Thursday, June 23, 2011

In laws

In-laws and the state of being one have been on my mind of late. Met up with a sister-in-law for a coffee (or in my case green tea) and tapped her wealth of experience of being a mother-in-law to a daughter-in-law. Sons-in-law have proved delightful, and am sure the soon to be DIL will too. But it's quite a different relationship, and one I'm just learning about.
Being a MIL is the fodder of stand-up comics and Reader's Digest jokes, because in truth, the state of melding with another whanau brings its own joys and difficulties. Often it's the differences between the way one family did things and the in-law family's customs, especially in families where the customs and traditions are strong, for it can be easy for her to think of her way as the right or only or best way, while the "new addition" to the whanau just sees strange or different - or wrong! - ways.

Mothers-in-law have long endured bad press, surely much more than warranted. But I guess where the matriarch is the keeper of the customs, the one who hands down the flow of traditions to the next generation, she can easily feel threatened by the fresh current diluting the power of shared history and way of doing things. And if she had any control over her son, she can kiss that goodbye as well. It's been many years since I've had that, so not one of my losses!

Having been a DIL myself, (my MIL was a lovely loving lady with whom I got on famously) I'm conscious of the need not to appear critical - there are things I could say to my own daughters which might sound fault-finding to someone brought up in a different family, used to the dialogue being - well - different.

So I guess it's live and let live, even if I think things might be better done a different way, bite the tongue, avoid racing into e-print on fb, and pray that she feels as truly welcome in our whanau as she is.