Monday, January 4, 2010

The Mother-in-Law's Manual

I bought myself a book recently, "The Mother-in-Law's Manual", by Susan Abel Lieberman, Ph.D. I should have bought this book years ago, when I first became a mother-in-law. I have two beautiful daughters-in-law whom I both like and love and so I thought, naively, that I would have no trouble being the perfect mother-in-law. It has since come to my attention that I was wrong. So I bought this book.

Here's an excerpt: "There are, I have discovered, ten commandments for mothers-in-law. These rules are not mine. They come from mothers-in-law of every color, race, class, and disposition. Given the diversity of the women, the uniformity of opinion on this compels attention -- also discussion. Here are the ten most recommended rules:

1. Keep your mouth shut.
2. Keep your mouth shut.
3. Keep your mouth shut.
4. Keep your mouth shut.
5. Keep your mouth shut.
6. Keep your mouth shut.
7. Keep your mouth shut.
8. Keep your mouth shut.
9. Keep your mouth shut.
10. Keep your mouth shut.

If we all just followed the rules, this book could be one page long. We wouldn't need a book at all. With rules so simple, why is being a mother-in-law a challenge? Ah, we all know..."

There are other great quotes in this book. Like this one: "Hanging on to resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die."

And "Nothing is a big deal. It is what it is, and then it is something else." (That one from Silvia Boorstein in "It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness")

I can't say that this book will turn me into the perfect mother-in-law that I thought I already was, but it's trying. And near the end of the book, it explains why I jolly well better be trying, too: "Be kind to the people who will choose your nursing home."

The very last chapter is composed of letters the author requested and received from daughters-in-law and sons-in-law who answered her plea to say what they would like to say to their mothers-in-law. Every one said, basically, "back off". "Love us, respect us, believe that we can take care of ourselves... but be there to help when we ask... and only when we ask."

Makes a person eager for her grandchildren to grow up and marry so their parents can become mothers-in-law and sons-in-law themselves. Then I'd love to give them this book. But, alas, that would violate every one of the ten commandments for mothers-in-law: Keep your mouth shut. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your mouth shut. And, last but not least: keep your mouth shut.

1 comment:

  1. I don't really agree with the "back off" principle, because I want an actual relationship with in-laws, not a tidy, tiptoe around type thing. That being said, I don't think anyone likes criticism, and while I am no different in that respect, I do desire and NEED my in-laws assistance and support, especially where my children are concerned. I wouldn't ever want them to back off-- I need them! Mostly qI appreciate kind words just like anyone would.
    My mother in law has never said anything even approaching criticism to me--- once she tsked at my dishwasher loading technique, but that was pretty dang minor. She is a master of the art of keeping her mouth shut, so much that sometimes I wonder what she really thinks.... at those times I find my mother, who always tells me exactly what she thinks refreshing.