Thursday, July 30, 2015

When I Didn’t Like My Mother In Law . . . and How I Learned To Get Along Anyway: Mystery Blogger Series

I'm terrible at taking blog breaks, or relaxing in general. But just in case I do happen to feel like relaxing with this new baby when the time comes, I've asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest post for me. But not in the usual way.

Blogging is a great way to share insights and experiences. But, sometimes, as much as we'd like to start a discussion, it's not our story to share, or feelings could be hurt, or relationships damaged. So, for my guest posting series, I asked bloggers to share here, anonymously, posts they felt they couldn't put on their own blogs.

I hope you'll find them as compelling as I have.

-Kendra


I didn’t just dislike my mother-in-law. Sometimes, I actually hated her. It's hard to admit that, because hate is such an ugly word. Such an ugly emotion. However, for several years of our marriage, I actually hated my own mother-in-law.

It wasn’t always that way though. When I first met her, I liked her. I actually liked her.

But then something changed. And the change was mostly on my part. You see, I was young and impressionable when I got married. And I started reading message boards and talking to other wives and mothers, and watching horrid television sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond. And I started to think that I was supposed to not get along with her. I started to think that just because she had raised her babies differently than I wanted to raise mine, that we couldn’t get along. I thought that the differences in our parenting philosophies were irreconcilable. In my mind, I turned her into the hypercritical, passive-aggressive, television sitcom mother-in-law.

Oh, how foolish I was. So completely and utterly foolish.

You see . . . I was all into attachment parenting and breastfeeding and gentle discipline. And my mother in law raised her children with cribs and strict bedtimes and crying it out and bottle feeding and lots of spanking. And, I thought those differences in our parenting philosophies were more significant than they actually were. I thought she was judging me, when really I was judging her.

I would take every little thing she said or did and blow it WAY OUT OF PROPORTION in my mind to turn her into a horrible person.

For many years, I lived in dread of seeing her or talking to her on the phone. It’s not a fun way to live.

And, then slowly, slowly something changed in me. It started when I had an imagined near brush with death. And I realized that if I were to die with such hatred in my heart . . . it would not be good for my soul.

I stopped hanging out on forums and message boards where people routinely bashed their in laws. I stopped really talking to people who did the same. And I stopped watching television sitcoms about bad mother in laws.

And, I realized that I’m NOT a perfect mother. I make mistakes . . . mistakes a plenty. For all my parenting philosophy ideals, I’ve messed up. Many, many times. So, I stopped judging other mothers, especially my mother in law. I’m come to realize that she did the best she could, just like I’m doing the best I can.

I also realized that she raised my husband. Without her, HE wouldn’t exist. And I really like HIM. So, I’m grateful to HER for giving me HIM. I realized that she can’t be all bad, if she raised such a wonderful son.

As she’s gotten older, I stopped seeing her as a threat. I stopped seeing her as a threat to my marriage or a threat to my children.

And I’ve stopped caring about things she does differently. Who cares if she has different ideas about gifts and parenting and food? Does it really matter if she thinks aspartame is a health food? She’s old and set in her ways and I’m younger, but still set in my ways. And so what if we are different? So what?? I’ve realized . . . it doesn’t matter. I can get along with people who think differently than me, I really can.

I’ve asked God to help me love her. And slowly, he’s been changing my heart. We’re still not best friends. We still have very different philosophies in many things. I’m probably not going to call her up on the phone just to chat. But, when I do see her, we can now get along. I no longer feel the need to avoid her or hide from her. I no longer dread visits with every core of my being. Slowly, slowly things are changing. And the change has mostly been in me. She hasn’t changed . . . but I have. And sometimes, you really do just need one person to change, to change a relationship.

So, this is this story of how I changed my relationship with my mother in law.

Thanks to Kendra for giving me a forum to share this message.



Here are a few of my favorite blogs (besides this one of course) . . . ones that inspire me, and I hope they will inspire you too.

This Felicitous Life
A Fly on Our Chicken Coop Wall
One Catholic Mama

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22 comments:

  1. I'm impressed you were able to overcome your dislike just through the realization and changes you mention! It's amazing how much outside things can influence how we feel!

    I've always felt blessed that I genuinely like my MIL. Like she and I call or text each other to chat occasionally and she used to invite me to dinner at their house when my then-boyfriend was actually living away from both of us in college. It totally helps that we have similar parenting styles. I always figure she must know what she's talking about if she managed to raise my DH and SIL to be such awesome people ;) We have our disagreements for sure but overall I think what helps most is that we give each other the benefit of the doubt and don't make assumptions. And we respect one anothers' roles. Mil respects my role as her son's wife and I respect her role as his mom.

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  2. I've been very blessed with a wonderful MIL. She rarely offers comments or opinions about how we are raising the kiddos and that has made me listen to her all the more when she does make a suggestion.

    You are right about the power to change a relationship starting with just one person. I struggle mightily with a family member, and things are slowly getting better. Once I decided to give this person the benefit of the doubt, and assume the best not the worst - it helped me change my mind sent considerably.

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  3. I love my mother-in-law - and I also love stories about outrageous things MILs, or really any family member or friend, do (like on Everybody Loves Raymond, etc) because they foster MORE love for my MIL in me. I see even more ways she could be hard to live with and isn't! Every time I hear a story about friction with an in-law (fictional or real) I want to call up my MIL and thank her for being awesome :)

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  4. Very intriguing idea for a blog series!

    My mother-in-law is great, and I definitely don't tell her that enough. I remember that right before my husband and I were married, she said to me, "I had a wonderful mother-in-law, and I aspire to be as good as she was. I really want to find the right balance between being involved in your lives, and giving you the space you need to do your own thing. Please be totally honest with me if I'm not doing this well." And we've never had to say anything. She's very discerning and loving, and her example has been very inspiring to *me*. I hope if I'm a mother-in-law one day, I'll remember all that I learned from her.

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    1. Oh my goodness, this is so beautiful. And inspiring.

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  5. I think you're so right that there's this weird societal expectation that you should dislike your MIL...and that your husband is a doofus...and your kids are a pain. It's so hard to go against that flow. I think you're so right to remember that, if nothing else, she raised your spouse! May the Lord continue to work on both of your hearts.

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    1. Yes! That is SUCH a good point, Karyn. We're being counter cultural again.

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  6. We'll just say my relationship with my mother-in-law has been rocky and leave it at that. It wasn't until I was in the confessional, pouring out my inability to like this person, and the priest told me I had to come up with one thing I liked about her. If nothing else, I could start with the fact that she gave birth to Bryan. Doing that helped me tremendously. It also helped that at about the same time, Bryan started to see what was happening and began speaking up. :)
    I'm glad you were able to figure things out and improve the situation. It not only helps your relationship with your MIL, but it has to help your relationship with your husband and the relationship between your MIL and your kids, too.
    Now who are you, so I can thank you for the shoutout? :)

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    1. Same here. Our relationship started out great and I felt we had a good relationship until we got married. Since then, it's been rocky. I think it's tough too that neither my mil nor my mom had a mil, so they haven't dealt with that type of relationship before. My relationship with my inlaws is really complicated.

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  7. Thanks for posting! It only takes one person to change a relationship - with anyone. Not just our MILs. Good reminder! :)

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  8. Great idea for a series! I am so happy for you that you have a relationship on the mend with your MIL. My MIL does not care for me and has made that clear. I have asked in the confessional often how to best mend things as she has a tense relationship with my husband as well, but I strive for forgiveness daily and try not to live as if she owes me anything. It is, however, very, very hard.

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  9. What a neat idea for a blog series! Love it! When I saw the title on your (Kendra's) facebook page, I thought...Kendra is blogging about not liking her mother-in-law? Not so sure that's a good idea...lol. But this is a neat way for some really honest blogging on, erm....less than pretty things.....

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    1. hmm..this is my husband's account...I can't seem to log out of it...lol

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    2. Thanks! And, yes, that's exactly the point. I WOULDN'T blog about not liking my mother-in-law because she is amazing and so, so supportive. But even if I DID want to, I couldn't, ya know? So at least this way, other people who do have this struggle will know they aren't the only ones. :0)

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  10. I love this post. I never met my mother-in-law so it's easy for me to focus on her good.. But it bothers me so when I see young moms bash their mothers-in-law. I see my husband choked up at special events when he thinks of how much his mom would have enjoyed knowing her grandkids... I wish moms with mother-in-laws alive would embrace them.

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  11. I've actually gone from assuming I would hate my MIL (based on first impressions, several anecdotes and descriptions my husband gave me early on when we were dating) to liking and appreciating her more and more through the years. She loves very fiercely, is very giving when it's needed, knows how to be helpful and active and when to step back, knows how make her home welcoming and relaxing, never ever minds changing a dirty diaper or giving us a break or date night, and generally is pretty great. We don't agree on politics, entertainment or values and I still don't like to visit for too long, mainly because their family culture is very loud and boisterous and I'm pretty quiet and need a little recharge time (and also because I gain like 5 pounds every time I visit because I'm not used to driving everywhere). But it's really amazing, as you grow older you realize how little people's opinions and daily activities matter. What matters is, can they love and can they sacrifice? Are they there when you need them? Do they make you feel welcomed? And on all those points, my MIL is really great.

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  12. I love this idea! There are so many private things that just can't get linked to your name on the Internet, but are so worthy of being shared.

    My MIL and I are fine, if not close, but I worry more about BEING one. All the amazing MILs, what are they doing? And can I become a person like that, because I'm kinda persnickety?

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    1. I worry about this too. I think we do what Christine's MIL did.

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  14. I love the honesty of the writer here. Looking at our own selves and changing so we can have better relationships. I LOVE my MIL so much and have a great relationship with her but I could see how this would apply to any human relationship.

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  15. I WISH my MIL and I had a good relationship. We are so different and mostly we tolerate each other as necessary. We are SO different. Different religions, different cultures, TWO generations apart (she's 69 and I'm 28)...different everything. She's tried to be sweet to me but we just do not connect and unfortunately I don't think that's going to change!

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