Slaying my mother-in-law’s expectations

Daughter-in-law and mother-in-law relationships are not the easiest among family dynamics. I am actually blessed with two wonderful mother-in-laws (MILS). One is the biological mother of my husband; the other is the step-mother (3rd wife of my father-in-law) of my husband. They are both fantastic, generous women.

They both keep a clean house and are meticulous about their belongings and homes. I have been often made to feel less and judged because my household doesn’t measure up to their standards.

This past weekend, my biological MIL dog-sat all the dogs at my house, so the step-MIL and the family could go on a mini-getaway to a nearby Christmas town. When we returned today to pick up the dogs, the step MIL came into the house and said, “It looks like the house cleaner was here.” My biological MIL responded with, “Yes, I had to clean the kitchen floor and vacuum, because I couldn’t stand to look at it anymore.”

Wow. Points for me, right? Now, the justification game begins. Like I mentioned in my opening paragraph, they are both wonderful, kind woman and often buy things for my children, my husband and myself. I have good relationships with both of them, but it always irks me when they mention the state of my house. Trust me, compared to some homes, mine is pretty well kept. It’s cluttered, but nothing filthy. Yes. The self-justification is gearing up. First, I have two kids, six and eight years old. I am a full time teacher who brings her work home with her. Neither one of these woman has ever had to do deal with that in their lives. My husband is an only child and his parents divorced when he was five. My other MIL divorced when her son was only three and due to some crazy circumstances she wasn’t granted custody. So, neither one of them have had to deal with a two child household, twenty-four seven. Then of course, my husband doesn’t help with much of any of the household chores. He was the only child of a single divorcee who spoiled and doted on him. In reality, he’s a teenager inhabiting the body of a grown man. How am I doing with the justifications?

So, I prayed and I thought about it tonight. I could work harder at keeping my house clean. I could nag my husband more. I could stay up later and make sure the floors are mopped. I could. But, I would be an over-tired, cranky, unhappy mother and wife. I’ve learned to let things go in my house because if I nag my husband it ends up in a yelling match and if I grow frustrated with my children it turns into hysterics and toys being thrown around.

Now the justifications falter, and my reality begins to whisper to me through the gaps in their remonstrations.

I’ve developed back and hip issues along with a strange allergy with gluten. I’m already pushing myself beyond my limits. If I try to “lean in” and accommodate the expectations of these two women, I’m afraid I’ll break myself further or the delicate balance of my own family dynamics.

I had to really think about all of this. Over the weekend I was at a water park with my kids. I was so grateful that I could climb the numerous steps and go down the slide. I was grateful that I was still healthy enough to be physically active with my kids.

So, what’s more important? Keeping a clean house and meeting the expectations of these two women who really don’t know exactly what I go through on an everyday basis, or do I continue to do the best I can and find my own joy and happiness along my own journey? What I really need to do is decrease my stress, exercise more, and eat healthier. See, what’s really important to me is being physically, interactive with my kids and continue that momentum into the future so I can be around for my grandkids. I’m pretty sure that in the long run that’s more important than having pristine floors, dusted shelves and made beds.

It’s time to let go of the justifications, smile, say “thank you” when they do help out and know that when they do that it adds to my days when I can play with my grandkids.




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