I am truly blessed to have a godly mother-in-law that prays for me and encourages me. She loves to spend time with our children. She worked hard at raising nine children. She has a lot of wisdom. The question is, "Do I have the humility and security to allow her to teach me?"
I see a lot of young women who do not work at developing their relationship with their mother-in-law. They feel insecure and take what she says as judgment rather than encouragement. The mother-in-law is unsure how to proceed so she backs away, not wanting to further damage the relationship. Our mother-in-laws do have different ideas about how things should be done. That's OK. We need to listen and learn. We need to honor them. They have raised their son to be the fine man that we enjoy and appreciate as our husband. They have given us a gift. Yet it is so much easier to spend most of our time and emotional energy on our own family and leave out our in-laws.
How can we reach out to our in-laws if we have already closed them out? A letter is a good way to start. A thank-you note for raising our husbands with pictures of the children. Appreciation always is appropriate. Have the children write notes to them. When they reach out to us, we should listen and learn. They need encouragement too. Ask them questions and listen to their stories. The things you learn from them are a part of the spiritual heritage you can pass on to your own children. If you have in-laws that are believers, do you know their testimony? Who were the important people that influenced their lives? Remember, give them the benefit of the doubt. They are probably NOT trying to make your life miserable. If they say something that hurts your feelings, put yourself in their place and keep on communicating. Remember, they are putting up with you and your imperfections too.
If you have an out of control in-law, have your husband deal with them primarily, they are his parents. He will need to set boundaries. Continue to pray for them, no matter what. Obviously, sexual predators and violent people will not have access to the children. But this would be an extreme, uncommon situation. In-laws that tear down your family values or are unsupportive of your choices in a vocal way should only have supervised visits with the children. Again, your husband should be the one communicating these limits.
Try and grow your relationship with your in-laws. Include them in your life. Encourage them to spend time with the children. Make regular visits to them and encourage your husband to keep up his communication with them. You will be blessed with a great friend, if you learn to love your mother-in-law. She is someone who wants to see you succeed as a wife and mother. Sometimes she is feeling insecure and doesn't want to step in when she feels unwelcome. It is almost always appropriate for the daughter-in-law to ask for her m-i-l's input and include her in your family life. You will be glad you did.
PS I will write another post soon on being a proper mother-in-law. I want to remember my thoughts for when the time comes for me to step into that role.