Monday, October 10, 2011

My Mother-in-Law

This lovely woman was my mother-in-law for over 30 years. She passed away on October 1st at the age of 91 years and 2 1/2 months. She was one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever known and I loved her very much. I always tell people that I had my mother-in-law fooled - she thought I was perfect! Now you know as well as I do that she probably really didn't think I was perfect. But she certainly made me feel as though she did.
I had the best mother-in-law. I honestly don't think that in over 30 years I was ever truly angry with her. Of course I got frustrated and annoyed from time to time - but angry? No. I have to wonder if she was ever angry with me. If she was, I never knew. And I am grateful for that.
The past few days I have been thinking alot about our relationship and about other mother/daughter-in-law relationships. It seems to me that this particular combination has gotten a very bad rap over the years. For as long as there have been stand-up comedians, there have been mother-in-law jokes. Let's face it - they are one of the quickest ways for male comics to get a cheap laugh. There was even a movie made about a horrible MIL called "Monster In Law" with Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez. But is it really that difficult to get a long with your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law? I certainly hope not! Ladies - your son chose this girl whom he loves very much to spend the rest of his life with. Certainly she has many outstanding qualities and characteristics. And Girls - this woman gave birth to and raised your husband. The man you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with. ?Surely she is not all bad.
I would like to outline some tips for both sides to consider when working on their respective relationships.
1. Recognize that your DIL is a person. She is entitled to be treated respectfully, just as you want to be treated.
2. Accept that you are NOT her parent - if you feel the urge to parent her STOP. She already has a mother and is not going to feel the same way about you that she does her own mother. Seek to have a mutually respectful, pleasant relationship.
3. Explore your motivations. Why do you feel the need to judge. Live and let live.
4. Keep secrets secret. If you say things about your DIL to people, there is a chance it will get back to her. And nothing good will ever come of that.
5. Remember that your son now makes his own decisions. Remember your son chose this woman. She meets his needs in ways that you may not understand.
6. Remember that your son and DIL are both adults. Their decisions are THEIR decisions. If you constantly question them it will cause problems between them and between you and your son.
7. Don't insult your DIL's intelligence. After all, she was smart enough to pick your son.
8. Remember that your DIL is your son's life partner. She should be his first priorty. Respect their partnership and let them navigate through life together as a team.
I have a friend who told me that she once said to her son "I realize that now that you're married, I no longer occupy the front seat on the bus. And now that you have a child, I have had to move further toward the back of the bus, and that's fine. Just please don't make me get off the bus!"
1. Remember, your husband was a son to his mother first. The more you try to come between your husband and his mother, the more his family will resent you and it will undermine your efforts to get along with them.
2. Don't take everything so personal. Taking every suggestion, recommendation or idea offered as negative indicates low self-esteem. She might just be trying to be helpful!
3. The relationship with the son/husband is not a competition. He married you because he loves you. A husband should put his wife first in a relationship, but don't put him the position of having to defend his relationship with his mother.
4. Communication is key. Take the time to keep your MIL informed about news and updates. ask for advice and willingly listen to her ideas.
5. Take good care of her son. He is and will always be her child. Of course she wants him to live in a clean home, have clean clothes, and nourishing meals. Just as you would want that for your own son when he is an adult.
6. Don't gossip about your in-laws. Spreading negative gossip about family members can be toxic to relationships. Try to say positive things and hopefully the positive feelings will soon follow.
7. Make sure your MIL has access to her grandchildren. They are just as much her grandchildren as they are your mother's grandchildren. Try hard not to play favorites. Make sure the children know that they have two sets of loving grandparents and make an effort to ensure that they spend equal amounts of time with both sets wherever geography and desire permits.
I am so grateful for the loving relationship that I shared with my own mother-in-law and I attribute it mostly to her. She always made me feel like she thought I was so wonderful and such a good wife to her son and mother to her grandchildren. I loved her very much and will miss her cheery personality and loving ways. Even when her health was failing, she would always compliment my appearance whenever I would visit her. When I hugged her goodbye she always told me how much she loved me and how much she appreciated the things I did for her. I hope she felt my love for her. She was a wonderful example to me.


Fabulous five said...

Wonderful ideas! Thanks for taking the time to think through the things that have worked for you. I want to be like you when I grow up!

Kiki said...

Your cute mother in law sounds like she was an amazing woman. I'm lucky to also have a good relationship with my mother in law. That is one of the best things about getting married, you gain another family in addition to your own!

Cody and Camille said...

Fantastic words of advice from a very wise woman! Thanks Shauna!