mom. His mother died a few years before his dad remarried.

But as soon as our son was born they became "Grandpa T and Grandma S". Now even when we visit, I can say things like, "here son, give this to grandpa". etc.

Whew. We also call my mom Grandma R. My dad died, but he was always Grandpa Pa with all of his grandkids.

Walkabout
12-17-2008, 02:07 PM
I have been married for 26 years, and I still haven't resolved this problem. I avoid calling them by name, if at all possible, but if pressed I call them "Mom" and "Dad" when speaking to them. It makes me uncomfortable, since I already have a Mom and Dad, but I can just suck it up for the few times I actually have to do it. When talking about them to others, I use their first names.

tdn
12-17-2008, 02:25 PM
I henceforth insist on being addressed as Your Royal Highness, My Lord and Master, Protector of Good and Vanquisher of Evil.

If you please.

Drygon
12-17-2008, 02:26 PM
Do you have kids yet? That might solve your dilemma.


No kids yet, but we're going to start trying in the next few months. I agree that it would make things easier, though.

I would be ok with Mom [First Name] or even Mom [Last Name]. I'll suggest that if she's still not ok with first name only.

The hesitance to call anyone else Mom and Dad might actually come from my dad, who always called his step-dad by his first name and made sure we always called him Grandpa [First Name] rather than just Grandpa. It was important to my dad that we remembered we had a biological grandfather (even though he died before I was born).

Drygon
12-17-2008, 02:28 PM
I henceforth insist on being addressed as Your Royal Highness, My Lord and Master, Protector of Good and Vanquisher of Evil.

If you please.

Sure thing, Dad (or Mom).

Contrapuntal
12-17-2008, 02:32 PM
I henceforth insist on being addressed as Your Royal Highness, My Lord and Master, Protector of Good and Vanquisher of Evil.

If you please.I'd be content if folks just came up to me and said 'Hi, there, Mind If I Give You All My Money."

poker in the rear
12-17-2008, 02:33 PM
Just freak them out and call them mommy and daddy.

CAT=^..^=
12-17-2008, 02:38 PM
No kids yet, but we're going to start trying in the next few months. I agree that it would make things easier, though.



Well good luck on that endevor...and when it happens, hopefully the problem will be solved.

butler1850
12-17-2008, 02:45 PM
I greet my inlaws this way: "How's my favorite Mother-in-law?" (or FIL) depending on which is present. ("How are my favorite in-laws if they are both together")

If I'm calling them by "name," it's by first name. It's been this way since I started dating my wife.

My wife calls my parents by their first name as well. Though, of course, it gets confusing for most of my extended family as both my father and I are both "Eds", though my family has always called me "Ted".... which I hate. (I'm Ed everywhere else).

A couple of past girlfriends parents though wouldn't allow the use of first names, so they were Mr. & Mrs. <girlfriend's last name>. No surprise those relationships didn't work out.

Kalhoun
12-17-2008, 02:51 PM
Just freak them out and call them mommy and daddy.

I call my mother in law all kinds of stuff. Mumzie, Mommy, Ma, Back off Old Woman!

Mahna Mahna
12-17-2008, 02:58 PM
I've always addressed my in-laws by their first names, rather than as "Mom" and "Dad" or even "Mr/Mrs. Lastname". The Boy does the same with my folks.

Then again, I met them when I'd been dating The Boy for a little over a month, so I'd probably have been incredibly freaked out by any request to call them "Mom" and "Dad" at that stage. Plus I don't even call my father's second wife "Mom", and she has at least a slightly more legit claim to the title.

UncleRojelio
12-17-2008, 03:05 PM
You pretty much nailed it when you mentioned waiting until they are grandparents. You should encourage your kid to call them something cute like 'ninny and poopy'. Thereafter you can just use that.

LouisB
12-17-2008, 03:43 PM
My FIL basically ordered me to call him by his first name; I used to call him "sir" but he let me know he hated to be called "sir" so I dropped it. I call my MIL by her first name because she asked me to. I'd be honored to call my FIL Dad but he wouldn't go for it. I've never known a man I respected more than him, including my own father.

Lightray
12-17-2008, 03:56 PM
Judging from the drama when my nephew was born over what to call whom, I don't think adding kids into the picture is going to solve matters. That will just be replacing one rude demand of what to call them for another.

They are not the OP's parents. They are neither mothering nor fathering him. So "mom" and "dad" are right out.

They are adults, though. So the OP should use the same rules in addressing them as in addressing other adults: "Mr/Mrs [blah]", or by their first names if you have a closer relationship with them.

It does not sound as though the OP has a close relationship with them.

Thing Fish
12-17-2008, 04:44 PM
No, the rule is that you address adults however they prefer to be addressed, although Mr/Mrs _____ is the default pending the expression of a preference. The other, even more important, rule is that when people address you in a manner you don't prefer, you don't freak out and berate them for being rude. Sounds like there are bigger problems than etiquette here.

FTR, I call my in-laws by their first names and would feel very weird addressing them as "mom" and "dad". The trick is to remember never to call my FIL by the rude nickname that my wife and BIL have privately referred to him by since childhood...

drpepper
12-17-2008, 05:05 PM
I don't have a solution, but just a comiseration to the situation in the original post, the whole situation of which would have pretty much frosted me. It just seems perfectly natural that in-laws can be and, absent another alternative preferable to both parties, should be called by their first names. Age /respect considerations really have nothing to do with it; having a stick up your ass does, IMHO. (Unless there's some ethnic / cultural thing at work here that may alter the rules).

I wouldn't have a problem with 'mom' and 'dad' normally, if I felt a certain closeness that equalled or exceeded the closeness I had with my own parents, but their initial irritating reaction would have cancelled any of those warm feelings immediately. Your parents-in-law and their annoying patronizing expectations would put me off; truth be told, your wife should have addressed this with them from the get-go, but absent that I'm not sure if there is a good solution here.

kunilou
12-17-2008, 05:10 PM
I was never comfortable enough to call my in-laws "Mom and Dad" or any variant thereof. It was years before I was comfortable enough to call them by their first names.

Given that the mother-in-law seems to have some serious "respect" issues, my suggestion is to call them mother and father (lastname). It's old-fashioned enough for a traditionalist, and maintains a level of formality.

Of course, if mother-in-law keeps up the battle, you have to just look her in the eye and say, quite firmly, "I already have a Mom and Dad."

Chimera
12-17-2008, 06:23 PM
People have a right to be called what they want to be called.

Not so much. There are limits. I can't go around demanding that people call me "God", or "Lord (Chimera)". If I did, they'd be well within rights to refuse.

You can *ask* to be called whatever the hell you want, within reason. But when you cross MY line of reasonability, you lose.

Not sure the OP demand is all that reasonable. I can understand their discomfort with the first name basis (although by doing so they inhibit familiarity - notice the root word "family" in that), but "Mom"? Fuck no. No one but my own mother has the right to demand that I call her mother.

Earthworm Jim
12-18-2008, 08:17 AM
I already have a Mom and Dad. I really don't feel comfortable calling my in-laws Mom and Dad too. When I told her this, she freaked out again and told me that since we were family, I had better get comfortable with it. She also thought my compromise of Mr. and Mrs. [Last Name] was rude.Call them 'Mother-in-law' and 'Father-in-law'. Full title, every time you address them. It's a trifle long, but has the virtue of being accurate.

Or, depending on how smart-ass you're feeling, the following:

"Y'know, I'm not comfortable calling you mom. I already have one of those. So how about I call you 'uncle' instead? Sure, you're not my uncle, but you're not my mom either. And an uncle is a family member, so I don't see the difference."

More seriously, if I may ask:
This was about 4 years ago...I've been married for about 2 1/2 years nowHow old were you then? I was practically a child when I got married & probably should have called my in-laws "mom & dad" for all the guidance & help they gave me. I've always called them by their first names, and while they were a bit miffed about it at first, they're OK with it now. Partly, I think, because I grew up ;) Of course, YMMV.

Drygon
12-18-2008, 10:18 AM
More seriously, if I may ask:
How old were you then? I was practically a child when I got married & probably should have called my in-laws "mom & dad" for all the guidance & help they gave me. I've always called them by their first names, and while they were a bit miffed about it at first, they're OK with it now. Partly, I think, because I grew up ;) Of course, YMMV.

Both my wife and I were just shy of 22 when I proposed and we were both in our 3rd year at college. I'm positive that they didn't see me (or their daughter) as an adult. Maybe we're still children in their minds?

gravitycrash
12-18-2008, 11:08 AM
This is your in-laws problem not yours. My now ex in-laws were upper middle class bordering on rich and kind of snooty but they insisted that I called them by their first names.

It sounds like they are unlikely to change so the only advice I can give is grin and bear it. As you described it, your wife doesn't seem to want to bring the subject up with her parents, leave it alone man. Pick your battles, this one is a loser.

cmosdes
12-18-2008, 11:27 AM
The problem with that is that I already have a Mom and Dad. I really don't feel comfortable calling my in-laws Mom and Dad too. <snip>

I was thinking that since we're going to try for kids soon, I could just hold off and use Grandma and Grandpa.You don't have grandparents?

Ferret Herder
12-18-2008, 11:39 AM
You don't have grandparents?
Hah! But people typically grow up with more than one "Grandma" and "Grandpa", versus the people they call "Mom" or "Dad". The latter terms tend to be reserved for singular and pretty special people, while with multiple "Grandma"/"Grandpa" possibilities, you start thinking it's more of a general label you could start slapping on anyone. :)