I think in any culture, relationships with the in-laws can be tricky. I’ve never had an American mother-in-law, so I can’t really compare my experience here to anything, besides what friends tell me and what I see on TV. However, I do think I managed to get pretty lucky. I’m not saying she’s perfect or that we agree on everything, but my mother-in-law has treated me like a perfectly capable adult from the very beginning (my husband, of course, will remain her little boy for the rest of his life). She’s friendly without being overbearing, interested in art and travelling, always sends us home with food, and she even seems to have gotten used to some of my more unusual language and cultural quirks. And besides the one, big, obligatory blow-out during wedding planning (which, after the wedding, she totally admitted I was right about), she’s never tried to force her opinions or advice on me. Sometimes she even asks mine on things like museums to visit during her travels. Overall, we accept and like each other a good deal, while acknowledging that we are very different people who will never be BFFs, but that’s totally okay for both of us.
That being said, I do still feel the need to impress my mother-in-law as often as I can. Maybe to show her that she got lucky too (I bake, I sew, I build Ikea furniture, I’m every mother’s dream for her son!). Or maybe because of my middle child syndrome, I need all the motherly attention I can get. Probably a little of both.
This weekend we celebrated the birthdays of both my brother- and sister-in-law. My MIL had ordered something for her daughter that hadn’t arrived yet and called me Saturday morning to see if I would have time to go into town so there’d be at least a little something to open the next day. She told me to get a t-shirt “kind of flashy, maybe for our trip to la Reunion this summer, and not like 100€ or anything.”
This was a whole new level in our MIL/DIL relationship. She doesn’t tend to involve me in “family drama” (not that this was at all dramatic), which I have always interpreted as her treating me like an adult with my own life, not as her not considering me part of the family. The biggest favor she’s asked me in the past was to make cheesecakes for a dinner she hosted for out-of-town guests. Liking my cheesecake is one thing, but trusting my taste in fashion is pretty serious. And it’s really not even my taste, it’s my interpretation of her taste for her daughter, with fairly vague instructions. So to say I spent quite some time looking in a few different stores trying to find the right thing is a bit of an understatement.
I’m not sure why this was so much more stressful than the cheesecakes. Maybe because you can always blame cooking failures on the equipment or the ingredients or the weather. But if she didn’t like the t-shirt, I couldn’t exactly blame the store for having ugly stuff. In the end, it was my choice and mine alone.
Presents were opened before we ate, so I didn’t have to sit through the entire 3-hour French Sunday lunch worrying about it. And . . . both the MIL and SIL were very happy with what I picked! Hurray!
So while my baking skills have been established for awhile, it seems I have now impressed her with my eye for fashion as well. It’s natural that our relationship changes as the years go by, and I’m happy that it’s still developing in a positive way. It puts me at ease for the big change coming this summer, and the new little family member that will change our relationship in all sorts of ways!