My mother died when I was seven months pregnant. Our relationship was complicated and difficult, but there is something inherent about having a child that makes you want (or perhaps, more accurately, need) your mommy. Enter my mother-in-law. I am not suggesting that my mother-in-law has replaced my mother, but I do think mother-in-laws, as a class of people, do not get enough respect for all that they do to make the women of the world (especially us orphans) whole.
In honor of my mother-in-law, let me commence my “ode”:
- She forgave my biggest sins. We did it; my partner and I had sex out of wedlock (gasp!) and the results of such reckless actions was a child (double gasp). Although, admittedly, my MIL was not initially thrilled (understatement) about this, she worked through it and has never once made us feel guilty for our decision to remain unmarried and raise our daughter.
Beyond that, she appears to have developed amnesia for my many other motherly sins, including dressing my daughter inappropriately for the weather on many occasions, letting her eat a popsicle and a pickle before she had teeth and taking a couple of tumbles and stumbles while under my supervision.
- She helped me figure this all out. The old adage, “nothing prepares you for motherhood” may be the most significant understatement of our time. The best you can hope for is to stay ahead of the learning curve and not mess up your kid too much along the way.
You can also hope for a MIL who is willing to spend countless hours on the following tasks: conducting a detailed analysis of your diet to determine what is making your breastfed baby wail uncontrollably for 20 hours a day, rocking your daughter for over two hours at 3am so you could get some blessed sleep and dancing and singing while the baby screams in the carrier so you can take your first shower in a week.
- She is unabashed in her love for her granddaughter. The female-to-female relationship is often a complicated one, but I would argue that the relationship between my daughter and her “Grammy” is one of the purest forms of love I have ever witnessed. She loves her when she cries and when she giggles, she loves her when she is frustrated and when she has mastered a new skill, she loves her when she is far away and when she is right next to her.
And it certainly does not hurt that she loves me, too, both for who I am and for who I have given her.
I recognize that, perhaps, not every mother-in-law (or mother, for that matter) is as saintly as my mother-in-law. But, I am certain ”at one moment or another” they have all deserved an ode.
*As previously noted, my partner and I are not married; therefore, my “mother-in-law” is not technically my mother-in-law. But the way I see it, if we have a house, child and dog together (and if I have brushed my teeth and while he has clipped his nose hairs in the same sink), we are as good as married.
by Jackie Arteglier