It’s part of our culture to maintain close ties with extended family. More often than not, we grow up playing with our cousins, always seeing our titos and titas, and spending time with our grandparents. Hence, when we say ‘family,’ we refer to almost all the relatives we know.
Thus, more often than not, we know that our own children will be brought up knowing their extended families. These extended families include not only relatives from our side, but also from that of our husband.
Once a baby is born, the two families become more deeply connected. Married or not, our baby links these two families. We can’t ignore the fact that there’s a whole other side of the family our baby is related to, and so this should motivate us to develop these relationships or at the very least, maintain civil connections.
So how do we beat the myth (often a lie) that our in-laws are out to get us?
1. Get to know your in-laws. For me, when I look at my husband, I realize how grateful I am for my in-laws who raised him to be a man of steadfast faith, honesty, and commitment. In getting to know my in-laws, I get to know my husband more. I’m sure many of you can relate. It doesn’t have to be complicated. One way to get to know your in-laws is to engage in conversations with them and discover their likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc.
If you’re married, you didn’t just marry your husband, you also married his family. Your husband is who and what he is because of his roots.
2. Be present in their events and celebrations. Take note of important occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Attend family gatherings. Just as we want our husband to attend our side’s special occasions, they also want us to be there in their side’s celebrations.
When you do attend, make sure that you’re really there. Be present in mind and body: interact and celebrate with them.
3. Never start a fight. It’s a general rule that we ought to choose our battles wisely. As moms, we have our own parenting styles and non-negotiables. There may be times when our in-laws might take a different approach in interacting with our children. Let’s face it – as a rule, grandparents will spoil our children. For the most part, we can let them, but when it comes to our non-negotiables or when our parental authority becomes confusing to our kids, then we should take our stand without having to fight with them.
If there’s something about your in-laws that contradicts your non-negotiables, it’s best to first talk to your husband. He would be in a better position to discuss issues with his side.
4. Learn to listen. Our own side will be giving a lot of unsolicited advice on marriage and parenting. So will our in-laws. If we really listen, we’ll realize that most of them actually make sense. Not all the advice may be practical or applicable, but they make sense if we consider their own experiences.
You don’t have to apply everything your in-laws say but listening will actually help you. You’ll learn more than you expect – not just about marriage and parenting, but also about your husband. So don’t be so quick to dismiss what your in-laws have to say. Listen to them as much as you’d want them to listen to you.
5. Allow them to spend time with your child. Your bundle of joy is a bundle of joy to them as well. Let them play with your kid and take care of him/her while you’re at work or on date night. Let them get to know and be proud of your child. But don’t expect them to discipline your kid and fulfill all your parental duties. Disciplining your child is a shared responsibility between you and your husband.
6. Let them get to know you too. In order for all of you to truly be a family, you need to be comfortable around them. You can only do this by letting them get to know who you are as a wife, as a mom, and as a person. Share your interests and experiences with them and be honest with them. There’s no perfect woman, so don’t waste your energy trying to be one in front of your in-laws. Be yourself. You owe that to your husband, your child, and most especially, yourself.
7. Spend time with them and do things together. When you’re comfortable enough, spend time with your in-laws even if your husband or child isn’t there. Have coffee with them, shop with your MIL/SIL, call them up just to talk, share recipes, plan parties or trips with them, etc. Your relationship with your husband and the existence of your child illustrate that you must have similar interests with your in-laws. Don’t be afraid to be part of their family in the same way that you want your husband to be comfortable with yours.
It’s comforting to realize that your in-laws are also part of your support group, that they too are your family. Of course, this may be hard for some, considering each mama’s unique story, but it’s not impossible to attain.
We don’t need to live in fear, anger, hesitation, or uneasiness around our in-laws. We’re already connected to them and there’s no harm in trying to make the best out of it for the sake of our husband, for the sake of our children, for our own sake, and for the sake of our family.
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