Steve and I returned home from spending Thanksgiving weekend with his parents, my in-laws, P.J. and Lillian Chapman. As we drove the eight-hour trek from West Virginia back to Tennessee, I was reminded, once again of how truly blessed I am to have a wonderful relationship with my mother-in-law. Sadly enough, I know this advantage is not true for everyone.
Some of you are facing the possibility of many hours together with your in-laws. In a nutshell, you dread being with people you are supposed to love but really don’t like all that much.
In the book, The Mother-in-Law Dance, I offer some practical ways to build a mutually satisfying and lasting relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law.
This week I will offer three things a mother-in-law can do that will help avoid discord between her daughter-in-law and her son’s family. The insights below are adapted from my book, “The Mother-in-Law Dance / Can Two Women Love The Same Man and Still Get Along” available in the book section at this website.
(Next week, I will share three things the daughter-in-law can do to honor her husband’s mother and help keep Harmony in the Home.)
For the mother-in-law…
- Be flexible, not pitiful
There are a lot of demands on our adult children’s time. While I value being with my children as much as any mother, I’ve decided I will not put additional pressure on them by requiring them to fit into my plans. What does that look like? It means the Chapman Thanksgiving dinner, for example, may be the week before the actual holiday or even the first week of December. Or it may mean that our Christmas celebration is on the 18th instead of the 25th.
While this may seem unfair, and sometimes it feels that way, my ultimate goal is to make life for my children easier and less stressful. Of all the people and situations in their lives that make it difficult, I don’t want to be one of them.
So, may I be so bold as to offer some of you moms a gift idea for your adult children? How about giving your kids a guilt-free holiday? If you are like me, it will cost you a lot to do it, but it may be just the gift they were hoping for.
- Be careful to stay inside your boundaries
Like a beautiful river that gives pleasure and joy to a community, the same water source can bring destruction and sorrow when it leaves it bank and encroaches on the surrounding areas.
In a similar way, a mother-in-law is a wonderful asset to a family. She can bring wisdom and help that is beneficial to her son’s family like no one else can. However, when she steps over the line by interjecting her thoughts, opinions and presence without an invitation to do so she can do great harm.
Keep in mind, the same expressions of love that make an incredible mother to small children (the desire to nurture, guide, instruct and carefully watch over her young) are the same actions and attitudes that make a terrible mother to adult children.
- Be encouraging with your words
Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” The truth of this proverb is especially applicable when it comes to the Mother-in-law/Daughter-in-law relationship. Affirming your daughter-in-law with positive words and an encouraging attitude will go along way to helping your son and his family to want to be around you. The old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is true, but of course who wants to catch flies. Also keep in mind that honey also attracts bears. But I digress.
If you are ever tempted to have a heart to heart talk with your daughter-in-law in order to point out her faults or to correct something you find unacceptable…Please don’t do it!! As a rule, the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is such that no good can come out of that kind of conversation. If you must express yourself, then tell your son and let him deal with it. The following poem says it very well…
Power of Words
A careless word may kindle strife
A cruel word may wreck a life
A bitter word may hate instill
A brutal word may smite and kill
A gracious word may smooth the way
A joyous word may light the way
A timely word may lessen stress
A loving word may heal and bless
Do you have any practical advice you can share that has helped you in your relationship with your in-laws? Feel free to leave a comment or prayer request so other’s can share in your wisdom or your burden.
If you know someone who could benefit from this information please share this web page with them. Thanks!