I don’t like my mother-in-law. And she doesn’t like me. There. I said it.
I’ve been tap-dancing around that for 26 years. Actually longer than that, for the discord between us began before I married her son. She disapproved of me the first time she met me, and it has never changed. For the life of me, I don’t know why.
I’ve used every tool in my belt to rationalize the behaviors that exist between us. “She loves her son.” “No one would be good enough for her boy.” “It’s not me, it’s her.” And all this time I’ve been trying to endear myself to her, trying to fit in, trying to change things to make her love me.
For many years, I acquiesced to keep the peace. Resistance, I thought, would widen the chasm between us. I dressed for her approval, bought gifts, and attended social events – all to gain her endorsement. But it never came.
All I ever wanted from her was a smidgen of love. But with love comes acceptance, and that’s something that just wasn’t possible.
My husband has had a very tough time through all of it. Stuck between us, not wanting to alienate her, not wanting to forsake me, he walked a tightrope for a very long time. Shaking off the lifetime of programming that ‘mama’s always right’ has been hard on him. And I’m sorry he had to go through it. But it had to happen.
My blog is full of affirmations about attitude that I try to embody every day. But applying my own wisdom to this obstacle has been the greatest personal struggle I’ve ever faced.
Putting it in perspective became necessary. So I boiled it all down.
I’m a good wife to her son. I’m a good mother to her grandchildren. I’m a good caregiver to her husband. I’m a loyal caregiver to her. I’ve never once had an outright confrontation with her. If that isn’t enough for her, then she doesn’t deserve me.
I am enough.
I can’t mourn the loss of something I never had, but I do lament its void. I won’t let go of the pain, because then the lessons would be lost. I’ll hold on to it, to let it remind me what I don’t want to become.
It’s not in my nature to air such a thing, and then not find some meaning within it. So here’s where I will make promises to myself, and a vow to keep them.
When my sons bring home mates some day, I will not lift the lid of the pot and say, “he likes it better this way.” I will not ask if she’d like to borrow something to wear to the party we’ll both be attending. I won’t give gifts with instructions on the manner in which they are to be used. I will let them live their lives, and raise their children. I will give advice when it’s asked for. I will maintain my own life, so I don’t have to live vicariously through theirs.
And I will not judge them by arbitrary means. Their worth will be weighed by the love they give my sons.