I’ve seen all the do-this-don’t-do-that lists for mother-in-laws, and I do try to abide by them. But if you and I are truly going to get along, then there are some handy little “rules” that you need to follow as well.
1. Don’t tell me how I “am welcome any time” and then rant on your social media thingie about how I am “always at your house and up in your business.”
If you don’t mean any time, then don’t say it. I didn’t realize I’d need to make an appointment to see my own child and grandchildren, but if that’s what it takes to keep us copacetic, then that’s what I’ll do. I fully realize that dropping by without calling first is rude, but for some reason, you never seem to answer the phone. So…
2. Answer the damn phone!
I am not a telemarketer trying to sell you carpet shampoo. I am the mother of your spouse, grandmother to your children, and you could at least give me the respect of picking up the phone, if only to say, “Sorry Diane, I’ve got my hands full and can’t talk right now.”
3. As much as I adore my grandchildren, I am not your free ticket to eternal childcare.
Contrary to what you may think, I do have a life of my own. If you want me to watch the kids for you, I’m sure I’d probably be delighted. But you do need to ask first with plenty of notice, so that I can rearrange my schedule if needed and stock up on groceries. If you expect me to respect your time and space (see #1), please extend me the same courtesy. I promise to answer the phone when you call.
4. Act like the adult you purport to be, and don’t bitch about me behind my back.
I’m sure that my child doesn’t like being put in the middle any more than you would, so if you have a problem with me, put your big girl panties on and come talk to me about it.
5. Passive-aggressiveness is still aggressive. (Not to mention rude.)
Don’t tell me how nice my house looks, followed immediately by some snide comment about you would rather take more time to enjoy your children instead of cleaning. You have toddlers. I don’t; I did my time. It’s a pretty simple concept. My clean house is not an automatic slam against your housekeeping skills in your own house. Defensive much?
6. Don’t buy me clothes or decor for gifts, if they are drastically different than what I own.
I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I think it’s pretty clear that we shop from radically different catalogs. Gift certificates or something the kids made is perfectly acceptable and appreciated. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my kitchen doesn’t have a single red rooster in it, so I’m not exactly sure where you expect me to put all this barnyard memorabilia you keep buying me…
7. It’s my money, so please let me spend it.
If I want to lavish my grandchildren with gifts, it’s because I love them and I have the ability to do so. It’s not to shame you for not being able to match me dollar for dollar.
8. I want my son/daughter to be happy and have a happy marriage, but know this: I am the mother.
I will always be the mother. If by death, divorce, or desertion, you two were to ever be separated, I will still be here to pick up the pieces. Your own children will grow up one day, and you will understand this.
9. Speaking of, you DO realize that I successfully produced an offspring that grew into such an amazing adult that YOU decided to marry and have children with…right?
I may not be up on all the current parenting trends and psychological research, but by your own standards in mate selection, I must have done something right. You don’t have to hang on every word I say, and please forgive me if you think I’m overstepping with the unsolicited advice, but I have YEARS and YEARS of experience. It’s got to be good for something. Maybe you could at least try to listen to some of it every once in a while.
10. Contrary to what you might think, I am not trying to control you or judge you.
Ok, well, I might judge you a little bit. I can’t help it. Really, though, I’m trying not to. I just want my son to be happy and have a good life, and I want the same for my grandchildren. Your spouse may be your spouse, but he’s still a son and a brother and an uncle and a nephew and a father, all rolled into one. You’re going to have to share, whether you like it or not. Might as well learn to be gracious about it. I had to.
Sound doable? I hope so.
And how about I watch the kids this weekend so you grown-ups can have a night out? Just promise me you won’t spend the whole evening complaining about me… okay?