About Mother/Daughter-in-law Relationships

As relationships go, you’ll have some easy ones, some difficult ones and then some downright trying ones. My relationship with my mother-in-law has been of the trying variety. Trying in the sense that we’ve had to cross some bridges and build new ones before we got to the point where we are now. The point being that we love each other on purpose because we want to and not because we have to. Mere tolerance for each other is not tolerated. The only tolerance I have for her now is left to the fact that she’s ageing and often repeats the same story a few times (she’s not even that old). I feel too bad for reminding her every so often that I’ve heard a story before that I just sit and listen animatedly as she gets to the punchline. This was not always the case though. We’ve had our ups and downs and there were occasions that I didn’t want my kids to go near her. The latter was never exercised though, because I could never deny my kids anything and this includes their chance of spending time with their gran.

During my first few years of marriage we got along like a house on fire. Our relationship started long before marriage and in many ways it was the one she imagined she’d have with her own daughter. In fact it was exactly the kind of relationship I never had with my own mom. We would talk for hours about anything and everything. She would confide in me and I’d get seriously embarrassed by some of the info she volunteered to me. I got to know details about life events that shaped her into person she is today. Everything was perfect until we had a massive blow out a couple of years ago that had me wishing I’d married an orphan instead.

All it took was a disagreement on morals and an outsider feeding her lies. I won’t divulge in too much details but it was about an extra marital affair and her allowing it to happen by looking the other way. The whole debacle made it to “Die Son” newspaper for crying out loud! What I will say is that it made me wonder if she’d do the same for her son if he decided I wasn’t enough to satisfy his needs. Obviously the guilty party needed an ally and manipulated my mother-in-law into thinking I was the villain. Now that, I could handle. What I couldn’t deal with, was the fact that she chose to believe the worst and turned her back on me.

Disgust. Anger. Disbelief. Hurt. Those were all the emotions that surfaced. More than anything I was hurt. She’d call me to argue. I’d call her to make her see reason and we’d argue. It got to the point where I would reject her calls until I decided to block her completely. All the while Keith was in the middle. Not really in the middle because he was also upset with her actions and tried to make her see reason. Not for my sake but for her own. This scandal followed us around for months and during this time she just wouldn’t budge. I suppose at some stage she realized her folly but her stubborness and pride at the time prevented from walking away. At least that’s what we think her mind was telling her.

Then one day the dust finally settled and we were a broken family. Damage beyond repair because of all that’s been said and done. I take full responsibility for my part in it even though what I did was out of love for her. My husband made it clear that he didn’t want to pick between our marriage and her, but if it were to come to that he’d choose me. Now having your husband choose you above his family is a great feeling, but not too great when it’s his mom. Especially under those circumstances. There is just a special kind of bond between a mother and her son.

For a while I decided to put our differences aside and tolerate her for Keith and K3’s sake. This made for some pretty awkward visits and most of the times I decided against visiting her at all so Keith and the kids went without me. Until one day I put my big girl panties on and decided enough is enough. This time I did it for me, for her and for my kids. Besides, how can I teach my kids the importance of forgiveness when I couldn’t do it myself. How can I show them kindness, love, respect (and all those wonderful life lesson we’re supposed to teach our kids) when I couldn’t even practice what I preached.

After a long talk, many tears and apologies later, my mother-in-law and I made peace. That day I spoke from the heart as a woman first, then a mother, wife and daughter. I bared my soul to her that day and told her that I didn’t want her to be a part of my life only because of my marriage to her son. This was between us. Two women who happen to have a few people in common. I didn’t do this for my marriage, I did it for me. You see, I control who I allow into my life. No one is there by accident. Sure I can’t choose my family and neither can I my in-laws but I can be intentional with my relationships with them. Or I can just avoid them, but then again that’s not me. There are some relatives I hardly see but life happens and it’s not exactly the same as avoidance. As I spoke, my mother-in-law listened and didn’t interrupt me once except to say “yes” or “I’m listening”. This unnerved me a bit and I wondered if it would have the desired outcome. When I finished my unrehearsed speech I gave her the opportunity to speak freely and the rest was history. That day we had no arguments left. Only tears, apologies and forgiveness. It was our new beginning. Since then our relationship has been thriving. We have our moments when we disagree but never anything serious. The best part of all is that our relationship is built around us now and not around Keith and the kids. She’s back to telling me some things that embarrasses the heck out of me, but then again I think it’s just me being duh 🙂

Here are some of the guidelines for mother/daughter-in-law relationships:

    Respect each other as individuals first. Yes, you are bound by marriage but if you can’t respect each other as people then you’re not exactly going to fully understand each other, ever.

    Don’t take each other for granted in thinking “Oh it’s just my husband’s mother” or “Oh it’s just my son’s wife”. You are both so much more than that. Get in there and get to know each other. Besides you’ll make things so much easier for the middle man. It’s really not pleasant for husbands to have to choose between the two most important women in his life.

    Make time for one another. A call here and text there to just say “hi” really does go a long way.

    Never use kids as pawns and don’t poison their young minds with dirt on each other. (This is something we never did but I see now how easily we could’ve fallen into that trap.)

    Be open and honest in your communications. Both parties POV will be different at times and that really is ok, but remember to never leave anything open for interpretation.

    Don’t be scared to disagree on a subject. I can’t guarantee that there won’t be arguments there. But arguments can be resolved fairly easily once you have the respect thing down to pat. I’ll go as far as saying that it makes your relationships stronger.

    Your husband is ultimately the only person who can make a stand (within reason off course) with his mom. You really can’t move forward if he doesn’t have your back and makes his mom aware of it.

    It pays to remember that not everything is said or done with the intention of hurting the other person. Viz. My mother-in-law used to love saying how fat I had gotten even though I hadn’t gained a single gram. I just wrote that one down to the fact that I think she secretly wishes to have another grandchild. This thought is obviously reinforced by the fact that she excitedly tells anyone who will listen that we are open to adopting a child/ren in future (which we are).

    Make a choice to love each other and not just tolerate each other.

PS: Moms (with daughter/s-in-law reading this), as far as choices between you and us go, please understand that we really don’t want it to come down to that, but your sons have a responsibility towards their wives and our marriages depend on whether or not we can trust and rely on them for their full support. Many times it’s simple things we need their support on. The choice can be born out of you openly expressing your opinion on the fact that you feel your grandchildren should breastfed and our reluctance to do so or the fact that you don’t think that your son should be cooking. A trivial matter to you may mean a make or break the future of their marriage.

PPS: Husbands, we’re not asking you to defy your moms. We’re simply asking you to have a bit of backbone and making everyone aware of your viewpoint on certain matter so we’re all on the same page. You’ll be surprised to find that your moms will get over the fact that you stood up for your wife and admire you for it. On the other hand if you don’t it will be an elephant in the room and a contributing factor to future arguments with your wife. It helps to remember who you’ll wake up next to when you’re old and grey one day 😉


PJ Drills

This weekend I did my first PJ drill in over 6 years. Strange how it’s nothing like I remember it to be. You know little sleep, crying baby (that continues after you’ve done just about everything), feeling sorry for myself because I just don’t get to everything and having to bond with my other kids so they know that they’re loved and a husband who needs attention too. This weekend was different though. I rocked at it. What is a sleepless night or 2? Calming a crying baby was never a greater joy.

It can be that I’ve matured over the years, the fact that it wasn’t my own babies or that I just really feel for my sister. No one said motherhood is easy but being a mom of multiples takes some doing. It makes me feel like my tears I’ve shed with my single crying babies are somewhat trivial. I can honestly say that while I always felt sorry for twin (triplet/more) moms, I now have big time respect for those them. It takes some… No! REAL doing.

The twins came to visit this weekend and this aunt is loved every minute of confusion. They’re not identical but you know with babies it’s rather difficult to tell them apart at times. One thing is for certain: There is no confusion about the love I feel for them and the love for my sister and brother in law. It was this love that got me through a weekend of little sleep and a bit of a stiff neck I have right now. I helped where I could so that my sis could have a bit of a break because on top of her wound healing and being a new mom she’s a bit sick and we’re awaiting the results, praying that it’s not her kidneys giving problems again.

I changed diapers, got up when they stirred, winded them and sang lullabies to calm them when they wanted nothing to do with anyone but their mom. But mom needed to gain some strength and pampering so that she could function again. I laughed a bit because my sis whose eyebrows and hair is always done had not been able to do any of it since I did it the last time. Yep, motherhood has already changed her so much. Thankfully she’s got me and I fixed that little dilemma. After a bit of coaxing.

In comes overthinker… Did I have my kids too young? Was I a good enough baby mom? If I could go back and do things differently would I be able to cope better? These are some of the questions whirling through my mind today. The answer to all my questions is that nothing prepares you for motherhood at any age. Given the opportunity to go back I’m sure I would do it all the same anyways because my coping mechanisms just ran riot along with my hormones. Turns out that my hormones ran the show during and after pregnancy. It’s been running my life for the past few years since the “big three oh”. Aaaaand…. Obviously anyone will have more patience with a baby or kid that’s not theirs because once you’ve had enough you can always hand them back to their parents.

There is no way I coped better with the twins just because I’ve got almost fourteen years of experience as a mom. Or that I did it thrice and obviously none of my kids were the same as babies. No way I know better than my sis or any newb mom. There are so many things that I learn from new moms these days that I’m wondering where the heck these moms (please note: Not the grannies but new moms) were hiding when I had my first kid.

I coped well in my capacity of an aunt and a sister which made for pleasurable PJ drills. Sure there are differences in my mothering approach to that of my sis, but she’s their mom and will know better than me and anyone else. Obviously I know what works and doesn’t when it comes to babies. I’m an expert in my field in Jonkersville and what worked for MY babies but that’s where it ends. Do I know anything about raising teenagers? Not at all and I’m crossing that bridge as we speak. Though she has this enviable, amazing patience and calmness about her there’s no doubt that she’s out of her depth already so who am I or anyone else to tell her the ‘right’ or ‘better’ way of doing things. Sure some methods work better than others but it’s an experience for moms and babies to live through. Maternal instincts are much stronger than what many ‘experts’ give them credit for.

To all the new moms out there:

    1) Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you’re not doing things right. There is no right or wrong way to raise a baby. Unless you put the diaper on the baby’s mouth instead of their bottoms, there’s no real cause for concern yet.

    2) Even if people chide you for being a textbook mom, go ahead to the doctor or paed. It’s your child and if you want to consult a medical professional instead of taking some old folk remedies, just do it. It’s not their money you’re using, it’s your own.

    3) When people offer to help you take them up on that offer. Us sisters and some friends who knows how stressful it can be to cope really just want to help you. We won’t say you’re a bad mother and take all the credit. We’ve been there and wish that someone had enough sense to be extra sweet instead of forcing their opinions or hand us a crying baby when they feel like they can’t cope.

    4) Don’t be scared to ask for help either. You’re not expected to know everything or to just cope. Even if your cry for help is for someone to just be present in case baby wakes up while you’re washing your hair. Yes mommies you can do that. Everyone wants clean and decent hair.

    5) Lastly, when you feel like nothing is going right and you’ve lost control it’s OK. I’m sure you’re doing great. We’ve all been there. Some of us even more than you know. People tend to only share the good and not the bad or ugly.

A few of my not so proud, yet hilarious moments and (some a complete mystery)as a mom:

    1) Rocking 1st K as a baby and the horror of waking up with baby lying on the floor next to the bed.

    2) Always forgetting their bottles at home. All 3 kids! You’d think I’d have learnt with baby No. 1

    3) Forgetting Middle K on the bed as a baby and only realising that minor detail after I’ve locked up and we’re ready to drive off.

    4) Realising that no. 1 never happened. I rocked a pillow instead of the crying baby who was safely next to me in bed. I was THAT tired.

    5) I kind of just blocked out Little K and hardly remember PJ drills because ‘Keith’ did it all. I’d wake up refreshed in the morning and could hardly believe when he told me that the baby was restless al night long because I didn’t hear a thing.

    6) No. 3 is a true story and goes hand in hand with post natal depression and a complacent baby.

There are so many blunders I’ve made and I’m not up for a mother of the century award anytime soon but then again show me a mom who’s got it all figured out. Every year added to your childs life is unchartered territory so it’s best you get used to it now. It makes for some easier mothering.

What are some of the funny episodes do some of you seasoned moms remember doing and care to share?

Twenty-Nine, Twenty-Ten

You know when you teach kids to count there’s bound to be suppressed smiles and giggles when they make blunders. Then there those moments when you just can’t help it and you roar with laughter. If you’re anything like me you’ll have your kid counting for anyone whom you think will be amused too. Yes I’m a bad-ish mom like that but unless you hear it for yourself, you’ll think I’m making this up. Like the time Little K was 2yo and I asked how much she loves me and she said “I love you R2”. She loved “Keith” and I as well as my mom and dad R2. When my sister asked her one day she said “I love you R1”. Hmmm… I wonder if her 2yo mind had that kind of logic already. Who knows…

When she started counting a few years back we didn’t find the missing or jumbled numbers all too amusing because kids do that. We all have to learn and we were determined to help her. Soon she counted from one to twenty-nine no problem. What came after twenty-nine had me in tears from laughter. She would count “twenty-nine, twenty-ten, twenty-eleven”, etc. You guys, I made her count over and over like a broken record and “Keith” got quite mad at me because I ridiculed “his” baby. Ooh these girls have him wrapped around their fingers, but that’s a story for another day.

Little K started Grade R this year and we are being schooled like it’s going out of fashion. Although she knows the days of the week by heart she scowls at me every morning because her teacher says I’m supposed to tell her the days everyday. And I do forget it everyday not because I take it for granted that she knows. She knows the days so I really don’t have to remind a child that tells me “Mommy you’re supposed to tell me it’s Thursday today and yesterday was Wednesday and tomorrow will be Friday.”

She’s doing rather well, thanks to the input of “teacher-mommy” too, but in my quest of teaching her shapes, numbers and other age appropriate activities, I’ve forgotten all about co-ordination and the importance of it. Turns out she can’t gallop and got graded 1 for it. I boldly told her teacher that she got it from her dad while laughing. When telling my mom about this she laughed at me and said my child actually got it from me. I was a fat baby and took a while before I started walking without falling. At age 3/4 I still couldn’t jump either and was quite heavy on shoes. The joke is on me. Give me a minute to compose myself and tell my toddler self :”Don’t worry you’ll get it right. Just practice. When you’re much, much older like me, you’ll be able to much more than just jump.” I can’t tell her that I can’t gallop either. Yes I discovered that too.

Just now I heard Little K counting again but this time in Afrikaans. It went a little something like this: “Een, twee, drie, vier, vyf, ses, ag, negen, negen-een, negen-twee, negen-drie” etc. This occasion I managed to suppress my smile and admired my 6yo for attempting to count in her second language. Kudos to her.

This kid is growing way too fast for my liking. What I do love is the learning curve and all the laughs it provides. She really does not fail to entertain.

What are your kids up to?

Family Motto

Our family motto

Our family motto

Last month, seems like only yesteday (ok it was still April yesterday – how time flies!), I featured Cat from Juggling Act of Life in April Featured Blog. Being paired up with Cat in our SA Mom Blogs group has been a great experience for me and I’ve learnt a great deal from her. I especially appreciated an email from her one day when she gave me an awesome tip about adding media to my posts and pointed me in the right direction. I love experiences shared and am always open to learning from others and making the necessary improvements/adjustments if and where need be. Thank you Cat 🙂

Reading her post The Day My Boys Had Me Speechless – And Extremely Proud had me thinking about motto’s in general as well as my own family motto. What stood out for me most is when she said “For us it is always about trying, and trying your best. Not winning.”

It also got me thinking how schools and organizations have it too. My primary school’s motto was “Facta Non Verba” meaning “Deeds, Not Words” while my high school motto was “Vitae Discimus” which means “We Learn For Life”. You’d think I’m a cheat because my kids attend the same primary school so I would still know it but it’s one of those things that you remember for life. I happen to still know the school anthem (word for word too) yet I sometimes forget things I did yesterday. As I’m a firm believer that we’re never too old to learn, my high school motto is one I tell me kids a lot.

It’s no secret that I love my family but life does not always run like a well oiled machine in Jonkersville. We argue, fuss and fight at times. There are times when I honestly feel like throwing in the towel because the kids won’t listen (blame it on selective hearing) or conveniently forget to do a chore. The problem with throwing in the towel is that it leads to more washing and I have enough loads to do as it is. I’m often thrust into the referee role during fights, which I refuse to do because sibling rivalry is part of growing up and I don’t want to be accused of favouritism. What I have done is lay down some rules which I call our family motto of which love and respect are the two most important. Throw in discipline and consistency (parents, kids crave consistency) and you’ll be well on your way to some better days. Thus far it’s been the success to our family dynamic.

If you have a kid you’ll know how difficult it can be to teach kids about healthy competitions, especially how everything in life is not about winning. As adults we know that it’s not about winning (at least most of us does) but to a kid it can be a very sensitive issue. A heart wrenching feeling of failure. I’ve had to dry tears and give lots of hugs followed by (sometimes) lengthy lectures about losing. Somewhere along the line I think I may have gotten the point (being that “It’s better to have tried and lost than to never had tried at all) across as K3 seem to understand that they won’t win at everything. Or maybe it can be written down to the fact that they’d rather act “OK” and be spared a lecture. Whatever it is, I’m happy that they have adopted the “Even though we lost, we did so with pride” attitudes. Don’t you just think they’re just wise beyond their years?

With all this said, I’m proud to say that in our family we do real, we do mistakes, we do fun, we do second chances (sometimes as much as ten), we do hugs, we do forgiveness and we do love. I think making a wall hanging like the image illustrated should be one of my future DIY projects. Hmmm… DIY Diva in the making.

Another awesome post from Cat is We Hit Jackpot. She takes the most beautiful pictures and I could imagine myself in the wild. Although I don’t think I’ll get there anytime soon, I’ll live vicariously through her images.

What are your family motto’s and what works for your family?

Amy and Same-y

Two by Two

Two by Two

About a week or so after my sister’s pregnancy was confirmed she got a miscarriage scare. That night when she went to hospital the doctor on duty felt it unnecessary to call in the gynae because he was convinced that she’d miscarried and thought it best that my sister wait it out until the next day instead of wasting her money. Can you believe that a doctor would actually tell a patient that? With her living miles away, in the West Coast, it troubled us because we couldn’t rush to her side. I can’t even tell you how upset we were especially at that doctor and if we felt like that, can you imagine what was going through her mind.

The next morning however she saw the gynae and had an ultrasound done. The image on the screen resembled a little alien face, complete with 2 eyes. Twins! The miscarriage scare was the babies way of telling us “Here are 2 of us so get ready”. Relief washed over all of us and excitement took over. That was almost 2 months down and 7 more to go.

One day we watched some cartoon and it starred a pair of twins named Amy and Same-y. Littlest K immediately took to it and suggested that it would be the perfect names for her cousins. We’ve been having a great laugh and calling them Amy and Same-y even though they’re boys. I even did an experiment and asked them to ‘kick’ when I say those names so I may know who picked which name and believe it or not they humoured me by each responding to a different name. I did this for a while just to be sure and my poor sis couldn’t contain her laughter so it took very long because I’d have to wait on her to settle down everytime. My nephews are already such clever boys. 🙂 They do have names already and I’m simply inlove with it. E1 and E2 it will be. And they’ve picked their names in the womb (by way of my experiment) too so we know who is who. It’s decided. I really do hope that I don’t forget their real names and call them Amy and Same-y because 1) I’m bad with names and 2) those names kind of got stuck in my mind.

When she went for a check up last month the babies were breeched and her gynae warned her that if they didn’t turn on her next visit a C-section would be the order of the day. Last week she went for a check up and found that one of the twinsies (E2) is still in breech position so C-section it will be. Appointment has been set and in less than two weeks I’m going to be an aunt. In real life. I’ve been the only sister with kids for almost 14 years so this is going to be awesome. I’m bubbling over with excitement.

To be fair I must tell you that I am an aunt already, it just doesn’t feel like it sometimes. My niece whom I love to bits, Miss Z, is my sister-by-the-laws child. Because of the strained relationship between us adults, I don’t have that connection or freedom with Miss Z and all communications (like when we want to invite her to spend holidays or weekends at our place) are done via the hubster. It’s sucky because I sometimes find myself having to watch what I say and treat her for the fear of my actions or words being misinterpreted and then if word gets to the mom I’ll be the wicked witch again. Then there are times when I couldn’t care less because whether I do or don’t I’ll be damned. I really can’t pretend or fake all that well with anyone, even with kids. Besides kids can feel when they’re loved and I’ve got lots of love to give so I’m safe I guess. I’m really an OK person and you don’t need to understand me like a Math equation to know this. I’m way too simple for that. 1 + 1 = ME

Maybe I’m getting this all wrong but I already feel there will be a difference between my aunty-dom. It’s my kid sister and the bond between siblings are always that much stronger than with in-laws. Not to mention the fact that it’ll be a double dose of boys which will keep my broodiness at bay. Yes, 3 kids later I still get that. Heaven only knows why. I’ll be living vicariously through my sis and doting on my nephews until they start crying and hand them right back over to their mom and dad. I’ve never been great with crying babies and that’s the stage I’m really at right now.

Maybe once Amy and Same-y are older I’ll get myself a puppy. It feels good to be needed and relied upon since my kids are getting so independent and growing much to fast for my liking.