The Other Woman- Published as Valley Girl Column in the Vail Daily

 The Other Woman

This is a difficult subject to navigate. We all have been there. We all have those moments in our lives when we deal with that other woman. The one that has just enough control over your lives to make them difficult.

The one who seeps into your relationships without you knowing and causes a disturbance. The one who is always there like a dull pain. You can deal with it, but it is not really comfortable. You know who I am talking about… THE MOTHER IN LAW! (bum…bum…bum…)

I don’t think I have ever navigated a more complicated relationship in my life. Nor has my husband. In our family, our mothers are very close to us. They both live within an hour and a half of us. My mom is closer than my husband’s but still close enough that they are a very active part of our lives. 

For the most part, we feel very fortunate. Our children are being raised with a very close relationship to their grandmothers (and one grandfather- but he causes zero problems. Innocuous in the medaling department!) And that is great. The balance we have figured out is pretty cool.

One of the mom’s is not the “go to” for babysitting. One of them is. One of the mom’s is more focused on assisting with academics, the other- not so much. They offer the kids an entirely different view of life, as they themselves are extremely different women. 

We are lucky. I will say that again. Partially to remind myself of that, and partially because I know it is true. We have family around in a place where most people don’t. But the luck does not come without a price. 

Our mothers are probably the single most dividing factor in our relationship. The one thing we argue about more than anything. The issue with our MIL’s is that they are both incredibly strong minded, opinionated women who do not hesitate to let everyone else know how they feel.

One thinks that the way she did everything is the way we should do everything. She lacks the respect for how my husband and I are raising our children and chooses to disregard, even challenge, the things that are important to us. We constantly have to argue bed times, food restrictions- even things that are general safety issues.

The thing that she hasn’t figured out is that my kids tell me everything- even when she has told them not to. So, I know about all of the little secrets…. And yes, you read that correctly. Even things that she has told my kids not to tell me. How’s that for building trust. Great lessons for the kids to learn! 

The other one just seems to have a general sense of disdain. Never satisfied with the choice of partner, never believing the decision was in anyone’s best interest- despite trying as hard as she possibly can to be supportive. There is just something there. That ever present looking down the nose at the other. 

Not a good enough education, not a good enough job… you know the drill. Just never quite good enough.

And that is a tough nut to crack. Although she tries to be accepting, in the end; she never will feel it deep down inside and it just kills her that a different choice wasn’t made. So she lives with her own anger and frustration that comes lashing out at times completely misdirected and misguided. 

And when I say lashing out- I mean lashing out. Like a fire breathing dragon. And we are the charcoaled recipients on the other end. 

Now, I am not going to go on a whole diatribe about the MIL’s. Because in the end, that is not healthy for anyone. Although I would absolutely love to sit here and write about all of the ills and frustrations, I will not use this platform to point fingers. 

What I do want to write about is this incredibly complicated relationship and how we can all learn to best navigate. I know I am not alone. I have plenty of friends who have talked to me about the difficulties with their MIL’s. And I can’t say it is skewed more to one side than the other. It doesn’t seem to come more from the wife’s side than the husband’s. 

It seems to me that both sides of the relationship have the problems. Now, I understand that not everyone is in my shoes. Some people have extremely harmonious relationships with their in-laws. And I would love to know their secrets. 

I know in our family, we try very hard. And to be honest, most of our issues came after our kids were born. Everything seemed pretty hunky dory until everyone else’s opinions came into play. 

But that is just the point. In-laws- when you are dealing with your in-law children here is what I want to say:

1. Your opinion doesn’t count unless you have ben asked. Do not try to make your point by snide comments, or under your breath thoughts out loud. This does not work. 

2. You have had your chance to raise your own kids. Do not discipline your grandchildren in front of their parents. If the parents are not offering up the discipline, it is not your job. The parents are the ones who hold the trump card on this. Regardless of what you think (Refer to point 1.)

3. Engage in conversation with your son or daughter in law. They are full people with full lives. Find out how they are doing. Get to know them outside of the preconceived notions you may have of them and respect that fact that your son or daughter chose to take their own lives journey with that person. 

4. Realize your role. Being a grandparent does not give you certain inalienable rights. Your access to your grandchildren relies solely on your ability to respect your role. Learn it, live it, love it.

5. Do not speak badly about your child’s spouse. This is never ever ever okay. Do not express your negative thoughts, that is what your friends are for. This action only causes you to put your child in the middle of their own relationship in dealing with you and their spouse. Don’t do this to your child. 

6. Respect their choice of spouse. You may not agree with it, but who cares. Refer to point 1. It is not your life, it is your child’s life and choice. If your son or daughter has been happily married for a number of years, maybe it’s time to let it go and realize that perhaps they really did make a good decision. Sure- there are times of strife. It’s a marriage, and your job to support it, not try to tear it apart.

7. Treat your daughter or son in law like an adult, and like a friend. Take them to lunch, do something with them outside of them being a burden or in your way. They are your child’s spouse, parents of your grandchildren and could be your worst nightmare or best advocate when needed. Learn how to play your own card. 

8. Don’t make stupid choices with your grandchildren. Realize that your grandchildren’s parents are their heroes. You are not. They will tell their parents everything. They will tell them when you have not buckled them in car seats, given them food they shouldn’t be eating. There are no secrets between a parent and a child- nor should there be. And you should not try teaching them do that. It is bad business and totally undermines the trust between parent/ child that is critical to develop. 

9. Do not be rude or disrespectful to your son or daughter in law. In the end, it is not hurting them; it is hurting your own son or daughter; which in turn is hurting you. By disrespecting your in-law you are creating a further rift in your relationship with your own child. 

10. Mind your own business. Referring to point 4- you are not given rights just because you are you. Your son and daughter in law are parents. They have their own lives, as do their children. Do not put demands on their time, or make them feel guilty when their lives don’t work with yours. They are doing what they feel is best for their own children and you are not a huge part of that. Understand that and let it go. Understand that when your presence is desired, it will be asked for. No one owes you differently! 

So, let’s all just get along. MIL’s- follow these rules, and I guarantee a happier more peaceful relationship with your family. Back off and let it ride!