My husband and I have been married for a couple of years now, and we recently decided to “take the plunge” into the waters of living with his mom, my mother-in-law. She’s been living alone off and on in his childhood home for many years now. With some recent health scares from the last year (and, admittedly, us wanting to save more money to buy our first home), we decided this would be a symbiotic choice of happiness and growth for us all.
Of course I was concerned about our privacy as a married couple, our dogs destroying her beautifully kept lawn, and our love for loud music becoming a nuisance for her. But all those concerns subsided when I was blind-sided by my most difficult adjustment of all: learning to be loved by my mother-in-law.
When I was in elementary school, my mom died from cancer. Cancer took her quickly, I was confused, and I’ve spent every day of my life since then trying to understand loss and grieve in all the different happy and sad phases of my life so far. The weight of her absence ebbs and flows, but I remember it first hit me hard when I met my high-school boyfriend’s family.
His mother was so warm and kind and maternal, and I found myself loving that presence and looking forward to seeing her at his house. Yet sometimes, I would have brief moments of envy that he had a mom like her and sadness that I didn’t. Throughout our relationship, I became extremely close with his mother and his entire family. When my boyfriend and I split in college, I was sad things didn’t work out between us, but I was equally sad I wouldn’t have his mom in my life anymore.
Fast forward to when I met my husband’s mother. It was clear to me that their relationship was strong and that he truly loves her, and I have always adored witnessing their dynamic. The way he hugs her, the way he kisses her on her cheek, and how he helps her up the stairs and opens the car door for her. The way they talk on the phone almost every day just to say “hi.” She cooks us endless meals made from love and tradition and is always drumming up (sometimes comical) remedies for our random ailments. She is soft, gentle, and a loving mother in every sense. I have grown to love her, too, and I know she loves me.
So, when I instantly found myself uncomfortable and lost in this new living space when we moved in to her house, I was surprised and confused by my feelings that came out of nowhere. As she offered me food, conversation, and company when my husband worked late, I became overwhelmed and anxious and receded to our room and cried. I was embarrassingly confused and mad at myself for acting unintentionally cold to her — unable to find the words to explain to my husband as to why I was feeling this way, because I didn’t even understand myself.
I had never had an issue with her until reality hit me that I was about to embark on a new phase in my life where I would become emotionally (and obviously geographically) closer to his sweet, loving mother more than ever before. And that scared the living crap out of me… and that has been a difficult thing to admit to myself, my husband, and my mother-in-law.
Every day since we’ve moved in has been a slow but steady improvement for us all, where we’re learning to understand each other better and appreciate each other under one roof. Just like anything else that is new or foreign to you, you need to practice it — so I am. I am practicing being out of my comfort zone every day I am home where I am learning to embrace a home of love and family, and I am confident it will become familiar to me with a lot of communication, patience, and time.