(Originally written as a gift to my mother-in-law for Mother’s Day 2001)
Today I am one of you, a daughter-in-law, but tomorrow I will be one of them…a mother-in-law. As the mother of two sons, I encourage you this Mother’s Day to make a decision to love your mother-in-law.
Through 10 years of marriage it was not until I had sons that I began to see things from my mother-in-law’s perspective. And with that awakening I’ve been able to push aside the trivialities that divided and instead enhance my life with another close female friendship and another perspective on motherhood from a woman whose parenting I have come to deeply respect.
You can — and should — do the same for yourself, your husband and your family. Here are some things my mother-in-law has taught me:
- Your children grow up, and quickly. My mother-in-law always said that she wished she had her babies back. I used to wonder why she didn’t just move on. Now I know. She has moved on, but even when you love every day of mothering as she did — and I do — the days fly by too quickly. Before you know it your children are walking, going to school, dating and leaving, and that’s if you do your job well. And when it’s over, most of us, given the chance , would do it again in a heartbeat.
- You never stop being a mother. I’ve come to appreciate that my mother-in-law simply wants to share in the lives of her adult children in whatever ways she can. There is nothing she wouldn’t do for any of them. In return for that unconditional love I make a conscious effort to involve her in the little things in our lives that help her stay connected — the photos of her son and grandchildren, the one-liners our preschooler comes up with, first steps, first teeth and firsts in general. I understand that motherhood thrives in the little things.
- We’re not the same, but we share the same pains and joys. I always joke that women have nothing to say to each other until one of them leaves the room. While men seek common ground it is the territorial nature of women to focus on differences. As she has slowly shared her life and experiences. I’ve been humbled and awed by the adversity over which my mother-in-law has triumphed. She has shown me that while we may be very different people, as women we share life’s joys and pains in a unique way. And after all, no one’s husband is more like mine than hers.
- Mothers just want their children to be happy. Maybe I wouldn’t have been her choice for her son; maybe I would have. But at the end of the day my mother-in-law wants her son to be happy. That’s it. If her children are happy she will have the peace of knowing her life is a success. So, the most important thing I do to love my mother-in-law is love her son.
To read this you may be tempted to say that I’m just one of the lucky ones who got the rare, tolerable and even lovable mother-in-law. I think so. But I also think that attitude can be a cop out. It’s easier to focus on the reasons your mother-in-law drives you crazy than to make a proactive decision today and every day forward to love her.
My goal each day is to be the type of daughter-in-law I want my sons’ future wives to be for me. That decision to love has given me the opportunity to get to know an incredible woman for who she is. I will always treasure her unique place in my life. It’s been one of the greatest and most rewarding surprises of my married life. I urge you to give yourself the same gift this Mother’s Day.