I thought that being asked to write a collective Mother-in-Law (MIL) guest blog would be a barrel of laughs, after all until quite recently in stand-up comedian history MILs were standard fodder guaranteed to raise a laugh. ‘My Mother-in-Law fell down a wishing well. I never knew they worked’ being one.
The trouble was when I thought back to comments that had been made to me over the years and on asking acquaintances for their comments I was truly shocked by the depth of pain and sorrow that some MILs felt. Obviously as well, there were some happy comments of finding another daughter to share with or son to have a joke with and do DIY but unfortunately they seem to have been outweighed by the negative feelings.
It would seem that the world of the MIL and DIL is fraught with misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Having been on both sides of the situation myself I can see with hindsight that I was probably not the best DIL that I could have been at times. I was very busy with work, family, family pets and general Mum stuff and was at times resentful of my MIL taking up my precious family relaxation time. I am ashamed at how selfish that sounds now but at the time it felt like an extra chore! I tried to be friendly/nice/generous but sometimes I found it difficult to find the energy to chat to someone who seemed to have little interest in what interested me. I ask myself now whether I should have tried harder to find common ground and to respect the mother of the man I love; a woman who brought my husband up to be the courageous, capable, loving man and caring father that he is.
Enough about me, I found MILs telling me how they had so looked forward to having a daughter to share girly stuff, to go shopping with and to explore a new type of family relationship only to have that relationship turn into a bit of a nightmare of having to tread on eggshells in every encounter. Not at all the easy relaxed friendship they had anticipated. Most had reasoned that if their dearly loved child loved this new person enough to bring them into the family what was not to love? Of course, bringing someone who is essentially a complete stranger to everyone but the son/daughter into a group of people who know each other completely is not always going to be a recipe for love and harmony.
The MIL/DIL relationship seems to be particularly prone to misinterpretation of motives – MIL sees DIL, in her view, clearly struggling to cope with a new baby and having been in the same situation themselves, thinks that by doing the cleaning/cooking/ironing etc that they will take some pressure off but DIL interprets this as MIL criticising their capabilities and generally interfering. In turn MIL feels that her experience is being questioned. Words may not be said but of course words actually only play a very small part in communication, the majority is facial expression and body language which we all have an innate ability to read!
The MIL/SIL relationship is equally as difficult it seems, the tigress instinct of protecting your offspring does not cease when they are grown-up. If the daughter is not being treated as well or respectfully as the MIL, in her perception, feels they should be or that the SIL is not pulling his weight in the partnership then trouble looms. Most MILs will not voice their opinion and tongues will be bitten to shreds but again body language is easily read.
One MIL said that she was sure that her DIL thought of her as the enemy! Knowing her to be an easy-going and friendly person I was amazed. She had got the impression that the DIL felt she was trying to win her son back to the maternal nest! DILs – believe us when we say that nothing is further from the truth. We are delighted that someone loves our child enough to take them on for life. Yippee! We are free after 20 or 30 plus years of never-ending cooking, washing, ironing, coping with their mess, their moods – we have seen it all during the teen years. Yes we love them to bits but we rejoice that the fledglings have flown the nest. We have done our job. We can be selfish and put ourselves first for a change.
So, just a few thoughts to bear in mind all you DILs.
- Remember that blood is thicker than water and family will always be there for you. All MILs I spoke to said that if a call came for help they cancelled all their plans and were straight there to support, do childcare, drive, shop, whatever was needed. Perhaps I only spoke to nice people, I don’t know.
- Remember that Love is the most important thing in our lives. We all have a driving need for love in our lives for our mental and physical well-being and can any of us afford to deny what could potentially be such a loving and supportive relationship?
- Perhaps try to be a little more tolerant, think of how you feel about your child and remember that your partner is still your MILs child and they have a need to be in their lives.
Lastly, in the immortal words of Les Dawson ‘What is the difference between an outlaw and an in-law? The outlaw is wanted!’