Hi friends! Happy Tuesday.
Hope everyone is having a great week so far. Drew is on a work trip until late Wednesday, so we’re definitely missing our guy. BUT, his mom and dad came to help with our little people and I’m HAPPY for the help. Max is sick (the doctor thinks just something viral) and extra needy. Trey is a newborn he needs his mama a lot too! I would be sinking and/or VERY stressed if my in-laws Robyn and Dan weren’t here to help me.
If you’ve been following along or know me in real life, you know I’m a pretty open book. 🙂 Many of you, therefore are not surprised that I’m doing a blog post about improving your relationship with your in-laws. Before you think I’ve gone completely rogue, I talked about this with my in-laws and husband before posting. My in-laws were really excited about the post and we all talked about how we’re SO glad we’re in such a good place. It makes ALL the difference when everyone is happy and getting along great.
Now, I’m not thinking I’m going to be able to FIX your relationships or that I’m a relationship expert. I’m simply going to share my experience and the tips that helped me change mine. Maybe just one tip speaks to you on where you could improve!
Let’s start from the beginning. Robyn and Dan are some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. I was easily and warmly welcomed into their family. Drew and I LIVED together before I even met them (yes, you read that right). Imagine how nervous I was to meet his parents because of that fact. It was SMOOTH sailing though and the relationship was easy peezy in the beginning.
Drew’s mama is very much a care taker. When you are at her house she wants to do everything to make sure you are comfortable and taken care of. In her marriage, she is very much a nurturer. She is happy to serve her husband. I remember telling Drew right when we got in the car after that first meeting, “If you think I’m going to serve you like your mom does your dad, you need to find someone else to marry.” This was young, feminist Amy voicing concern. Drew said, “Babe, I absolutely am not looking for you to do that. I love the balance we have.” I grew up in a family where you got everything for yourself. If you needed something to drink, you got your little buns up and got it. This was my first peek into how different families can be.
I do think something shifts when you ENTER the family. When Drew and I had our pre-marriage counseling a reasonable amount of time was spent talking about our families. How did our parents argue? How did they make up? Did we glean tendencies from them? Where would you spend holidays? That was the first time I had really thought and had to talk about how EACH of our families would have an influence on our upcoming marriage.
And then life happened. As a family we went through some hard times. Health issues, learning everyone’s roles (they gained another daughter-in-law just a month and a half after me), first grandchildren, deaths of family members, etc. We hit a couple slippery patches and learned from those things. When I reflect back, so much of it WAS coming from a place of love. When my sister-in-law and I were overly aggressive/vocal about our father-in-law’s health issues and places that he could improve, it was out of love and concern. Being healthcare professionals it was OUR speciality and we talked to him more like a patient OR like we would talk to our dads. When my mother-in-law was offering her many parenting suggestions when I had Maxwell, she was trying to be helpful.
Now that we have some history and examples, I wanted to share
My best tips for getting to a better place with YOUR in-laws:
Do I want to join the chorus? It is SO common for people to gripe about their in-laws. I started to think, did I want to be a crotchety 40 year old that complains about mine or do I want to make a change? I’m half the relationship, so if things aren’t going right surely there are things that I AM DOING too. Let me tell you it is a WAY better way to live to get along with your significant other’s mom and dad. The way that Max loves them and they way they love him is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. We wouldn’t have been here if we didn’t change a few things.
Lead with this thought: They raised my person. I do not think you need to wait to become a parent to understand that your in-laws likely have an insane amount of love for your significant other. I can tell you when I did become a mama, I did understand this at a deeper level. Holy crap! To think that Robyn loves Drew the way that I love Maxwell. It is a game changer that has softened my heart in SO many ways.
Meet them with as much patience as you do your parents. Chances are the family you are bringing to the table isn’t perfect either. Sometimes I ask myself, “Would you make this a big deal if it were you parents that did/said that?” “Would I understand if Drew was mad that my mom had said this?” With ALL of our parents, I try my best to lead with patience. I remember to be thankful for everything they have done and will do for us.
Clear communication. One of the huge issues that I was having after our firstborn Maxwell was that my mother-in-law was constantly telling me how to mother. It started to really hurt my feelings and I could tell I began to resent it. Instead of letting that spiral more, I spoke up. I wrote this blog about it Have the Chat. Essentially, I needed to step up and let her know how I was feeling. Going through Drew would not have the same impact because he would soften up the message and something would’ve got lost in translation. I very kindly and with good intention, told her that it was bothering me that she was constantly making suggestions of what Max needed. After that conversation things went MUCH better. She was very open to that feedback and changed! She isn’t perfect and I’m not either. She came to me once with something I said that hurt her feelings and we talked through that too. A lot of times things aren’t meant the way they are said or the way they are taken, so instead of letting resentment build put the fire out right away.
Am I taking this the wrong way? To speak to the point right above this: it is easy to look for the negative or take things the wrong way. AND sometimes people are very hurtful and I’ve heard things that mother-in-laws that have said to my friends that cannot be taken any other way, these things were mean. This point is just to say that I was kind of LOOKING for how many times Robyn was telling me what to do with Max and became pretty focused on it. This just adds fuel to your fire. Now, I’m really good at letting things go and just telling myself that it likely was meant to be helpful.
Sticking to your guns. When we were pregnant with our first, Drew and I knew we wanted to welcome the baby into the world alone. We wanted to savor the special time as a family of 3 and take our time inviting our family and friends to meet our babe. We SHARED that honestly and openly with both sides. My mother-in-law was SO darn excited to meet her first grandchild that she said, “Can’t we just know when you are in labor since we have further to drive?” I said, “No. This is important to us and we’ll gladly welcome you as soon as we’re ready.” This is clear communication and the setting of expectations.
Figure out the holiday dance. Going back to point 1, do you really want to spend your whole life letting the HOLIDAYS (the freaking happiest time of the year) get between your relationships? Listen, it isn’t realistic (unless your families live in the same city) to see each family for EVERY holiday for the rest of your lives. Add the chaos of bringing little babies into the mix and things get really tough. My best tips are to PLAN and TALK to your significant other. Be fair. Don’t make everything a tit for tat scoreboard. If you hear yourself saying, “I CANNOT miss my family’s Christmas, I NEVER have. Nobody ever misses it!” Back up girlfriend. Realize that you are now on a team and you need to be a team player. I get it! I really don’t like missing family holidays, but I also realize that my husband doesn’t either. Tackle the topic early each year and then let your families know the plan. Again, stick to it. Remember that it is okay if they do feel sad about it, I just imagine not being able to see Max or Trey during a holiday and my heart softens to how our families feel.
Loosen up. So you try to feed your kiddos super healthy and then your in-laws get them Culver’s every time they see them…who cares. So you are trying to limit screen time until your kiddo is 2 and he gets to watch a lot of cartoons with his grandparents…he’ll survive. Don’t make a huge issue out of things that aren’t huge issues. If you feel very passionately about something, go ahead and calmly/clearly communicate your concern.
Cheer for the whole family to get along. We’re not 10 and we don’t need to be the favorite daughter-in-law. Genuinely cheer for everyone to get along. Do not find yourself in conversations that aren’t helpful or beneficial to this point. This isn’t something that our little family has had an issue with, but I’ve heard many a stories from friends.
Be on the same page as your partner. I don’t think any of this works if you and your significant other are not on the same page. Worse yet if you are telling two different stories OR you are talking down about your partner to your parents. You want to be a united front that has each other’s backs. That being said, it is okay if you significant other sometimes thinks you are wrong in a situation. You probably are sometimes.
I hope that one or two of those tips helps you! I know over here we feel SO happy that we’re in a good place and excited to keep at it. Drew and I feel SO darn thankful for both sets of parents and know they have all helped us big time. Love you guys!
Photos by: Bee In the Moment Photography