Saturday, December 10, 2016

Week 13: Transitions in Marriage, In-Law Relations

In-Laws or Out-laws?

It’s a fair question. In-laws sometimes get a bad rap for being more like serial killers. The movie Meet the Parents comes to mind. When was the last time a husband told his buddies at work “Dude, I’m so stoked – my mother-in-law is coming to stay with us for a whole month!” And have you ever heard a woman say “Sure, I can go out for girls’ night – my mother-in-law is coming to town but I don’t need to clean the house because she’s really understanding and nonjudgmental.”

We just don’t hear that. Usually it’s the opposite. I know that personally, my house is never cleaner than when my in-laws are inbound. However, this is an expectation that I place on myself, imagining that my mother-in-law is going to be going over every surface with a white glove. I struck out big time in this area. My mother-in-law knows how busy I am and how chaotic our life is. Having raised four kids herself, she understands that children are actually more like mini-tornadoes, reeking destruction and making any effort expended on housework superfluous at times. At the same time, I feel that pressure to have my house in tip-top shape when she walks in the door. And the funny part is, I don’t feel the need to keep the house clean with my in-laws there, just to have it pristine when they walk in.

My husband has told me time again that his house was not perfectly clean growing up, that he had hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for many a dinner, and that his saintly mother wielded the wooden spoon once or twice and even swore. Yet I still find myself up against my perception of her: an angelic woman who always serves well-rounded meals and never raised her voice to her children, whom she spent their entire lives cherishing. When comparing myself to this unrealistic ideal, I will always be found wanting.

So, how do we get around this in-law problem? In Creating Healthy Ties with In-Laws and Extended Families, we are given a few pointers for developing a healthy mother/daughter-in-law relationships.

Daughters-in-Law SHOULD: 

  • Communicate openly
  • Accept differences
  • Use empathy
  • Push for relational connection
  • Disclose information about themselves

Mothers-in-Law SHOULD NOT:

  • Give advice (unsolicited)
  • Criticize
  • Pin-down children-in-law as to specific reasons they are missing a family event
  • Take over discipline of grandchildren
  • Try to control everyone and everything including children’s beliefs
  • Communicate unclearly or indirectly

The Mother-in-Law list was actually more of a no-no list for in-laws in general, but I feel that it works specifically for the mother/daughters-in-law relationship. So, how is your relationship with your Mother-in-law? If it is strained, have a candid conversation. If you have a skewed ideal of her as a mom, try calling her up when you're about to lose it with your kids and see what she says. You may just find out she's human!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Week 12: Transitions in Marriage

The Dread Pirate Roberts Had All the Answers

I found a lot of good quotes from this week’s reading. My favorite was when President Gordon  B. Hinckley, speaking of his relationship with Sister Hinckley, said: “[I] get out of her way, and marvel at what she does.” I love this so much!

Another idea that I really liked had more to do with parenting than marriage: “Give your children regular, daily doses of Vitamin N. This vital nutrient consists simply of the most character-building two-letter word in the English language––‘No’ . . . Unfortunately, many, if not most, of today’s children suffer from Vitamin N deficiency. They have been over-indulged by well-meaning parents who have given them far too much of what they want and far too little of what they truly need” (John Rosemond, Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children).

I believe that many of our society’s problems come from a lack of parenting. It’s much easier in the moment to give into our kids, just to get them off of our backs. But we pay the consequences in the long run. And it’s so much worse now than it used to be, when both children and adults alike are used to having everything at the click of a mouse. If we have to wait longer than ten seconds for an internet page to load, more than five minutes for our McDonald’s order, or more than the promised 2-day shipping courtesy of Amazon Prime, we have a complete meltdown!

Along with impatience-itis, many suffer from the deluded thinking that everything has to be fair—not just kids! I’ve heard many grown-ups complaining of things their adult siblings were given by the parents, and how ‘unfair’ it was. Worse than that, the parents of these adult children sometimes go to great lengths to ‘make it up to’ their supposedly slighted kids. Most of the time, life isn’t fair and that’s just the way it is. I’ve worked hard to disabuse my kids of the notion that everything always has to be equal among them. In fact, when confronted with “but that’s not fair!” I often quote age-old wisdom to my little beasties: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something” (Westley as the Dread Pirate Roberts, The Princess Bride).