Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Tell mom-in-law that you already have a Mom
Brooklyn: I just got married and my mother-in-law wants me to call her Mom. Calling her by her first name is not an option. I already have a Mom. I consider myself a relatively flexible person, but on this issue. Any suggestions?!?
Carolyn: Talk to her. Your reason for not wanting to use Mom is perfectly reasonable and — this is the part you say to your mother-in-law openly — no reflection at all on your fondness for your mother-in-law. It's about your attachment to your mom.
Then invite your mother-in-law to help you think of something you both would like.
If she won't play, if it's "Mom" or bust, then this is about more than a name — I'd venture either a power play or a culture clash. In any case, it would be in your own best interests to deal with the larger issue instead of getting hung up on the name.
Anonymous: Re: "Mom": My in-laws informed me after our marriage that it was disrespectful of me to call them by their first name, or Mr./Mrs. Lastname, and that I should call them Mommy and Daddy. AND they refer to themselves in conversations with me as "Your Mommy" and "Your Daddy." Uh, no.
I spent five years assiduously not calling them anything, then we had children and I call them Amah and Akong (grandma and grandpa). And they wonder why their children don't have close relationships with them!
Carolyn: This reminds me of past letters from people very intent either on being called Mom/Dad, or on making sure they're the only ones with that title. The pressing need to acquire the trappings of intimacy seems to have 100 percent correlation with the failure of that intimacy ever to come to pass.
Every choice means choosing against something else
Anonymous 2: In the context of making big decisions, you said in a column a while back, "Learn which you value more, the person or the place." How can you value one more than the other without being resentful of what you gave up?
Carolyn: You don't blame other people when you don't get what you want.
Let's say you're deciding whether to move for someone. If you resent the person for forcing this decision, then you just view that resentment as a point in favor of staying put.
But if you resent the cosmic forces that prevent you from having both person and place, then I think you need to tone down your sense of entitlement. Every choice means choosing against something else. That's just how it works. Some people are stuck facing more sacrifices than others, too, but that's also just how it works.
If you're afraid a choice will hurt someone, prioritize your responsibilities, then choose, explain, hold firm.
So details matter here. But the general answer is that if you own your choices — "I could have stayed home, but I chose her" — then resentment is beside the point.