I must start with a disclaimer on this post: I don’t fully know how to do this. But my kids have been teaching me how to make progress as a mother-in-law daily, and I’ve learned a thing or two.
When my son first got engaged, I meddled in an area of my future daughter-in-law’s life. We were enjoying a night out for dinner. I was found out when a text came in on my son’s phone regarding the area I had been meddling in. Jenny was seated next to him. Oops! The expression on my son’s face made it clear it was regarding Jenny. Another oops! From across the dinner table, I watched the scene unfold. He showed the text to Jenny. Then he addressed me. Then he looked back at Jenny and said, “Welcome to the family!” It was my peculiar way of being loving, but I feared Jenny would dislike me forever.
To my astonished and pleased surprise, you’ll never guess what happened!
She took it as a compliment! She accepted my meddling as a way of loving her, and was thankful I was treating her the way I treat all my kids. WHEW! Did my son choose well or what? Her parents raised her well. Now, remember this post is not about meddling, we can save that for another time. I already told you I don’t have this mother-in-law thing totally together.
This brings me to my first point.
1- Treat your in-law kids as good or better than you treat your own kids. Your daughter-in-law or son-in-law entered into your extended family. You have a lot of history to make up for. Treat him/her well and embrace each into your family. This is your job. Not theirs!
2- Love him or her. If you love your child, you will love who they love. If you care about your son or daughter, you should care about the most important person in their life. Love your kids by loving who they love. It’s not that hard. If you loved someone, how would you treat them? Then do it. Fake it if you have to. When we act like we love someone it won’t be long until we actually feel feelings of love for that person. And for the record, I love both my in-law kids. No faking for me. But if they were hard to love, I’d love all out and wait for my feelings to follow. Because I love my kids! You love your kids through the love you show to your son/daughter-in-law.
3- Include your new son or daughter. Don’t leave him/her out. Don’t ignore him/her. Be interested in his/her life and job. Be engaged with what interests him/her. When you do something for your children, do the same for your “adopted” children. This means when you send out mass texts to your family members, don’t exclude your new kids. Don’t exclude them from emails either. When you invite your daughter to visit, invite her new husband too. When you ask questions, ask the same question to both your son and his new wife. When you ask for opinions, ask your son-in-law too. Include your new kids in all things regarding your family. No one likes to feel left out. Consider his/her feelings.
4- Respect boundaries. Your son-in-law needs to be able to tell you the word no. Your daughter-in-law should be able to set limits with you. I knew my son-in-law accepted me when he started telling me no. Because then I knew his yes really meant yes. And I knew my daughter-in-law loved me when she could convey how often she wanted visits after their first child was born. Because it meant that when she said she wanted me to visit, she really meant it. When you respect your “kids” boundaries they are free to love you and invite you into their lives. If they ask you not to do something, you don’t do it! And you don’t pout about it after! This includes calling too early or posting embarrassing things on Facebook. My kids tell me often, “Mom, don’t post that on Facebook!” We moms are proud and can get carried away. I know I can, but we need to respect how they feel and what they deem acceptable.
5- Don’t barge in. Wait to be invited. This does not mean you don’t invite your children to get together. By all means, invite them to spend time with you. What this means is you don’t arrive at their home unannounced or tell them when you are coming for a visit. You ask. My daughter-in-law and son live in another state and I always ask when I can come for a visit, I don’t just barge in. We work out the dates together. And don’t try and barge in with your opinions about their life either. They are adults, if they want advice on something they will ask.
At the end of the day it all boils down to the golden rule of treating others the way you’d want to be treated. Do the best you can each day and start over the next. I’m learning how to do this because my kids are teaching me. I love all of my kids and they are worth all my efforts. And I’m guessing yours are too.
Until next time, love others the way God loves you.