Apologies to Our New Daughter-in-Law.
They're newly married and we already made a faux pas.
There is lots of advice out there for mothers-in-law (not so much for fathers-in-law, for some strange reason) – “always be value added”, “keep your mouth shut and your wallet open” and variations on this theme. I've tried to adhere to these rules but I think I forgot them recently when my husband planned a trip to Manhattan.
We had some errands to do, some visits to make, some appointments to keep – but lots of time in-between. How should be fill it?
The obvious solution would be to hang out in the apartment of our son and his (really new) wife. “What a great idea!” we said to ourselves. “It’s in a very convenient location and we’ll be able to spend time with them.” We were so proud of our plan.
When we arrived, we looked at ourselves in amazement, “What were we thinking?! Have we forgotten every hard-earned lesson and every bit of advice? Do we really want to intrude on their space so early in the relationship?"
It’s really challenging; it’s so easy to forget, to be too intrusive, to offer unsolicited opinions (But we meant so well!). It’s so difficult to be constantly on our guard – to watch our words and our steps – and our plans!
But of course, that’s what’s necessary. I’ve mentioned before that most letters to the Dear Emuna column are about struggles with mothers-in-law. I’ve seen with my friends as well and I so do not want to be that person. But it’s so hard. It may even be a little (okay a lot) unnatural. But it’s the effort that needs to be made.
No matter how old we are or how much experience we have, there is still plenty to learn. I’m asking all my friends for their mother-in-law tips (particularly mothers of boys) and I’m asking all my readers also. It’s too precious a relationship to ruin by acting without thought or advice.
Whenever our children get married, it is bittersweet – mostly sweet because we have prayed for this moment – but a little bitter because the relationship changes. We are no longer the center of our children’s world. This is good for us – and even better for them! – but it takes some getting used to.
Every time one of our daughters got married, my husband more poignantly felt the change. Whenever he would ask them something, they’d say, “I have to check with – fill in the name of their new husband.”
“What?!” he would think. “You barely know him and I’ve spent the last 24 years with you and I’ve already been replaced?”
The correct answer to accept is YES! Maybe not exactly replaced but the relationship has altered. It can still be good, wonderful even, but it’s different. The wise parent accepts this. The wise parent steps back. The wise parent gives advice only if asked and then very carefully. The wise parent does not take sides unless it’s that of their in-law child! The wise parent is only complimentary. The wise parent waits for their children to come to them, to call them, to reach out to them.
Some of this wisdom applies to children of all ages and in all situations but even more so once our children are married.
I’m not complaining; I’m only grateful. I’m just trying to navigate this new reality with thought and wisdom. I know I’ll make some mistakes (I’m requesting forgiveness in advance) but I’m trying. I’m conscious of the need to be careful and sensitive. I’m conscious of the need to make the relationship not about me but about them. I’m conscious of the fact that if any issues arise and someone has to be the grown-up in the room, that’s me. And I’m praying the Almighty should help.
Please let me know what I’ve missed... I'd love to hear your words of advice in the comment section below.