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seven ways to a build a strong bond with your mother-in-law
I know what a lot of you’re thinking…impossible. Yeh, right.
But I’m thinking…why does it have to be?
Personally, I think relationships end up being what you put into them. You give what you receive but you have to be willing to give – whole heartedly and sincerely give or else I don’t believe there’s much room for complaints or bitter feelings about not having the relationships you desire. Not every one of them will work out – personalities differ/conflict, making it virtually impossible sometimes even for the most flexible, accommodating person to build a connection with someone with whom they truly want one.
I decided to write this post because of a conversation I had with a dear friend just the other day. We were chatting about how so many things changed since having our little ones and she says, “You seem to have such a good, ‘not forced’ relationship with you mother in law. How did you manage that?” This friend recently had a baby and her mother-in-law moved in for a few months to help out after her own mother left. My friend is obviously very thankful for the much needed help right now but in the same breath, she says to me “We have nothing in common. We don’t have anything to talk about when the baby is napping. It’s like you can hear a pin drop! I can’t even communicate with her, I can’t speak Gujarati that well!” It got so bad that she’d considered purchasing a prefab mother in law suite to get some space away from the tension. I honestly didn’t know what to say at first since this has come pretty easy for me. One, I can talk to anyone about pretty much anything – I like to talk, maybe too much sometimes. I can speak my parents’ and in-laws’ native tongue. I’m also lucky that I have an easygoing mother-in-law who is incredibly laid back and doesn’t really have any major expectations. At the same time, I’ve also worked hard to show her that I want to get to know her on a personal level. I think we both have.
I don’t want to just know her for who she is to my husband, his mother or to my son, his grandmother. I want to know what interests her, her feelings on different topics; I want to learn so much from her…and not just her recipes either. We are so similar yet so different and there’s so much to gain.
So in today’s post I’ve laid out what I told my friend which has helped me and continues to help with strengthening the bond between my mother-in-law and me. Tips for building that relationship you perhaps are striving for with your own mother-in-law (or anyone for that matter). Hope this helps and remember, anything worth having in this world is worth putting in the effort and hard work…so try and you’ll be amazed at all that you have to gain.
Feel free to leave your advice, tips too. Love hearing back from you guys!
7. Get to know her – I mean really, really know her
I’m still working on this one all the time. I’ve learned about her childhood, being married at a young age, being new to this country (like so many of our moms) and getting accustomed to the big culture shock. I’ve seen pictures that tell lots of stories – (flipping through old picture albums together and having her recount stories has been great, easy and fun way to connect). But I want to know more. Like what dreams did she have for herself when she was younger. What dreams does she still have? Like I said, I still working on this…there’s still so much more to know, so many layers to uncover.
6. Did someone say EAT?!
I call my mother-in-law and ask her for a recipe, a cooking tip and it’s like we’ve instantly added another thick layer to our bond. It’s that simple. You know why? Because she loves to cook, loves food, loves to share her knowledge of the kitchen – she’s amazing in the kitchen. You can see the pride in her eyes over her signature dishes and she equally has pride in me when I attempt to re-create those dishes.
A lot of the time when she comes down to see us, we go to the Korean market (which is her favorite) and pick out new fruits and vegetables to try. I love being able to share in something so simple with her and seeing the joy that doing just this brings her.
5. Stay connected
Let’s face it. A lot of us don’t live in the same city as our family. My in-laws live in San Diego which although is not that far away from us…it doesn’t allow for get together’s as often as you’d think. I make an effort to call my mother and father-in-law at least 3-4 times a week, if not more these days because of Jai, my son. I call just to say hi, to hear their voices. Just to see what she’s made for dinner. Just to hear about a new recipe she’s trying. Just to make sure they are doing ok and healthy. Ever since I had my son Jai, I call/Face Time to give an update on Jai – to tell them about the new things he’s doing or to let them see him. The conversations are usually no longer than 5-10 minutes but I know that she appreciates being thought of. It’s a simple thing to do, to reach out…just have to make time for it.
4. Be interested
I have a friend who enjoys interior design projects with her mother-in-law. They only realized they both have a love for it when she was expecting her first daughter and together, they went to town decorating the baby’s nursery. Now they share a joint love for Pinterest and are constantly re-pinning things to their boards from one another. It gives them another topic to talk about, which really excites them equally. For my mother-in-law and me…it all comes back to food and cooking. It goes both ways too, I’m interested in her cooking and learning all of Hitesh’s favorites and she takes an interest in what I’m making too. Just a couple of weeks ago, she tried out my lasagna recipe and I have to say, it totally made my day to know she enjoyed something I made enough to try to recreate it on her own. She even called me while she was cooking to check on a few steps and I could tell she was genuinely excited for everyone back in San Diego to try it. She called me the very next day to tell me it was a hit! I loved hearing that.
Whether we like to admit or not, our parents have experienced enough in life to be able to give us solid advice and great insight. I have loved hearing about all the little tips and tricks she used herself as young mom to my husband and my sister in laws. She doesn’t insist that I have to do things her way; she simply provides another point of view and I have appreciated and benefited from it very much. I guess my advice for this one is just to be open to your mother-in-law’s advice – doesn’t mean you have to listen to every bit of it but try to at least hear it out and be open to trying some of it out.
2. It’s all in the little things
I need to do more of this…but if I’m at the Indian grocery store, I try to call her and ask if she needs anything. Or I randomly will bring her an exotic fruit or nuts, something from the Korean or Middle Eastern Market. Or I will request a certain dish from her or remind her of how much I can’t wait to drink her special iced hazelnut coffee the next time I see her. Ok, again you can see – we just love to eat and drink – but the point is, these are just little, simple gestures that brighten her day. That I legitimately, sincerely feel compelled to do and which seem to have the most impact because it means that in the day to day grind, I’m taking a few seconds to connect.
1. Call her MOM
Ok this one may be hard for some of you. I know many call their mother-in-laws by first name. That would never happen in the Indian culture. To me, calling my mother-in-law ‘Mom’ was simply a natural first step to laying down the groundwork for our relationship. One thing that was unique about my husband’s family was that he and my sister-in-laws did not call their parents “mom and dad”. It’s a long story and once you hear it…it all totally makes sense. The short of it is this. They grew up in a large joint family and by default ended up calling their aunt and uncle, “mom and dad” because their three older cousins did. Really, it doesn’t matter why…the point is no one really called my in-laws “mom and dad” on a regular basis til I came into the picture. I remember going to their house one day not too long after we were married, and both my in-laws telling me together at how happy being called “mom and dad” made them feel. I knew immediately this simple yet profound action was going to be the single most effective step in creating that closeness, that bond that both she and I hoped for. And I really feel it’s helped both of us to truly treat each other like real mother and daughter.