OPEN THREAD: are there in-laws name alternatives instead of just “the in-laws?”

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In-laws name alternatives as seen on @offbeatbride
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I really hate the connotation of the term “in-laws.” Heck, there are movies and books and articles all over reiterating the message that in-laws are overbearing and at odds with you. I also don't want to start calling my mother-in-law “mom” (especially since my mom is deceased and I don't want to nominally replace her). Does anyone have advice on what to call my in-laws that won't carry the negative weight?

Monster in-laws, the evil in-laws… it's absolutely true that society has demonized the term in-laws into something that isn't exactly reflective of reality. Step-parents have been embracing the term “bonus mom” or “bonus dad” as a way to combat that particular stigma, and it could totally work in this case, too. I'm all for embracing terms with formerly negative connotation and reforming them with positivity, but sometimes it's just not practical for daily use.

If you're not down for first names (as opposed to mom and dad), some other ideas for in-laws name alternatives could be:

  • “extended family”
  • a term from a language close to you (like “mishpucha” in Yiddish)
  • even just “my partner's parents”

Do any of you call your partner's family by something other than the in-laws? Give us your suggestions in the comments!

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Comments on OPEN THREAD: are there in-laws name alternatives instead of just “the in-laws?”

  1. My partner and I aren’t married, but we live together. My mom and he lovingly call each other “mother-in-sin” and “son-in-sin.”

    • omg, I love this so much and wish I could do it as well! But my partner’s religious/conservative mother would probably die if I rubbed in her face that we have lived in sin for the majority of our relationship. LOL.

  2. My partner has always called his mother The Moms, so my mother in law will always be The Moms to me, too. To her face, I call her her first name, because we’re modern like that. I can anticipate referring to her as my mother in law if I’m in a conversation with strangers who don’t know about The Moms. But among family, in the third person, she’s The Moms.

  3. Are there any grandkids? My adult friends have taken to calling my parents by their grandparent names. While my husband and I both call both sets Mom and Dad, my (and my sister’s) friends call my parents Mimzy and Pops. It’s loving and light without carrying the weight of Mom or Dad.

  4. I grew up calling my parents Mama and Papa, so I feel like I can refer to my husband’s parents as Mom and Dad; I don’t feel close enough to the father (we’ve still not met! Or spoken!) to do so, but I could imagine the lack of ambiguity would feel OK. I love it when past boyfriends have called my father Papa and my hubster does so and I love it.

  5. My parents are Mom and Abba, and he asked if he could call them that too, and he calls his parents M?m? and Bàba (they are all speakers of Mandarin) and they indicated that I might call them by that as well. It works, it’s sweet, it differentiates between the sets of parents, and it makes them happy.

  6. My parents died years ago, and only his mom remains. I haven’t ever called her anything to her face. My sister in law calls her Mom, so imagine I’ll be doing the same, unless I call her Esther, her name. Hmm. Something to contemplate.

  7. My and the other daughters-in-law call my wife’s parents Mama [Last Name] and Papa [Last Name] which I love bc if feels personal without using mom and dad. If I’m talking about any of my in laws with a third person I tend to just say “family” and then elaborate who they are later. I feel like starting with family sets up that I genuinely care about and love these people in a way that “the in-laws” doesn’t. Family also works for those extended people (like my bro-in-laws wife’s mother) that I’m close with but that there’s no easy way to describe.

  8. I just call my in-laws by their first names and always have. My husband does the same with my mother and he calls my father by his initials because everyone does! I think my mother is the only one who uses my father’s first name. When I refer to my in-laws in conversation I just use their first names unless I’m speaking with someone who doesn’t know them and then I usually just say “My husband’s mother/father/parents.”
    There was an uncomfortable moment at … either Christmas or Easter when I opened a card from his parents that was signed “Mom and Dad.” I immediately told him that it made me uncomfortable and he must have relayed the message because the next card I got from them had been signed with their first names again.

  9. My mother-in-law gave herself the name “Mother in Law Forever” and shortened it to “MILF.” She knew exactly what she was doing!

  10. I wouldn’t say there’s actually anything inherently negative about “mother-in-law” or “father-in-law”, though I find that making an informal version of titles like that can make them seem less stiff and more like you consider them family. For instance, I used to call my stepfather my stepdad (I would have never dropped the “step” since I have a dad and he never played that role, married my mother when I was grown, but we had a pretty good relationship at the time). So saying “mom-in-law” or “dad-in-law” seems more friendly to me than the more formal “mother/father-in-law”. I encourage my fiance to go ahead and call my parents by their first names (though I doubt I’ll ever be comfortable with that with his parents, who really dislike me to say the least).

  11. I call everybody my not-in-laws. People assume we’re married, so it works quite well.

    • In casual conversation, I embrace this issue by usually referring to my in-laws as “the outlaws”. In person, I have always called them by their first names. On a related note, my mom’s family has never been keen on using Grandma or Grandpa, so the outlaws got those titles all to themselves and my folks go by Nona and Poppa.

      • My parents divorced when I was 11 and both my parents each remarried to friends they allready both knew from within the same baby boomer friend group. My stepmother has always got on with Mum and her sisters (they come as a pack) and now they are sort related but not related, my stepmother refers to this group of unruly women as The Outlaws. They all love it!

      • I refer to my partner’s parents as the out-laws too. It confuses some people, amuses others and is true because we’re not married. Otherwise I just call them by their first names, which felt really weird the first few times I did it but now years later feels much less strange, and rude. I was raised to refer to my friend’s/partner’s parents as Mr or Mrs Surname.

        CSB: after my Mum remarried when I was in high school she had a different surname to me so my friends took to calling her Mrs Alegrya.

  12. I call my FILs by their first names, mostly because that’s also how Fiance most often refers to them. Fiance does the same with my parents.

    Another type of in-law: I usually refer to my brother’s wife as my sister, and leave out the in-law bit, or to her and my brother collectively as my siblings. But that’s because I’ve known her since I was in middle school, which is over half my life at this point, and it’s so much easier and shorter to say “sister” or “siblings” than to have to explain the relationship to people that it usually has no bearing on.

    For the parents of close friends, I usually say Momma [Last Name] or Dad [Last Name] – people I am close to and who are or have been like other sets of parents to me, but who are not my mom and dad. Some of my friends do the same with my parents.

  13. I’m one third of a polyamorous triad. I call my husband’s family my in-laws, and I call our other partner’s family my out-laws. I thought it up, like, 6 years ago and it stuck!

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