Be the Perfect Mother-in-Law
There are reasons that comedians and cartoonists find rich fodder in the topic of mothers-in-law. It’s never easy to blend families, and mothers find it really tough to allow another to fulfill our offspring’s every wish. We mothers do that for decades before interlopers – wives, boyfriends, life partners – glom on to our children and spirit them away. With a little forethought, you can keep your son or daughter’s affection and gain a friend. Here’s how to be the perfect mother-in-law.
1. The New Girlfriend. Don’t judge her appearance by yours. Styles change, social rules change, and women change over the years. Enjoy her differences in makeup, hairstyles, clothing – learn a little something, and maybe grow a bit younger!
2. Remember that your little girl is not a child. She’s an adult, a woman. She has her own ideas, goals, and rules. They aren’t just like yours, but they came from you. You get credit for the fine woman she is becoming. Relax, her new love might give you credit for raising her right.
3. You love your son or daughter unconditionally, and you want happiness and success for them. Therefore, since he or she chose the new mate, you can find it in your heart to love that person, too. When your child chooses a career, you don’t swoon and go off the deep end – you’re proud and excited about the choice.
4. Give your grown child the gift of dignity, from your heart. Don’t pry, don’t judge. Teach yourself to step a short distance away and be available to support when you’re called upon.
5. Open your arms, your heart, and your home. Invite the new partner into your life with grace and generosity. Engage him in social conversation. Show interest in her as a person. Treat this person, beloved by your child, as you want to be treated.
6. Never gossip. Keep what you know to yourself and never share your personal misgivings with anyone else – especially with your child. Your son or daughter is learning and growing and doesn’t have the tools to deal with your criticism, however well-intended.
7. Find your own way. Make yourself socially available, but find new ways to fill your time so you don’t cling. Volunteer. Reach out to old friends. Make new friends. The more engaged you are in your life, the more appropriate your relationship with your son or daughter becomes.
8. If there’s trouble in paradise and the lovers quarrel, use every bit of will power you possess to remain neutral but lovingly supportive. Open your ears and close your mouth unless you offer advice based only in wisdom and guilelessness.
9. Do something special. Learn what your new in-law likes. Cook a favorite meal or gift a specially chosen item. Invite him or her to a movie or lunch.
10. Love authentically. No faking – BS detectors run full steam around in-laws. You had your own opportunities, your own challenges, and your own decisions to make. You made your mistakes. Defend your child’s right to do the same.
It’s not as tough as it sounds. If we, as mothers, put aside our impulse to grieve when our child finds a partner and seems to take wing, we can thoroughly enjoy the sight of that son or daughter soaring higher than we could. Humans have an endless capacity to love, and the more we love, the more we are loved. The perfect mother-in-law knows that intuitively.