Today, Sunday the 22nd of October 2017 is Mother In Law day.
Did you know this?
It has been known throughout time that Mother in Laws (MIL) have gotten a bit of bad press. Type ‘Mother in Law’ into Google and the first page of searches will be negative (and the 2nd page and 3rd….)
Leading titles such as
‘Mother in Law horror stories‘
‘Mother in Law is being needlessly difficult because she hates me’
and one that made the rounds on social media recently
‘Mums fury as Mother in Law sneaks into the ward to have first cuddles with newborn baby‘
…when you read the whole story there is slightly more to it than that but the headline obviously want the MIL to come off worse..
So why do Mother in Laws get such bad press, so much so that there are websites dedicated for people to write their own stories on them? Seems a bit unfair?
I have a mother in law and she is lovely.
I will admit that it took me time to adapt to having a Mother In Law. I already had my own mother. I was fairly independent and as far I was concerned I didn’t need another parent. What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to call her? Mum?
What do you call your MIL? (I still struggle with the word ‘Mum’….)
Looking back through history it is easy to see how the roles have shifted. Traditionally women would marry in their early 20’s. An age many believed was still young enough to require support and the wisdom of older people. After the 1950 house shortage in Britain young married couples would move in with the family of their husband, becoming a new joint family, this led into the heyday of MIL jokes often heard from comedians around the same time that have carried forward through the years. In India, living with your in laws is very common. Women will traditionally marry into the boys family and move in with his parents to take on the role of the ‘daughter in law’ Often living with their parents and caring for them until their later years.
Times have changed. These days women marry later in age, we feel more grown up. Most of us have lives before we marry, we own houses, have built careers and have a solid network of friends. When we marry, we often have to redefine our relationships and expectations of what we are to our In Laws and vice versa and this can be challenging. These days MIL are often still working in their own careers when their offspring get married. They don’t have time to be heavily involved in their children’s adults lives and the relationship between a MIL and her DIL is developed through family get togethers. When Grandchildren are thrown into the mix it can bring a whole new level to navigate, often quickly and during a time that can leave many women emotionally overwhelmed.
Developing relationships with in laws can take time. It is a relationship that can often be hurried as the circumstances require it. Marrying someone offers that opportunity to quickly be embedded into someone else’s life. Often you think about marrying your partner, not the family he comes with. If you feel like your relationship with your MIL could do with some TLC, perhaps try some of the below.
- Talk to her. This is the hardest but most powerful way to address any issues in a relationship. Yes, perhaps you think you talk at the moment, you talk about the kids, you talk about work. Perhaps talking about something a little more challenging, about you, about your fears will provide the opportunity to get to know each other better.
- Ask advice. Pick a few points where you know you can ask advice and you are happy to implement. Perhaps you know your MIL quite well and you know she will offer advice you would have chosen yourself but by including her in the decision making you are building bridges, creating connections.
- Find some common ground. My MIL is vegan, we are vegetarian. We can talk about vegan and health issues quite happily for sometime. If you have no common ground at all (which I find hard to believe, you married her son) then go to an event together, something you can talk about after.
- Pick your battles carefully.. This was once said to me. It is fairly sound advice (to all things in life) Pick the battles that challenge your values. Learn to identify the things that just annoy you and the things that you really feel strongly about. If you jump in at every opportunity to disagree and dispute advice and words then you are going no where.
- Buy her something. I struggle so much with what to buy my MIL, she has most things in life and after I have exhausted the numerous children’s paintings and framed photos I can really be at a loss with what to buy. Meaningful gifts that can say more than words often have a powerful impact. Something small and something appropriate.
I am lucky. My In Laws are wonderful. They have developed relationships with my children that they cherish. They are also different to my own parents, which lessens the feeling of competing in some events. Obviously advice is always offered but I have now learnt to smile, take it on board and decide if I want to implement it. Essentially I know my in laws (as well as my own parents) just want the best for our children and for us. I appreciate it is a difficult role to lead and I am sure when my children marry, I will look back on these days and have complete understanding and new found appreciation for my in laws.
I was hugging my son the other day and I whispered ‘oh my baby boy’ to him.
He recalled back in horror (he is 7)
‘I am not a baby’ he said through gritted teeth
‘oh but you will always be my baby boy’ I cried.
That’s how it must feel, when your baby boy gets his first GCSE results, when he goes off to university, when he brings home his first serious girlfriend, when he announces he is getting married….he will still be my baby boy.
I will have to navigate the role of MIL for myself.
Pick up the phone, call your MIL.
Have a lovely sunday