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My Mother-in-Love
My new syndicated column is out! Here it is for the week:

My Mother-in-Love

This week, my mother-in-law will turn twenty-nine for the thirty-second time. A few years ago, my nephew asked her, “Grandma, how come you’re only twenty-nine when my dad is turning thirty?” Luckily, despite this initial confusion, his math skills are coming along just fine.

I get along splendidly with my in-laws, largely because they have followed the cardinal rule for parents of married children: they don’t interfere. I have never heard my mother-in-law criticize me or how I parent. She butts out, and because of that we spend a lot of time together. And she sees a lot of the grandchildren! Sometimes, I fear, her influence is too great, since at the last Christmas dinner I hosted, my daughter Katie looked at me with plaintive eyes and said, “Mommy, I know you’re cooking, but Grandma’s going to make the mashed potatoes, right?”. But all in all, I really appreciate her. And her help with the stuffing.

Some of my older friends, however, have been devastated by their daughters-in-law, and especially by the lack of parenting skills these daughters-in-law demonstrate. I can only imagine how difficult that is. But part of the burden of being a grandparent is that one can’t interfere, unless health or safety is really at stake. If you do, it just wrecks your relationship, and your access to your grandkids. So these women learn to grin and bear it, trying to foster goodwill so that when they get the grandchildren for a visit they can try to instill some of the proper values. That’s difficult to do in a short time when the grandchildren have been raised to be holy terrors, but that’s the only real option that’s open.

I have also witnessed many marriages of my contemporaries end because parents—and it seems to be especially mothers—could not butt out. They were constantly bad-mouthing the child’s spouse, both to the child and to that spouse. They criticized, harangued, and made life a living hell. The smart ones of my generation avoided those parents. The not so smart ones listened, and now the marriages are over and their children are the ones really suffering.

Maybe part of the reason that these in-law relationships can be so rocky is due to the name we give to these relatives in the first place: in-laws. In other words, they are related to us solely because the law says they are. They were baggage we inherited at the wedding ceremony, and no matter how many times we try, we can’t seem to lose it. But I think there’s another way to look at these relations. Your parents-in-law are the ones who created your spouse. They gave them their values, their morals, their guidance. You may wish they had also taught your spouse how to use a toilet brush, but that’s really relatively minor when you consider that they alone, of all other people in the world, probably love your spouse as much as you do. And if you’re the parent, probably the only person who loves your child as much as you do is your daughter or son-in-law. You share something significant. You share love for someone very significant. And that should bind you.

Unfortunately, it often becomes a competition, with loved ones demanding that the spouse in the middle choose sides. That’s silly. The heart has more than enough room for everybody special.

Certainly some in-laws are impossible. And some relationships will never work. But let the perceived slights go. Just try to be nice, and accept each other, and life will go much more smoothly.

My mother-in-law is easy to like. I’m glad she’s in my family, and I would have chosen her anyway, as long as she can be my partner for euchre. So I’m going to stop thinking of her as just my mother-in-law. She can be my mother-in-love. We both love her son, and we both realize there’s room in his life for both of us. Plus she’s really fun to play cards with. So I hope she has a very happy birthday, and I’m glad that I’ll be there with 29 candles to help celebrate.

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3 Comments:

At 6:17 PM , OpenID Dawn said…

Hi, Sheila - congratulations on the new site. Love it!

 

At 8:15 PM , Blogger Org Junkie said…

Hi Sheila, I came over from the newsletter and I just had to tell you how much I LOVE your header. It is wonderful and cute and fun! Just wanted to let you know and also say thanks so much for linking to me!

Laura (orgjunkie)

 

At 3:51 PM , Blogger Mom24 said…

I'm 41, I have 4 children, and I'm a Mother-in-law and a grandma! It's hard. My daughter-in-law is lovely, and I think she and my son are really happy. But it's still hard! I do not have a good relationship with my MIL. She has chosen not to be a part of our lives, and I feel like I live in fear of not being a good MIL to my DIL. Obviously, none of my friends are much help, because they're all experiencing everything from the DIL perspective, and it's different when you're the MIL. I enjoyed your column very much. Good luck, I think ultimately, it's not that easy on either side of the fence!

 
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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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