When we get married, we also marry our spouse’s family. Our commitment to love our husband includes showing love and respecting his family and vice versa. Navigating in-law relationships is not easy and presents challenges when a couple comes together, especially when we add children and grandchildren to the family dynamic. The term “in-laws” has earned a stigma for many reasons, but we can learn from our experiences and decide to implement positive characteristics as a mother-in-law in the future.
Understand & Accept the Change of Roles
As mothers we sacrifice to raise our children to the best of our abilities. When our children are young, we are the center of their world, and as they grow older it is natural to feel we have the right to insert our opinion into their lives. However, once our adult children marry, this role must change. This “changing of the guard” can be painful, but our child’s spouse must come before us. This does not mean we are no longer important. We will always be his or her mother, and because of this forever role it is our duty to support our adult children and teach them how to place their spouse’s needs first. Many women feel this a replacement, but it is not. No one replaces a mother, and we can use our influence to teach our adult children how to love their spouse and children well.
My Adult Child is not Perfect
It can be a huge support for a mother-in-law to remember her adult son or daughter is not perfect. As in-laws we can remember to understand how our adult children are working through their own imperfections to build a stronger marriage and create their own form of synergy. A mother-in-law can offer support by encouraging (at the appropriate time) her adult child to listen to his or her spouse and to understand their needs and perspective. Without getting overly involved, parents of adult children can best help by offering encouragement through the role of “supporter”.
Help with Grandchildren
As a young mom, it can be wonderful when our moms or mother’s-in-law come to help us in the way that works for us. It is important to remember the word “help” is a verb and means to “assist”, “make easier by offering resources”, or “improve”. The word “help” does not mean “take-over”. The best way to help is to ask, “How Can I Help You?”. We can remember that our personalities are different and what might be helpful to one person may not work for another. As women we can also ask this question and apply it to other relationships such as our spouse or friends who may be experiencing a time of need. We can begin to practice being a good “helper” now to be comfortable with this approach once our own children become adults.
“In-laws” have more life experience. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we can look back and think of ways we mishandled a situation as a mom or daughter-in-law. It’s called “learning from mistakes”, or “learning how to improve as a human being”. One day as a mother-in-law we can remember our adult children and their spouses have less life experience and can offer grace in place of criticism. Just because we grow older does not mean we always know how to properly handle every situation, but we can remember we can use our life experiences to be the bigger person and lead by example.
Implement the Golden Rule
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a phrase that seems basic but can offer infinite reward. We can choose to remember how we wanted to be treated as moms to make sure we treat our future daughters and sons-in-law with love and respect.