I’ve been missing in action because I have spent the last two weeks with my in-laws who were visiting us at our home in Virginia. Yesterday I dropped them off at the airport for their flight home. To be honest it was both a wonderful visit and a difficult one. It was wonderful because I truly love my in-laws and am so thankful for all that they do for our family. It was sometimes challenging because we live such different lives and I personally struggle with meeting their expectations, not because they put many on me, but simply because I am their daughter-in-law. The difficulty also came from my husband’s hectic work schedule these past two weeks. He has been working night and day and was not able to take enough time to spend with his parents.
The relationship between a woman and her in-laws is not only an important one, it is a delicate balance of expectations and lifestyle. Sometimes small judgements hover in the air, and maybe those judgements are not spoken out loud but they are there nonetheless. If allowed to hover, both sides may feel resentment and the relationship for the entire family suffers. How those judgements are handled is the key to a successful and positive extended family. I am lucky because my in-laws are usually quite contained and they are lucky because I am able to let many things roll off my back. A mutual agreement of peace! In the end, I firmly believe we are aligned on the importance of each person’s role in our entire family.
I also have to stop and think about the fact that I have three boys and that one day, I too, will be someone’s in-law. What will that look like? How will I act? I am 100% confident that I will make many mistakes. Why, especially for some, is this relationship so tough? I think it is tough because a positive relationship requires mutual tolerance, respect and at least an attempt at not being too judgmental. This is easier said than done for most people!
We mothers invest so much of ourselves, to our very core, in both our sons and our daughters. When they grow into adults, get married and decide to live life differently, well….I think that is challenging for every mother that has ever lived. In some ways maybe it feels like rejection, when in reality, it is simply a decision to live life in their own way. The gift of love we give to our children and their spouses is to simply support them as much as possible while practicing the commandment “thou shall bite your own tongue.”
I adapt to my in-laws by going with the flow. I show my husband love by treating his parents with respect. We had our morning routine and then every day we spent working on the home. I cannot express how grateful I am for everything they did in my home, from caulking our bathroom to reorganizing the storage room! I think we all enjoyed the visit and we all agree that it is nice to get back to our own lives and ways of doing things. I did this by sipping my morning coffee a little bit too slowly, causing my son to be late to the bus and by catching up on my writing. I got back to my routine by talking to friends who remind me that I have a meeting tonight at school and my son has a birthday party on Friday. They, in turn, have safely landed in Sweden and are hopefully having their evening coffee and getting ready for bed. My husband is on his way back home from China.
Life returns to our individual normals, different, but uniquely special. The true winner in all of this? Our children. Their child and ours.