(Sigh) the holidays. It’s a time for creating memories, making delicious food, sharing gifts…and spending A LOT of time with family. The weeks of November and December can be a total overload of activities and parties, and chances are that people you don’t see that often the rest of the year will become very familiar faces once again. No matter how good of a relationship you have with your family, the stress of the seeming endless stream of presents and invitations can wear you down.
I am blessed to have a mother-in-law who is very easy to get along with. She is loving and generous to our children. We have similar parenting styles, and she has never been critical of the choices we make for our family. She doesn’t make ridiculous demands of our time, or make us feel guilty for skipping family events.
But no matter what, the holidays become a stressful time. Unfortunately, in the time when we are supposed to be feeling the most thankful for family, we start feeling the most annoyed. And it seems like for many people the “in-laws” are where the fighting over how to divide your time starts. Here are some reminders to keep us feeling gracious when we’d rather be grumbling. I’ve tailored them to fit a relationship with your mother-in-law, but really they could apply to any family member.
YOUR M.I.L. LOVED YOUR HUSBAND FIRST.
You know that unbelievable, unabiding love you have for your own children? Remember all the things you’ve done for them already (carrying them around for 9 months, birthing them, feeding them all hours of the night, reading to them, snuggling them, playing with them)? You know all the things you are still sacrificing to give them the love and security they need (sleep, money, sanity)? Remember how you want to hurt anybody that even thinks of hurting them?
Yeah- your mother-in-law has all those physical and emotional memories of her son too. The one you now call your husband. So if she gets possessive of her family traditions and of time with her children during the holidays, can you really blame her? Instead, share some memories of your husband together. And brag about what a good dad he is. I’m sure she’ll want to know how much he is still loved.
YOUR HUSBAND LOVED YOUR M.I.L. FIRST
Now that I have a son, I have sympathy for mother-in-laws everywhere. It’s true what they say: no one loves their mommy like a little boy. My 3-year-old is so hands on, and always the first in line for snuggles. I truly think that the ways children are encouraged to show love early on sets them on a path for how they will demonstrate love as adults. The way your husband treats you is probably due in large part the way he was expected to treat his mother. Hopefully, you have a lot to thank her for! I also see so many similar interests between my mother-in-law and my husband – particularly a love of nature and the outdoors. Her love for these things was passed down to him, and now to our own children.
YOUR M.I.L. LOVES YOUR CHILDREN
Both my mom and my mother-in-law claim that they are enjoying being a grandmother even more than they enjoyed being a mother. Their love for your children is something else you both share! And maybe you can bow out of some of the holiday obligations and let them have some one-on-one time with your kids instead! Win, win!
IF YOU’RE LUCKY, YOU WILL BE A M.I.L. ONE DAY TOO
Remember that one day, if you’re lucky, it will be YOUR turn to be an in-law. You will be the one trying to find quality time with your children and grandchildren while they go on with their busy lives. I believe in karma. Be generous with your time now, and hopefully your children will remember how fun it is to have a close relationship with grandparents when it’s your turn to take up the role.