While I’m away, readers celebrate mothers-in-law.
I was in a marriage that ended sadly but amicably. I’ve kept in touch with my mother-in-law, with whom I had become quite close in spite of the fact that we were two very different women.
About two years ago, I was going through a difficult financial and emotional time. I don’t know if she heard through my ex-husband or just sensed it, but she knew I needed help. She sent me an email: “When you and (son) parted ways, you asked me to hold on to your engagement ring. … It occurred to me that neither you nor (son) would ever have use for (it). … The diamond has been worn by three people — my godmother, me, and you. That’s more than any diamond could hope for as a ring. I would like to take it out of the mounting and set it into a pendant. However, I think that you should receive something in the spirit of fair trade. I’d like to offer you a good chunk of change. I can tell you from years of trying to make things work, every now and again, a little windfall is nice. Maybe this could be a launching point for your next big step. I love you so much and really, really want you to have this opportunity.”
It was the most amazing gesture from someone who could have totally left me behind when her son and I parted. It allowed me to quit a soul-sucking job and put myself completely into a job search, which resulted in the great job I have today.
I love my mother-in-law! Seriously, I adore her. She’s what you’d call a hippie, but she’s so much more — a magical person who raised my husband “by herself” (his dad was never really in the picture) but surrounded by a loving community of friends. They were poor for many years, but my husband never wanted for anything. She is not holier-than-thou, though she is literally the most emotionally well-adjusted person I’ve ever met, second to my husband. She never harangues us about calling or visiting.
My only challenge in relating to her has been rising to her level of openness, but I realized it’s all love and you simply can’t turn your back on love.
I adore my mother-in-law. She’s great. We don’t share a religion, which is very important to her, and she has never said a critical word to me in the 12 years I’ve been married to her son. She finds fun outings and focuses on making them toddler-friendly for our kids. She hand-makes beautiful quilts and reads mystery novels. I try to make special time for her to spend with my husband without me and/or the kids, and I like to spend time with her too.
My ex-mother-in-law told me just prior to my wedding that her mother-in-law had been petty and unpleasant, so she vowed to treat me like her own daughter. She did. She was kind and thoughtful and helpful without being intrusive. Even when her son and I were divorcing, she never said an unkind word to me (or about me).
My current mother-in-law is even nicer. She is funny and warm and welcomed me and my children to the family without blinking.
When my then-new fiance needed surgery, his mother told him her first instinct was to fly out to take care of him. Her second instinct was to stay home and let me fulfill my new role as his partner. She followed her second instinct — no hovering, no second-guessing.
When I was pregnant, she made it very clear that it was safe for me to express my conflicted feelings and frustrations with parenting (even though she was over the moon about getting her first grandchild!).
She showed up often to take care of the baby, and us, including giving us alone time; but has been VERY respectful of our boundaries. As a result, she gets all the grandbaby time she wants; we visit as much as we can; we ask her to visit all the time; and every single time, we’re sad to leave or see her go.
You get out what you put in, folks.
My mother-in-law is fantastic, not because we always see eye-to-eye, but because she is able to NOT share everything she is clearly thinking (dirty fridge, unfolded laundry, table not set). It is clear that she is driven nuts by these things, but oh, I am so appreciative of her rising above it and meeting us where we live.
One night a friend said to my love, “Your parents must be so happy you found K (me).” My love’s loving but sarcastic response was, “Yes, they wanted me to find a divorced single mother.” At that moment it hit me what an amazing and welcoming woman my mother-in-law is. Even though I wasn’t the stereotypical perfect choice, they have been fantastic! I hope to be as gracious to my son’s future partners.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.