Thursday, January 17, 2013

The MIL Question

I was commenting to my friend Liz how wonderful it was that she was hosting a 90th birthday party for her mother-in-law — that it was so much work and still, it was great she was doing it. 

"And let's hope someone does the same for us one day," I said, to which she replied in a way that signaled skepticism, 

"I have boys."  

"But Liz, you will have daughters-in-law and THEY will do it for you!" I encouraged, "And YOU will be a GREAT mother-in-law!"

"I don't know about that," she cautioned.

But she will — because she's so non-judgmental and easy-going, and many more things I am not.  And though I will certainly be cognizant of my flaws in this arena, still — it's hard to curb all those ingrained behaviors that work for us and against us — and make us whom we are. (I hope that's grammatically correct.)

The mother-in-law question.  

This is a question that most women ask themselves at some point or another:

What kind of mother-in-law will I be?

Even though in my case, I'm asking well before that role is even remotely in my future, I do think about. Worry about it. There are only two choices one hopes for in a MIL or hopes to be as one — exactly like your own mother OR exactly the opposite.

My mother was a terrific mother-in-law.  She embraced anyone and everyone who married into the family. Even when they weren't her son-in-law or daughter-in-law — sometimes even more than their own mother-in-law, my mother made them feel welcome.  She didn't feel any competition for affection or attention.  She looked for the good in people.  Some times (annoyingly) she even sided against her child and FOR the in-law!  

Once my daughter (at the age of six or seven) marched proudly up to my mother and announced,


"Oh don't say that," she admonished soothingly, "that would hurt your father's feelings. You don't want to hurt your father's family, do you?"

"M-A-A-H!" I called out from the next room.  "She IS more Armenian than anything else." (The "else" being the fifty percent from Chris' side that is German, English and Irish.) 

"I think it's cute," I said, secretly pleased that she identified more with my side of the family than his.

"That's not right," she said and disapprovingly looked at me in that way that clearly communicated — you know better.  And I did.  If the situation were reversed, I'd be hurt if my ethnic heritage wasn't recognized.

I can't see myself being her way.  I mean certainly I'm my children's best cheerleader and worst critic and while I place a high value on being honest (we Sagittarians are brutally honest) still, I have my prejudices.  

My sister-in-law Robin would make the best fairy tale kind of mother-in-law you could ever envision.  A major shopper, I imagine her future daughter-in-law might mention something and voilà it would appear.  A regular activity between Robin & her someday daughter-in-law would be playing adult dress-up from Robin's extensive closet — a sure thing for this future MIL. 

The great sadness is that being someone's future fairy tale mother-in-law isn't going to be in her future.

1 comment:

  1. I hope I am a supportive and affectionate MIL. I know I try really hard to be supportive and receptive. I wish I knew what my SIL thinks and feels.