Living with Your In-Laws

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I’m Meredith, the 14th Street Y’s Lead Community Catalyst. I help families develop a sense of community at the 14th Street Y, including new parents. In these uncertain times when so much is changing, it’s more important than ever for the 14Y to support new families. So we are proud to offer Virtual Family Programs, including hangouts for new moms and helpful parenting webinars hosted by me.

In my role connecting with 14Y families, I hear from new parents about their challenges. Some struggle to navigate family dynamics with their in-laws. Recently a new mom confided to me that her mother-in-law had just said something like, “You’re better at being a mother than I would have guessed! Even though you can’t cook.”

Who among us doesn’t love a good session of ranting about their mother-in-law? She’s unappreciative? Finds you inadequate? Brags about all the things she did that made your partner turn out so awesome? Expects you to cater to her? Wants to see the baby too much, or not enough? In these stressful times, problems within our family dynamics can be magnified.

But put this thought into your waffle iron and toast it: someday your little baby may have a partner and a kid of their own. Now you’ll be the mother-in-law and some other person will have all of your baby’s attention, and they better be good enough for your baby! What are you going to be like, as a mother-in-law?

I once knew a mom who joked about writing a “prenup” for any future partner of her child, a contract that would keep Mom at the center of her child’s life forever. It was a joke, but it was more than that. It was also an expression of this bittersweet feeling all parents have. One day, after all this work and time and worry, our babies will grow up and leave us. All the earnest love we’ve poured into them will be just their foundation. Foundations are tremendously important — they hold up buildings! But no one looks at the foundation once the building is up.

So be nice to your own mother-in-law, if you have one. And encourage your partner to be loving and expressive about how much he or she digs her, too. Because your baby learns by watching what you do. You want that baby to be good to you when it’s your turn? Be the change you want to see in the world.

Real talk: sometimes this is going to require a lot of character and self-restraint.

It is hard to turn the other cheek. And I am absolutely not saying you should lie down and passively accept anything abusive from any family member. It is vital to set good boundaries with parents and in-laws who can’t play nicely.

But I think only good can come of a lifetime of showing your child that when it comes to family, you try to look for the best in someone and try to find ways to lovingly connect. The message you’re giving is: grown-ups are good to their mothers. There’s enough love to go around. That’s what family is about.

Want more opportunities to connect with other new parents? Check out the 14Y’s Virtual Family Programs for live-streaming classes and hangouts for new families!

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