A Handbook For My Future Mother-in-Law

Because I grew up with a dad who had NO boundaries, I have a really bad habit.

I set boundaries and enforce random rules left and right.

For instance, the first job I ever had was at a big Jewish non-profit.  I was 22.  I became good friends with a guy who rented space  in the office, who was about 10 years my senior. He happened to be best friends with my boss, and because of that, they would include me on their lunches.  Sometimes, their lunches would run over an hour.  I would sit anxiously, looking at my watch, hinting that it was time to return.  My boss finally had to tell me, “I’m the boss.  If you are late, I will let me know”.  Even so, I felt like I should be back in the office.  Why?  Because it was a rule.

My mother-in-law to be is a really nice person.  However, like all of us, she is flawed.  Her flaw?  She is the most passive aggressive person that I have EVER met.  And those people?  Don’t get boundaries.

I get it.  She is the child of 2 Holocaust survivors.  Before the war, they both had other spouses and children, all of whom perished in the camps.  They found each other, fell in love, and moved out of Germany (obviously, after the war.  They didn’t just leave Auschwitz hand in hand).  Miraculously, MIL’s mother got pregnant after surviving 11 camps.  Seriously, a miracle.  And she was pregnant with twins.

At childbirth, one baby died.  The survivor?  My MIL.  So she was immediately the miracle child, and her only goal in life is to be needed and loved.  She was the only one who spoke English when her family left for America, and she would have to translate for her folks.  She was so needed, and I’m sure that that became a habit.  She needs to be needed.

I wish I could say the following to her:

I can’t handle it.  I am the opposite of what you want in a daughter in law.  Because of my mom’s depression and lupus, I learned to do a lot of things for myself.  And I built a LOT of walls, to protect me from the idea that my mom might die and I would be stuck with a father who only saw me as a dollar sign.  I am not saying my way is the right way, but it is who I am.  Sorry.  I actually like being able to make my own plane reservations, doctor appointments, and car maintenance appointments.   It is nice of you to offer, but I am almost 30 and live in a different state.  So I can do these things for myself.  And, for D.

I might ask for your help with something, like how to make a brisket, but that doesn’t mean that I need you to send me 3 different Jewish cookbooks as a result. (True story).  I might compliment your purse, but it doesn’t mean I want you to give it to me.  You can call me and tell me (out of the blue) 15 stories about your other son’s wedding and put together a list of 400 things to remember that won’t effect my life in the smallest, but I am not going to institute your policies.

I already love you.  You gave birth to and raised the man of my dreams.  But at some point, I am going to need you to back off.  Please do not cry everytime I state my opinion because it doesn’t make me feel bad.  It annoys me.  For instance, when you cried because I am not having the parents stand underneath the chuppah, I told you it was because I didn’t want my father to stand there, but I also didn’t think it was appropriate to hurt his feelings.  You then said, “I hope something happens to your dad so he doesn’t come to the wedding and I can stand underneath the chuppah”.  When I confronted you on this hateful comment, you cried again and said I misunderstood the comment.  I don’t think so.  I think, actually, that you misunderstood the concept.  I have a life, and now your son is going to be my husband.  We are going to live our lives, and raise children (Gd willing) and make mistakes and laugh and cry and learn.  You can’t change our path because you want things to be different, or to go your way.  Life isn’t like that. You can’t protect us from everything.  But you can love us.

I know it must be hard that your son is grown-up and now turns to someone else to make decisions with.  But your neediness is really making it hard for me.  I have tried to involve you more in things that I can’t even fathom your need to be a part of, but your constant push for more and more access to the privacy in my life and in me and D’s relationship is making it hard for me to even hear your voice.  I want to have a good relationship with you, please just let me!


4 responses to “A Handbook For My Future Mother-in-Law

  1. W.O.W.

    Stick to your guns. Hard as it may be … it will get easier, and she will get to know your boundaries and respect them. You are awesome.

    You are also getting MARRIED soon. Holy Chutzpah! Hope you are ok, it gets hectic in the build-up.


  2. I’m with eden….W.O.W. I’m so glad you were able to get this down. Now having her hear it is another thing. But good for you for having the clarity and voice for your needs. I only hope your soon to be husband will be able to support your needs and stand up to his mom.

  3. This was incredible! And a great thing to write out and know in your heart. I’m with Jane. I hope your husband will be able to support your needs and stand up to his mom. His attitude and actions toward it all can make all the difference.

  4. I think things have really changed since the wedding. When she saw that I spoke relatively few words to my father, she said to me, “It must be so hard not speaking to your dad.” I said, “Not really. I tried for so long, but he kept pushing and pushing and finally I just had to build a wall and keep him out”. I think I scared her. Now, we are doing pretty well. I hate to be the DIL that she will talk about at mah-jong as the bitch from hell, but I know her friends like me!

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