The role of mother is a difficult, yet rewarding, wonderful experience. She wears many hats…too many sometimes. She always takes care of everyone but the least of these persons is usually herself. That’s not a fault, but it is a fact.
So I sometimes find myself asking all sorts of questions that do not generate any answers and when they do, sometimes they generate other sets of challenges. Ok, that’s a little ambiguous so let me touch specifically on a particular subject that is always a big challenge.
The relationship between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law is either heaven-sent or hell on earth. Really. Some women are fortunate enough to have a mother-in-law who knows her place, and that’s not being mean, just saying that she knows the balance and role of that relationship, perhaps because she most likely had that relationship too. A lot of women, however, have the misfortune of having a mother-in-lawzilla. That’s right. More than half and that’s just people I know. So about six out of ten of my friends, family, and acquaintances have one of these.
What is so difficult or different about this relationship to, say, a mother and child relationship? Or employer to employee? Well, an obvious element is that the mother or employer are in a position of authority. Right? What they say goes. The mother-in-law relationship is that both women are in a position of authority and both have a stake, if you will, of ruling the family. More than that, the detail I believe that is often not discussed or looked at, is that the mother-in-law tends to think that she has more “power” because she is a senior member of the clan with the family name, therefore she has more right. She’s been around longer, been there, done that, knows everything, so the newbie must learn from her and to some extent, succumb to her wishes, right? Ummm……no. Whether you are docile or a lioness, that idea is from the Middle Ages. Please.
This is where the problem comes in. The mom has power too, especially if she has her own children. Figuring out how to deal with this situation takes longer than actually figuring out solutions. The emotional toll is real too and that part is the hardest. However, the real issue is that mama has to either choose to get along or be combative. Decision time. Yes, each situation is unique and presents its own set of problems, but the core of each of them is basically the same. It takes a lot of common sense, tricks, and innovation to know how to deal with a mother-in-lawzilla. (Keep in mind, though, that it can take years at first because you are still learning how to be the mrs. too). Case in point:
Your husband doesn’t support you. Wow, this one is a doozy. A man who takes his mother’s side over his own wife’s is weak and worse, he contributes to the problem. It’s even stated in the Bible, Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” There is a very good reason that the verse appears in the Book of Genesis, the beginning, FIRST. Need I say more? The wife is first in his new family, not his mother. His mother should know better; shame on her! For that matter, shame on him! Reality check: most relationships are not textbook perfect so what do you do? If you have to deal with two babies (yes, they are, very juvenile) the best way is to try to avoid, avoid, AVOID stressful situations. Moms know what those are. Example: Mother’s Day. He wants to celebrate the matriarch but you want your day too. Solution: Mexican Mother’s Day, which usually falls two days before the US date. Tell him that you will celebrate hers on one day but he must celebrate the other date with you. If you are not Mexican, that’s ok. It’s still a way out!
mrs. and Mrs. senior. You married a wonderful guy (ok, maybe not so wonderful if you are so inclined) and you have an awesome, new last name. Woo hoo! Well, so does your new mother-in-law(zilla). Have you ever been in a situation where both of you get your name called and you both turn and say, “Yes?” Funny, huh? Well sometimes it isn’t especially if she is taking credit that clearly belongs to you. That could be anything, from the little thing (you baked the cake) to the biggie (your son is the president of the United States and he thanks the mrs. – you – but it is mistaken for her and she doesn’t correct it). Your cheeks grow hot and it really bothers you. What do you do? Take the high road, ALWAYS. It’s easy to correct the mistake by verbalizing it but remember, it will create a bigger problem and at the very least, it will make everyone uncomfortable, even if it is not your fault. Yes, it’s hard but in the long run, it doesn’t really matter (well, sometimes, and it depends). Besides, everyone knows who really baked that cake and everyone knows which person your son really thanked.
You are not at the bottom of the mom chain. That is, you don’t have to take years to climb the hierarchy. That is just plain dumb! There is no hierarchy! That just happens with elitists and that’s just sad. The other sad reality is that there are mother-in-lawzillas who think the same way. She is so used to having the barbeques at her house, the big celebration discussions that go through her first, her throne at the point of being gold dipped, her being told that she has the best recipes, and basically her giving her children (your husband too) all their motherly advice above your own. This one is tricky because while you want to be the one that counts on the really important decisions, sometimes it’s just better to ease into the changes (because she will have to change with the times lawzilla!) until the event, recipe, task, or whatever it is, is transferred to you. This could be done seamlessly so that mother-in-lawzilla might not even realize that it happened. For example, we in the Mexican community like to celebrate Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration at Christmastime leading up to the birth of Jesus. This is usually a big deal in Mexican families and is usually held at the mother-in-law’s house because it is a long-withstanding tradition. A newbie can have it one year at her house so that she can incorporate her own little nuances and begin a new tradition in her own home and introduce it to the younger generation. She can also suggest that she can host it every other year, until it eventually becomes more frequent. C’mon, mother-in-lawzilla can’t keep this up forever!
That personal relationship. This is at the core to deflect all future trials with this woman. Try to have a good relationship with your mother-in-law(zilla). You are never going to win the best daughter-in-law award because when it comes down to it, she will always take her son’s side no matter what. There are very, very few mother-in-law’s who genuinely give 1000% to their daughter-in-laws. I’ve said this before, you have to know when to pick and choose your battles. Try to talk to her and form some kind of relationship on a personal level. Bring her something she really likes, like a book, an apron, a flower, when you visit with your family. Talk about a show she likes on television. If you knit or quilt, show her or give her something you’ve been working on. Talk about any little thing you’d like but make it vague, not specific, like your children, for example. If you start asking for her advice or if you tell her how you manage your children, she will pounce and say she can do it better than you or end up giving you advice you don’t want. Don’t fall into that trap. Remember, she is a mother-in-lawzilla. Don’t talk about your husband either, unless it is something of no importance, such as, “he will be home at 5:30 today, so we can go ahead and eat.”
You don’t have to be a doormat, just be yourself. It is easier said than done, I know, but it can be done. The point is that if you are dealing with a mother-in-lawzilla in your life, she will never change and that’s a hard, true fact. She doesn’t have to. She’s up in years and she’s got it made. As a newbie, it is up to you to deter all conflicts as best you can. This is one aspect of why being a mom is so wonderful. We have that power to set examples for our kids. Buy hey, you can lose your temper and it’s ok. Lots of things can be unfair and they are. She is never going away and that’s something you have to face. The beauty is in how you go about solving this challenge that is your mother-in-lawzilla. Good luck!
Remember this? Classic!