August 13, 2009

My “Other” Daughter

Anyone who has a daughter-in-law, son-in-law, mother-or father-in-law has usually got some hair-raising stories.     I  admit that I thought my first husband’s mother was the MIL from you-know-where….of course, I was young then and didn’t understand a lot of things that have become much more clearer to me now that I’m older and wiser (I hope).   

Let me give you a little background:    I married my first husband in 1973.    His mother made it very clear she had already picked out who he should marry….her best friend’s daughter who was also my sister’s college roommate at the time.    Long story short, he married me and for 23 years I never felt loved and/or accepted by his mother.    After our divorce, which she played a big part of, I resented and hated her (hate is a powerful emotion that can eat you alive and it continued to give her power over me).     Years later, she lost two grown children to cancer and I tried reaching out to her but she still shunned me.    Fast forward to this summer when my ex and his mother attended  some  summer functions all the grandkids were involved in.     For the very first time, it seemed all the hatred I had for this woman was gone.    I saw her in a new light…..and apparently she felt the same about me.    We were able to talk and I actually felt a bond with her.    What a relief it was to be able to let go of all that hurt and hate, which was only destructive to me.     I will say that one of the things I learned from this experience early on was what kind of mother-in-law NOT to be with any future daughter-in-law.

It was soon after my ex left our home that my son met his future wife.    I was still reeling from the blow of being “suddenly single” and I resented anyone coming along to upset my already upside down life any further.    In my mind, this was an intruder who was trying to take another man from me and I wanted no part of her.     I’m ashamed to say that I was downright mean and hostile to Jennifer, who never did anything to me to deserve that kind of treatment.     However, she kept coming around and treated me with the respect I didn’t deserve….I don’t think I could have been such a lady if I’d been in her position.

After she and my son married, I did mellow out toward her somewhat, but every night I would call my son and ask him when was he “coming home.”    He would say, “mom, I am home.”     I thought I’d lost him like I’d lost his dad and desperately wanted my old life back.   

One incident stands out in my mind when I was invited to supper at their home.    Jennifer had been brought up in a home that pretty much catered to her every whim and desire and she was not very schooled in homemaking, such as cooking, cleaning, etc.    I took every opportunity to point out these “flaws” to my son.    Anyway, I was invited to eat and I remember how proud she was of her spaghetti supper.    I can still see her bringing my plate to me before anyone else could fix theirs .    Such a small gesture but it stands out in my mind to this day.    Another time around my birthday, we were all at Auburn tailgating but I had no ticket for the game.    Just before kickoff, she came to me and insisted I take her ticket so I could sit with my son at the game….and if you knew what a big Auburn fan she is, that was like giving up her right arm!    She wanted me to have her ticket as a birthday gift.

As the old saying goes, time does heal all wounds.    I eventually was able to get on with my life and it dawned on me that I might want to make amends with this girl who might one day be the mother of my grandchild.    I began to see her with different eyes, eyes that saw her not as an intruder in my life, but as a wonderful addition.     It was not overnight but eventually I found myself hugging her whenever they would come to visit and when they’d leave.    Jennifer was not a hugger but now she sometimes beats me to the first hug!   

Last year they were going to be at the beach on my birthday but she made sure she sent my birthday card before they left so I’d get it on my birthday!   Little things, see?

I’ll never forget when they told us they were expecting their little baby.    It was December 26, 2005.    What a Christmas present!    Their first gift to us that year were tickets to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans when Auburn was playing Va. Tech. but the baby announcement was the best gift I got that year.    McKinley arrived on August 29, 2006 (the day Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast).     When Jennifer came home from the hospital, she asked me to stay with her, and I was honored to do so.    She always  makes sure I get the little drawings from McKinley and tells her stories about Mimi and Pop (they live out of town).   

A year ago my son lost his job during some downsizing with his company.    He was at the top of his field and was doing extremely well.  It took him 2 months to find another job and through it all, Jennifer supported him in every way, something I will forever be grateful for.

Jennifer worked full time while she attended college and got her degree.     While she was on maternity leave, her employers thought so much of her abilities, that she was actually recommended for a promotion to head up a department after her return, which she got!   

Of course, she does some things different from myself and my daughter which might not “set well with me” at times and I’m sure I’ve more than irritated her in the past!    But I know I can count on her to be in my corner if needed.  

I wish I had a magic formula for any MIL’s or DIL’s out there who do not get along or see eye to eye.    All I can say is what worked for me was to sincerely love that person and try not to see them as your enemy.    I read somewhere once something to the effect that your son usually marries someone that has characteristics of his mother, and I hope that would be a compliment as to how your son feels about you.    It is not fair to a son to make him feel he has to choose between his mother and his wife.

I’m sure that Jennifer and I will agree to disagree on some things over the years.     But I can proudly say that she is not only my “other daughter” but my friend as well!

24 comments:

Grits414 said...

AWeeee how sweet! I am sure she will like reading that (assuming she does. :) )

Ashley Jo Anglin said...

My mother in law hates me.
She really does. It hurts sometimes, the things she says to me. She is jealous of me, and tells me quite often.
Maybe someday she will change...
Sometimes it just takes time. Thanks for writing this..

Debbie's Garden said...

I LOVED my ex mother in law. When we divorced she told my ex he was divorced from me, she wasn't. I didnt mind losing the husband but I would've been heartbroken to lose my in laws too. She showed me how wonderful one can be, I can only try to do the same.

Domestic Designer said...

What a wonderful post and what a special relationship you have!

Mabry's Gamma said...

Aww Judy that was so very heartfelt and it is nice when In-laws no longer feel like Out-laws. It took mine awhile to warm up to me but when she was making decisions on family heirlooms she wanted me to be just as much a part of it as my two SIL. I can remember telling her that they can pick what they want first and then I would choose from there and she told me I was just as much her daughter as they were, now that's progress.

Cheri

JCWillow99@gmail.com said...

She sounds wonderful. I am glad you have her.

marty39 said...

What a beautiful and loving story. Hugs, Marty

Gwen said...

What a heart warming post! I am so glad that you came around with your X-MIL and your DIL.

Maybe it is because I don't have kids of my own, but I never understood the jealousy/friction between mothers and daughters in law. I have seen it though and it makes me so sad. No one ever said that we all have to like each other, but life is a lot easier if we just let go and love each other:)

Terri said...

This post really touched me. I have had the honor of having a wonderful mother-in-law for the last 30 years. She never once interfered or meddled in my marriage and was always very supportive of my obtaining an advanced degree and working full time while raising a family. I'm sorry to say that my husband and I are parting ways. No big blow up, we've just grown apart slowly over the years and the marriage died a slow death. I hope that no matter what, I can continue to call my mother-in-law a friend. She is a very special lady.

9405018--Pat said...

Great post today...thanks for sharing...Pat H

Amy@TheLemonCottage said...

Okay, can I tell you how small the blog world is... I found you on Olive Rue's site...What grabbed my attention was the Auburn logo!!! I'm an Auburn fan deep in the heart of Big 10 Country! Okay- I'm an Iowa Hawkeye fan first, but Auburn is a very close 2nd... and THEN, I read your post and you have a "McKinley"... that is our #1 'baby name' for our next child. (President McKinley was 2nd cousins with my grandfather)... and THEN I see you have a Jackson... I have a Jackson!!! I tell ya, we're soul bloggers! :) I'm your newest follower. Great post about the fragile MIL/DIL relationship. My husband lost his mother 2 years before we started dating. I'm so thankful that I knew her, as she was a friend of my mom's.... She would have been an amazing MIL and Grandma to my Jackson... Glad I found you!
~Amy

Amy S said...

awesome post!!! I needed to hear that!!! ITS HARD!!
glad things turned around for you :)

mgster said...

Nice tribute to your daughter-in-law. All I can say is that if you were calling every night to ask your son when he was coming home and she didn't get upset by that...well, she is one very special young lady. I also have a fantastic daughter-in-law. I have loved her from the moment I saw how much my son loved her. She's like a sister to my daughter which is so nice to watch. I'm glad you finally came around to being the mother-in-law that you daughter-in-law deserves!

Isabella & Max Rooms said...

What a honest and meaningful story...there are many things to be reminded of in reading it! Thanks for sharing! Janell

Sherri said...

Judy, what a lovely post! I'm glad you came around!

Suzann @ Lavender and Roses said...

What a lovely post. Coming from someone who has mother-in-law issues, I can only say that your daughter in law is indeed fortunate.

racheld said...

I've been blessed with two absolute angels as MILs.

And of our three DDILs and one DSIL---we always say that our children couldn't have picked better mates if we'd handed them a catalog.

Melissa Lester said...

I was really touched when you shared these feelings with me at the twins' birthday party. And I'm so glad that you can count both your DIL and former MIL among your friends now! I have thought about Shannon all week with the kids starting school. I have struggled with Mary Ashley's going, but poor Shannon gets a double whammy of two going at once! I hope they are loving it. Mary Ashley is to excited to shed a tear, but I'm glad she is enjoying school so much. Now maybe I'll be in touch better since we are getting back into a routine!

Sincerely Yours said...

Hi Judy! This was a brave post admitting your first feelings/actions; I hope you continue to build your friendship! I have one child/daughter so I never have to deal with this issue as a MIL. BUT my own MIL has said a couple things to hurt my feelings but I don't think intentional; think twice speak once is a rule we all should follow and I highly recommend an 8 hour buffer zone!!!lol Nerve touching post for many!!! Have a great weekend - Sincerely, Jeannette

Just a little something from Judy said...

I admire you so much for sharing this wisdom with the blogging world. You shared your heart and I felt it as I read through every word. A mother-in-law is a unique and interesting position to be in. I continue to learn different aspects of this job. God has given me two very special and totally different guys as SILs, and I think I will still be learning the many ropes of this position for a long time. I am enjoying the journey, and would not trade them for any other. This was a heartwarming post.

bj said...

My son's first wife was a little hard to get along with as she was young and 'always right'...:) I didn't fuss with her in any way..my son was too dear to me to hurt him in that way.
His second wife...one of my very best friends. Amazing lady and I have so much respect for her.
Daughter's hubby...We love him as much as if he were our son by birth. Just love him to pieces.
The old saying that the best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother. Same goes for our childrens mates. The best we can give to our children is to love whom they chose to spend the rest of their life with.

Paige said...

What a beautiful post!

Jenny in Maine said...

What a beautiful story, and I can relate on so many aspects of it...having been married twice...and my 19 year old son's 'girlfriend' that was not raised the way I have raised my daughter and sons...I am also stepping back and keeping my mouth closed more often now as I do not want to harm the relationship with my son. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

The Speckledpup said...

today. today I needed to read this.
Thank the Lord for letting me find this post.today of all days.
My story mirrors yours in so many ways.
Thank you.

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