(Featured on The Huffington Post Fifty on July 9, 2015)
I don’t want to incite trouble between the Mommy Bloggers and the Midlife Bloggers, although that would be grand fun, but I’m feeling a bit defensive about all the mother-in-law bashing. One of my favorite websites is Scary Mommy and the contributing writers are witty, provocative, and sassy. However, many of them dislike the mothers of their husbands. Well, (snort!), maybe these young gals aren’t clones of The Queen of Sheba, either.
Scary Mommy attracts more than a million readers and claims to be “a parenting community for imperfect parents.” The site includes several delightful and informative pages that engage young women, and the topics include pregnancy, step-parenting, children, health, and travel. As a young mother, I needed this resource but the Internet wasn’t even around when I was dealing with babies, sore boobs, and projectile vomiting. I had to learn the hard way that kids were noisy, messy, demanding snot-producers who steal your heart and sometimes stomp on it.
The Scary Mommy relationship page includes a listing titled “In Laws.” One article titled “15 Mother-in-Law Behaviors that Deserve a Punch in the Face” received more than 7,000 shares on Facebook. The page almost drips with spittle and hostility mingled with a few comical jokes. Another page titled “Confessional” invites anonymous comments that can be rated in three categories: like, hug, or me, too. Here is a recent example:
“I swear if my MIL died I would have to pretend to be devastated. That would solve 99 percent of my marriage problems! Please, oh, please let her die!” That remark earned 15 favorable marks. Obviously, if the writer’s mother-in-law is aware of the comment, she should retire to a secret, gated community and change her will.
I belong to several groups of midlife bloggers, but the group’s websites don’t contain any pages that criticize or publicly embarrass our daughters-in-law. We just don’t do it. Mostly, we’re grateful that our sons grew up, learned how to change their underwear, and traded their Legos for love.
After all the admonishments about how mothers-in-law should behave, it’s my duty to offer some tidbits in exchange. Here are my suggestions for how to be the daughter-in-law who doesn’t deserve to be punched in the face.
1. I am not a mother-in-law joke. I adore my son, and if you and my son are fortunate to have children who carry my genes you’ll know why mothers remain profoundly invested in their kids. Our Mother Bear instincts don’t shut off when they grow up and leave their toys, dirty socks, and moms behind.
2. I deserve respect. I’m sorry your mama didn’t teach you to respect your elders, but I’m the one who taught your husband how to use a toilet. He chose you, and I come along as a bonus prize. If I want to come over, open the damn door and offer me a glass of wine.
3. You children sense your mocking attitude. When you complain about me in front of your kids, they imagine that I really do have horns, eat live toads, and ride a broom. I got over those behaviors years ago.
4. My unsolicited advice could be helpful. I’ve been around the block a few times and know where to avoid the piles of dog poop. Learn from my mistakes.
5. Communicate before all hell breaks loose. A little irritant can get blown out of proportion, so let’s have a conversation with you, my son, and me. This meeting shouldn’t involve weapons, lawyers, or reality television.
6. Laugh with me. If you think I’m critical of your cooking, clothes, home, or pedigree, just laugh and remind me that you’re comfortable with your life and habits, and I don’t need to mention them again. Then open more wine. We have much to appreciate about each other.
I’m extremely grateful to have a positive, loving relationship with my daughter-in-law and son-in-law. They love my children, and they don’t mind including me in their family activities. One of these days, we’ll perform a three-generation show that includes a song for everyone as we channel our best Aretha Franklin, shake our booties, and sing:
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me! I got to have (just a little bit). A little respect (just a little bit.) Sing along now.