Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Real Story: How to be a great mother in-law

Over the last 14 years of marriage, it has been increasingly clear that I have a great set of in-laws.   I have more than one friend* (maybe your are one of them?), who does not have a great relationship with her in-laws.  At first thought, as a mother of two boys, it makes sense to me.

No one is ever going to be good enough for my fabulous sons.  

We often assume that if we have a rough relationship, it is because our in-laws just don't think we are good enough.   Maybe, but I propose that it is more than that.   The first 25% of a person's life is spent indoctrinating them in a certain family culture.
The family culture based on the shared values of my husband and wife.  For instance



These are the biggies for our family.  Then there are the character essentials that we stress in our family.



Are there other things that we work on - sure.  We struggle in a lot of areas, but these are the things that we really desire for our children.  To be kind, humble, and honest, to respect others and show prudence.

Every family has their own list whether or not they ever write it down on paper.  These values comes out in when and how you discipline, how you spend your free time, the discussions you have as a group and as pairs. It even comes out in your prayer life.

My parent's and my husband's parents had their own family culture. I won't be so presumptuous as to write out what values I think they stressed, but I do know for instance that my in-laws stressed respect and honesty, and those are two to the values that we share with his parents.  There are, however bound to be other things that they stressed and we do not.

But every family is different, and when my husband and I joined together and started our own family, we created a new little microcosm.  And there are things that we do which probably don't make sense to my in-laws or to my parents.  And that is okay.  It may not have worked for THEM as a family, but it works for US as a family. 

In light of the potential for culture clashes -  How can you be a great mother in-law?

The secret to a successful mother/daughter in-law relationship 
(among rational non-psychotic people) is 


It takes great humility to watch someone do the same job you just spent your life doing. It takes great humility to watch the next generation raise your grandchildren.  As a new mom I was bound to make the same mistakes that my parents made - and more.  But those mistakes are what forge our family and help us to grow and learn.  Parents and in-laws are there to watch the next generation humbly, as their 'kids' go forth and stumble through this messy things we call parenthood.  When you able to watch that, and respond with love rather with judgement, when you able to recognize that every dyad, and every husband-wife relationship is different, then you are doing something right.

As a Mother-in-law, you need to recognize that even though you have been through this stage in your own life, you don't have all the answers for their lives.  Your children are going to parent differently because they are parenting different children in a different time and a different context (PPCT).  Recognize that every mother-daughter or mother-son relationship is unique and as such they should parent accordingly.

When you are prideful, when you think that your way is the only way, when you insist on others doing things the way you think they should be done, that is when you set yourself up for a difficult relationship.

When you are able to see that every family needs to do things a little bit differently, when you are able to not judge them for this, when you are able to accept them and encourage them, and support them.  That is the start of healthy relationship.

Thanks for stopping by and check in soon for a post on how to be a better daughter-in-law!

PS - If this post is too theoretical for you and you want to leave with one concrete "ToDo" - here it is -
Make her life easier, not harder

And for 5 tips on begin a better grandparent click here

*Disclaimer - I am not writing this post in response to, or in anyway to instruct the fabulous women I know who have tough relationships with their in-laws.  Rather this entire piece and the one to follow it are more general statements, directed for those who are starting out this road or wanting to improve on a descent relationship.  I do think there are some relationships that are beyond help because in order to grow both parties have to want to examine their own behavior and grow.  Often only one party is willing to do that.  For those sweet individuals I will continue to pray and stay away from directing or judging. 

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