After “I Do”: What Do You Call Your Mother in Law?

Catch up on the entire After “I Do” series here! And if you have a burning question you’d like to see discussed, submit it here!

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What do you call your mother in law? Is it the same thing you called her before you were married, or did you make a switch?

Before we were married I avoided calling my MIL anything because I wasn’t sure what to call her. I would just stare in her general direction and hope that she would look up so that we could talk. Mature, I know. :) But, now that we are married (and even before we were married if my stare trick didn’t work) I call her by her first name. It’s how she introduced herself to me, and avoiding calling her anything (especially when I need to call her on the phone) just doesn’t work.

I call her by her first name, which is the same thing that I called her before we were married.

I call my MIL by her first name. The first time I met her when Mr. FF and I were dating, I referenced her as “Mrs. LastName,” and she quickly asked for me to call her by her first name only. Easy peasy for me!

In the beginning, I called her “Mrs. ——.” As we grew to know each other, I just called her by her first name, and still do after our wedding. Mr. D calls my parents by their first names too. The whole calling in-laws “mom” and “dad” is a weird thing for me.

Joan.  Always have!

I’m also in the first name camp. Though, for his dad, I call him Papa T. He gets a kick out of it!

Ohhh my gosh. This is embarrassing. Before we were married, I called her “Mrs. XYZ.” And now? Come to think of it…in the past YEAR I have been at my in laws’ house for Sunday lunches almost every week, but I have never once used her name! What?!?! I guess if it came down to it, I’d use her first name…but it feels WEIRD to think about that.

I’m a first namer too. I asked Lambster what I should call her when we were dating and that’s what I’ve called her since. I figured she’d correct me if she wanted something else. :)

I have 2 MILs (I know, lucky me): a step-MIL and Mr Frenchie’s Mom. I call them both by their first name. No-one ever said please call me this, like my parents did for Mr Frenchie, so I just went with first names and figured they could correct me if they wanted. In the case of my step-MIL, Mr Frenchie calls her by her first name, so that was easy. However, with my MIL, Mr Frenchie obviously calls her mom and everyone else calls her by her nickname, Sue. I do still feel a little odd calling her Sue instead of Susan, but I usually just go with what I’m feeling at the time or just use the look directly at her and start taking method.

I call her by her first name, which is what I did before we were married (or the just start talking method which seems to be popular with others!). She usually signs emails and things with “Mom First Initial” which I think is sweet, but I don’t think I’d be comfortable just calling her mom all the time (that’s what I call my mom!).

I’ve always called my mother-in-law by her first name, and continued to do so after the wedding. She’s not my mom; she’s Linda, and so that’s what I call her.

I’ve always called her by her first name. Well, to be more respectful, I always say Ms. -first name-. Calling her mom never crossed my mind, because my mom is my only mom. :)

I call her by her first name. Always have, always will. The thought of calling anyone besides my own mom “mom” just weirds me out. Not for me!

In my family, EVERYONE calls their in laws mom and dad. Growing up, this never seemed strange to me. Is this a Pittsburgh thing? An Italian thing? Who knows. After getting engaged, however, I started thinking about it, and I realized that I couldn’t call someone mom or dad who weren’t my parents. Burger’s family calls in laws by first name, so it had never occurred to him to call my parents mom or dad.

Prior to getting married, we called each others’ parents Mr./Mrs. ____, and now we call them by first name. I think my mom would LOVE for Burger to call her mom, but my siblings and I call her by her nickname a lot anyway. Interestingly though, Burger and I both call each others’ extended family members aunt/uncle/grandma/grandpa! I think it’s because it seems too informal to call them by first name. :)

For the first few years, I avoided calling my MIL anything at all. Eventually, I became comfortable enough to use first names with my in-laws, which is what I still do, and Mr. HC for my parents. However, we are still working out how to write joint mail/cards. If I’m writing to my parents, no problem, I write “mom” or “dad” and sign both our names. But if it is for my in-laws, I have Mr. HC write it and sign our names—I feel funny calling them “mom” and “dad” because I would never do that in real life!

Count me in the “nothing” camp. Mr T’s parents never expressed their wishes or introduced themselves to me in a certain way. It seems too informal to call 70-somethings (at least non-American ones) by their first name, and they’re definitely not the “mom and dad” type.

Which is all to say—thank heavens for having a kid! It opens up a whole new world to the “nothing” camp once you can refer to your in-laws as grandma and grandpa (or amah and akong, in our case).

I call her by her first name in person, usually, or “MIL” in email or Facebook. If I’m feeling playful, I address her as Mom or Nana, but only in pretty specific contexts.

I’m her third kid-in-law, so my SILs set the tone before I came around; things might have been different if they hadn’t.

Hahaha, I’m just like FroYo, Buttons, Hermit Crab and Tulip. I’ll be all “hey…you” while looking at her. Or talk loudly in her general direction. I have called her by her first name, and I believe that’s what she’d be fine with…but it just seems odd for me to do it. Ditto with my FIL. So really, I just look at them and talk if possible. But if I need to get their attention, I’ll call our their first names.

I’m like quite a few of the others too: I kinda avoid calling her anything…bad daughter-in-law. She signs all her emails and cards with “Mom” and her other daughter-in-law calles her that, but I just can’t. It’s too weird for me. At the moment we live halfway around the world from my in-laws, so I can stick with this method of not calling her anything for awhile, but I know I will have eventually call her something. :P Maybe I will just pop out a grandchild for them so I can call her Grandma. Ha. I would prefer to call her by her first name, which is what Mr E uses for my parents, but I’m not sure if they approve of that. It is a little hard to tell. Ah well, that is a problem for Future Mrs Earrings to handle!

Zeb comes from a formal family. I addressed my friends parents by their first names but Zeb always did the Mr. & Mrs. Last Name thing. I was introduced to his parents as Mr. and Mrs. Last Name. (Zeb shares the same first name as his father.) I always addressed his parents as Mr. & Mrs until I began working with his mother when she asked me to call her by her first name. I still don’t know what to call his father because it is awkward for me to call him and Zeb the same name. (Most of Zeb’s family calls him by his middle name—it gets confusing.) I continued calling him Mr. until a few months ago when I started calling him Papa Zeb jokingly. It’s stuck and it works, so I’m sticking with it.

Funny story: after many awkward months of not knowing if I should go FirstName or Mrs. LastName Mr. Seashell’s Mom called me on the phone. I thought to myself, “Perfect! She’ll say who’s on the phone and I’ll know how to address her.” Not so much.

<Hello?>

<It’s Mr. Seashell’s Mom! Hi!>

Ugh. Problem not solved. Weeks later I teased her and said she ruined my opportunity of knowing what to call her. We later settled on FirstName.

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What do you call your mother in law?

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  1. Member
    jillocb 198 posts, Blushing bee @ 3:41 pm

    Wow! I feel like I’m in the minority – we call each others parents Mr and Mrs. His parents are in their 70′s and TOTALLY formal. Especially his Dad. I have told him to call my parents by their first names, but he won’t.

    We join the ‘awkwardly trying to avoid calling them by their names’ club. It’s really bad if you’re talking to one parent about the other, “Oh yeah…um…Mr. H…er…he said was telling us about that.”

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    MissLan, Guest @ 3:48 pm

    I guess I’ve come a long way because I was actually able to laugh along with the funny moments in this post! :-)

    This was always tricky territory for me. My parents immediately told FI to call them by their first names. FI’s parents never told me what to call them. After many awkward months of me not knowing (and using the stare & talk method), they banned the use of their first names, but didn’t offer any alternatives/preferences. After 6 years, we’ve still not really resolved this.

    MIL-to-be used to sign everything “FI’s Mom” and introduce herself that way on the phone…awkward. Now, per her request, and after a heartfelt convo on the subject, I call her by her first initial. I still have nothing to call FI’s dad, though. Le sigh.

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    MissLan, Guest @ 3:49 pm

    I should clarify, that when I said “I guess I’ve come a long way because I was actually able to laugh along with the funny moments in this post!” I was referring to how much stress this subject used to cause me.

  4. Member
    moderndaisy 6683 posts, Bee Keeper @ 3:51 pm

    I flat out asked my MIL what she preferred. She left the ball in my court so I asked if I could call her by her first name. That’s what all of DH’s cousins and friends call her, so that made the most sense. My SIL (DH’s brothers wife) calls her “Mom”, but she’s also known her since she was like 13, I just met her a couple years ago.

  5. Member
    Shrimp 51 posts, Worker bee @ 4:01 pm

    I am thankful I read this post! I am having a terrible time with this topic. They have never told me how to address them. My parents immediately told my FI to call them by their first names, but he has already started calling them “Mom and Dad” on occasion. His family calls their in-laws Mom and Dad, so I guess that is normal for him. I just don’t have that kind of relationship with his family, so it’s hard to imagine calling them Mom and Dad. Even when referring to them in conversation, I refer to them as FI Mom and FI Dad. I guess I just need to have a conversation, like MissLan did.

  6. Member
    helenberrycrunch 3733 posts, Sugar bee @ 4:09 pm

    I’m the type that just starts talking. I call his aunts and cousins by their first names, and he calls my parents by their first names. I think they want me to call them first names, but I was raised that you only call children and close friends their bare first names. I even call my coworkers “Miss Betty” and “Mr. Gary”!

  7. Guest Icon Guest
    CharlotteA, Guest @ 4:09 pm

    Mine has told me she doesn’t want me to call her by her first name, Mrs. XYZ, OR Mom. So I’m basically stuck and avoid calling her anything. If I absolutely HAVE to, I’ll just say Mrs. XYZ and she has to deal with it.

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    MissLan, Guest @ 4:12 pm

    @Shrimp, I feel you! Hang in there :-) It took us several conversations to get to a semi comfortable understanding.

    It was hard to bring up and a bit awkard, but I basically said to her, “I’d like to talk with you because I really want us to have a close relationship, and I’m concerned that the awkwardness of me not knowing what to call you might get in the way of real closeness.” I don’t think she had seen it that way before (which is why she blew off previous attempts to settle on something everyone would be happy with) and she seemed almost touched by it. Explaining it that way made her see why I felt it was important, and we ended up deciding on her first initial. It’s been much easier since the conversation.

    Good luck :-)

  9. Member
    TheFutureMcBride 4485 posts, Honey bee @ 4:13 pm

    We use first names for everyone. In fact, the first time I met my future FIL and step-MIL, I had my sister with me. I was so nervous about what to call them, she just flat out asked them. Thank good ness for break-the-ice sisters.

  10. Member
    ashley1001 489 posts, Helper bee @ 4:15 pm

    My MIL specifically told me to call her mom. I’m not a daughter-in-law to her, nor should she be a mother-in-law to me. She will tell anyone in a heartbeat that we are family; NOT in-laws! ha ha!

  11. Member
    TinyTina 3312 posts, Sugar bee @ 4:18 pm

    Wow am I the only that calls the in-laws Mom and Dad?? My entire family has always called their specific in-laws mom and dad, so it just seems natural to me to call my in-laws that too (Mrs. French Bulldog… I’m Italian, so maybe that’s it??). And no, they aren’t my actual parents, but they have taken me in as their own daughter so they feel like another set of parents to me!

  12. Member
    toshella 730 posts, Busy bee @ 4:21 pm

    So glad I’m not the only one who does that, “hey… you” thing. I never know what to call FMIL! She started signed her emails to me as “Mom” since we’ve got engaged, and unlike many of the bees I don’t really have a problem calling my inlaws “mom and dad”. I think it’s because that’s how my dad addresses my mom’s parents, so it seemed natural. That said, since we’re not married yet I don’t feel like I’ve “earned the right” yet, so I still address her ambiguously…

  13. Member
    plantains 2672 posts, Sugar bee @ 4:21 pm

    I call them Mr and Mrs LastName. It isn’t culturally acceptable for either of us to go first name but I don’t feel able to call her Ma. We’ll see.

  14. Guest Icon Guest
    Sarah, Guest @ 4:23 pm

    OMG I feel like I need to change what I call my in-laws! My husband is the youngest and all of his brother-in-laws (he has 4 sisters) called my husband’s parents “mom” and “dad”. So 4 years later, I finally started using “mom” and “dad” for them, too. When my mom is around however, I will call my MIL “Mom Lastname”. But they were the family that took in EVERYONE. So everyone calls them “Mom” and “Dad”.

  15. Member
    mightywombat 5297 posts, Bee Keeper @ 4:25 pm

    This is such an awkward topic for me. My FI’s parents would like me to call them mom and dad (they haven’t said so straight out, but once we were engaged she started signing cards to me “mom”). Their other DIL calls them Mom and Dad with no problems whatsoever.

    But it is not that easy for me! It feels weird to call people that I’m not close to at all Mom and Dad – especially when I have stepparents who have been in my life for decades who I still call by their first names. It almost feels like a snub to my wonderful stepmom and stepdad to call my in-laws Mom and Dad, but not them. Has anyone else dealt with this twist?

  16. Member
    BrightYellowGaloshes 250 posts, Helper bee @ 4:27 pm

    This post came at such a great time! I was talking to my husband about this last night, as I was writing a Mother’s Day card to my MIL. “What should I call her?” : )

    She doesn’t have a preference; she just wants me to pick it out so I’m comfortable with it. I’d like to use something other than just her first name (she is my MIL, after all, and I’m excited to be a part of their family!). I don’t want to call her “mom” ’cause that’s Mom’s name and I don’t want to call her Mrs. LastName because that’s now my name! : )

    I’m thinking of calling her Mom LastName or Momma K has a nice ring to it!

  17. Member
    leebaby711 362 posts, Helper bee @ 4:53 pm

    I also never call my future MIL by anything really, because we never had the whole “no call me this please” conversation. To top it off she signs all her cards Love “Mr. and Mrs B, her first name then her husband’s first name” leaving me with the task to figure out which one to call her lol I just do the stare at her and ask a question routine or on the phone the long drawn out Hiiiii how are youuu? in place of her name.

  18. Member
    hyena 2537 posts, Sugar bee @ 4:59 pm

    @TinyTina: Nah, my FMIL asked me to call her Mom. This is a pretty recent development, so I’m getting used to it!
    BTW Mrs. Earrings, love the HIMYM reference! :-D

  19. Member
    MrsSl82be 9010 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 5:04 pm

    First names all around, although hubs calls my mom Mom. She is more of a mom to him than his mom has been!

  20. Member
    kate02121 2997 posts, Sugar bee @ 5:06 pm

    Arghhh i hate / love this subject. I was in the room for the MOST AWKWARD conversation when my sister and her FI were talking to my mom and my mom brought up what he should call her and then suggested that he call her “Mom” which was not going to happen (they don’t get along too well) and he said “No, I think I’d rather just call you [first name]” which she grudgingly said yes to. This was two years ago and it still hasn’t become any less awkward when he calls her [first name].

    Needless to say, I haven’t gotten the courage to bring this up with my FI’s parents, so I cheerfully call her Mrs. XYZ and will continue to do so until she corrects me. Copout I know!

  21. Member
    afbacher 490 posts, Helper bee @ 5:09 pm

    I call my inlaws “Mama” and “Papa” – DH and I went to high school together, and all of the band parents were “Mama X” and “Papa Z” so I was already calling them that before we even started dating! He calls my parents by first names.

  22. Member
    Misslizzy 282 posts, Helper bee @ 5:27 pm

    omg… I opened this page just as I got off an awkward call with FMIL…

    I don’t think I’ve ever called her anything before (it’s weird to call her Mrs. S, because she and FH’s father are divorced and I’ve never been invited to call her by her first name.) this was the first time I’ve actually called her for something and when she answered I got quiet and then said “uh.. hi.. uh.. it’s Liz”

    Smooth right?

  23. Member
    Mrs. Boom 121 posts, Blushing bee @ 5:46 pm

    I have always called my future mother-in-law mom, she wanted us to get married right after she met me (5 years ago) so we have always been close and I love her to death. They also have a wierd thing about calling his sister- “sister” and they call him “brother.” So, I call his sister, “sister” and every once in awhile… once I’ve been around his family for too long I will slip and call him “brother” and then we get wierd looks from strangers. hahaha

  24. Member
    bebefly 1753 posts, Buzzing bee @ 5:57 pm

    I called her Mom :)

  25. Member
    eeper 129 posts, Blushing bee @ 10:01 pm

    It’s funny how this topic causes so much stress for everyone! Neither my parents nor his ever said “call me this”, though I don’t think any of them mind being called by their first names. I am a big fan of avoidance & the stare-then-speak method. I have recently begun calling them by their first names, but only when necessary, and ideally not to their face! I felt I could do this after I noticed my (now) BIL (hubs’ sister’s husband) was calling them by their first names.

    To further complicate matters, my FIL has the same name as my husband, which is just kind of weird.

    I have a friend who married into a very traditional Italian family, she had to go from calling her MIL “Mrs. XXX” before they got married to “Mom” the day after!

  26. Member
    RedRoses2 72 posts, Worker bee @ 11:51 pm

    Another one for the Awkward Club! I call them…nothing at all, for the same reasons everyone has stated.

    At least we’re not alone, right? Let’s hear it for awkward…. :-X .

  27. Member
    kellykinns 24 posts, Newbee @ 9:43 am

    I instantly loved my FH’s parents, and while we haven’t been around each other very much I am almost always around when he calls them once a week so I started yelling “Hi Mom” over the phone. Funny thing is, I usually call his dad by his First Name so it’s Mom and Don. We’re not married yet, but my dad had a conversation with FH that went like this after FH experimentally used “Dad” with him, “I think that’s cool, in fact I kind of like it, but you don’t have to call me dad if you don’t feel comfortable, I mean you already have a Dad. Call me Pops or Hey You, or just Tom works”

  28. Member
    Miss Ariel 83 posts, Worker bee @ 4:16 pm

    I’m in the nothing camp, where I just kind of go the “Hey You” route. Not the best route, but part of me is hoping I have kids so I can just start calling her Nana, which is what her grand kids call her

  29. Member
    Kinsey123 69 posts, Worker bee @ 8:27 pm

    I’m really glad to see that other people try to avoid calling their (future) in-laws by their names unless absolutely necessary. I just feel like it’s so awkward. Like Mary Jane, I’ll call out to her if need be…but typically there isn’t a reason for me to use her name in everyday conversation. If I do say her name though, it’s always her first name. He also (very comfortably, I might add) calls my parents by their first names. When referring to her in conversation, I always call her “Thomas’ mom.” I call his grandparents by their grandparent names though, so that’s weird.

  30. Member
    amethystmeg 235 posts, Helper bee @ 11:57 am

    I am ashamed to admit that I am so glad that this topic is stressful for so many other people. My MIL asked me to call her mom. But, we were not very close in the beginning and I felt very ackward calling her Mom because I felt close to my own mom and “Mom” is her name and she has given me everything. I felt like I was disrespecting my own mother by calling my MIL mom. My MIL calls her MIL mom, fyi. Ugh. Finally, my MIL and I got over a hump in our relationship so I broke down and called her mom. It feels weird still and I have not told my mom that I call my MIL mom.

  31. Member
    Mrs. Rubber Stamps 821 posts, Busy bee @ 5:30 pm

    @mightywombat:
    I can SOOO relate! My now husband introduced me to his mother by her first name so that is what I call her. She signs cards from Mom so I think she’d like me to call her that but like you I cannot bring myself to do so. We are not close and I have stepparents whom I am very close to and I also call them by first name.
    You’re not alone!

  32. Member
    PinkMagnolia 3442 posts, Sugar bee @ 9:40 am

    ugh my MIL asked me to call her mom.
    While we get along perfectly fine, I already have a mom and it’s my mom, not her. Now I just avoid saying a name for her.

  33. Member
    rachel_leigh 1106 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:46 am

    I call his mom “Lady” most of the time. She gets a kick out of it.

  34. Member
    TandJ209 102 posts, Blushing bee @ 1:12 pm

    I’m in the ‘nothing’ group. While my relationship with my parents is much closer, the FI’s parents don’t get involved in our relationship and while we get together with them more than my parents, they just keep to themselves and aren’t super affectionate. My mom is pretty judgmental and hasn’t been incredibly welcoming to the FI (no one will ever be good enough for this adopted, only child). The FI has always just thrown his arms around her, given her hugs and calls her “Mama Sue”, even when she’s been a pill. Hahaha. Awesome! And I think it worked. On his birthday she gave him a card and signed it “Mama Sue & Dad Mike”.

    BTW – If I HAVE to call the FMIL a name, it’s first name. Ug. So difficult! Just tell me what you’d prefer! :)

  35. Guest Icon Guest
    Keppa, Guest @ 3:39 pm

    Ugh I was SO happy to read these responses!! I feel so much less alone now!!!

    My mother raised me by herself from the time I was 2 – hence I don’t really feel all that comfortable calling anyone else that title.
    At our wedding, literally during the first 10 minutes of the reception, my MIL came over to me and said, “Well, it’s time to start calling me ‘mom’ now!” with a big grin on her face…

    I absolutely didn’t want to hurt her feelings – but I explained that for right now that’s not the most comfortable thing for me to call her (that might NEVER be the most comfortable thing for me to call her). I love her and I respect her as a mother, but she is not my mom and I can’t be pushed to call her otherwise. First names need to be ok for right now (although she still signs everything “Mom His-Last-Initial”).

    I suppose this is maybe made more complicated by the fact that he has no problem calling my mom “mom.” I also kept my last name, which I believe his family saw as a slight to begin with.

    I’m glad to know others are in the same “first name boat” that I am….

  36. Member
    Duckienz 45 posts, Newbee @ 7:38 am

    I have a really different situation! My fiancee John called his parents by their first name. I was REALLY uncomfortable doing that as I called everyone Mrs. and Mrs. so and so. It felt really disrespectful to be to call them that but Mr. and Mrs. felt awkward. Somehow I came up with Ma and Pa (I call my parents Mum, Dad and Dad-my step-dad raised me). They look after their great nephew as well so this solved the issue of what he would call them. In fact it has stuck so much that even John calls them Ma and Pa now. :D
    It is a lot more awkward with John and my parents. He sometimes calls my Mum, mum, mainly when on the phone but he always refers to my Dad as Peter. My parents are decades younger than his parents though so it makes sense for him to call them by their first names. We are headed over to stay with my parents in Australia next week so I guess we can talk about it then and see!
    Allie

  37. Member
    aloha.chick 22 posts, Newbee @ 4:44 pm

    Might be just a cultural thing. Here in Hawaii a majority of us call our in-laws “mom” and “dad” :)

  38. Guest Icon Guest
    georgie, Guest @ 5:27 pm

    I call my MIL mum because I never really had a mother who cared about me and my MIL fills that gap.

  39. Guest Icon Guest
    Linda, Guest @ 12:48 pm

    I always called my inlaws mom and dad. I took my queue from my own parents who called their mother in laws mom. Depends on the type of relationship you have with them I suppose. Nobody takes the place of my mom and dad and calling my inlaws mom and dad won’t ever change that. I think it just shows respect and closeness.

  40. Guest Icon Guest
    Julie, Guest @ 10:42 am

    I think what you call your “mom-in-law” reflects how you would like to be treated. If you want to be treated like a daughter, call her Mom. If you want to be treated like the wife of her son, call her by her first name. It is what you make it girls. :)

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