By Kristen Terrette, Crosswalk.com
I have known my mother-in-law for half of my life. Half of my life. If you buy into the stereotype that says mother-in-laws are intolerable, especially towards their son’s bride, then those words just caused your body to cringe. They have become a cliché in our society. Movies and TV shows portray this all the time, but clichés don’t happen without some truth being there somewhere.
Thankfully, my mother-in-law doesn’t fit this image. We liked one another right away. But, you see, we couldn’t be more different than milk and orange juice. If you laid out 10 identical items and told us to pick the five we liked the best, they would likely never be the same. Where she likes ESPN as much as my husband does, I don’t even know what channel ESPN is on. Where she wears fancy dresses to church, I feel dressed up if I arrive in khakis. Where I can be a workout-a-holic, she doesn’t go to the gym. None of these characteristics are bad, just different. Though over time, I realized the one thing we had in common far outweighed our difference: Three of the people on the planet I love the most happen to be her most cherished individuals also.
In light of that one commonality, it’s my hope I can give her the things I know she wants from me, even if they take effort. Here are the 10 things I believe all mothers-in-law want from their daughters-in-law:
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1. A woman who will consider her a friend.
As my children get older, I realize the adults I spend the most time with end up being the parents of my kids’ friends. My “old” friends still hold a place in my heart, but I certainly don’t see them often. We’ve moved to different cities, and our children attend different schools, etc. I’ve wondered what will happen when I’m an empty-nester.
My mother-in-law, who’s been an empty nester for over 15 years, doesn’t have many close friends besides family members. This probably happened by accident over the years since it’s the same thing I see happening in my life, but we all need friends. Jesus Himself needed friends. So, if I can be a friend to my mother-in-law, if that is a need I can fill for her, I should and I will.
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2. A woman who makes her son's life easier
In some marriages, spouses make life more difficult for one another. There’s constant drama, bickering, fighting, bad-mouthing, whining, and disagreements about priorities. This means each day puts a strain on the marriage. Each day presents a new battle. Battlefields don’t make for easy lives. If one’s home life is tense, how can they possibly fight against an enemy like an illness, job loss, financial failure, or teenage angst?
They can’t without every move being an uphill battle. All mothers-in-law want to see their daughters-in-law striving to make their son’s life easier. This involves action. It is something you choose to do. Fold his clothes. Cook his dinner. Make his lunch. Leave a love note in his car. Text him you’ll bring home dinner. Text him you love him. Tell him you appreciate his hard work. Anything. Start somewhere.
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3. A woman who shows how much she loves her husband by the way she talks about him
Awhile back, I had a speaking engagement where I knew my mother-in-law would be in attendance. I carefully constructed an intro where I would first tell the audience a little bit about me. This, of course, would involve the loves of my life⎯my husband and kids. I rehearsed what I was going to say, but when the time came, I flew off the cuff with my words. I gushed about my wonderful country, manly husband, and even pointed to his mother and introduced her to the crowd.
Afterwards, as I assessed how the message went, I was a little embarrassed about how my intro segued. Then I realized that emotion was ridiculous. I had bragged about my husband to others in front of his mother. What could be wrong with that?
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4. A woman who will be a good listener
This goes along with your mother-in-law needing a friend. Part of what makes a good friend is being a good listener. I realized early on that my mother-in-law needed a sounding board, needed someone to tell about her workday, weekend plans, or upcoming family events.
Being a good listener can take effort. This busy, bustling world teaches us to stay busy and bustling ourselves. I do not always do this well, but I try to be conscious of when my mother-in-law just needs to talk. I pray during those moments that I can calm my spirit and realize people, including my beloved mother-in-law, are always more important than the things on my to-do list.
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5. A woman whose faith in Jesus is evident
I often fail at this one, but it is my desire to love as Christ did, and I know it is my mother-in-law’s desire for me as well. Loving well means sharing Jesus with others. I know my mother-in-law believes in spreading the Good News of salvation through Jesus.
One way to do this is to strive to walk with the Lord every day. I try to grow closer to Him with each sunrise and sunset. Some days I fail to hold my own sinful tendencies at bay, but even then, He’s walking with me, and I know the seeds of faith are planted in my children, continuing down the generations of our family line. Commit to demonstrating your faith in your daily life, and you’ll see a change in your relationships with others, but certainly with your mother-in-law as well. This will happen even if she isn’t a follower of Jesus. Allow Him to use you to plant seeds of faith in her heart and change her eternity.
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6. A woman who forgives her past mistakes
Parts of my husband’s childhood aren’t pretty. These tragedies pain me as I see him struggle time and time again with the wounded parts of his heart. He went through some things no child should ever have to, and I see him being intentional about doing things differently than what he witnessed.
But Jesus was the only One to live a perfect life. Every day I have the potential to wound my children over my actions or inactions. I know I’ve already wounded them, and can only ask them and Jesus for forgiveness and try to do better. This is all we can do. In light of my own mistakes, I can easily forgive my mother-in-law for any she made raising my husband, thereby extending the grace I received from Jesus and from her as well. The end result is that she helped produce a pretty awesome man after all.
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7. A woman who helps her navigate the technology-driven, social media-frenzied world today
This may sound silly, but I see this happen all the time in the baby-boomer generation. They were just a hair past the technology explosion in their schooling, and so all things dealing with eReaders, smartphones, and computers don’t come naturally and can be hard to learn. There are times when this pre-technology generation needs our help to navigate screen shots, blog posts, social media, and ordering items from websites.
Give the help. See it as an opportunity to serve so they can understand and enjoy their grandchildren who only Snapchat, Tweet, and Instagram pics or words. Times and technology are always changing, and we can step up to help our in-laws in this new way of life.
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8. A woman who resolves not to see differences of opinions, interference, or interruptions as an intentional dig
As I mentioned previously, my mother-in-law and I are very different. If I viewed every differing view as an intentional criticism or interference, we would not be friends.
There have been times over the past 18 years that I’ve had to bite my tongue. And even though my mother-in-law is too nice to admit it, I know she’d say the same. Every time I feel my toes being stepped on, I have to remember everything she does or says, and every piece of advice given is because she loves my family and wants us to succeed. This understanding changes my attitude immediately.
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9. A woman who gives her credit for the incredible son she raised
In a way, my husband and I grew into adults together being that we met when I’d just turned 18. We learned some things the hard way. We hurt one another and blessed one another. We learned the real meaning of love through intentionally making Jesus our foundation.
But in truth, much of who he was and his faith foundation was formed long before we met. This means even though he went through painful events as a child, he still became a wonderful man and leader of our house. His mom deserves credit for this spectacular accomplishment. He would not be who he is without her. Give credit where credit is due.
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10. A woman who doesn't compete for her children's love
My mother-in-law is an amazing grandmother. Her social life revolves around my kids’ extra-curricular activities. She’ll do anything to help us out. Whether it’s waking up at the crack of dawn to bring my son to a game, or purchasing an obnoxiously expensive tech-swimsuit (which we can’t afford) for my daughter to race in, she’ll do it without batting an eye or expecting anything in return.
Because of this selfless behavior and the amount of time she spends with our children, they love her very much. I grew up in a blended family and have always voiced my opinion that children having more people who love them is never a bad thing. The same rule applies here. Having her so involved in the lives of my children, loving them so well, is never a bad thing, and I should never be jealous of this returned love to her from my kids. A grandmother who shares life with your children in any way should be praised.
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