M.I.L., By Guest Blogger Lorie Sheffer

Photo: Lorie Sheffer

Nothing in this world, save for snakes on a plane, will set some of us into a fit of anxiety more than these words: “Your mother in law is coming to visit.”

Mothers in law have long provided laughs for sitcoms, and if they aren’t YOUR mother in law, their antics and unfiltered opinions can be hilarious. From Mrs. McGillicuddy’s constant references to her daughter Lucy Ricardo’s husband “Mickey Richardson”, to the passive aggressive behavior of Raymond’s mother Marie Barone, to Modern Family’s modern day mother in law DeDe Prichett, mothers in law are a staple of family comedy.

Personally, I feel that if there were a contest for the most hilariously inappropriate mother in law, mine would win hands down. At the time, she drove me batty. Now that she is gone I find that I sort of miss her.  Some of her greatest hits: Telling me that my 4-year old son had gotten chicken pox from his sister because I didn’t feed him enough green vegetables. Informing me that she had never gotten over the fact that my husband hadn’t married his high school sweetheart, who was “like a daughter’ to her. Sending gifts to her out of state relatives and signing my husband and my names, after I had already sent them gifts. She wanted to be sure they got things they REALLY wanted. And, after my husband had specifically requested me to make his favorite meal for him, she told me “Gary doesn’t even like that. Why don’t you ever make him something he can eat?”

When my son got married, my number one priority was to make sure that his wife and I got along. Lucky for me, it’s not that hard. I very honestly think she is the best thing that ever happened to him. My son also adores his mother in law, and I am happy that he has her as his other mother.  I think the main thing that determines a mother in law/daughter in law relationship is a pretty simple rule. As a mother, you need to realize that your son’s wife is first in his life. She is not your competition. She is not the other woman. If you can understand and respect that, everything else will fall into place. So many times I hear women say they don’t like their mother in law because she is intrusive and won’t cut the apron strings. And yet these women act the same way towards their daughters in law.

A few years ago, I met a young woman from the U.K. She was telling me how much she missed her mother. She said something that I will never forget. She told me that her mom confided something to her. Mum said. “Of my three daughters in law, I adore one, I tolerate one and I can barely stand to be in the same room with one.”  My friend was stunned, and said that nobody would ever guess that Mum didn’t love all three of her son’s wives equally. “Well,” Mum replied, “I love your three BROTHERS equally, and that is why nobody will ever know which wife I love and whose name makes me cringe when I hear it. And I’ll never tell you who’s who, either.” All I could think of was how much love that mother had for her sons.

By jeff noel

Retired Disney Institute Keynote Speaker and Prolific Blogger. Five daily, differently-themed personal blogs (about life's 5 big choices) on five interconnected sites.