I often get this question or statement, “I don’t know how you do it?” This is often referred to having my mother in law stay in our home. I’m going to be brutally honest and tell you that it’s not easy. It’s not because we have conflict or disagree, but because it’s the biggest character building experience of my life.
When we first moved into our current home and she was with us, we had a long conversation before we moved in. Basically around our boundaries and what we can expect from each other and how to manage living together.
What was so interesting is that, conversations are one thing but reality is intensely different. What proceeded to happen was that I kicked into “nesting mode” and trying to get my family into routine in our new home and so did my mom in law. So it quickly became an issue because I was trying to do things my way and she was trying to help by doing things her way. Plus I wasn’t expecting her to get involved with the kids or any of my responsibilities. We clashed immediately. There were tears, hard conversations that followed and a few more misunderstandings to boot. But, we worked through it with Tim as our mediator and came to a compromise where we could both be who we are without encroaching on one anothers way of doing things.
It was still hard because we had hoped to have built a space for her at the back and that didn’t, and still hasn’t happened. I know that that has been a battle for her because there was an expectation that we had set and honestly we had hoped to do it but couldn’t.
So, for two years we made it work. In the second year, I got pregnant with Jude and so it was great to have her around for the girls so that I could rest. It’s also been great because she’s a babysitter right in our home. Woohoo! So, Jude gets born and I started the whole ‘newborn – this is my kid and I’m doing it my way’ thing. And we were back to square one.
So all over again, I had to learn how to communicate my way of doing things without being condescending and I think for her it was hard to deal with this hormonal mess that was being all possessive over her “way” of doing things.
Man, from my side it was tough because I’m very set on being independent and being able to manage a home and not assuming that other people will do it for me. She (I’ve come to learn) loves to clean up and keep herself busy around the house.
And honestly the penny dropped for me last year (our third year staying together) and that was – I don’t need to be superhuman and do everything my way. There are things she leaves me to deal with, like disciplining the kids and sorting them out but I have learnt to let her be her and she’s letting me be me. It’s a fine balance between pride and humility – and it’s a constant process of reminding myself that that is more important than how clothes are hung on the line (yes that was one of the small – but big – issues)
I remind myself that my kids have the privilege of having both grand mothers around and that they should both be enjoyed no matter how much time is spent with either. They’re naturally not going to be here forever so we should savor every moment and not cloud it with unnecessary “stuff”.
We are able to talk through things that bother us now without conflict and it’s amazing how far we’ve come.
So, to answer the question, honestly – we take it one day at a time and manage our conversations as best as we can to make sure we honour and respect each other as well as show our kids that conflict can be managed and dealt with properly without slamming doors or walking out on each other.