I can hear your jokes. I have a few of my own.
My mother-in-law called when we were first married and asked to speak to my husband. I told her he was ironing his shirt and when I passed the phone to him, he said to her, “of course I iron my own shirts.” Yes we all have our in-law stories – some good, some complicated and some that can’t be repeated. I can’t stop thinking about the show Everybody Loves Raymond where the mother-in-law showed up every day unannounced and constantly meddled in her grown kids’ life. In-laws get a bad wrap — on TV and in life.
It was easier for me to roll my eyes at my in-laws when my parents were alive, I felt safe and secure in brushing off their advice or criticism. I loved my extra mom and dad from day one, but looking back I took them for granted. Now that I only have one parent – my mother-in-law – I can see how important it is to suck up the past and stop taking her for granted. I am grateful for my husband’s mother in ways I should have been thirty years ago. Even if your relationship with your in-law doesn’t seem ideal, there are many reasons why you should feel connected to a parent-in-law.
Your in-law created the person you love. Yup. Number one in a nutshell. Your partner wouldn’t be on the planet without him/her/them.
- In-laws can get mad but still love you. These secondary parent relationships can be tricky. Not your mom or dad so the rules of engagement are different. However, deep down they want to love you just as much as you want to love them.
- An in-law grandparent loves your children as much as your own parents do. You children bridge a gap between you and your in-law who adores the humans who will continue their legacy for years to come. Even if they show love differently than your own family does, give your in-law the credit they deserve.
- An in-law can be a port in the storm if your own parents are difficult. A good in-law listens and gives small doses of advice. Sometimes it is good to hear another perspective from someone who is an extension of your partner.
When your own parents are gone and life gets lonely, an in-law can fill a void. Again, not your parents. However, if they are kind they will help support you through this type of tragedy and let you lean on them for as long as you need.
- In-laws have history that is important to your children. Spending time with an in-law and finding out about their past and family tree is vital information to pass onto your kids. It can be fun to hear stories about when you partner was a little kid. Fun for you and for your children.
- An in-law can be more of a friend than a parent. Sometimes we need our parents not to be parents but they have a hard time being our friends. In-laws have less historical baggage so it is easier for them to slip into the fun friend role. Not that parents don’t have warmth and joy with their own kids (I would like to think I am still fun with the girls.) An in-law, however, they may feel less inclined to tell you to wear a sweater when it is cold or to be careful every time you go out of the house.
- Whatever loss you experience; it is their loss too. If you go to a funeral of a cousin or best friend, often times they will be there too. Not to step on your toes but to love you and support you.
They are human. They get older. They need us. And we shouldn’t waste another minute worrying about what they said to us ten years ago, or what part of their life we don’t like and want to fix. Who knows how much longer we have our in-law? Living a life treating our in-law with respect sets a precedent for our kids.
- Kindness toward an in-law will be rewarded. Whatever good karma you put out into the universe, you are certain to get back. Even if he or she is difficult, doesn’t do anything you had hoped they would do for you or just doesn’t want to engage, keep trying. Keep calling, including him/her or them for birthdays and holidays. Keep loving them for the sake of your partner and your kids and for the sake of yourself. In the end doing the right thing will make you feel better about your life and set an example for your kids.
Mimi L. Golub is the Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Living the Second Act, an online magazine for women in their 40s and 50s who are seeking the truth. Mimi has written for numerous publications including The Huffington Post. She is the author of the someday-to-be-published novel, Boxed In. Mimi is also the writer and a staff editor of From Our Kitchens, a nonprofit cookbook that was released in 2018. In her spare time, Mimi loves to workout, drink tequila, and volunteer with many local causes. She lives in Newton, MA, with her husband and has twin girls who have left the nest. You can find her former work on: tequilainbed.com