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!