To My Husband's Mother, Cathy Crenshaw Doheny

To My Husband’s Mother:

The night before Kevin left to travel to see you, he finally confided in me the real reason he had been so upset lately. He told me that you had proclaimed that I was never again invited to step foot into your home. Apparently, this was in response to the email I had sent to you, asking that you give us some space for a while and not visit during Kevin’s remaining chemo rounds.

I know that you had good intentions and just wanted to be by your son’s side while he endured his cancer treatment, and I fully supported that. But then, the last time you visited, Kevin informed me that you had spent a solid hour screaming at him about our parenting choices WHILE he was receiving his chemo in his hospital room!

Given his weakened state, this sort of conflict was simply not appropriate. My husband and I both agreed that it would be best for you not to visit again while he was receiving chemo.

When Kevin returned from his trip to see you, he told me that you had finally admitted that it was not just that email that caused you to banish me from your family and home. In fact, he confirmed a belief that I have had since before Kevin and I married: You do not like or approve of me.

For years now, I would point out to Kevin specific ways I felt that you had slighted me, but he seemed unable to believe that his parents would react that way to the woman he loved most in the world.

Sensing that I was not your idea of the “perfect daughter-in-law”, I would try even harder to reach out to you, including you in holidays and urging Kevin to call and check in with you often. Then when we were preparing to adopt Jade, I tried to be fair and include you in as many of the plans as possible. When we brought her home, I updated the blog often, knowing that you must cherish photos of your only grandchild.

I made so many efforts to involve you in her life. But, sadly, those efforts were often met only with resistance. I feel that you never made any effort to get to know Jade or me at all. In fact, much of the time, I have felt that you treat me as a secretary. Looking back, though, I can honestly say that I made every effort to be a good daughter-in-law to you.

Even more importantly, I believe that I have been a devoted wife to your son. He has a home of his own, stability, and a child to love because of me. He has a woman who loves and cherishes him – a wife who has stood beside him and cared for him throughout his treatment for a deadly cancer, even in the face of her own illness and being a new mother.

Yet, despite all of these things, I feel that you have chosen to focus on the little ways you have not approved of me. Yes, I was very upset when you arrived an hour late to our wedding rehearsal dinner. We were working on a very specific time frame, and all of the other guests arrived on time. I was quite embarrassed to have to continue to make excuses as to why we couldn’t begin the dinner. I felt hurt that this special occasion was not important enough for you to arrive on time.

No, of course I did not want a Catholic priest to preside over my wedding. Neither Kevin nor I are Catholic or even religious, so we did not feel that it was the appropriate choice for our wedding. But you had insisted that it must be that way because it was what YOU wanted.

And, for the record, when I was told just minutes before MY wedding that a Catholic priest would be giving a blessing during the ceremony, I responded with grace, still trying to gain your approval.

On goes the list of petty reasons why you have stated that you don’t like me. I don’t suppose I have enough time or energy to address them all. And what would be the point now? No matter what I do, it appears that you won’t be changing your mind.

It hurts me tremendously to have to write this letter to you, as I very much wanted to be a part of your family. I always wanted you to approve of me, as you have been such an important part of my husband’s life. I wanted you to know me, understand me, and have meaningful discussions about life and love with me. And I had such wonderful plans for you to be a part of Jade’s life – to take her to the zoo, show her your beautiful garden, teach her to bake cookies and make pasta in your warm Italian kitchen.

I am sad that those dreams of mine have come to an end. I guess they should have ended long ago, but I always thought that, if I just tried a little harder… But, I am too tired to try anymore. I have more on my plate now than any one person should have at one time. And so, I am letting this go. In honor of Mother’s Day, I am finally letting you go.

Your Son’s Wife

Cathy Crenshaw Doheny is an award-winning freelance writer, specializing in creative nonfiction. Her works have been featured in various online and print publications in the US, Canada, Australia, and Ireland. She is the winner of the Kaixin Inaugural Writing Competition, as well as a multi-award winner on the Notes and Grace Notes site. You can read more about her writing at

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7 Responses to “To My Husband's Mother, Cathy Crenshaw Doheny”

  1. Linda St.Cyr says:

    This letter was powerful, moving and probably strikes a cord with many daughter in laws. I hope that a bridge can be built between you at some point and I hope your family is blessed with many wonderful experiences, it sounds like you have already experienced the bad now it is time for the good.
    I wish you the best.

  2. What a tremendous loss on your MIL’s part for keeping you out of her life. I’m sorry for what she has put you and your husband through.

  3. Angel says:

    I’m so sorry she can’t meet you half way. I was fortunate to have a wonderful mother in law, and can’t imagine it being any other way.

  4. Kim says:

    Sticking up for your husband and family is the number one priority. It is your mother-in-law who loses. Excellent letter.

  5. Cindy says:

    I’m so sorry your MIL doesn’t accpt you and Jade for the wonderful loving people you are. Sadly, when she does realize what she has done, she will already have lost precious time with your family.
    Love ya,

  6. Marilyn Wong says:

    That is rough! I doubt I’d have the same grace as you have shown … hugs for you and Kevin. Hope he stays strong and is healed.

  7. Daylin says:

    I believe we have the same mother-in-law! I hope you have the strength to move on they way I’m trying too.

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