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How do your ILs refer to themselves when communicating with you?


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In an attempt to own my feelings, or at least make sense of them, I will say that this didn't bother me so much until after my own mother died..... 

My in laws refer to themselves as mom and dad when communicating with me. They end text messages with Love mom or dad. They sign cards to me with mom or dad.  If there is a phone call MIL answers with "this is mama Lastname." (Once when I called and the caller ID didn't give me away and she answered with "this is Firstname" so it's not like she always answers that way. )

It bothers me. I have a mom and a dad. And they aren't them. We get along well enough but I don't feel particularly close to them. Certainly not enough to want to call them mom or dad. Granted, they haven't asked me to call them mom or dad. And I never, ever do. But it feels a bit presumptuous for them to give themselves those titles for me. 

I have started responding on the phone very emphatically with "oh hi firstname." (rather than just hello) I think that surprised MIL a bit and for a while she quit, but she is back to "mama Lastname." They are from the midwest, if that matters and this is a cultural thing. If it's a cultural thing maybe I need to just get over myself.

I suck at speaking up in situations like this, and we have also been married for over 15 years so it feels weird to suddenly make an issue of it. But like I said, I think this has really only started grating on my nerves since my mom died 5 years ago. 

Is this normal and am I just overreacting? Or is this worth addressing for my own sanity? (If so, how?) Or should I just make myself get over it somehow? (And if so, how?)  

This doesn't keep me awake at night or anything. And my communication with them in general has decreased over the years. They mostly call DH's cell. But it bothers me nonetheless.

 

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My ILs refer to themselves by first name and I have NEVER called them Mom and Dad, not once. 

My father called my grandfather [Mr. LASTNAME]  but my mother called my father's parents [Mom and Dad].

My Daughter in Law calls me [Firstname] and I call myself [Firstname] in communication with her. 

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Honestly, I would let it go. Are they nice people otherwise? I would go on calling them by their first names when speaking to them but otherwise, it’s not a battle I would choose. BTW, our SIL calls us by our first names and our daughter calls her in-laws by their first name. 

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42 minutes ago, Danae said:

First names. My MIL does sign thing addressed to my husband and I together, like anniversary cards, "Mom,"but my birthday card she signs her first name.

Same. Always have done so.

 

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My mom signs "mom" to me or to the family. She has never written anything to just dh.

My step-mil signs her and her husbands first names on everything for dh and I.  For the kids they get grandma/grandpa first name.

My mil and step-fil sign "mom and first name of step-father" on everything. 

My own daughter and her husband call me 'Mo'. When I sign anything to dd, her dh (or her friends) I always write "love, Mo." It would feel really, really weird to start writing my first name on dd's husbands birthday cards. It would feel like it was putting extra formality on our relationship and put him apart from her. For me to write my first name on anything to him, it would only be at his request or if I wanted to make it obvious that I was pushing him away.  If he requested me to write my first name, it would make me feel like he wanted more space in our relationship. I asked her one time about this exact question... what does her dh call me. She says they call me "Mo", so Mo just makes sense. LOL

I really don't care how people sign cards or letters. I haven't ever thought about it. I am just happy to be included in a family. 

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even dh and his siblings would refer to their mother as "first name".  I always referred to her as "first name".  I honestly don't remember how she referred to herself. (probably "first name".)   someone, once, referred to her as my "mom" - and I was "what?".

the one that ticked me off was 2sil referring to herself as my sister - to someone else.  um, no, you're not. I don't think it was repeated after that.  I guess she felt the freeze I sent her way...

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My inlaws never referred to themselves as "mom and dad" to me.  Like, I wouldn't have gotten an email from MIL that said "Hey, it's mom."  However, I never referred to them by anything other than their first names or "grandma and grandpa" when referencing them through DD23 (who was 16 when MIL passed, and 21 when FIL passed.)

However, my SIL refers to her own inlaws as "mom and dad" and her spouse always referred to her parents (ie my own ILs) as mom and dad.  That was how they functioned really. So, my inlaws functioned on a precept of being referred to and referring to themselves as I chose to do so.

My parents ALWAYS refer to themselves to DH by their names.  Always.  And, growing up, my parents always referred to their own inlaws as either grandma and grandpa, or by name.  My dad's parents divorced before my parents married and both remarried.  My dad's dad was always "grandma lastname and aunt Char" to me, and among themselves, Ed and Char.  My mom's parents have always been Grandma and Grandpa to me and Bob and Jan to my dad.  

My daughter is in a serious relationship that has potential.  I hope that if the potential is realized, he never wants to refer to me by anything other than my name, or "grandma"   

 

IMO, mom or dad are very special titles.  My DH very much *earned* that title as he is not DD's original biological relation.  Years of being DAD, earned him the title of dad.  And as my kids mom, I didn't earn as hard as DH did, but really, I feel like it's an earned title, through all the waking up in the middle of the night, the relentless shuttling to ball practice, the hours spent teaching a kid how to do laundry and wash dishes, etc etc.  If I didn't dedicate those hours to that person, it makes me uncomfortable to have them refer to me by that title.

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First names. Or we use their grandparent names, mostly.

DH’s sister’s husband calls them Mr. and Mrs. Lastname, and I know that MIL loves it.  DH and I were already married when SIL got married, so we were set, but I wonder if MIL would prefer I do the same sometimes.  That feels way too formal for family, to me.

My other in laws, who are newer in our lives - we go with their grandparent names.  Sometimes I call that FIL Pop, because I don’t already have a Pop.  So it’s easier. 

And, no, it’s not as weird as it sounds!  My second set of in laws are DH’s awesome, wonderful birthfamily with whom we connected maybe 7-8 years ago.  🙂

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I assume my in-laws are upset that I don't, but I don't care that they're likely upset about it.  They're in a constant dither over things all the time, so people stop worrying about it because they're just the kind of people who want to be upset about something. When we got married my FIL said, "You can call me Dad if you want to."  I said, "That's so nice of you, Ed."  And that's what I've always called him, Ed. And my MIL is Carolyn.  That's how they sign my birthday cards and gift cards with cash in them.  When they send us things as a couple like an anniversary card, or the family Christmas card they sign it Mom and Dad because it's going to my husband too, which makes sense.

I do think it would be a problem changing it after you've called them Mom and Dad.

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7 minutes ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

 When we got married my FIL said, "You can call me Dad if you want to."  I said, "That's so nice of you, Ed."   

Diplomacy in action, lol. I wouldn't have thought so quickly. 

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I call them by their first names if an address must be used.  I try to avoid it to be honest.  I am uncomfortable calling them anything, but that is a me hang up with most people.

They refer to themselves by their first names when signing cards, emails, etc., unless it is to the whole family or DH and I  then it is either grandma and grandpa or mom and dad.

I know very few people who use mom and dad for their in-laws, most use first names.

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I think it's part of your grieving process, and you will get over it in time. Because it's mostly in writing and they have never asked you to call them mom and dad, I would work hard to let it go. After fifteen years, yeah, it's weird, and it's going to be a thing even if they are completely gracious about it. Because it's going to be impossible for them to not feel awkward. 

If you absolutely cannot be at peace with it, can you frame it as part of your grieving process? "Since mom died, it hurts my heart to hear "it's mom" when I call on the phone. I didn't say anything because I thought it would get better, but it hasn't, and it doesn't have anything to do with the way I feel about you (because you've never felt like she was a mother figure, that hasn't changed)." 

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3 minutes ago, katilac said:

I think it's part of your grieving process, and you will get over it in time. Because it's mostly in writing and they have never asked you to call them mom and dad, I would work hard to let it go. After fifteen years, yeah, it's weird, and it's going to be a thing even if they are completely gracious about it. Because it's going to be impossible for them to not feel awkward. 

If you absolutely cannot be at peace with it, can you frame it as part of your grieving process? "Since mom died, it hurts my heart to hear "it's mom" when I call on the phone. I didn't say anything because I thought it would get better, but it hasn't, and it doesn't have anything to do with the way I feel about you (because you've never felt like she was a mother figure, that hasn't changed)." 

I really like the way you phrased that. And I think you've hit the nail on the head describing my feelings. I wonder if I could get that out of my mouth as eloquently to them. Probably not. 😄 

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23 minutes ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

I do think it would be a problem changing it after you've called them Mom and Dad.

I personally have never called them mom or dad. Only by their first names. I did notice one sister in law call my MIL mom, but I do know if she always does that. We haven't seen them much due to distance.

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16 minutes ago, DesertBlossom said:

I personally have never called them mom or dad. Only by their first names. I did notice one sister in law call my MIL mom, but I do know if she always does that. We haven't seen them much due to distance.

I mean the collective you, not necessarily you in particular. 

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16 minutes ago, DesertBlossom said:

I really like the way you phrased that. And I think you've hit the nail on the head describing my feelings. I wonder if I could get that out of my mouth as eloquently to them. Probably not. 😄 

Practice. For real, say the words out loud over and over by yourself before talking to them. If you're a natural cryer, put that to good use and burst into tears the next time she does it, it would make a great segue, lol.

Or, if text/email is a typical way for y'all to communicate, I think it's reasonable to put it in writing. If you make it clear you don't expect an immediate response, or maybe a response at all, it has the benefit of giving them time to react and process as well. 

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2 hours ago, Danae said:

First names. My MIL does sign thing addressed to my husband and I together, like anniversary cards, "Mom,"but my birthday card she signs her first name.

 

This is what my father-in-law does (and mother-in-law did when she was alive).  My FIL has subsequently remarried, and his wife goes by Firstname with us all.

My husband was the first among his siblings to get married, and they *asked* me.  Both of them referred to their own respective MILs as "Mom" at the time, but despite a tiny twinge of guilt at disrupting the pattern they had set for themselves, I felt as the OP feels, I already have a mother, that name is sacred to me. So I chose Firstnames and that set the pattern for my husband's siblings' spouses; now everyone in our generation uses Firstnames.

But.  If your in-laws didn't ask you in the beginning, and the pattern now is set... it might be disruptive or hurtful to make a Big Deal about wanting to change and why. How do you imagine it would play if you just, simply, starting addressing them as Firstname and Firstname?  Are there other inlaws who call them Firstname?

 

 

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1 minute ago, Pam in CT said:

 

This is what my father-in-law does (and mother-in-law did when she was alive).  My FIL has subsequently remarried, and his wife goes by Firstname with us all.

My husband was the first among his siblings to get married, and they *asked* me.  Both of them referred to their own respective MILs as "Mom" at the time, but despite a tiny twinge of guilt at disrupting the pattern they had set for themselves, I felt as the OP feels, I already have a mother, that name is sacred to me. So I chose Firstnames and that set the pattern for my husband's siblings' spouses; now everyone in our generation uses Firstnames.

But.  If your in-laws didn't ask you in the beginning, and the pattern now is set... it might be disruptive or hurtful to make a Big Deal about wanting to change and why. How do you imagine it would play if you just, simply, starting addressing them as Firstname and Firstname?  Are there other inlaws who call them Firstname?

 

 

I never have called them mom and dad. I am probably most inclined to call them nothing at all (see StellaM's reply--that's totally me), but in recent years I have tried to make a point to call them by their first names in an effort to subtly point out that their use of mom and dad is not a mutual feeling. I have 1 SIL who I have heard call MIL "mom" but that's it. 

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12 minutes ago, katilac said:

Practice. For real, say the words out loud over and over by yourself before talking to them. If you're a natural cryer, put that to good use and burst into tears the next time she does it, it would make a great segue, lol.

Or, if text/email is a typical way for y'all to communicate, I think it's reasonable to put it in writing. If you make it clear you don't expect an immediate response, or maybe a response at all, it has the benefit of giving them time to react and process as well. 

Sometimes a crier. But if I am at all emotional, even a little bit, my ability to speak coherent sentences declines dramatically. 

I could do the text message thing. I will have to wait for the right time. But I think it's doable.

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My husband was the last one to get married in his family, so I just found myself following protocol.  I called my mother-in-law "Mom".  It's never been a big deal to me.   But, I didn't have a great relationship with my own mom, so maybe that's why it wasn't such a big deal.

However, My son-in-law calls me nothing... maybe by my first name??  Rarely though.  I told him he could call me by my first name if that makes him comfortable.  I just don't think he's settled on it.  They've been married 10yrs.  LOL

One daughter-in-law is Chinese American.  She made a very big deal of not calling us mom and dad until the wedding day.  I always got the impression it was a tradition in her family.   Now, she calls us Mom & Dad.  I don't have a strong opinion either way, if that's what she wants to do that's fine.. But, I hadn't thought about how she might feel once her mom passes (hopefully in a long time).  They are close and I certainly wouldn't want to cause her sadness over something so simple. 

My other daughter-in-law goes between calling me "Mom" and by my first name.  

 

 

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54 minutes ago, DesertBlossom said:

I really like the way you phrased that. And I think you've hit the nail on the head describing my feelings. I wonder if I could get that out of my mouth as eloquently to them. Probably not. 😄 

I agree.....she said it so well.  Hey put it in writing. 

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I do think you're overacting (although of course I understand your sadness about no longer having your own parents!).  Assuming they're nice people, they're maybe just trying to make you feel like family.  I think you can go ahead and continue calling them by their first names if that's what feels comfortable for you, but I'd let it go about them referring to themselves as mom and dad.  

Think of it this way.  If it's confusing to you, it's probably confusing to them as well!  They're probably just going with their instinct, and there's really no right or wrong.

My dh's parents and I always referred to them/themselves by their first names.  But, I do know of others who use "mom and dad."  I will say it's confusing when I'm sending a card to both my child and their spouse...  I generally just sign  "mom" when it's to both of them because it's seems weird to sign it "mom and Susie." But otherwise I refer to myself by my first name with my child's spouse.

Maybe related... My dh's siblings have always called me by my maiden name, even addressed it that way on envelopes to me, even though I officially changed my name to my dh's name 30+ years ago!  I do know that they're actually trying to be respectful.  They're all for women's rights and want me to know that they're not assuming I completely gave up my old name.  But still... 30+ years?  haha   Yes they're really great people and I just let it go.  Whatever.

 

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We used first names.  I didn't like either of them.

But now with my kids grown my inlaw children call me by my grandma name, MaBelle. My Asian dil calls me  that or my name.  My dd calls her inlaws mom and dad and sometimes Oma and Opa, their grandparent names.

My sil sometimes calls us mom and dad.  I'm thankful he loves us that much and I'm thankful my dd loves her inlaws enough to call them mom and dad. 

 

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First names until grandchildren came along.   Their grandparent names are “Big first name” for fil (he is now deceased) and “Grand first name” for mil.  I have to say that I don’t personally care for grandparent names that include first names, but that is what they chose. 

I have friends who were high school sweethearts.  The husband said he was so happy when the first grandchild came along, and he could call his mil by her grandma name (“Gran”).  When they dated her called her Mrs. ________________.  It was really hard for him to transition to calling her by her first name after calling her Mrs. ____________________for so many years through high school and college.  

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All the different ways to do things are so interesting!   First names all the way here - my parents each called their in-laws by their first names and that set the pattern right down to my childrens’ spouses.   I do know people who call their in-laws mom & dad, although I must say that always seems weird to me - and I’m glad my children don’t call their in-laws mom & dad!  

 

Anne

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My FIL refers to himself as "Dad Lastname".  His wife, who is my dh's stepmother, refers to herself by her first name.  If she writes, she signs her First name.  If it's a card from both, she signs it "Dad and Firstname"  It doesn't bother me at all that they call FIL "Dad", but I don't think I've ever called him that.  If he's in the room, or on the phone, I just say "Hi!" and start chatting.  If I'm talking to dh or his sisters, I use third person, "... your dad".  

My MIL (dh's mom), interestingly, became a nun after dh was in college.  She now is called "Mother E" by those in her monastery.  When she writes us, she signs her letters "Mo. E"  If she writes our kids, she signs it "Grandmother, Mo. E"

My mom, when addressing my dh, refers to herself by her first name, and he addresses her the same way.

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Oh, DesertBlossom, I feel you. I've known my MIL and FIL since I started dating my DH at 16. When we married six years later, my MIL started referring to herself as "Mom" to me (in signing cards, leaving messages, etc.)  I know my husband's siblings' spouses (at least two of them) call her that. I know she'd like me to call her that. I cannot do it. She is not my mom. (My FIL is too shy to insist that I call him anything.) I call them by their first names.

Sometimes when she leaves messages, she will say, "This is Mom. [First name] mom." I can't bring myself to feel badly about not calling her Mom, although I think it has probably bothered her. She just isn't my mom, not 20+ years ago, not now. She's a good MIL. We're very different but have always been pleasant to each other. 

Call her by her first name and let her refer to herself however she wants. It doesn't change what *is*, you know? Show her grace and don't make her feel badly by making an issue of it. It is annoying but people do annoying things. They chew with their mouth open or talk too much about their health problems or whatever. Let it go because it's the kind thing to do. 

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My mil is called mom. Fil is fist name. 

My mother has passed away too. It was so hard the first few years to call my mil mom. But now I love it. I do have a mom; not the one that has been there my whole life, but one who loves me and cares for me as moms do of adult children. When I have needed mothering guidance I turn to mil now. But it took several years after my mom passed to feel this way and this comfortable with how life has turned out. 

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5 hours ago, MercyA said:

Oh, DesertBlossom, I feel you. I've known my MIL and FIL since I started dating my DH at 16. When we married six years later, my MIL started referring to herself as "Mom" to me (in signing cards, leaving messages, etc.)  I know my husband's siblings' spouses (at least two of them) call her that. I know she'd like me to call her that. I cannot do it. She is not my mom. (My FIL is too shy to insist that I call him anything.) I call them by their first names.

Sometimes when she leaves messages, she will say, "This is Mom. [First name] mom." I can't bring myself to feel badly about not calling her Mom, although I think it has probably bothered her. She just isn't my mom, not 20+ years ago, not now. She's a good MIL. We're very different but have always been pleasant to each other. 

Call her by her first name and let her refer to herself however she wants. It doesn't change what *is*, you know? Show her grace and don't make her feel badly by making an issue of it. It is annoying but people do annoying things. They chew with their mouth open or talk too much about their health problems or whatever. Let it go because it's the kind thing to do. 

This is how I feel too.  I adore my MIL but she is first name.....I will never call her mom....I have a mom.  And it would crush me if my son called his future MIL mom. 

I have a friend who calls her ILs mom and dad.  It often confuses me..,,.

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I have always called them Mom and Dad.  If I need to clarify who I am talking about I tack on the last name. 

My daughter-in-law calls me Mom and my dh, Dad.  She, too, tacks on the last name as necessary.  She asked us if that was ok during their engagement. 

My sister-in-laws call my parents by their first names and it always sounds a bit disrespectful to my ears for some reason but it might be a tone rather than the name.  My dh has always called my parents mom and dad.

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I have always thought it’s sort of weird to call your in-laws mom and dad as that, to me, implies that your spouse is a sibling, so I could not bring myself to call them mom and dad even though they requested it.  I call them by their first names.

When I called my grandma at the hospital, a lady answered the phone and grilled me on who I was before passing the phone onto my grandmother.  I told the lady I was a granddaughter calling and she said, “Oh, I am too!”  I was thinking who the heck is this as I didn’t recognize her voice.  It was my cousin’s wife.  It was an awkward conversation when I was calling to speak to my grandma for the last time.

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We just tend to use first names.  On both sides.  With grandparents, they all became Gradmpa FirstName, Grandma FirstName.  Which I liked.  It made it really clear who we were talking about all the time.  

I wouldn't mind using a different norm though if that was typical.  

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Once when I was younger, before I even got married, I asked my mom how she would feel if I called a mother-in-law "Mom." She did not like that at all, so that made it easy. 😀 

Not exactly the same thing, but my own dad died when I was young, and my mom remarried when I was in my 20s. I love my stepdad but I would never call him "Dad." It just seems disloyal to me to call someone else Dad. Plus, since I was an adult when he came into my life, it just seemed weird.

My mother-in-law once had the nerve to ask my ex-husband why I never called my stepdad "Dad," like I was being mean to him or something. But at least she never demanded I call her Mom.  

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Mine have both passed but they always referred to themselves with their first names to me and to their other dil's. None of us ever referred to them as mom or dad. Our spouses called our parents by their first names too. 

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I call them Mom and Dad, and when they need to be distinguished from my parents it's Mom Last Initial and Dad Last Initial. When we first got married,  I don't remember what I called them, but it grew pretty quickly into Mom and Dad. I have wonderful in laws, and DH and I are "one", so it just seemed natural to call them that. They like it. Over the years it has evolved to where she also clearly means me when she talks about "her daughters" which I like. My SILs also include me when they refer to their "sisters" even though I'm a SIL. I guess if we had a bad relationship it might bother me, but we don't.

I think it hurt my mom's feelings at first, but she always had a very poor relationship to her own MIL (both her fault and her MIL's fault, IMO) and was always very vocal about that while I was growing up. When we got married, I knew I wasn't interested in that kind of relationship with my MIL. It might have been harder if my in laws were difficult to get along with, but luckily for me they weren't and aren't.

But my mom does like it that my DH calls her Mom and she signs cards to him as Mom and Dad Last Initial. And I think she likes it that they have that kind of relationship. So she kind of wants it both ways, but has mostly got over it I think.

I personally hope my kids have a good enough relationship with their future in laws that they want to call them Mom and Dad. For me, it would be a sign that they hold them in high esteem and have a warm and loving bond with them, not something that somehow detracts from their relationship with me and DH.

We live in the Midwest, but I think it's probably more of a family dynamics thing than a regional thing. 

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30 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

We live in the Midwest, but I think it's probably more of a family dynamics thing than a regional thing. 

I have been thinking about this.... it is true that I don't feel particularly close to my ILs and that probably factors in to it.

But I also know my SILs and BILs adored my mother and had fantastic relationships with her and of the 7 of them, only one called her mom. It was the BIL who started dating my sister when they were teens and he was calling my parents mom and dad even way back then. 😄 So I don't think it's always a matter of how well people get along or like each other either.

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16 hours ago, Loowit said:

I call them by their first names if an address must be used.  I try to avoid it to be honest.  I am uncomfortable calling them anything, but that is a me hang up with most people.

They refer to themselves by their first names when signing cards, emails, etc., unless it is to the whole family or DH and I  then it is either grandma and grandpa or mom and dad.

I know very few people who use mom and dad for their in-laws, most use first names.

 

I use Mom and Dad for my in-laws as well as my own parents.

I am uncomfortable calling them by First name and they'd be uncomfortable if I called THem Mr and Mrs Lastname

 

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47 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

 I personally hope my kids have a good enough relationship with their future in laws that they want to call them Mom and Dad. For me, it would be a sign that they hold them in high esteem and have a warm and loving bond with them, not something that somehow detracts from their relationship with me and DH.

You can have that without the mom and dad thing, though (not that you said otherwise). 

How old were you when you met the inlaws? I always wonder if those on the younger side are more likely to do the mom and dad thing. I was 24 when I met the inlaws and not really thinking in terms of gaining parents, lol. 

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