Here’s a multiple choice question for you. My mother-in-law is A) meddling B) critical C) not understanding D) none of the above. If you answered D, you are correct.
My mother-in-law lives in Norway, but we’re quite close. She’s very nice, yet also very strong-willed and opinionated. I’m also strong-willed and not shy on sharing my opinion, but what makes our relationship work so well is that we have a healthy dose of respect for each other.
Relationships with mother-in-laws can be tricky. It’s like a tale of two queens in one kingdom. They’re the mother, they’ve watched your partner grow up, guiding them along the way. When you come into the picture it’s like there’s a new queen in the castle, new rules and now your partner is listening to someone else’s guidance: yours. (Well, at least we hope our partners are listening to us…)
I remember the first defining moment between me and my MIL. It was shortly after Hubby and I married and she and I were hanging out in her kitchen. She turned to me in her sweet accent and eagerly asked if we were going to start having kids. I told her no, we were going to wait a bit.
She frowned and asked if I was sure, because it would be nice to start a family. I paused to ponder how to phrase my answer. One of the great things about Norwegians is their brutal honesty, so I told the truth. We wanted to have kids, but I wanted to spend time working on my career first, so babies had to wait. She frowned again and then said: “Well that makes sense. I tell (my daughter) to wait to have kids, so why shouldn’t it be the same for you?”
And just like that we moved on to something else. She never asked me about having grandchildren again. That’s how we work, we have starkly honest conversations and we can agree to disagree with no hard feelings. It all comes down to respect and over the years it’s created a very close bond.
When she stayed with us for three weeks for Ethan’s birth, it was great to have such unconditional support. When Hubby was in Florida on business a week after the birth, my MIL and I had an efficient rhythm in running the household together. And each evening we’d empty a bottle of red wine over a girlie movie that took twice as long to watch because we’d pause it and talk about all kinds of random things.
I’ll always be thankful for those days we spent as just us, together. Her unconditional love. Her compliments on how I handled my cantankerous 3-year-old. Even listening objectively to my gripes about my husband, her firstborn son. I’ll be eternally grateful for our relationship and I wish that kind of blessing for others. I know most folks don’t have this type of relationship with their MIL, which makes me all the more appreciative of mine.