The Mother-In-Law Door
By Jacey Eckhart
I always mark the beginning of the holidays with a desperate Google search about my mother-in-law. Gifts that will finally make your mother-in-law happy! Why does my mother-in-law hate me? Ten magic phrases to get your mother-in-law off your back. How to hide an old lady’s body before the cops arrive.
As you can imagine, this search really puts me in the festive spirit—especially if that festive spirit is a really smooth Scotch.
Until this year.
My mother-in-law passed away last December. (I had nothing to do with it, honest.)
Unless I someday decide to cougar it up and take on a much younger, hipper, second husband, the door to being a daughter-in-law is closed to me forever. Locked. Bolted. Nailed shut. With a sigh.
Because that did not go well.
I was the type of daughter-in-law who wanted us to be bestest buddies, trading recipes, analyzing our deepest thoughts, and sharing our most poignant feelings!!!
She was the type of mother-in-law who thought I should shut up and go away. She used to roll her eyes so far back in her head whenever I spoke that I worried she would cough up an eyeball. And choke on it.
Maybe it is a good thing that some doors close before the cops are called, right?
But this year I have a daughter-in-law and a son-in-law of my own. The Next Door—the Mother-In-Law Door—is officially unlocked. Yet I have no idea what to do to make it open in a good way.
This is not a problem for my son-in-law. He treats me like an amusing squirrel with her own Easy Bake oven. I have his complete approval. That Son-In-Law door is a dream.
But the whole mother-in-law/daughter-in-law thing? Gah. I know I mean well, but I’m finding out that meaning well is not enough. I’m often failing. I see it in my daughter-in-law’s averted gaze, her suppressed sigh, the roll of her eyes. (Don’t worry—she is just a beginner at the eye-rolling thing, so there is no danger of choking.)
So I Google. Gifts that will make your daughter-in-law happy! Magic phrases to show your daughter-in-law that you approve! Fifteen types of mother-in-law no one wants! How to hide the axe so that she never finds it!!!
I read these articles for help, but all of them seem to assume that my daughter-in-law is a terrible person and that I am worse. They forget that she loves my son maybe even a little bit more than I do. These writers think of us as two women on the opposite sides of the same door, struggling for control.
That never works. Instead, I picture her in the same hallway I am in, knocking on the Daughter-In-Law door while I am knocking on the Mother-in-Law door. Both of those doors open into the same room, one that is full of what we both want—happy holidays, warm memories, easy visits. Finding our way in is a lot harder than it looks.
If you have some insights on how to be a better mother-in-law or daughter-in-law, please post them here.