In 2009 (while we were still pregnant) I wrote this about my MIL.
I still mean it.
Last year was crazy hard – for so many reasons – and brought some “conflict” with the in-laws.
We wanted to move. I’ve never loved this house and never thought of it as my own. I never planned on being here for the now 7+ years we’ve been here. I wanted something – mine. Ours. Away.
Jared’s parents are fantastic people that love to … do. And bless. Like I wrote about in my previous post.
The problem with doing and blessing is that I felt like we were kids. Now you might say – Danielle – are you really complaining about someone doing for you? C’mon. But what happens when everything is taken care of for you? You don’t do anything. The things you should be doing in your life. Taking the garbage out. Shoveling your driveway. Mowing your lawn. It is wonderful – while it’s also problematic.
So we had to figure some things out – quite a few things out. And on the list was the relationship with our parents. And we did. And for that I’m thankful.
We are here. Next door. For quite some time it seems. Living next door to anyone – let alone your parents – in a state of anger and frustration – would suck. Which is why I refuse to live in such a state.
Let me just say that in living next door to my in-laws – it’s not a big deal. The problem wasn’t that this house was next to them. The problem was that it’s THIS house. To be honest – I drop by unannounced on my MIL MUCH more than she does on me. Mostly because I have a little boy who knows we live next to one of his favorite people in the whole world.
So how do you do it?
How do you have a good relationship with your mother-in-law? Especially once you have a baby?
1. When Jared and I started dating – I already knew his parents. He met mine on our first date. Cus I’m that serious about my family. I love them. And he loves his. And if for any reason – we didn’t feel a connection or a fit – enough that it caused problems – then we wanted to figure that out early on. People say – you don’t just marry your husband. You marry his family. In some instances – that doesn’t happen to be the case. But in our situation – it would be. Thankfully Jared’s family and I got along well and mine loved him.
2. I’m a mother. To a little boy. I get it now. Jared is Brenda’s baby boy. In a way – he will always be. And that’s hard. But I get it now. I look at Fitzy and wonder just who will take my place in his life someday. Right now he needs me. And while I know that I will always have a place in his heart – it won’t be the same. I will lose him to a girl. And I will be a mother-in-law. Oh. Crap.
A woman at MOPS said – they figured out why the relationship between in-laws are strained at times.
Especially a MIL and DIL.
They are both in love with the same boy.
Whoa. That’s it.
So remember that.
3. I have a relationship with Jesus. If this doesn’t apply to you – you can skip it. But all the other points that follow – depend on it. For me. God sent His one and only to die for me. If I was the only person on the face of this earth – He would have done it. For me.
I know what love is.
Thankfully my MIL also has a relationship with Jesus. And while that isn’t a magic solution – it helps.
4. I meant what I said in that blog. I wanted Brenda in the room when our baby was born – along with my own mom. Turns out that I needed Bridget to take pictures and then couldn’t decide between my mom and Jared’s mom – so Samm won the spot. But had I been allowed – she would have been there. Because Fitzy is just as much her grandchild as he is my mom’s. And for some of you – you might say – why does that even matter? He’s MY son. They don’t have any special claim or right to him. I do. Me. And me alone. To that response – I say – my heart aches for you. And for the grandparents of your children.
Fitzy will almost always pick my mom or my MIL over me. Every single time. Brenda went to Florida for a week a while ago. It was a nightmare. That little boy KNOWS that his grandma lives right next door. And usually he can see her every day. He cried and cried every time I told him she wasn’t home. He stood by the door – asking and asking. His little heart was so broken. We facetimed with her – but he didn’t want any of that. He wanted his grandma – holding him.
I had a friend once say to me that it would bother her if her child wanted someone else that much over her. I told her that I loved it. I love that he loves them. I love that he almost always runs into her open arms with a hug and a kiss and she whispers her love for him into his little ears. I love that when we go to my parents – he wakes up the instant we hit the driveway. When he sees my mom in the window – he beams. He dives into her arms and is literally glued to her hip for the duration of our stay. I don’t think she’s ever been more exhausted and happy in her life.
My grandparents were very involved in my life – along with Jared and his. Grandparents long for the moment to hold the baby of their baby in their arms. Not being a grandparent – I don’t KNOW exactly how it feels. But I’ve been told. I’ve seen it. I see it. Every day. Because we live next door to a grandparent.
Brenda loves. She just loves. I can’t finish that sentence because she loves babies and kids and teenagers and adults and grandparents and everything in between. But she ESPECIALLY loves teeny tiny babies. She loves to rock and pray and sing. And while I couldn’t get enough of Fitzy in those first few months – I made sure to share him. When she asked to have him – I gave him. She likes to bless – remember? She loves to help. And in those first few months when I didn’t think I could stand one more second without falling asleep – she kept him for us. All night. People would ask me how I could do that? How could I hand my brand new baby to my MIL for the night? How did I sleep? I slept like a baby. I knew that he was in fantastic hands – in reality – better hands than my own at the moment – which were beyond exhaustion. I loved her. I trusted her. I appreciated her.
While my “normal” personality is pretty high-strung and … ahem … bossy – my “mothering” personality is not. I’m a little bit over-protective sometimes – about silly things like food. But laid back. I don’t have a list of rules to drop off. I know that when Fitzy is with my parents or Jared’s parents – I don’t have to worry about a thing. Not one.
Over the summer – Brenda was watching Fitzy while I was at a session. I called Jared on my way home and asked where he was – I could hear screams and lots of laughing in the background. He was at a soccer game – with Fitzy and his parents. I said – how did Fitzy get there? And I heard Brenda say – OH NO. I forgot to ask Danielle if we could bring him. I said – I’m glad she doesn’t have to ask. Yes – take him an hour away to dinner – please ask. But run him up to the school for a soccer game? By all means.
When I hit our gas line coming into the house – we had to spend the night with Jared’s parents. Brenda – being the giving woman she is – let us sleep in their bedroom for the night. Fitzy – however – did NOT want to sleep. He wanted grandma. And only grandma. He cried and cried and I told her she could leave and I would just deal with it. He cried like I’ve NEVER heard him cry. Brenda was peeking at the door and after a few minutes – came in and said – I’m taking him. You guys need to sleep. I’ll deal with it. He stopped his screaming immediately and cuddled up with her. She slept – I use that word loosely – on the floor in the living room with him that night. Jared said – you okay? I said – are you kidding. I’m so thankful she is comfortable enough to do that. Even though I told her I would deal with it – she still stepped in and took over. She didn’t cross a line at all. At least – not with me. I had a horrible day and was exhausted. It was a giant help.
5. I see her face light up every single time she sees him. Same with my mom. I can’t imagine seeing sadness instead because I’m withholding a relationship from her. I’ve told Jared – if I am ever upset with your mom about something and I start to use Fitzy as a weapon in that situation – smack me. Seriously. Do not allow it. If I have a problem – I need to figure it out. Not take her grandson away from her as punishment. Totally not cool.
6. I’m a first-time momma. And I hope I would still feel this way if I was a 5th time momma.
I don’t know it all.
I can safely say that I don’t even know what’s best for my child – all the time. I’m still learning and figuring it out. I used to ask questions on FACEBOOK about sleeping. Fitzy is a better sleeper – but I can’t even go so far as to say he’s a great sleeper. I needed advice and help. And while I got advice – I also got some – you are obviously doing it wrong remarks. So I stopped asking. The people in my life that are close to me – still gave advice – which was totally fine. And those people included my mom and MIL. Which was totally fine.
I have never once felt that Brenda or my mom were judging me or telling me I was a bad mom or didn’t know what I was doing. I’m not above asking for help. Screaming for it sometimes.
I wanted to breastfeed. My mom breastfed and so did Brenda. I knew it was important. How could I not? There are certain people who will – in so many words – tell you about your bad mothering if you choose not to. I knew that Brenda was very pro-breastfeeding. She never pressured me or insinuated I was a bad mom if I didn’t – but I knew that she very much preferred it. At about 6 weeks – I was exhausted. To the point that my own mom was worried about me. She was worried about Fitzy’s safety in the middle of the night when I would nurse. She brought him downstairs one night and got some formula from the hospital bag and gave him a bottle. She was prepared for the consequences in the morning.
I was too exhausted to be upset. Go ahead – call me selfish. But I’m also honest. And I was exhausted. My mom said to me – I thought I was gonna have to take him from you. You scared me Danielle. You put a new diaper right over the one he had on and when I asked you to nurse him – you told me he was fine. It was time. He was hungry and crying. But you literally fell asleep – sitting up – talking to me. Give the child some formula. You cannot be a good momma when you are in this state. You have to be rested and present.
I could have screamed at her. HOW DARE YOU CALL ME A BAD MOTHER. HOW DARE YOU GIVE HIM FORMULA. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU. I could have never spoken to her again. But I think I take constructive criticism pretty well. At least – I hope I do. I didn’t react that way. I said – thanks mom. You’re so right. I just can’t do this. I ended up stopping at 8 weeks. Brenda never told me how awful I was – I don’t think she was even thinking that. She was supportive and encouraging.
With all the advice – asked and just given – I’ve never felt that my mom or Brenda have ever thought I was a bad mom. I’ve never thought they were overstepping boundaries. If I pick up Fitzy from Brenda’s and he’s sick – I want her to tell me. She’s noticed things that I haven’t before. When he was little – teeny tiny. I made some comment about not cleaning behind his ears – how could I forget that? She chuckled and said – yes – I noticed! I just cleaned it up. We laughed. I’m much better about it now – but I used to forget to give him a drink at meals. Every single meal. And she asked me once – why don’t you give Fitzy a drink at dinner? I stopped and said – OH MY WORD – I’ve never even thought about it! We laughed again.
I know that for some of you – your mom and MIL might very well be pointing out every single thing that they wouldn’t do with your child if they were you. And that’s gotta be hard. My advice in that situation is to politely say – but you aren’t me. This is how things work for us. It will be hard to adjust to a relationship where the advice they give is truly from the heart and meant to help and not hurt – but you’ll get there. With a lot of slow breathing and prayers on your part.
But sometimes – maybe your mom or MIL is really just trying to be a grandma that loves that baby of yours. She’s seeing an area of struggle for you and wants to help. She’s really trying to not overstep and say everything the right way. And it still comes out wrong. Be patient. Really take a step back and see where it’s coming from.
7. Your mother-in-law is human. You are human. Like any relationship – you both have to be on the same page. Sometimes she might have to work a little harder to keep her opinions to herself and sometimes you might have to work a little harder on keeping yours. Brenda and I are honest with each other. Sometimes I might not like what she has to say – but I hear her. And vice-versa.
8. Forgiveness. I don’t have a relationship in my life without it. I’ve had to ask it. And give it. While you can forgive someone for hurting you – it’s not all on you. Relationships cannot be one-sided. They will always fall apart. Look inside your heart and figure out what you’ve got going on in there. What are you holding back? What are you hiding? What are you holding onto? What are you afraid of? It might be the same questions that your MIL is struggling with.
9. Pray. Reach out. Ask forgiveness if you need to. Give forgiveness.
And remember that she was once a momma holding the hand of her little boy.
A little boy whose whole world was his momma.
And now that little boy is holding your hand.