Hi! I'm Nicole from Table For Four... (come by, say HI).
First I want to give Allie a big "You Go, Girl" for having baby Jude! Always exciting to welcome a new baby into bloggy world.
So when I found out I'd be guest blogging for Allie, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to write to you all about. And after about 2 minutes, I decided... In-Laws. I've been living with my in-laws for the last 7 months and in the process, I've learned to love them. Yup, that's right! But, there are things in this post that I would never dare write on my own blog, so I'm also going to be letting off some steam.
Ready? Here we go!
I've known my in-laws for far longer than they've actually been my "in-laws". My husband and I were youth group friends growing up, so both our parents knew each other well. I have always loved my in-laws. They are sweet, compassionate, generous and caring.
But it wasn't until I got engaged that I started to feel a little tension developing between my MIL and I. She would say things like, "Oh no, my son is much too young to be getting married" or "I hope you don't plan on having kids soon". And I would really get my feelings hurt. I am 3.5 years older than my husband, so while he was "too young", I wasn't getting any younger! And kids... why was that any of her business? But I just kept quiet. It wasn't THAT big of a deal.
And then I had Marco (my first). Everything changed when I had a child. She became a complete know-it-ALL. She's from Brazil, so her customs are somewhat different than mine. And lets all remember that the last time she had a baby was over 20 years ago. So when she would tell me that the car seat was an over-exaggeration of safety and completely unnecessary and that I should just hold him when he started crying in the car... I was APPALLED! I literally had a big blow out with her about this because she kept pushing the subject with me over and over again. She would insist on changing the baby's clothes if he had just slightly drooled on it... my laundry was piling up and I was pissed. She would take him out of my husbands arms when he was trying to comfort him and insist that her Brazilian wives tales were real. (yeah, right).
But I kept my cool, for the most part.
Until Jonas was born (my second, and last). Jonas was born premature at 31 weeks, so she flew in from Miami (we were living in Greenville, SC at the time) and babysat Marco so I could go back and forth to the NICU. It was during this visit that I had HAD it! I don't know if it was the stress of having a premie, the hormones of just giving birth, or just being at the end of my rope with her, but I blew! First I told my husband that he HAD to have my back NO MATTER WHAT. That if I decided Marco needed to drink from the blue cup, then gosh darn it, it was going to be the BLUE cup regardless of what my MIL wanted. Why? BECAUSE I AM HIS MOTHER!!! And I told him to stop being such a Momma's Boy. Whew, it was not a pretty sight. But? It gleaned the results I desired.
Step 1: Get your husband on YOUR side. You're a TEAM
From then on, we decided that we were going to stand our ground. We are the parents. She could offer her advice and opinion, but we didn't have to take it. And she had to learn to be ok with that, even if she got mad.
Step 2: Stand your ground. YOU are the parent.
About 9 months after Jonas was born, we found out we were moving to Miami. Miami is a very expensive city and we knew we would have to live with our in-laws for a period, while we saved enough money to put a downpayment on a house of our own. They have been so generous, allowing us to live here, hijack their house and not pay them a dime. It's really overwhelmingly generous. But you know, living with someone is tricky... living with your MIL is even more!
We've been living here for 7 months already. And we haven't had very many parenting conflicts with them. Only a few. But since steps 1 and 2 were already strongly in place, we had a foot hold. My husband and I are a strong team and we know our place as parents.
The biggest parenting issue we've had with them has been in relation to spanking. They do not agree with spanking, whereas my husband and I do. I believe that it is not at all abusive, that it's necessary with certain children and that it's Biblical. My in-laws think it's too mean. But we have told them that it is not their decision to make and that we are choosing to parent and discipline OUR way. If they have a problem with it, they can look away.
But the REAL biggest issue has been in regards with who is the REAL woman of the house. Guys, I don't WANT to be the "real woman of the house". I promise. That's just too much work. But it's like my MIL is threatened by me cooking in her kitchen. I'm only trying to help lighten the load. Every time I cook, which is 3 times a week, I get comments: "This could have cooked a bit more", "Oh, this is much too flavorful", "I'm not fond of this sause". The worst one was when I spent 2 hours in the kitchen cooking Mexican Chicken Enchiladas and she told me that it wasn't "real food"... it was more of a snack. A SNACK! I was stunned. Thankfully my husband stepped in and told her she was being rude and that I had worked very hard preparing a meal for them. I couldn't even speak.
But here's the thing. I couldn't even speak. Why? Because what would have come out of my mouth would have been deadly. If it had been ANYONE else, I would have sent them straight to hell. But I couldn't do that with my MIL. If it had been my OWN mother, I would have told her to go eff-herself. You can do that with your own mom... but NOT with your MIL.
Step 3: Hold Your Tongue.
Think about the consequences and repercussions before opening your mouth. In-laws are NOT your parents and they don't love you unconditionally. They may forgive, but they WONT forget.
In living with my in-laws, I have learned the biggest lesson in patience and meekness ever. Personally I think I needed that. I'm a very bold, tell-it-like-it-is, nothing embarrasses me, type of person. But mostly, I've learned to let it go.
Step 4: Let It Go
Think about it. Is it worth it? If it is, then go for it... battle to the death. If it's not... just let it go.
The last step is one I'm still working on. It's the hardest one because it means YOU have to change. You can't expect someone else to change. But you CAN change yourself. Change your mindset. Alter your thinking. Become more at peace. Allow it to seep into all areas of your life. You see even though I had done Steps 1-4, I was still getting mad. In my room, I would fume. I would call my bestie and vent for an hour over all the things my MIL said to me. I would give my husband an earful about how horrible his mother was to me. Then I realized... it's me... I can make or break the problem.
Step 5: Don't Be Offended
Remember that no one can offend you without your permission. Choose not to be easily offended. Guard yourself against offensiveness. Be confident in your decisions and choices and know that you DO NOT need the approval of your in-laws.
It's a work in process.
Now I know some of you have read that and think, "That's it?" I know... I admit it. My in-laws are pretty great. And I'm sure some of your in-laws are Satan incarnate. But, I do believe that these 5 steps can work with anyone.
And maybe in the process of bringing peace to your relationship, you'll also find love along the way.