What my Mother-In-Law Taught Me About Being a Great Mother (In-law)

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Mothers-in-law get a seriously bad rap. And usually, it’s well-deserved.

It’s much more common to have a weird or completely broken relationship with your MIL than it is to have a good, open relationship. We’ve all heard our fair share of mother-in-law horror stories. It seems like at best, most of our MIL relationships are just strained or awkward.

But all mothers-in-law are not created equal. As a girl and a boy-mom, I don’t want to live in a world where all kids grow up, get married, and have to live between a spouse and a mom who never really like each other. 

That doesn’t have to be our future.

I plan to love my son’s and daughter’s spouses as much as I love them, and I hope I get to watch that unfold. And I hope my kids’ in-laws feel the same way.

But I can’t actually control any of that. There is very little we actually can control as moms – but we can lead by example.

We can show what it is to have open, imperfect, and messy relationships that we cherish. Including marriage relationships, friend relationships, and definitely in-law relationships. 

3 Things I Learned About Being A Mom from My Mother In Law

There are sadly very few people – women especially – who have amazing mothers-in-law, and I am lucky enough to be one of them. Here are just a few things I’ve learned from my MIL.

Blood is Irrelevant

Blood doesn’t make a family. Love does. And not all love looks the same.

In fact, sometimes families with all the same blood can be the most difficult of all. I obviously have no blood relationship with any of my husband’s family, but they’ve accepted me as if I did. And my MIL is technically my husband’s step-mom, so if you wanted to dive into the science, she technically has no blood relation to my kids.

But she loves my kids just as much as I do. (Depending on the day, it might be even more ?).

She’s helped my husband walk through the trauma of losing his birth mom as a child more than anyone else.

And she even looks more like my daughter than I do. It’s one of those fun hints from God that everything was supposed to be this way.

EVERYONE Royally Screws Up

A common problem I hear about is MILs who seem to think, “She better treat my little boy perfectly because he is an angel on earth.

This inevitably leads to judgment about parenting, cleaning, work, etc, etc.

This also inevitably leads to daughters-in-law who feel like they are always trying to prove themselves and don’t exactly enjoy being around their in-laws.

But when I’m annoyed at my husband, my MIL actually understands more than anyone.

While other wives are struggling to communicate with their MILs at all, I can actually vent to mine about her son. And she can give me a better perspective than anyone, because:

  • She grew up with him, so she knows his flaws
  • She’s married to an older version of him
  • She knows that I love him and that venting can be healthy

My mother-in-law has set an example that’s been easy to follow. She never acted as if her own marriage was flawless just because they’re older and more mature. She also never acted as if her parenting skills or her kids were flawless. Marriages of all ages are imperfect, and people of all ages are imperfect. 

She’s shown me how to have grace for other’s imperfections in her own marriage, and in mine.  

Therefore, it completely removes the expectation that my husband and I are just giddy with each other and perfect all the time. We don’t have to pretend. We can be frustrated at each other without feeling like we’re going to “expose” ourselves.

Seeing my mother-in-law accept her family’s imperfections and love them anyway (along with an appropriate amount of venting)–has also enabled me to love her family and truly become a part of it.

Love Gives Space

As a mom of young kids, I find it very easy to hover over every decision they make. But the reality is that I can’t control my kids as two-year-olds, I won’t be able to control them as teenagers, and I won’t be able to control them as adults. But I really hope they want to talk to me no matter what.

When my husband and I have big or little decisions to make, we both know we can talk to her. In fact, we want to. She’s always honest about her opinions but never tries to convince us that she knows what we should do.

Even when our biggest decisions have impacted her greatly, she’s respected them. She didn’t pretend to be happy–but she respected us anyway.

So can we stop acting like the in-law relationship is hopeless? 

Instead, let’s take notes and set a new standard.

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