I had always dreamed that my future mother-in-law would be like the one Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City had for a while when she dated fiction writer Vaughn Wysel. They adored one another. This is what I wanted: a woman who’d only had sons and who would drop the ‘in-law’ and see me simply as a daughter. Who’d take me under her wing and love me and be super excited her son was with a girl like me. Who would tell him how lucky he was; who would be proud of my achievements. Who’d tell me I look gorgeous when I’m all done up and ready to go out.
Instead, I got my mother-in-law. A traditional woman born in a small village in 1950s Spain, who grew up in a time of poverty and persecution, has a tendency toward negativity, who doesn’t put up Christmas decorations. She once asked me if I was going to get braces as we sat down to lunch, and another day, she gave me advice on shaving in the shower so as to avoid having stubble.
I am a Londoner who looks for a celebration in every small accomplishment and loves to travel, eat out, and glug wine. For a long time, I couldn’t get past our differences. Nor could I forgive her for not openly adoring and loving me, and for clearly loving her son more. She thought he was the best ever, that I was the one who was so lucky to be with him, not vice versa.
When we first met, we had little in common apart from her son. But years, a marriage and a daughter later, we share two of the people we love most dearly in the world. We share moments and make memories together.
It’s taken becoming a mother for me to understand why she adores her sons more than she could ever dote on a daughter-in-law. As a stay-at-home mother, they are the fruits of her life’s work. They are the products of her hours - years - of hard work, dedication, and love. And of course, they are hers - her darlings.
Terri Apter, psychologist, writer, and author of What Do You Want from Me? Learning to Get Along with In-Laws, says: “Closeness, respect, and influence in the family are particularly important to women. For all the change that’s been, women still feel that part of their personal worth is linked to their roles in the family, whether that’s day-to-day care, or long-term nurturing.”
Food is my mother-in-law’s vehicle for this nurturing. It is her area of expertise; where she gets to pour her love - literally - into her family. I have to remember the reasons behind this display of affection when it is overbearing, when there’s too much of it, when she’s asking again which dish we'll have next while we’re already eating another, when she’s shipping us off with boxes containing so much that I know we’ll just throw some away.
Apter explains the contention that can lie behind a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship: “Since in-law visits often take place in the home, where kinship, status, and respect are expressed - and tested! - there can be competition. Sometimes the competition arises because one of us feels threatened. We get into the mindset of 'I have to prove to her that I have more status/respect/love because I need to reassure myself that I’m still an important part of this changing family.'”
What’s Apter’s advice, then, for women struggling with this key relationship in their lives, that may be causing tension with their partners?
? Show that you value what an in-law brings to the family
? Show you want to learn who they are, and in that way give the message that you welcome them and don't feel threatened
? Turn competition into collaboration
? Set boundaries between you and your in-laws after you've established these connections. It’s much easier to hear, “That’s not a good time to visit,” or “We’re going to make this decision ourselves” if you’re not afraid of being totally cut off.
There it is: my permission to stop competing. To understand and appreciate my value in my family, and not fall into that easy trap of doubting myself and trying to jostle with my mother-in-law for respect and the role of matriarch. I have also found a way to demonstrate my value of my mother-in-law: asking to learn how to cook one of her speciality dishes. Such a simple thing brought us closer, allowing my daughter and I to share in her tireless efforts to feed her family. And when it comes to her unfortunate habit to criticize? This is still a work in progress, but maybe, just maybe, I can appreciate that sometimes, she might just have a point. After all, I did get braces.
Related video: The scientific reason why you don't get along with your mother-in-law (provided by Buzz60)
- Dog protects furniture from his own reflectionAn adorable moment was captured in Redding, California, USA. Zero, an English bulldog puppy, was filmed barking at his own reflection. Why? To protect the home's furniture from a supposed thief...BuzzVideos
- I tried a 1950s-inspired beauty routineWhat was it like to do makeup in the 1950s? Mi-Anne takes a look at some vintage tutorials and tries them out.Refinery29
- A body positivity advocate on self-Love and acceptanceJessamyn Stanley on Self-Love and AcceptanceHealth
The Scientific Reason Why You Don’t Get Along with Your Mother-in-LawSouthern Living1:18
Dog protects furniture from his own reflectionBuzzVideos0:45
I tried a 1950s-inspired beauty routineRefinery299:19
A body positivity advocate on self-Love and acceptanceHealth2:22
Does Meghan Markle want an American nanny for the royal baby?Buzz600:48
Empowering photos series depicts girls as athletes and princessesTODAY1:40
Balenciaga is mocked over pricey dress that looks like a couch cushionBuzz601:11
9 of the Queen’s strangest powers and privilegesTown and Country3:02
Mother gets slammed on social media for Build-A-Bear birthday party gone wrongFOX News1:09
Duchess Kate wants a 'healthy balance' between mom life & royal dutiesUS Weekly1:40
Inside Sephora's makeup class specifically for the transgender communityINSIDER1:00
Let’s unpack those Prince William cheating rumorsInstyle1:51
How to recycle 9 things you can’t just toss in the recycling binReal Simple1:55
Scrabble's rise to fameThe New Yorker2:43
Rottweiler puppy makes great stridesUSA TODAY1:04
Tiny houses might be good for the planetBuzz601:25