“If you have the same standard for your mother-in-law as you have for your mother, then the problem will be gone.”
I’ve never heard that before! Have you?
What do you think about that idea? It sounds intriguing to me. Could it work? What would that look like and sound like? How might it specifically play out? About what standards are we talking here?
“Say it ain’t so” that we should take this to mean that if one has an unhealthy relationship with one’s mother that she should use this as a template with her MIL So, should we talk about patience, kindness and respect? Am I as considerate of my MIL at family gatherings as I am of my Mom? Am I as willing to overlook her occasional faux pas? What about including her in activities, outings, parties and discussions?
If I love my mother, should I also look to love my mother-in-law? The answer, of course, is a resounding “Yes!” And love means, in small part, to be generous in one’s thoughts about another. Love results in a willingness to forgive and keep no record of wrongdoing, especially if it was inadvertent.
Is this realistic? Clearly, we are not proposing that we treat our MIL exactly the same as we treat the woman who wiped our snotty noses, got her hands goopy with Play Doh, made cupcakes for the classroom holiday parties, waited up at night when we were out on a date, and prayed for our spouses since the day we were born. No, if we were blessed with a mother that nurtured and cared for us, that woman will always hold a special place of honor in our hearts. And she will not be replaced by another. Still, that doesn’t mean we cannot have a special place in our hearts for the woman who did all those things for the man we chose – of all the men we’d ever met – to do life with. Perhaps, this, more than anything else is what is meant by “have the same standard”.
Are you interested in trying this on for size? Let me know what you learn about her … and yourself. 😉
“This whole issue of expectations seems to cause a good deal of conflict between MILs and DILs.”
I offered this as an opening to my conversation with Bonnie as we sat together on a warm summer day in a very busy diner. We hadn’t known each other very long, but were both involved in a weekly Friday morning group. I was curious to hear her story as she had written about her MIL/DIL relationship that “We have come a looong way in 32+ yrs.” She was enthusiastic to share. I followed her lead and ordered a bowl of fruit and iced tea.
“I’m all for full disclosure” she stated. “Get it all out on the table.” The waitress placed our food and drinks in front of us.
Even though Bonnie and I hadn’t spent much time together, I wasn’t surprised by this. She is a “straight-shooter”, one who rarely minces words.
“I want to know what your expectations are and I want to respect them. Tell me. There’s no right or wrong. I wish my MIL had done that with me.”
Isn’t that a great attitude? She wants to respect her MIL. But, what about this: Is it true – that there are no “right” or “wrong” expectations? Expectations are … conjecture. We suppose that something or someone will be a certain way. Let’s check out the definition: expectation – a strong belief that something will happen or be the case.
“So” I ventured, “do you remember what your expectations were when you married?”
“I think the term ‘mother’ has enough connotations in itself for one to expect … umm… love. Not mushy, gushy love, but love and respect. And because Matthew chose badly, she was kind of ‘standoffish.'”
I was confused. “She felt that your husband chose badly when he chose you?”
“Yeah” she replied. “Below him.”
Around us customers came and went. The blender whirred. The dishes were cleared off the table next to us. And I didn’t know what to say. Does this kind of thing still happen? Seriously? I took a sip of the cold tea and wondered “Why would she feel that way?” .
“Umm, I was rough around the edges. Very independent. I didn’t need anybody. I don’t need you. I’m a Christian and at that point I was three years in the Lord and God had done a lot of work in me before she met me. She should know that!”
We both erupted in laughter. Some of us just know that we have come a long way and still have a long way to go.
Bonnie continued. “But I was … She paused, thinking. “They were upper middle class … and I wasn’t. I was …. I can imagine his mom having sleepless nights thinking about Matthew marrying me. She didn’t know me … all she knew was what she saw – tomboy …. bold-speaking … aggressive … and it was hard for her.”
Hard for her? Yes. Because her expectations for her son were not being met. Where did these expectations come from? Did she even know she had them? What were yours when you married or added a DIL to your family?
Stay tuned for Part 2!
It’s her birthday! We want to send a gift that she will enjoy and that will show our love.
Our son and his wife live hundreds of miles away and we don’t see them as often as we would like (which would be weekly!)
So, we call our son weeks ahead. No, he doesn’t pick up. Does this happen to you when you call your adult sons? We leave a voice mail message asking what his honey might like. This ought to make it easy. He’ll know. He’ll know just what would make her smile!
No response. Hmmm. Perhaps voice mail is nationally disabled. Have you heard anything about this in the news? No? Perhaps his phone ran out of battery juice and he lost the charger. Very possible.
Email. Same thing – no response. Has all of his technology broken down? Perhaps he fell in a gigantic sinkhole while on the way home from work one day? That’s gotta be it.
Shall I buy it? I love it. It would look lovely on her. Yes, I’ll buy it.
Will she like it? Shall we send it or ask first? If we send it and she doesn’t like it, it will be worn once and then “deep six-ed” in her closet … possibly for years. You know! You’ve probably got some of those in your closet right now.
Let’s ask. Cell phone out … take pic … hit “send”. “It’s the right size … silky … blue & black print …”
Her response? “Probably not.”
Hmmm …… Maybe she couldn’t really see how pretty it is because the photo was too small. That must be it. Such a shame. Too late to return it. Wait a minute! Can we salvage this situation? What do you know? I wear the same hard-to-find size! and it’ll go perfectly with …
Ooops! Sorry! Back to the issue at hand. Okay, how about we stay away from clothes since I’ve missed that mark now about eight times. I’ve yet to get a feel for her style, but it will come. I’ll keep working on that. I’m nothing if not persistent.
Brainstorming … My parents once treated us to dinner and the theatre. “Sweeney Todd” was playing in Boston that month. We’d never heard of the show, but it turned out to be darkly entertaining. A chilling story about love & loss. Many years later, we still remember the fun we had that evening.
Great idea! Google ” theatre in DC” … Oooh! Great local venue! Lots of options for concerts and shows. Let’s send the link to our son and DIL and let them pick what they’d really enjoy!
Response: “Nothing really piqued our interest.”
Ouch! Don’t you just hate it when your best idea doesn’t turn out to be someone else’s favorite? Gotta keep at this. The special day is getting closer. We’re thinking “We LOVE you and want to celebrate you in our lives!” So, we figure we’ll at least send a card saying “You are a joy to our hearts!” and we really mean it. We do.
Our son finally calls! I make a mental note to mark this down in my diary: “Son survives giant sinkhole, total communication blackout in the DC area and temporary memory loss. What a great day!”
He offers suggestions. Great! Knock-around shoes. Running tights. Baking dish. “Super! Send links. Soon, please.”
We wait expectantly for his email. It should be here this evening.
Nothing. Now, it’s too late to send a gift that will arrive in-time. Hmmm. Disown son? No, we love him too much. Take a deep breath. Be patient. Note to self: Start this process earlier in the month … or year.
Finally, links show up in our Inbox. Good. But, did you forget to send color preferences and shoe size? We email him again.
No reply. Nothing for days. Definitely thinking about cutting this son out of the will. Or should we simply cut him out of the whole gift-giving process? Is that what he’s trying to communicate? What do you think?
We resort to texting our DIL and ask her directly. (Texting is her preferred method of communication these days. With us, at least. Can you identify?) There’s no longer a possibility of surprising her now. Oh, well! Her gift will arrive late, but will definitely be something she likes and will use and wear.
Okay. Black running tights, not grey with Dragonfruit accents. (See? I would have chosen the Dragonfruit accents! I love bright colors.) Click, pay, send. Mission accomplished. Phew!
Email yesterday from DIL: “Thank-you!”
🙂 We love you, Juliana. Happy birthday! And may this year be the best one yet!
Humorous! Good insights! What a MIL says and what a DIL hears are often two different things, aren’t they?
My husband and I were sitting on a wrought iron bench in the middle of Washington Circle. It was a gorgeous Friday in September and we were waiting to meet our son, Ethan, for lunch. Since we were visiting with him and our DIL, in-law issues were at the front and center of my mind. I decided to ask my honey for his “take” on an issue.
“So, if a MIL is anxious about ‘doing the wrong thing’ thereby losing access to her son and grandchildren, what do you think is going on there?”
He paused to think for a moment – this man of mine who doesn’t get too rattled about much of anything. His reply surprised me because he likened the situation to riding a bicycle.
“Have you ever been on a bicycle on the side of a road, a paved street, and you’re right on the edge of the pavement, almost falling off into the dirt & gravel on the side. You’re looking down to make sure your tire doesn’t slip off the edge and spill you into the poison ivy and ragweed. You’re looking in that direction, so you almost feel drawn to where you don’t want to go. And you’re wobbly, trying not to swerve into traffic at the same time. More than a bit off-balance, to be sure.
The solution to this situation is to not look down right in front of you, but to set your sights on a spot further down the road. For whatever reason, that helps to stabilize your steering. The harder you try to navigate the street foot-by-foot, the more difficult it is to stay the course, especially if you’re going uphill.”
“So, if you’re concentrating on the place right where you are” I echoed, “you’re more unsteady than if you fix your gaze on some point in the distance ahead.”
“Yes. If I looked at it relationship-wise, the more you’re comfortable with who you are and you recognize that this MIL/DIL thing is a life-long affair (hopefully!), you worry less about ‘Did I send the right gift?’ or ‘Did I say the wrong thing?’ or ‘What did she mean by that?’ or ‘Why doesn’t she pick up when I call?’ If you keep looking in that direction, you’ll head in that direction.
Relax. Quit worrying. Be who you are, treat her as a friend and it’s likely that a lot of these concerns will sort themselves out or disappear altogether as time goes by. You’ll get there. Keep peddling and set your sights on where you want to go.”
Words from a FIL who enjoys both his daughters-in-law and is not terribly concerned with pleasing them.