“When Eddie and I started dating, his mother was pregnant with her 5th child.”
Emma and I met in a café to catch up on each other’s lives and to share some experiences and insights on this MIL/DIL thing. Emma has two sons, both of whom are recently married. So, she can talk about the MIL/DIL relationship as well as the DIL/MIL one. It’s quite an advantage to be able to see things from both sides of the fence.
Emma’s MIL, Gloria, was – and still is – a hairdresser. At the age of 84, she owns her own salon and works 3 – 4 days a week to pay the bills. She’s a strong, opinionated woman according to Emma and has come through a lot in her time. As a child, she grew up in a convent because her mother was an alcoholic. Then, she contracted Tuberculosis. After Emma & Eddie married, Gloria went back to school to earn her GED. This is a woman with energy and drive to spare!
Eddie was her firstborn. So, she was fiercely protective of him. Come to find out, Emma’s & Eddie’s mothers came from the same hometown. So, Gloria knew Emma’s mother who, like the rest of us, “had her positive and not so positive traits”. Gloria knew about some of these and wasn’t too keen about Emma and Eddie dating.
As an aside: This got me wondering. Isn’t it difficult to not have opinions about whom our children date? Or, at least, to conceal these from them? I had a similar challenge when my widowed father developed a relationship with a widow in his later years. Did I have any “say’ in the matter, I wondered? Of course, not. Keep my opinions to myself and mind my own business. That’s what I did and I’m glad of it now. …. Back to the story
So, Gloria decided to break up the dating couple. She told Eddie that Emma would end up just like her mother – a person who is high maintenance; a person who has lots of ailments; a hypochondriac. Follow In her mother’s footsteps. She told people that Emma would be pregnant before they made it to the altar (No doubt Emma’s fault, if so.)
And all these things trickled back through the grapevine to reach Emma’s ears.
“So, we were not on the best of terms whatsoever” Emma stated.
They got through the engagement. They got through the wedding.
“What I would do is just acquiesce to her and just give her as much control as I felt was good to keep the relationship the way it needed to be. And then she came to our apartment, our first apartment one night and I don’t remember the incident, but I pushed her, I bodily pushed her, out of the door and said “Leave now!” and shut the door behind her.
That confrontation proved to be a turning point. Their relationship improved.
“So, what changed? When you pushed her out the door? Did that change something in her?” I pondered aloud, looking for that nugget of wisdom to pass along to those DILs whose MILs are overbearing, intrusive or nosy.
“I’m thinking that it did” Emma mused. Perhaps her MIL had stood in the hallway facing a closed door and suffering a bruised ego and had decided that she had overstepped her boundaries and might need to take a step back on this one.
“She’s a very perceptive person, but again, she’s highly opinionated, as well. … and she’s street smart. … We got to know each other better, related to one another better. Then, the kids came and Gloria adored the kids. Then, she started picking up on how good I was for her son.”
Gloria wanted weekly Sunday dinners together. Her son didn’t. But, Emma convinced him that it was the “right thing to do”. She also reminds him to call his mother regularly.
“To this day, I’ll say to him “You need to call your mother because she is going to call you. And he’ll say ‘Yeah, yeah’. And 25 minutes later, she’ll call.
“Does she call at a certain time?” I queried.
No, I just have this feeling” said Emma. If we haven’t heard from her in a while, I’ll say ‘You need to call your mother. She’s not feeling well’ because she won’t call if she’s not feeling well. So, I worked with him and through him to bridge the relationship … to get him to come back because he would have walked … not for any negative reason, but that’s just the person he is. He wouldn’t have made the ties as strong as they are if I hadn’t intervened. It’s the same thing with our kids.”
Now? Emma and Gloria are best friends. Once a month on Saturday they go out for coffee or lunch – just the two of them. And Gloria is teaching Emma how to knit a baby sweater. The first great-grandchild is on the way!
That’s over 35 years of working it. Nice.
Emma summarizes “I just basically had to figure out who she was and what was important to her and work with that.”
Hmmm… Emma loves Eddie. Gloria loves Eddie. Emma finds a way to love Gloria because she is Eddie’s mother. Gloria finds a way to love Emma because she is Eddie’s wife.
And it has paid off “in spades”.