When my husband and I got married, we moved into the house beside his parents. We were excited and anxious to begin our lives, and little by little, as we moved furniture and painted walls, it all started to sink in: I’m living next door to my in-laws.
I don’t know why I was nervous. Maybe it was the countless times people commented, “Oh wow, good luck with that! I could never live next to mine!” Or perhaps it was the sitcoms on popular television shows that get their comedic relief from unstable and ridiculous mother-in-law relationships.
I understand that some in-laws are crazy and seemingly impossible to build a relationship with, but I still hate the stereotype. I don’t like how society groups all of these women into a category. I’m sure we can all think of some annoying stereotypes that don’t apply to us: The nagging wife. The lazy husband. The clueless father.
The reality is that those stereotypes are perpetuated throughout our culture. They come through our TV screens and creep into our child’s DVD collection. At some point, they probably even come out of our own mouths. Could it be that we have a pre-conceived idea of what our mother-in-law will be like before we ever have one?
My mother-in-law and I have very different personalities but we show each other mutual respect and love. She’s made several impressions on my life that I’ll never forget:
She took me shopping to buy me things for our new house a few weeks before I married her son.
She took care of our daughter every single day while I worked. She followed our nap and feeding schedule without question.
She took me shopping and told me I looked beautiful when I was crying in the dressing room over my post-partum body. She helped me buy clothes that made me feel better.
Most importantly, she gave me something invaluable: She raised my husband to be an involved parent, a faithful husband, and a hard worker.
I’m sure I’ll be someone’s mother-in-law someday. Will my daughter or son-in-law already have ideas about me before I meet them? Will they be defensive from the beginning? Will they think I’m old-school, rude, and nosy? I hope that as a society, we can break free from these stereotypes and that we can all try a little harder to be the exception. Those of you with truly toxic family members, my heart breaks for you. I know it isn’t easy to go through those struggles. I hope you strive to break the cycle and become an exceptional and inspiring mother-in-law to the spouse of your sons and daughters someday.