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Difficult or Delightful: Six reasons to appreciate your mother-in-law

Immediately upon walking out of the church on my wedding day, my mother-in-law burst into tears. While she claimed they were “tears of joy,” I know it was very hard for her to hand over her son to another woman.

Mothers-in-law often get a bad rap. Mother-in-law jokes abound and somewhere right now there’s a group of women chatting over coffee with at least one of them complaining about her mother-in-law. The daughter-in-law/mother-in-law relationship is a complex and important one. While every woman’s relationship with her mother-in-law is unique, here are six reasons to take time to appreciate your mother-in-law this Mother’s Day.

Recognize your mother-in-law’s loss.

Imagine your own child’s future wedding day. Your child will be embarking on a journey in which, all of a sudden, you’ll be taking a back seat in his or her life. He or she will have a new best friend, confidant, and partner for life. That brings a tear to my eye already, and my children’s ages are only 7, 5, and 2. When my husband asks my 2-year-old daughter if she knows who his two favorite girls are, I melt when he tells her, “You and mommy!”

Being a mother-in-law isn’t easy.

Now that her child is married, a mother-in-law can find herself in uncomfortable situations. She may want to visit, but feels unwelcome or like she’s intruding. She may want your family at holiday gatherings, but now needs to share with your relatives. Most likely there are times when she has to bite her tongue, too. I imagine being a mother-in-law is not an easy job. While some mothers-in-law overstep boundaries (think of Ray Romano’s TV mom, Marie Barone), many have good intentions and do so out of love. I sometimes imagine myself as a mother-in-law and wonder what kind of a relationship I’ll have with my children’s spouses. A good rule to live by is treat her as you’d like to be treated.

Realize all she does.

Does your mother-in-law call, email, or send letters? Does she remember your children on holidays? Does she show her love for her grandchildren and make them feel special? While your mother-in-law might not meet all of your expectations, think of the little ways in which she makes a difference. Julie Lemke, mom of two, appreciates when her mother-in-law offers to babysit once in a while to allow Julie and her husband a night out. Sometimes it’s easy to take a mother-in-law for granted, not realizing all she does for the family.

Life can shorten her presence.

Appreciate your mother-in-law because you don’t know how long you’ll have her. Sharyn Mantel, mom of two, was grateful her mother-in-law watched her children once a week while she and her husband were at work. However, Sharyn often complained to her husband that her mother-in-law overstayed her welcome – hanging around well into the evening. Then her mother-in-law died of cancer rather unexpectedly. Sharyn now regrets not spending those evenings enjoying her company.

Your mother-in-law is family.

Even though he’s your husband and you have your own household and family, keep in mind that your husband is the son she raised. Your children are her grandchildren. Your children bring a sparkle to her eye and are reasons for her to brag to her friends. So it’s beneficial to nurture the relationship your mother-in-law has with her son and grandchildren.

Remember your mother-in-law’s gift to you.

Like most moms, I like a little pampering when Mother’s Day rolls around. However, I always spend that weekend planning a menu, shopping for gifts, and cleaning. I started a Mother’s Day tradition 14 years ago, inviting my in-laws and parents over for the day. This year Mother’s Day happens to fall on my birthday as well. My husband suggested I end the tradition this year, knowing if there was ever a day where I would want to just sit back and relax, it would be my birthday/Mother’s Day combination. I considered taking him up on his offer. Then I realized there isn’t a more perfect day to show my mom appreciation for bringing me into this world and my mother-in-law for raising a wonderful son.

This Mother’s Day, let your mother-in-law know she’s appreciated, whether it’s through a phone call or letter, a homemade craft from your child, or an invitation to dinner. After all, she raised a pretty amazing guy for you to love.

10 simple ways to make your mother-in-law smile…all year long

1.     Call her or send a letter, email, or text message simply saying you appreciate all she does.
2.     Tell her how amazing her son – your husband – is, and thank her for raising him that way.
3.     Have your children make special handmade crafts for grandma telling her how much they love her.
4.     Surprise her with a visit – as a family, just you and the kids, or even by yourself. Spending time with her shows her how much she means to you.
5.     Buy her something you know she’ll love. A sweater in her favorite color, a book by her favorite author, or a vase full of her favorite flowers shows that you care enough to know what she likes.
6.     Invite her over for dinner. Cook a meal for her and let her spend quality time with her son and grandchildren.
7.     Frame a picture of her and your husband and give it to her. She will appreciate that you realize the strong bond she still has with her son.
8.     Encourage your husband to spend some one-on-one time with his mom. Maybe he can take her out to dinner at her favorite restaurant.
9.     Ask for her advice on something or request a certain recipe. Making sure she knows you respect her and admire her will make her day.
10.  Extend an offer to help. Offering to accompany her to a doctor’s appointment or help pull weeds in her garden will show that you think she’s worth your time.