Rules of Mother-in-Law Etiquette

  1. Let your son go. It’s scary for you, but it’s scary for me, too. I could use your support.
  2. Accept me. Despite what your son may think, I’m not the perfect girl. I already know this. I’m not going to be the perfect wife, but I’m going to try my best.
  3. Don’t pry or offer unsolicited advice. Not because we know better (though at first we’ll think we do), but because some stuff we just have to figure out on our own.
  4. Accept our decisions. We’re not always going to do what you would do or do what would make you happiest. It’s hard enough making some of these decisions just between the two of us, without throwing someone else into the mix.
  5. When you visit, don’t inspect. I already feel a little nervous about my home management skills. I need a comrade, not a judge.
  6. Be patient with me when I’m not the best daughter in law. It may take me awhile to think of you as any more than my husband’s mother, even longer to think of you as “Mom.”
  7. If you can’t remember any of this, just treat me like you would want to be treated by your mother-in-law.

You would think I was writing this for my mother-in-law, since she reads my blog regularly. (Hi, Mom!) But actually I was writing it for me. My mother-in-law already does all these things. In fact, that’s how I came up with this list.

I’m not going to be a mother-in-law any time soon, but I’ve always assumed one day my son would grow up and get married. Just recently it hit me — hey, that means one day I’ll be a mother-in-law. Huh.

My son knows some nice girls, but I wouldn’t consider them all ideal candidates for a wife. Okay, I would consider very few of them ideal candidates, but that’s not the point, is it?

One day, he’ll choose someone. I have good reason to think she will be a wonderful person, but maybe — no, probably — we’re not going to see eye to eye on everything. She’ll have different ways of doing things. They’ll have different ways of doing things. They’ll have their own ideas on how to raise my grandchildren. And I have to be okay with it.

Well, I don’t have to be. But then I’d be the mother-in-law I would never want to have.

When I first met my in-laws, I told Pete they were like TV people from the fifties. (And they are). I could picture Pete’s mom wearing a frilly apron waltzing around the kitchen, happily pulling casseroles out of the oven. I could imagine his dad with slippers and a pipe, kicking back in a plaid recliner, while his mom brought him an iced tea.

I didn’t have to imagine it.  I actually saw it (except for the pipe, which he had stopped smoking years before I came onto the scene). I never saw Leave It To Beaver, but I knew this was it.

This is a heartwarming picture, but it was so not me for a million reasons, not the least of which was the fact that I had spent the last six or so years prior denouncing this brand of domestic bliss. I was an urban professional with a preference for black and steel walking into a family of colonial country plaid and floral.

I don’t know what my mother-in-law was picturing for her son, but I probably wasn’t it. Well, actually, there was a candidate (though not in Pete’s mind) — a tall, lanky blonde from another family of colonial country plaid and floral.

My mother-in-law did make it a point to compliment me whenever I was not wearing black, but for the most part she managed not to make her opinions too keenly felt. And for that I was grateful.

Today my mother-in-law is my second mom and my friend. She still doesn’t like black, but our differences seem insignificant in light of the things we do share. My only regret is that I didn’t see this earlier.

When the time comes, I hope I’ll take my own advice on how to be a good mother-in-law. I hope my daughter-in-law will see me as a friend, the daughter I never had. Maybe this is a tall order, and maybe it won’t happen for awhile, if ever. Either way, I hope I’ll show the same grace that was shown me.

Your thoughts?