What do you call your in-laws if NOT 'Mom/Dad'?

LainyAugust 5, 2003

This kind of relates to my other post about my FIL but it is really a separate subject, hence a separate question: If you don't call your in-laws "Mom" and "Dad", what do you call them?

I was never comfortable with calling my in-laws Mom and Dad, but they - and my now late husband - absolutely insisted on it. I was later estranged from my husband for several years before he died, which my FIL knows although he said he "does not want to know" the circumstances. (he probably wouldn't believe it if he were told). I recently completed a legal name change back to my maiden name because for numerous reasons I didn't want to retain my LH's surname. My FIL does not know I've done this and would undoubtedly throw a nuclear-bomb explosion of a fit if he did, at my "disrespect to his family's name". Anyway, he obviously still expects me to continue to refer to him as "Dad" which makes me even MORE uncomfortable now than it did while I was actually married. My own father died in the mid 1990s and it really bothers me to have to address someone else by that name. Obviously it would be disrespectful of me to address my FIL by his first name. And I don't think that suddenly calling him "Mister C" would fly very well either. He's not the type of person with whom anyone could have a calm rational discussion about anything like this. It is probably a no-win situation but I am curious as to what other in-laws are accepting of being called, if not "Mom" or "Dad". And whether there are other daughter- and sons-in-law who feel that those names are more properly kept for their own parents (for whatever reasons).

So, what do you call your in-laws and why?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I call them by their name - because it is their name. If I called them something else, they probably wouldn't know who I was talking to. :) I never really gave it much thought. They are people I know in a social situation, so I would never have considered refering to them any other way.

My wife tries to avoid using my parents names. When we are together, she will definitely walk across the room rather than call out a name to get their attention. If she has to though, she uses their first names. When they aren't around she says "your mom" or "your dad." I do that alot too.

My wife and I both have step parents too, and hence step parent in laws?? Anyway, we both call them by their first names. It would get pretty confusing if 4 people were "dad" at family functions.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2003 at 9:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't think calling them by their given names is disrespectful at all. I called my former in-laws by mom and dad, but always felt uncomfortable about it. It wouldn't be much different than with a stepparent. My boys call my husband by his first name. They have a father and everyone is happy about that. I wouldn't worry about it, just call them by their first names, there are so many things in life to worry about. What is that saying - Don't sweat the small stuff!!!!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2003 at 11:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would try to get away with calling my FIL by his first name IF I didn't know that he has strong opinions about how people "should" behave in that respect. For example when his sons were growing up he insisted that they call him "sir". (He is an ex-Marine, don't know if that has any bearing on things.) Before marriage I called him "Mister [last name]", as did EVERYONE else who was not of his own generation. However, I don't recall any of my friends calling their fiance's parents or their in-laws by their first names either; it would have been as rare as them calling their biological parents by their first names. I always thought (and still do) that even in an ongoing social situation, if a person is from an earlier generation than yourself it is more appropriate to address them as Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss until they tell you to call them by their first name. I'm curious, Billl, while you and your wife were just dating, did you call your future in-laws Mr & Mrs and then switch to the first-name usage after you got married? Or did you always address them by first names?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2003 at 9:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I always called them by their first names and it hasn't been a problem. Maybe it is just the way I grew up. My father called his inlaws by first name. We called the priest "Father Mike." I even called older (65+) church members by first name. The only people I called mr/mrs were teachers. I still said "yes, sir" and "no, maam" though.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2003 at 9:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ah, I see. I guess maybe it's a local or individual thing then (what's generally accepted). I was taught the only people you should call by their first names are those of your own generation, or relatives such as "Uncle Joe" - unless they give you permission. But I still remember, when I was 12 or so, my mother overheard me addressing our next door neighbor (whose kids I played with and who had TOLD me to call her by her first name) as "Rose" instead of "Mrs. Barth". Boy did I catch hell for that. Even when I explained that she'd told me to call her Rose, my mom said that to do so violated the "show respect to your elders" rule.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2003 at 10:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I forgot to mention, I don't think it's a "the era in which you grew up" thing. Because of my recent name change, I suggested to my son that if his friends felt awkward with calling me a different last name from his - or confused about whether to use Ms, Mrs, or Miss in combination with my resumed maiden name - they should just call me by my first name. He looked shocked and said that NONE of them would do that "because that would be weird and sound wrong". And these are 21st-century 18, 19, and 20 year olds so I guess it's not just an antiquated Miss Manners thing. In fact they think one of the boys very strange because although he refers to his mom as "Mom" when talking TO her, when talking ABOUT her he says "Sharon" instead of "my mom". He has told his friends it's okay to refer to her as Sharon but none of them will do it.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2003 at 10:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sorry, but my answer is as little as possible. Otherwise if I have to address her it's her first name. DH refers to my parents by their first name. (so does BIL, BUT the SIL's call them Mom and Dad- Odd huh!)


    Bookmark   August 7, 2003 at 10:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, I feel uncomfortable being called "Mrs. Smith". I am SO not old enough for that!! LOL Last time someone called me that, I said - "No that's my MIL, call me Susie". My children have friends who are suppose to call me "Mrs. Smith" so I do have those who use that salutation. I prefer to be called by my first name. That is my personality though. I am very causal and laid back.

I don't think what you call someone has much bearing on the amount of respect you have for them. I have a great deal of respect for many people whom I address by first name. I can think of quite a few people whom I address by "Mr. So-and-So" who I have NO respect for whatsoever.

You need to stand your ground and explain that there was only one "Dad" in your life and that you never have felt comfortable calling him "Dad". Suggest he come up with another name that will work for both of you.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2003 at 8:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I call his mom - mom. Not sure why..lol

    Bookmark   August 9, 2003 at 9:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I call my in-laws by their first names. They asked me to do this from the very beginning, so it didn't seem awkward or disrespectful.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2003 at 12:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When they were alive I called my in-laws by their first names. I'm a step-mother, step-mother-in-law and now a grandmother. I told the boys to call me whatever made them comfortable - as long as it wasn't an obscenity - kind of broke the ice and we all agreed that Amy was fine. When their wives came along we kept the pattern - the grandkids call me Amy or Emy (from Dora the Explorer) or the newest version, Nanemy. The step-cousins and assorted others usually call me Auntie...

These relationships are tough enough to get started, why the pressure to make someone do something that's uncomfortable? Lord knows, there's plenty of stuff to waste energy on without that kind of pettiness....don't get me started on when, where and how birthdays and holidays must be celebrated! I just try to be grateful the for people in my life -- the rest is small stuff. If someone is trying to bully you into something that makes you uncomfortable, just tell them that --- what's the worst that can happen? they'll be mad? they're already nasty, a bit more won't make a darn bit of difference and you'll still have your ideals intact.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2003 at 3:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I call mine by their first names because that's what they asked me to call them. They're pretty informal people. My dad is older & retired Air Force, so he's more formal. DH has always called him & my mom Mr. & Mrs. (last name).

    Bookmark   August 31, 2003 at 1:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Nothing! LOL My in-laws, while my husband and I were dating, basically in no spoken terms made it clear I was to call them Dr. and Mrs. Two years later, I really don't address them as anything, which is kind of annoying. They have put up that wall, albeit maybe unintentionally, and it is very hard to tear down. We talked briefly about what to call them other than Dr. and Mrs., never came to any conclusions, and here we are - back to square one. Now that their grandson is on the way, I suppose I will call her grandma? I don't know. I wish they weren't so stiff about it; but their son-in-law, who has been married to their daughter for five years, doesn't call them anything either - or addresses them as Dr. and Mrs. I find not calling them anything just as uncomfortable.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2003 at 10:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I call mine by their first names. I already have a mom and dad who raised me and I love very much. Although I adore my in-laws they are NOT my parents and it would be disrespectful to my parents (IMO)to call them as such.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2003 at 5:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Not anything I can type here!!! LOL!!!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2003 at 2:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I call mine by their first names. They are not my mom and dad. Even though I have a great relationship with them, I wouldn't want to call them Mom and Dad. And I really don't think I'd want MY children's spouses calling me Mom, either! (Hopefully that won't be for quite awhile....)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2003 at 2:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It occurred to me one day that my son's girlfriend never addressed me by, well, anything. It reminded me of 25 years ago and waiting until my future MIL looked at me before I'd say anything to her because I didn't know what to call her. So I told Alicia that I preferred she use my first name. She was quite relieved.

I couldn't imagine calling my in-laws Mom and Dad, they weren't the type and they weren't my parents. But I sure do like it when my son's friends call me Mom.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2003 at 6:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My mother and father in law asked me before we were married, to call me by their first names.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2003 at 12:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My Mother asked my Husband to call her Mom, He does! She always called and still refer to my Grandparents (Dads side) Mom and Dad. Even though they have been divorced for years and she never remarried Grandpa is still Dad to her! I Love it!

As far as his side, thier names! I asked and it was like!... HUH! or whatever you want~ That was answer enough!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2003 at 12:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Why would anyone call their in-laws Mom & Dad is beyond me. What's wrong with their first names?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2004 at 9:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


My FIL calls my MIL "Mommie", and their youngest son will be 29 this year.

She calls him by his first name, though.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2004 at 11:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I call my in-laws by their first names. they asked me if that would be OK when we got married, and I was very relieved. I would not even consider calling them mom or dad, because for me, it would feel like a betrayal to my parents in my heart. think if you were in a situation in which you were divorced and your husband remarried someone that you either couldn't stand or were jealous of. and your children started calling her mom. I would think that would be painful. so in that same thought process, I wonder how our parents feel to hear their adult children calling someone else mom or dad. Actually, I would like to hear from those whose adult children are married. Would it bother you to hear your adult son/daughter call someone else mom or dad?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2004 at 2:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I call my MIL and FIL by the names that they use.FIL uses his middle name instead of first name.LOL,my husband used his first name as his own first name when I was first married to him.When we moved near his parents,they called him by his first name and i called him by FIL first name.It was very weird.Whenever I used the name I was used to ,they became confused.Now I call him by his birth name when I am around them,and Sweetie when we are alone because I've never figured out what to call him.Thank Gowd I never had to call his parents Mom or Dad.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2004 at 12:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Once I became engaged to their son, my in-laws signed greeting cards "Mom and Dad". Since both my parents have passed on, I decided why not? My MIL is not someone you want to call "mom", but I do this out of respect for my dear, sweet husband (who had to live with this woman!).

    Bookmark   September 23, 2004 at 10:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I called his father and step mother by their given names; he calls my parents by the names the grandkids use (Maw Maw or Paw Paw). My sons in law call me by my first name.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2004 at 12:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My in laws to be are very laid back, as are my parents. Actually all four of them have nick-names. My MIL - Mei (pronounced Me-I). My FIL is Pop, Poppy if you are affectionate. Her FIL - Herbie, her MIL - Mammy. Weird to some I guess, but I feel blessed to have such a laid back fam myself, and marrying in to one. First time I met my FIL I said, "Nice to meet you Mr. Doe", he said, "There'll be none-of-that, call me Pop", I said, "Cool, call me the little SOB your daughter is moving in with"

    Bookmark   November 5, 2004 at 12:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In the area where I grew up, everyone I knew called their inlaws Mom and Dad. No disrespect meant to their own parents, it was just convention. The parents called *their* in-laws Mom and Dad, too. I remember thinking it odd when Samatha Stevens on "Bewitched" referred to her mother-in-law as "Mrs. Stevens".

Where I live now, I hear both Mom and Dad and first names. Often, it's the people who marry young who call their in-laws Mom and Dad, and the ones who marry in their 30's or later who call them by their first names.

If I were in your situation, Lainy, I'd probably continue to call him Dad and feel unomfortable, especially if he's getting on in years.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2004 at 12:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If I were you, I'd just call them by their fisrt names. If they question that, simply tell them that Mom and Dad are reserved for your parents. If it makes you uncomfortable to call them mom and dad, tell them that. They should understand. good luck

    Bookmark   November 20, 2004 at 8:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

:) I call both moms 'mom' though I also call his mom 'tree' (short for theresa) like the rest of the kids.

my dad's 'dad' 'buddy' or Zeyde (he's 40 years my senior) depending on what we're talking about

his dad is 'poppa' or 'grumps'

DH calls my mom 'rae' like everyone else, but she gets hugged and called 'mom' on occasion.

and he calls my dad 'poppa'.

actually, this came up this past week- an old friend called me up with a dilemna- what do you call the man your mom walked out on ten years ago, when you're in a fix, and it's HIM, and not your mom, who takes you in?

I suggested 'pop' which, given the age of the men concerned, seemed an affectionate compromise that both of them could get a handle on.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2005 at 3:29PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Husband treats me like crap! How do i stop it?
My Husband and I have been married for almost 5 years....
Getting a little help from your spouse
Well, the holidays are here and as usual, I'm worn...
"Friend" Marriage
I have been looking up posts for months that relate...
My partner's son hates me, how do I build a relationship with him
I have been dating a man for about five months. I know...
Am I Wasting My Time?
So, I have been with my fiance for 5 years. In the...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™