Monday, April 7, 2014

We Are Family

Good Monday morning, or as we say around here- Day Six. My plan for today was to get ahead of the game letter-wise in the A-Z Challenge, but that's going to prove, uh, challenging. As it happens I now have a car thing that needs repairing, plus I was reminded last night I'd signed up to bring refreshments to Bible Study tomorrow, and then there's the usual Monday morning stuff that needs doing. We'll see how far ahead of the game I actually manage to get, but caught up would be a good place to start.

F is for Family

Did you know when you got married you were not just getting the groom, but his whole family too? Guess what else? He was also getting a whole new family-yours! In your head you know this, but what does it mean in the day to day living of real life? 

I could simply insert here "see my post on letter E is for Expectation", because when it comes to extended family there is gonna be some expectation. How will you celebrate the holidays and with whom? How will you raise-educate-discipline-feed your parent's grandchildren? If you are not living geographically near extended family will you use vacation time to travel and see family? Is that their expectation too? If they are living nearby is dropping in on you unannounced okay? 

There's plenty more where that came from, but I think you get the idea.

When hubs and I were first married we lived about 10 hours from my parents, and 20 minutes from his. I worked in the town where his folks lived, and I remember my father in law coming over to the school to help me out with car trouble a couple of times. Hubs and I had Sunday lunch or dinner with his parents most weeks, which was really nice. I was a newlywed remember, and going to the in laws for dinner felt like a grown up thing to do. 

I'm glad we took advantage of those Sunday afternoons because nine months after we married hubs took a new job, and we moved eight hours away. Course now we were only five hours from my parents, but in essence, not all that geographically close to either set. In the last 30 years we've lived as close as two hours from my family and as far as some 4,000 miles and a trans-Atlantic flight from absolutely all family. Our siblings are spread hither and yon too, so logistics people. Always a lot of logistics!

Hubs and I both come from two parent families, and we each have three siblings. All of our siblings are currently married and some have children. In terms of how we were each raised there were a great many similarities. I think the first 'test' for me was that first Christmas I had to spend away from my own parents and  home. With his family. 

I admit I'm a great big baby when it comes to Christmas, although I guess I've grown up a little in this area. Not completely, but some. My family had some very definite traditions that I did not want to let go of, and fortunately hubs family had similar traditions. 

Except they didn't get up before the sun rose on Christmas morning.  

I remember my first Christmas with his family, hubs and I spent the night before at his grandmother's place. She lived just across the street, so I warned his siblings I would be over before 7 AM, in my pajamas, ready for the day to begin, and they best be ready too.

I think they thought I was kidding. 
They're used to me now-ha! 

I am lucky. I love my extended family with all my heart. Everyone who knows my mother-in-law knows I got a good one. She is always encouraging and completely supportive, but still early on there were a few tiny little kinks to work out. I did after all marry the number one son, and give birth to the number one grandchild. 

I've noticed amongst my friends who are mothers to sons, that these mamas have to figure out how this woman-interloper is going to fit in with the family, how their new daughter-in-law is going to make room for the mother to remain a part of her son's life. Not at the center of course, because God does instruct a man to leave his mother and cleave to his wife, and he absolutely needs to do that. But God also commands us to honor our parents, so what we need to find is balance.  

I have an easy relationship with my mother-in-law, partly due to her temperament, partly due to mine, but mostly due to a willingness on both sides to give a little, let go a little, and love a lot.

Dear Sweet Daughters of mine-

Don't believe all the negative press mothers-in-law get. Think of your very own grandmothers, and the wonderful mothers they've been to your own mom and dad. The heart is an amazing thing, and it's capacity to love is boundless. Open your heart wide to the woman who birthed your favorite boy, and remember she is entrusting you with the care and keeping of her most precious possession. This is not an easy thing for all mothers to do, so be extra kind. 

I hope and pray you get in laws who recognize and esteem your sweet tender hearts, but know that relationships take time to grow, and you need to give this one time. Do take care to feed and water it regularly. As a wife, daughter in law, mother of the grandchildren, you are the one who most often ends up holding the communication keys. Call, email, write letters, send texts and pictures, share the little things where you can. Small gestures and acts of kindness go a long way toward building a solid relationship with your extended family.   

Healthy boundaries are good too and it's okay, essential even, to the health of your marriage to set some. Let your husband be the one to tell his parents if they've overstepped, and you do the same with your own.  Of course Daddy and I will never overstep. teehee.  

Mostly though, enjoy this new family you marry into. It takes all kinds to make the world go round, so embrace the similarities, and don't get hung up on the differences. I pray your lives are made richer by the people God adds to your future family. I know for certain theirs will be sweeter with you in their midst.   


wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in law, sister, sister-in-law
...and future mother-in-law to some very lucky boys!


  1. I'm going to become a mother-in-law later this year, so I'll definitely keep your words in mind!!

  2. Nice post,Joyce. I think all this motherinlawing would be a lot easier if families lived closer together like they used to. I could write many paragraphs on this subject, but won't.

  3. I have been blessed with truly wonderful in-laws. But as you said, the road has not been without it's bumps. But we've always been able to work things out. I love my in-laws and I believe my husband feels the same about mine.

  4. You've written a great post here, filled with lots of helpful advice!
    At times, being a mother-in-law is a little tougher than I imagined it would be. Sometimes, it's difficult to learn to share, but share we must :)

  5. Precious, Joyce. What a wonderful legacy and example you are passing down to your daughters. I was not so blessed in the MIL area, but I vowed to not repeat that with my Daughter-in-Love, and thankfully, we have a precious, balanced relationship of mutual love and understanding. Such a blessing!

  6. Sweet letter to your daughters.....
    Enjoyed all the photos and glad you love your extended family.

  7. Oh I loved this! I never had to deal with mil issues, either good or bad, as my hubby lost his mother to cancer when he was just 14. How I would have LOVED to have known her. And I honestly feel I might be the most blessed mil around as my dil's are truly wonderful. We have just the best relationship. They are both careful to always include me, and I have NEVER tried to be the number one gal in my son's lives after they took a wife. Not my role anymore. I will admit it was a little easier to let go of my sons to their wives, then my daughter to her husband. Maybe because the sons all live close and I see them often, whereas my daughter is 1000 miles away. But your right, it is as it should be. There is that balance to make, and I am grateful for how good I have it as I have heard some horror stories, lol. Enjoy your week!

  8. thank you for the sweet letter and encouraging advice!
    Also, I think you will be the best MIL one day hopefully soon ;)

  9. Your post was heart-warming. I had a great MIL and have lived both close and away from both sets of parents, so I can relate to many of your observations.
    Best wishes,

  10. Miss, miss, miss mine whom I lost when I was 26. I think I am a great mother-in-law, but I have sons and you know the saying, "A son is a son before he takes a wife. . . ."

  11. I too have a wonderful mother-in-law and family of in-laws. DH had to work last night, so I was going to be the only one representing our own family at the extended family get-together last night, which I didn't mind one bit. But at the last minute DS1 decided to fly in for the day, so that was wonderful too! We lived on the other side of the country from both of our families for over 10 years, so it is wonderful to be close enough to spend quality time with family now.

  12. Okay, Joyce, you really should write a Marriage Manuel because you are so "right on" with your thoughts! I'm so enjoying your A-Z blogs! Happy new week!

  13. You do have some wonderful in-laws! My MIL has always been extremely good to me. I have a couple of wonderful examples in her & my own mom to know how to be a good MIL! (My future DILs don't know how good they're going to have it!)

  14. Such a nice read! I got lucky with my mother-in-law (both times!). And Joe loved my mom, too. I have been blessed with my extended family. Blessed, indeed!! I love your photos, and it is nice to read about this part of your life! Thanks for sharing!

  15. hahaha I loved your sign-off. Also, as the DIL to a wonderful MIL, I appreciate your thoughts on MILs.

  16. So true that we marry a family when marry our loved one. Every young woman (and man) bride would benefit from knowing that. This is a very enlightening theme you got going here!

  17. I would like to send this to someone I know.

  18. This is one aspect of marriage that many don't think about before hand. I think adding the extended family hurts many who aren't prepared for change.

  19. I'm a six hour plane ride from my parents and one sister and a six hour car ride from my NJ sisters....I often wish I had family closer but sometimes don't miss the drama that follows that. Living in Germany condition us to holidays without family but it's still weird to me.