So, I’m reading through my “novel” for the first time, and my initial edits are going swimmingly.

“Why do you put ‘novel’ in quotation marks?” you ask. Good question! Because I’ve read enough real novels in my day to refrain from lumping my first stab at fiction in with the published novels that grace library and bookstore shelves around the globe.

The day an honest-to-goodness publisher pays me money for a work of fiction (a made-up story, as opposed to my other books which are true) will be the day I call myself a novelist.


I mentioned yesterday that one of the main themes of the “novel” is in-laws. Without giving too much away, there’s a part of the book where I explore a little dilemma I like to call What in the World Am I Supposed to Call My In-Laws?

Have you experienced this?

For whatever reason, I have always been very, very intrigued by the names people use to refer to their in-laws (both to their face and when speaking about them to others). And on a related note, how they arrived at their decision.

Do you call your husband’s parents Mom and Dad? Mr. and Mrs.? Richard and Becky? Hey you?

And what about your husband? What does he call your parents? And are both parties okay with it?

Quite a few years ago, I asked friends, family, blog readers, complete strangers to fill out an in-law survey. I asked the “What do you call them?” question, and the (extremely varied) answers had me rolling. Rolling.

(Speaking of those surveys, if you filled one out, chances are you’ll be making an anonymous cameo appearance in my “novel.” Oh, yes.)

And you didn’t ask, but I call Gabe’s parents Rock and Janelle (their first names). It was his mom’s idea. And everybody’s happy with it. And yes, Rock is his dad’s given name.

For the longest time, he didn’t really call mine anything. Then my brother-in-law, Stewart, came up with something brilliant that changed everyone’s lives forever. Bethany, don’t ruin it! It’ll be in the book!

So, tell me:

If you’re married, what do you call your in-laws? What does your husband call his? How does everybody feel about the arrangement?

If you’re not married, but hope to be someday, play pretend. Ideally, what would you call your in-laws? What would your hubby call your folks?

I’m dying to know. (and I just may throw some of your answers into my “novel” just for fun!)

p.s. Thank you SO much for your awesome responses to yesterday’s post! Y’all are the sweetest, most giving people EVER. I’ve boxed up a ton of Blushing Bride books, and I don’t want to stop. Let me know if you want some! Details here. I’ll talk more about all the giving opportunities next week! Have a wonderful weekend!

53 thoughts on “whatcha-ma-call-em

  1. Jen your cousin

    I call his parents by their first names (per their request when we were dating). But don’t think I will every be comfortable calling them “Mom and Dad.” That is such a special, significant title to me, especially since I am so close with my parents. And while my in-laws ARE my family, they are not my mom and dad.

    One thing that makes the name thing easier is that my two SILs also call them by their first names, and never call them “mom and dad.” I imagine it would be awkward if I was the only DIL that didn’t call them “Mom and Dad.”

    If I’m talking about them I’ll usually say “mom-in-law and father-in-law” or “Devin’s mom and dad”. I LOVE the brilliance that Stew came up with but haven’t found the gumption to call my in-laws by a cute nickname yet.

    If, as Amber mentioned, we are addressing a card or tag we’ll say “Dad and Mom H.” or “Dad and Mom R.” and sign the biological child’s name first.

    His grandma is the tough one for me too. Again, I don’t feel comfortable calling her “grandma” but using her first name seems disrespectful to me. Calling her “Mrs.” seems much too formal.

    My husband called my parents “Mr. and Mrs.” (per their request) while we were dating/engaged. But now that formality is a little awkward so he doesn’t really call them anything. He just talks to them (like Elizabeth mentioned). While Devin says he would be comfortable with it, I’ve asked him not to call my parents “Mom and Dad” because it makes me feel awkward (if he calls my parents “mom and dad” but I won’t call his “mom and dad”).

    The in-laws don’t have any wicked nicknames because they are honestly very kind and loving people.

  2. Jamie Nygaard

    I’m with Jess….the topic totally gives me hives.

    When I first met Christian’s folks they insisted I call them “Mr. and Mrs.”. Being the rebel that I am, I refused and called them by their first names.

    Once we got married they never TOLD me, but hinted around that I should call them “mom and dad”. Couldn’t do it. Can’t do it. To me…..I have ONE mom, and ONE dad. Enough said.

  3. Pingback: Marla Taviano | Christian author and speaker » Blog Archive » i’m almost afraid to ask

  4. Gretchen

    Wait, Tiffani…Adam’s not your brother, is he? Anyhoo. 😉

    I call mine by their first names. My grandmother said I should call them Mother and Father last name. Couldn’t choke that out if you put chocolate on it, so, it’s first names. Big does the same. If we were closer, I’d lurve to come up with a pet name which meant mom/dad, but wasn’t mom/dad. Know what i mean? However, I’d die smiling if one of my kids’ spouses called me mom–or even wanted to.

  5. Emmy

    HA! This is hysterical!

    I thought I was the only one who was panicked about what I was suppose to call my in laws! I tried to avoid calling them anything for the longest time… I just couldn’t call them their first names… and they are so sweet and precious so I have no clue why! I would call them Dr and Mrs G… then thank goodness we had kids!!! So I call them their grandparent name… Tuzy and Docie… SO freeing! Finally can relax!

    My husband called my Mom, Big Emmy(before kids) and Boppie(her grandmother name) now. He has always called my Dad, Bishop. He wasn’t near as nervous about it all as I was! Too funny!

    Can’t wait to read your book!

  6. jennikim

    what a fun post to read! phil and i called each others parents by mr. and mrs. back in highschool when we were friends and first dating. after we got engaged (im pretty sure it was before we were married) we talked to the parents and asked them what they wanted to be called and first names were ok, though mom/dad would have been fine, too. we were the first kids in the families to get married and have to come up with names for the in-laws. everyone seems fine and comfortable with the first name arrangement.

    i am very close to my MIL, so sometimes i feel like i should want to call her “mom” (also very close to my own mother), but since we are all comfortable with this first name arrangement, i try not to think about it or feel bad about it. i dont think the name necessarily shows “closeness” or what kind of relationship we have.

    sometimes i call the in-laws memaw and papa- what caiden named them, but the first time i called my MIL “memaw” when i was talking to her in a normal conversation, i started cracking up! it was funny to me, that memaw became “normal” in conversation. :-)

  7. Risha

    I call my in-laws Mom and Dad. However, I have made it a point never to refer to my in-laws as Mom and Dad when I’m talking to my parents. My husband doesn’t often *call* my parents Mom and Dad mostly because he doesn’t usually need to, but if he’s talking to my mom, he refers to my dad as “Dad” and vice versa. We’ve never really talked about it, so I don’t know how everyone feels about it.

  8. Colleen

    I think I’m in a minority here to say that I call my in laws Mom and Dad…It used to be Mom T and Dad T….now, with the kids, it’s usually Nana and Popi…

    If I’m upset and want to discuss it with my husband…then it’s YOUR MOM and YOUR DAD…

    If I’m pretty okay and all is well…then, it’s just back to Mom and Dad…or just by pass it all the way and do what another gal mentioned above…just start talking and make sure they know I’m directing the conversation at them…

    And I must say that this is all very weird considering that I call my stepmom Patty whom I”ve known longer than either one of my husband’s parents…but oh well…

    Anthony calls my parents Mom, Dad, Bruce and Patty…we’ve got moms and dads comin’ out our ears…

    Can’t wait to read you “novel”!!! YIPPEE

  9. Ellen R.

    I’m in the same camp as lots o’ folks around here. I call my in-laws by their first name. My sister-in-law calls them ‘Mom & Dad’ though – yes, it’s very awkward to me, but isn’t much of life awkward. Oh, and my SIL reads this blog too, so I’m sure she’ll see this. My husband always jokes at home that my SIL is the favorite because she calls them mom and dad. :)

  10. Tiffani

    I love my in-laws and have always called them by their names Billy and Cherry.

    But, once the kids came, I call them Kiki and Poppa (of course, what the kids call them).

    I always thought it was a little weird if I said “Mom” or “Dad” b/c that’d sound like Adam was my brother. Ew. 😉

  11. Valerie

    I call my MIL Mom (Mike and I have been together since we were mid-teenagers and he’s an only child….she loves me as her own and I’m closer to her than I am my own mom) and I call his step-dad Jim…he didn’t enter the picture until a few years ago. I call his grandparents grandma and grandpa….again they love me as “their own”.

    He calls my mom, dad, and stepmom by their first names…not any sort of closeness there. Hubby however does call my grandma…”grammy”..the same thing I call her.

  12. erica

    just by their first names. calling them mom and dad would be super weird for me. if the kids are around i call them mamaw and gampa (what the kids call them). my husband mostly called my mom by her first name, but on occasion it’s ‘mom’ or ‘nana’ (name the grandbabies use)

  13. Daniel

    I was all excited to share what I call my in-laws (your parents), but it looks like I’m not allowed. And as Stephanie mentioned I did call them by their first names at first, but only behind their back. I didn’t call them anything to their faces. That makes it sound like their names are bad words or something…

  14. Emily Kay

    I’m more comfortable calling them by their first names, but they get disappointed if I don’t call them “Mom” and “Dad” so I try my best. :) My husband calls my parents Mom and Dad and it makes my mom soooo uncomfortable. :)

  15. Brownie

    I never asked anyone what to call my in-laws, but had always grown up with the idea that when you married you called your in-laws some form of mother and father. I called my MIL Mother and my FIL Dad just as had been done by their own children. My father was deceased by the time I married, but my husband always called my mother Mom because that is what I called her. My children’s spouses all call me Mom which is what my own children call me. Nobody seems to have been troubled by that arrangement. I didn’t realize this is such a touchy issue with so many people.

  16. Kelly, Zoo Girl

    Jon has always called my parents mom and dad pretty much from the day he met them. They love it.

    Totally the opposite for me and his mom though and I’m glad other people have this problem too! I don’t think I’ve ever called her Mollie to her face and when I talk about her I usually say Jon’s mom. And I don’t see me calling her mom any time soon!

  17. Laura

    I always called my in-laws Mom and Dad. My husband called my parents by “pet” names. I was never sure if he was being funny or sarcastic. My dad’s name was Ralph E. and my mother is Norma L. so of course they became Ralphy and Normal. I don’t know if they appreciated it either! The spouses of our children never called us anything until we had grandkids and now they call us Pops and Oma.

  18. whimzie

    All these years I thought I was the only one who avoided calling my in-laws anything to their faces. But that sounds like I called them something ugly behind their backs…which I didn’t and don’t.

    It was awkward before we had kids because we never talked about what they wanted to be called and Mom & Dad just didn’t feel right for me. Plus K’s parents are the age of my grandparents. They’re old enough to be my parents’ parents.

    Although it wasn’t the main reason we had children, I was very relieved when our first came along and I had a good reason to call them Granny and Pappy.

  19. Allison M

    I’m SOOOO glad I’m not the only one who feels awkward and doesn’t know what to call her inlaws!

    When we got married (11.5 years ago) my FIL told me to call him Alan, so I know I can do that but I generally avoid calling him anything because first names feel weird. When referring to him to other family I call him Alan, though.

    My MIL never said anything to me, and given the amount of time I’ve known her (17 years now since we started dating…) I just can’t ask her. And to make it worse she is called by her first name where she lives out of state, and by her middle name here in OH… I finally decided a couple years ago to call her by her Ohio name, or Mom, depending on the situation. Still awkward though.

    My DH calls my parents Mom and Dad. He doesn’t seem to have trouble with it. A man thing?

  20. Meredith

    This is a GREAT question!!!

    I call my in-laws by their first names. Sometimes if I’m with the kids I’ll call them Mimi and Papa. I could NEVER bring myself to call them mom or dad…because they’re not MY mom and dad. I don’t think they’d be comfortable with that either. 😉

    By the way, they totally call me by my nickname, “Mer”. My own parents don’t do that.

  21. missy @ it's almost naptime

    Well, I feel kinda weird by calling them by their first names, because I feel like they would want us to call them mom and dad, but I feel TOTALLY weird calling them mom and dad. Our relationship is so not there. So I call them Mimi and Grandaddy (whew). If we didnt have kids, I don’t know what I would do.

    My husband calls both my parents by their first names, which they are most comfortable with.

  22. Mrs Lemon

    Ooo, I have one you might be interested in putting in your book :) I’m on my second marriage, and my husband has a mother and a stepmom. His mother is easily offended so I call her Mom, because I’m sure I’d never hear the end of it if I didn’t. His Dad I call Tony when I speak directly to him, and Granddad the rest of the time (thank you God for children). His stepmom is totally cool, and I call her by her family nickname Cacky. My husband calls my parents by their first names. Which is appropriate, because he’s only 11 years younger than my dad, so “Dad” would be a little over the top.

    And I’m totally screwed if my mother-in-law happens to actually read this blog. :)

  23. Rebecca Oaks

    In their presence: Grandma and Grandpa (oh, the joys of having kids, it takes away the awkwardness of what to call the in-laws). I, also, was one of the “name avoidance” people before we were married and had kids. In writing: Mom and Pop. Outside of their presence: Frank’s Mom and Dad and sometimes I will use their first names for brevity.

    Frank calls my dad “Doc” or “Dad”, which I think is very sweet.

  24. Cheryl

    I call my in-laws by their first names and my husband does the same with my parents as well as my grandmas. My husband’s parents divorced when he was very young and his mom died when we had been married only a year. My father-in-law remarried a wonderful woman 20+ years ago (after my 1st mother-in-law had died) and my husband and I call her by her first name. However, when I talk about her to my husband or anyone else, I always refer to her as “Brian’s mom”. She has been a super mother and grandmother to our family. She only has one child that she adopted who is now 35, and he has never married or had kids, so she really enjoys all the grandkids, who call her Grandma Linda.

  25. Liz

    I decided to call my in-laws by their first names, Bob and Barb, all on my own. I didn’t want to deal with not knowing what to call them so I didn’t wait for permission and took matters into my own hands. Thankfully they are cool with it:) My husband was friends with my parents before we ever even spoke to each other so he has always called them by their first names, Keith and Deedee. Now that is a strange twist to dating!

  26. Peter P

    I have never called my In-laws Richard and Becky (because those aren’t their names) but I might try it… just to spice things up a bit.

    I call my father-in-law by his first name, his shortened first name, his first name and middle name (who wouldn’t want to say “Willie Cecil” every now and then?), dad, grandpa, B-O (which is how Bill sounds with an Oke accent) and Pastor Bill.

    I call my mother-in-law, Momma, Susie-momma, mom, grandma and grandma-susie.

    But most of the time I avoid using people’s names just in case I get them wrong. I just look in their direction instead :-)

  27. Denise

    I call my in laws Mom and Dad. I honestly had even before we were married….they told me to do it! Sometimes though, I mean I still call them Pete and Angela…buy mostly mom and dad. Drew calls my parents by their names. David, Tonya, Renata, Gene. It just works out best that way I think, especially since my relations with them can be strained. He does call my grandma Kathy, grandma.

    We like our arrangement. I think sometimes what you call your in-laws is based on the relationship you have with them. I read plenty of blogs where people don’t get a long with their in laws and most of the time, they call them by their first names. I am different, it’s sad, but true that I have a better relationship with my in-laws than I do my parents – so for me, it’s super easy to call them mom and dad…

  28. Sarah McGalliard

    I’d also like to add that when the day comes that I have “children-in-law” (ha) I will definitely force them to call me by my first name. I will make them know that its okay. Because it drives me crazy to feel so uncomfortable not knowing what to call my in-laws!

  29. Sarah McGalliard

    Well, I kinda avoid calling them anything because it is pretty awkward because they have never told me what to call them… and we have been married 2 years… and have been together for 5… and I’ve known my husband and his family for… 8. ha. When i am talking about them to someone, I will call them “Corey’s mom” and “Corey’s dad”. When I am talking to someone in the family about them, it gets a little more tricky, so I call them “Nana” and “Papa” because there are 6 nieces and nephews running around, that’s what they call them and that’s what their parents refer to them as. So, that’s what I call them. It feels really strange and uncomfortable to call them by their first names, for some reason..and I don’t quite understand why.

    My husband, on the other hand, who is more outgoing than I am, calls my mom by her first name or occasionally throws in a “Ms” before the name. He calls my dad by his first name. I’m kinda jealous that he doesn’t feel uncomfortable doing it, but I’m glad on the other hand.

  30. Swapna Vivek

    I call my in-laws Papa and Mommy (just like how I call my parents) My husband does the same! :-) We are from Southern part of India and this is a pretty common custom there… :-)

  31. Gaylene

    We call both sets of parents mom and dad and all get along great (uh, both fathers are deceased ). Nothing like taking both moms shopping and saying, “Mom look at this” and both turn to look.

    Our oldest grandson who has 2 sets of grandparents, 4 great- grandmothers, and is 6 years old, calls everyone by their name such as “Great grandma Carpenter”. It is cute, but he keeps them straight that way.

  32. meghan @ spicy magnolia

    Jess’ comment about this topic giving her hives makes me chuckle…and relate. I am a complicated one when it comes to in-laws, but that’s for a whole other day. If I’m writing or speaking about my in-laws, I say “Matt’s folks” or somethin’ like that, and call them by their first names. Matt does the same for my parents.

    However, Matt’s parents call their in-laws mom and dad, and my brother in law calls Matt’s folks mom and dad. If they had their choice, they’d probably want me to call them mom and dad, too. So I am the odd duckling on Matt’s family’s side. Although they are wonderful people, the idea of calling them mom and dad gives me the eeby-geebies.

    Time to go splash water on my face to get rid of ’em hives! 😉

  33. Gail

    I call my in-laws Phyllis and Moon (his nickname), but I try not to say it too often. I dunno. It’s weird. When talking about them to DeWayne, I say “your mom” or “your dad.” To the kids, “Mamaw” or “Papaw.” I was relieved at Thanksgiving this year when my FIL called me by my first name. We’ve been married for 11 years, and I wasn’t sure he knew my name. :-/

  34. Stephanie your sister

    I’m assuming you got Richard and Becky from my in-laws, or else that’s just weird.

    I call my in-laws by their first names (the aforementioned Richard and Becky) and Daniel calls our parents the brilliant names Stewart invented that you don’t want shared. 😉

    I think everybody likes the name situation. Daniel’s siblings’ spouses call his parents by their first names too, and that’s what Daniel did with Mom and Dad until the new idea was formed. Which he likes much better.

  35. Sarah Montanye

    I call my inlaws (Dan’s mom & step dad) Mom & Pop, and he calls my parents Mom & Dad. It took me awhile to get used to calling someone else mom, but now it just comes natural. Dan’s fine with the names too.

  36. Sara

    I call them by their first name. I told my husband after this past year that is one of the things that makes me sad. I was always hoping that when I got married I could call them Mom and Dad, but there has never been any freedom given to do that…so I stick with their names…and it’s OK. I’m sure if I asked her if I could…she’d say yes, but that is SO awkward for me. Besides…I have wonderful parents that ARE mom and dad so I’m good.

  37. Jen Griffin

    Shan calls my mom and dad by their first names…well, not together since they are NOT together.

    I call Shan’s parents different things…sometimes Faye and Tommy…sometimes Mimi and Papa….other words come to mind too that I won’t share! Just kidding!!

  38. amber

    If I’m with ’em: I call them “Pop” and “Granny” (because I’m with the kids, you know).

    If I’m not with ’em: I call them “Kirk’s Mom” and “Kirk’s Dad.”

    If I’m addressing an envelope or gift tag: I write “Mom” and “Dad” but sign it from Kirk first.

    I never never ever ever call them by their first names. And before we had kids….I didn’t call them anything. I’d conveniently leave that part out. Even going so far as to when my FIL would pick up the phone and I would ask for my MIL, I’d say, “Hey, is your beautiful wife there?” See? Brownie points and total avoidance of the issue!!!

    My husband does the same for my parents….

  39. Jody Hedlund

    I’d like to think that ideally we all have the kind of relationship with our inlaws where we can truly feel like they are a second Mom and Dad, but unfortunately that just doesn’t happen. So, is what we call them a reflection of how close of a relationship we have? In other words, is Mom and Dad the sign of a closer relationship and first names the next step out, and Mr. & Mrs. even further out in the closeness of relating?

  40. Ali

    Becky & Roger, and they call me Ali. And we all like it.

    Oh, and we didn’t get together this week. I’m not too happy about that. So I’ll see you next week. It’s a deal.

  41. Shannah

    I did ask my MIL what she preferred to be called. She said she didn’t care. But as their other daughter-in-law is not close, I decided to go with first names. It would be awkward for me to call them Mom & Dad, when she didn’t. Eric calls my parents by their first names, if he has to. But mostly he just tries to address them without names, I think! And we refer to them as Gramma & Papa and Grandma & Grandpa to the babies.

  42. Mary

    you know, this is such an interesting question…and i’ve always felt like it’s too awkward to have the “hey, what do you want me to call you” conversation! i do more of what elizabeth said…just make sure they know i’m talking to them! when they’re not around, i call them their first names but i THINK they’d really prefer me call them “mr & mrs” which i think is just WEIRD. my parents told seth to call them their first names but he does more of the “hey you” thing instead :)

  43. Krysten

    My husband I went to church together so we knew eachother’s parents before we starting dating. We just their first names. I figure when we have kids I’ll start using whatever the kids say.

  44. Cheryl Pickett

    Unfortunately, Dave’s parents passed before we met, but he calls my mom Ma fairly often but my Dad usually by his first name when addressing them face to face. When speaking of them, he usually just says mother or father in law.

    Have a nice weekend!

  45. Elizabeth

    For SO long I didn’t really call my in-laws anything. I just started talking to them and made sure they knew I was talking to them, and when I referred to them I just said “Adrion’s parents.” These days were on a first-name basis:) Adrion calls mine Dr. and Mrs, which is ridiculous. He knows them well and they love him, I think it’s just a weird formality. It can be pretty awkward. One thing I’m pretty confident we will never do is call the other’s parents Mom and Dad. That might be even more awkward.

  46. Kelli

    I call mine Diane, Perry and Frank. They all insisted I call them by their first names… for MONTHS I didn’t refer to them as anything because I felt awkward using their first names.

    But now that we have Caroline around, I normally call them Didi, Grandpa Perry, and Grandad. Chris and I are WAY into nicknames so we refer to his mom as Di-AND and his dad as The Tank…

    Chris started out calling mine Mr. and Mrs. but it has since changed to nicknames or Mimi and Poppy.

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