As far as I know, there are two ends of the spectrum with in-laws:
The Unicorn — that miraculous relationship where a woman and her in-laws are seamlessly co-annexed into each other’s family; everyone just hugs all the time — and The Opposite — the entertaining-to-hear-but-not-live-out drama; the reason no one said “Huh? I don’t get it” when a movie came out titled “Monster-in-law.”
But most relationships fall somewhere in the middle of the line and probably slide back and forth on it depending on what’s happening in life. Each family has its own dynamics (read: brand of crazy), and entering into a second one as a fully-opinionated adult is nobody’s walk in the park – well, except for that darn unicorn.
So, with Mother’s Day on the horizon and lots of mama’s and mama’s mamas getting love, I’m going to do some unsolicited PR for your MIL. Here are four observations I’ve picked up from years of watching and listening and being married. You’re welcome, Linda.
1. Give her some serious credit.
Is your partner a pretty good person? I don’t know, like the kind of person you’d want to marry? (Insert friendly side-eye.) We all know kids don’t raise themselves. Your MIL made it through child-rearing years (the ones we are currently struggling to maintain our sanity through): kept your spouse alive and healthy and hopefully loved and able to love. Chances are she did a decent job, because you decided the product of those years was lock-it-down, deny-all-others material. I’m just saying that garners some baseline respect.
2. Separate personality from personal.
My mom is a sweet-as-sugar Southerner; my MIL grew up in a military family and has a cut-and-dry personality. I’m not sure she knows about sugar-coating things, and she sure wouldn’t want to fool with it if she did.
But that is her personality with EVERYONE. And I’ve not only gotten to know it, I’ve come to appreciate it because I never worry that she is bothered by something without us knowing. I can take her 100% at face value, and I love that.
The sooner you separate yourself from what is not about you, the better. And, as is pretty much always true, everyone is happier when they’re accepted for who they are.
I know some MILs go overboard with grandchildren’s gifts, or completely ignore your toddler’s delicate meal-play-nap schedule. But is that how she shows love, or maybe that she wants to spend every possible moment with your little one?
I’m not saying it doesn’t make you want to roll your eyes so hard that they never come down, but recognizing something is motivated out of love (and not an attempt to undermine you) can help you let it go a lot easier.
3. Play the long game.
If all goes as planned with those marriage vows and whatnot, this is a long-term relationship we’re talking about. So what would you realistically like your relationship to look like? What is your best-case-scenario?
I’m not saying don’t stand up for yourself or set healthy boundaries, just consider what creates the best long-term scenario when you do.
4. What goes around, comes around.
My son is the baby of our family, my only boy. When I walked in the door the other day he yelled “Mommy! You’re home! Can we snuggle now!?” (*Cue heart melt*)
I cherish it, all the more by knowing my snuggling years are limited. Acknowledging this is part of my multi-year plan to bless my future daughter-in-law so I don’t unleash all sorts of crazy on that poor woman at once.
It will very likely be you in those sensible MIL shoes one day. It’s always good to consider what you are modeling for your kids; hopefully, it will yield a good payback on the days when he is an adult-snuggling with his other special lady decades (yes, DECADES -I’m not that prepared) from now.
No family is perfect (unicorns included) but it’s worth working towards good – for your kids, your spouse, your in-laws, and you. And, who knows, you might even hit great along the way.
So Happy Mother’s Day to you, your mom, and your mother-in-law! And tell her you read this – a couple of bonus points with the in-laws never hurts.