I’ve had a few mothers-in-law’s, (MIL’s), official and un-official over the years. I’m no Elizabeth Taylor (she must have had a long Christmas card list!), married once, divorced once and a few serious relationships book-ending that, however along the way the ‘other’ woman in my partners lives have given me a few insights, painful reminders and wisdom. I didn’t always see it at the time as something to be mindful or appreciative of but hey that’s getting older for you, hopefully wiser too.
When you meet and fall in love with someone you often think you are in your own little bubble together. Nothing external will affect you, no-one else’s opinions will matter, other people’s histories will not mar your fairy tale. Oh well we can hope that it’s that way ehh?
Perhaps your partner’s family history seems smooth sailing and its intimidating to you that level of perfection or they have a more battle scarred existence that scares the living hell out of you to be up close and personal to. Usually it will reflect a few insecurities in you as to what issues it may bring up for you. That’s ok, integrating two lives can be a messy business.
I have battled the different values and opinions of the mother in law fiercely. The natural fighter and insecure female in me always wanted to be ‘top dog’ in my man’s life. This caused me, the other women/MIL’s and no doubt my partners, great drama, pain and discomfort at times, but we will keep doing what we do till we learn. Sigh…. I have railed against my MIL’s stance on religion (which comforted her through many hard times and offered her community and support) I have argued till blue in the face as to why I should have the right to work (of course!) and ‘have it all’ (oh yes this was the 90’s) when I am sure all she meant was to appreciate balance and time with small children as precious. I have been baffled, with equal measures of my then youth and severe judgement, by a wife standing by her alcoholic husband and suffering depression (little did I know how those things would affect me later in life and judgment comes full circle) or why someone found it hard to forgive an ex-husband even though forgiveness was not my forte either. I just thought these were not my issues or life. Why did they not just DO … fill in the blank with my opinion.
Scroll forward a few years and a few heartbreaks, rude awakenings and some soul searching and I found myself reflecting on what these wonderful, kind and amazing women offered me, apart from embracing me into their families and sons lives. They attempted with varying successes to offer their wisdom of life’s ups and downs. These women that came into my life by proxy of my partner or husband and they just wanted to connect, be involved and embrace my love of their son, not fight me for the perceived small patch of their son’s heart.
No-one came with an instruction manual unfortunately or an app!
I now have a son (early days as we are still in Ninja Turtle territory not aftershave and taking girls or boys home) God help me and any future partner of his. However, looking on these lessons I can say sorry to the few that I did not offer the kindness I hope someone will extend to me one day. One I cannot reach as she’s unfortunately gone, one who I can speak to and I know it will touch her heart and the current MIL who knows more strength and courage in her pinkie than I have seen in my few years here on earth and I know will appreciate perhaps a softer me.
Here is what I’ve learnt from mother-in-law’s:
· Listen, then listen some more – they are trying to share and you may learn something.
· You do not have to agree but you can disagree politely or walk away.
· It’s a gift – they have given you a part of their heart to care for – their son. Be grateful or at least polite.
· All mothers are just trying to do their best whether they are 18 or 98. Cut them some slack.
· Their religion, world view, whatever, may differ from yours, that’s ok. Maybe there is something in it for you to learn.
· It is respectful to your partner to at least try to connect or set boundaries that work for your relationship.
· Walk a mile in her shoes regardless of the style.
· Send a Christmas card occasionally.
· One day I may be one – god help them!
(p.s Mum, don’t worry! I will write a post about what I’ve learnt for you too!)