Deciding What to Call Your In-Laws
Go with the classics: Mom and Dad. In many areas of the country and in many families, the preferred term of address for a mother-in-law is "Mom" and "Dad" for a father-in-law. Variations include "Mama" and "Pop." If everyone is comfortable with this naming system, it might be the way out of the problem for you.
Try the formal route: Mother. Some people have solved the issue by calling a father-in-law "Father [first name]" and a mother-in-law "Mother [first name]." For example, you could have "Father Bill" and "Mother Hillary." This works nicely if your in-laws happen to be the President and the First Lady or the kind of people who still wear hats and eat sitting down.
Go South. And in case you think that most Americans are dolts when it comes to naming their parents-in-law, let me tell you the ingenious way Southerners solved the problem. In the South, you call older people by their first name with Miss or Mister in front of it. Thus, if your mother-in-law's first name is "Sarah," you'd call her "Miss Sarah." If your father-in-law's name is Lou, he becomes "Mister Lou." You can't go wrong with this, because adding "Miss" or "Mister" is a sign of great respect. (Unless, of course, your in-laws fought on the Northern side during the War Between the States. Then you'd better regroup.)
Don't recycle. I know we all want to do our part to help the environment, but asking your significant other to recycle cute pet names used by previous spouses to refer to the parents-in-law is not the way to go. Better to adopt a water buffalo in Cambodia or plant a tree in the rain forest. Unless they have a very good sense of humor or are unusually self-confident, people in second marriages are likely to be very upset about calling their parents-in-law by the pet name used by the previous spouse. In these instances, start from scratch.
Hopelessly stuck on the name issue? Don't panic. As time passes, the issue of what to call your parents-in-law becomes less important if the relationship is good.
More on: Marriage and Divorce
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dealing with In-Laws © 1998 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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