Tag Archives: mother-in-law

Empty nesters

Boxes, and peanuts, and tape – oh my!

Yup, that’s my youngest having a snack, watching TV, and lounging in one of my mother-in-law’s moving boxes.

We are about to have an empty nest.

My mother-in-law is heading northeast this month and the rest of us will head west to California, in December.

How long have I known about this?

Since early August.

Why am I just writing about it?

I struggled with what to say and what not to say.

The move for hubby, the kids, and me is great. New job, promotion, more diversity, and new adventures – I’m thrilled!

The move for my mother-in-law…well, I don’t know what I can say about that. I have never tried to tell her story here – and I’m not starting now.

Why isn’t she coming to California with us?

I’m not so sure about that, either. No clear, succinct, or press release-esque message or response has been provided to me, and I’m not going to push for it.

With this exciting change came a huge wave of discomfort.

Discomfort around:

  • finances
  • security
  • power plays
  • passive aggressive behavior
  • communication
  • openness
  • gratitude
  • familiar structure
  • relationships

Since early August, I feel like I’ve been on this rickety teeter toter of joy, pain, anger, and jubilation. It’s completely exhausting.

What have I gained from all this?

Clarity.

Clarity on what it means to keep family structures positively in place. How to listen intently to the emotions behind the ill-chosen words. How to dig deep and recalibrate a personal lens and shift it to a lens focused on compassion.When to stop talking and let it all play out. How to find internal joy and create space for love in the chaos of change.

It’s been a humbling and lovely experience all at once.

Would I do this all again?

Absolutely – but for a shorter period of time.

Will I continue to write about multigenerational/intergenerational families and in-law dynamics?

Yes! This is a topic near and dear. I greatly enjoy supporting my readers, clients, and community. It’s a full nest will stick around.

Will I ever live in a multigenerational household again?

I’m counting on it!

 

 

 

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Insert foot into mouth

I received a  hilarious but serious text from my friend (let’s call her Clara) that read,

“Hi dear. Would love to see you and have a little happy hour. Also, I did a mother-in-law f*ck up and will need some coaching on this. xo”

I chuckled and then wondered what had gone down. You see, Clara has three adult children, one is married and has a new baby, and I knew Clara was returning from a recent visit with her new grandchild.

We met up and before I could ask what happened with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandbaby, Clara told me we would be needing a whole bottle of wine, maybe more.

Uh oh!

During Clara’s visit, she offered to watch the baby, so the new parents could have some alone time. (Nice. So far no faux pas.) The daughter-in-law is nursing the baby and has a very set schedule on when the baby should be fed. Clara nursed her kids on demand and really didn’t understand the need for the scheduled feedings, so she said she would try to comply.

The new parents wanted the baby to be put down for a nap at a certain time. Clara did not try to meet this “demand”. She was enjoying the baby, playing with him, rolling on the floor, and being in full grandmother mode.

When the parents returned home, Clara had an “oh shit” moment. She was concerned the couple would be upset the baby wasn’t napping, but they completely overlooked that. The couple wanted to know why the baby was so bubbly, giggly, and completely enamored with Clara.

Clara’s response, “Well, I was actually playing and interacting with him.” (Oh wow, Clara, you said WHAT?)

The new parents were immedidately upset and started to tell Clara all the playful things they were doing with their new baby. The new mother, Clara’s daughter-in-law, had the  most to say since she’s at home with the baby full-time.

Clara’s response, “That’s momentary play. When I observe you all, the baby is on a blanket with toys while you all are on the computer or doing something else. That’s not playing or interacting.

When I heard that last line, my face must have gone all wick wacky because Clara looked directly at me and said, “By your reaction, I can tell I really f*cked up, huh?

Me, “Yes you did, but this not as bad as you think, this time.”

I tried to explain the delicate nature of in-law-hood and how that dynamic can become positively stronger or painfully weaker once grandchildren enter the picture. Gen Xers are an interesting crew as they are the most educated (sometimes overly) generation of our current history. For Gen Xers, sometimes parenthood is approached as a way to get things “right” since the 70s, when most gen Gen Xers were born, were pretty much chaotic, experimental, and just nutty. Many Gen Xers intellectualize parenting and feel they can reason their way in and out of daily parenting duties. Gen Xers typically do not want to be martyr parents and often have clear lines on when they are parents and when they are just themselves. When they are devoting one-on-one play time with their kids – that should count for a lot and Gen Xers want their credit.

Clara kept sipping on her wine as I talked.

She said, “Your generation sounds way too complicated. But what should I do?

Yes, she is right. Gen Xers are complicated and we don’t plan on making any shifts in the near future. I told her the question, from her son and daughter-in-law, was loaded and she should have kept her response simple. I asked her to think back to when she was a new mother and if she was sensitive-to-overly sensitive about comments made about her as a new mom or her parenting skills. Then I told her to imagine being in the same position with all the news, internet, message board, etc. – that also make comments about new parents.

She said, “You’re right, it is complicated and I should have kept my mouth shut.”

I told her mother-in-law’s and grandmothers are great resources for new parents. My mother-in-law was amazingly supportive of me when both my kids were born; and of course with her living with us – she continues to be a great and supportive resource.

I told Clara to remember the follow items so she does not find herself in the hot seat again – or in the near future:

  1. Keep it short and simple.
  2. Ask clarifying questions before responding to potentially loaded or controversial questions.
  3. Stay in your own business.
  4. Don’t compare (Well when I was a new mother, I would…).
  5. Remember your own relationship with your mother-in-law (positive and negative aspects). Then put yourself in the position of your daughter-in-law when you interact.
  6. When you screw up, say you’re sorry, and try better next time.
  7. Forgive yourself and each other.

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So many projects – so little time

I haven’t posted anything, lately, on the various crafting projects we have going on in this nest.

Why?

Because we have so many!

We have been staying close to home and playfully creating a little bit of everything.

Here’s a semi-tiny summary of what we’re spending time creating.

Go Pack!

Yes, I’m a Wisconsin native, and yes I’m thrilled the Packers are the Super Bowl champions. My daughter and I made these t-shrits for our little Super Bowl soiree. Check out the tutorial, to make your own t-shirts, on Made.

Yes, more fabric paints and freezer paper stencils being put to use.

Love is in the air.

As you can see, Valentine’s Day is on our minds. We decided to make our own “mailboxes” for the home. Everyone in our nest made one and we will hang them on our bedroom doors – ready for our goody exchange on February 14th.

This project was quick and easy. All it took was:

  • scissors
  • card stock
  • felt
  • glue (glue gun)
  • ribbon
  • rickrack
  • creativity & imagination

Some of you may have seen our Valentine’s Day wreath on our Facebook page.

Yup, that is our wreath from Christmas. It is looking fun and festive on our door.

We bought the decorations at the Dollar Store and in the dollar section at Target. Our glue gun was hard at work.

My mother-in-law and my kids love to work with Model Magic. They create so many different characters and creatures. I could take a gazillion pictures of their creations, but I practiced some restraint.

This is just about the cutest alien I’ve ever seen. My daughter made him (her?) for her Model Magic parade.

I came downstairs and saw this fascinating pile of folded paper. I do not know what this technique is called, but I refer to it as accordian paper fun.

My mother-in-law and my kids have been working with the paper. They are creating a wallhanging for my office.

I cannot wait to see the final project. Yes, I’ll be sure to post a picture once it’s complete and hanging on my office’s wall.

***

Let us know what fun projects you have going on. We love new ideas!

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Love and kindness – during challenging situations & conversations

A book I would recommend for multigenerational families and families in general, is The Legend of the Valentine Board Book:  An Inspirational Story of Love and Reconciliation. I cannot remember how this book made it into our home library, but I enjoy reading it to my kids as Valentine’s Day approaches and we celebrate Black History Month.

Don Tate’s illustrations are detailed and gorgeous. The expressions of the characters bring to the life the words on the page. My three-year-old enjoyed  pointing out various items he saw  in the book – items similar to what he’s exposed to in our home or at his school (e.g. crayons, craft supplies, and Valentine’s Day cards).

Katherine Grace Bond graciously tackles racism, prejudice, bullying, and voting rights in the story. Marcus, the main character, is a pillar of grace and understanding as he learns to cope as the only student of color in his class, during one of the tumultuous eras in U.S. history. His grandmother is a role model of peace and understanding as she supports Marcus in honoring who his is and keeping his values intact through love, understanding, and kindness.

For me, this book brings up a challenge I think about daily, specifically since we relocated to Colorado in 2002. My children are often the only children of color in many settings, and I spend a lot of time checking on their self-awareness and making sure they understand some of the imposed inequities they will face as they make their way in the world. We talk about racial conflicts, stereotyping, and prejudice openly.  I want to my children to feel safe and comfortable in discussing how the racial construct (along with its oppressive “cousins”) plays out because the reality of this construct is not something that is long gone or in the past.

I find it difficult and enlightening to talk with my mother-in-law about some of the racially perpetuated issues and challenges my children are facing and will face as they grow up. I know many of our conversations about race issues are uncomfortable for my mother-in-law because:

1) I believe she thinks we (our nation) have come farther than we really have come,

2) I’m not always so patient with her during these discussions – because I think she should better equipped (with strategies and language) after raising three biracial children (I’m working on my patience and compassion),

and 3) talks about racism, prejudices, and other related topics are not often fun and they tend to be painful.

Reading this book with my children gives us all a natural discussion prompt for talking about topics related to race, prejudice, and acceptance. Many families often skip these discussions and refuse to believe ”it” still exists. They may use the “if it doesn’t come up, it’s not a problem” approach or “we are not those kinds of people” tactic. The point I’m making and what Bond uses her book to explain is – we have a long way to go and we all are going to have to do the work.

Here are some resources if your family and you need them:

Teaching Children Begins by Taking a Look at Ourselves

Talking to our Children about Racism and Diversity

Talking about Race, Age-by-Age

Talking about Race – Resources for Multiracial Families

The Truth About Race: How To Talk About It With Your Children

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Facebook confessional 1: To live or not live with your mother-in-law

I attended a fun party in late August and had the chance to meet some new people. I love people and I love to network. I think it’s fun to meet new people, find out who you know in common, learn about shared interests, and drink a bunch of good wine.

At this party, I was talking to a spunky woman who had on gorgeous shoes. She grabbed a great bottle of Pinot Grigio to set near us so we didn’t have to pause our conversation for refills.

When we got to “so what do you do”, she wanted to know how I appeared so balanced and not worn around the edges with kids, a traveling husband, and my own job. I explained my multigenerational living set-up, and she stared at me like I was speaking in tongues.

HER:  WHAT? You let your mother-in-law live with you? What is THAT about?

ME:  We enjoy it. It helps hubby and me focus on work as needed. We have more time to spend with our kids after work. My mother-in-law helps makes the house run well, and you know, the kids get to be with their grandmother.

HER:  Hmmm…Well how long will she be there? I mean did she just show up and not leave?

ME:  We invited her to live with us in 2007 when our youngest was born. I’m not sure how long she will live with us. We haven’t discussed that.

HER:  There is absolutely NO WAY my mother-in-law could live with us. NO WAY! You let me know if you need help getting your mother-in-law out of there.

At that point, I was pretty much done with the conversation. I politely excused myself and seriously thought about taking that bottle of wine with me as I went to find another person to gab with.

I reflected on this exchange some weeks later and I wanted to know what others thought about living with their mother-in-laws. So I posted a question on Facebook.

The responses where humorous, honest, shocking, emotional, and all over the place.

I came across an interesting study about how family communicate about their in-laws and with their in-laws.

“In one component of this study, the researchers asked daughters-in-law to report on positive and negative aspects of their relationship with the mothers-in-law. (Summary table)  One interesting aspect of these findings is that there are characteristics in this relationship that are listed as positive (i.e., linked to greater satisfaction) and negative factors (i.e., linked to less satisfaction).  This demonstrates that daughters-in-law have different “tastes” when it comes to what they want in their mother-in-law relationship.  For instance, some daughters-in-law felt geographic distance was a barrier to a more positive relationship whereas others believed geographic distance was necessary for a positive relationship.”

Click here to learn more about Dr. Christy Rittenour’s study.

If anyone is considering multigenerational living, they have to make sure this decision is right for them. Effective communication needs to be established when discussions first start and when the multigenerational living arrangement becomes a reality (or not).

Effective communication is essential in developing, maintaining, and strengthening relationships. Here are my top recommendations for communicating with your mother-in-law and in a multigenerational household:

  1. Practice (yes practice) active listening. This is a skill a lot of people do not have.
  2. Be honest and specific. Stick to the facts and do your best not to overgeneralize.
  3. Respond to what is being communicated instead of reacting.
  4. Adjust your communication style to the situation, age/generation of the other person involved, and the circumstance.
  5. Use common language. Speaking over your mother-in-law’s head (or anyone else’s) leads to unnecessary miscommunication and frustration. Your goal is to have the receiver understand, accept, and apply what you’ve communicated.
  6. Admit you are human and that you make mistakes. We all have stories to share when things are going well or when things are disharmonious. Showing you are human communicates your level of care for the other person involved.
  7. Love, respect, and forgive each other.

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The new Hawaii Five-O {mother-in-law weighs in}

My husband, his twin brother, and their older sister were born in Hawaii. My husband lived there until he was about eight-years-old and then he moved back to the mainland with his mom (my *mother-in-law) and his siblings.

During our courtship and marriage, I have been fascinated about this part of my hubby’s life. A big contribution to this fascination is the way my mother-in-law becomes all dreamy eyed and animated when she talked about her life in Hawaii.

When I found out CBS was remaking Hawaii Five-O, I had to know what my mother-in-law thought about this. She did not hesitate to share her perspective.

[Summary of the contemporary version.]

K: Did you know they were remaking Hawaii Five-O?

MIL: The question is why?????? No I didn’t.

Source

K: OK, I have more nosey questions. How long did you live in Hawaii?

MIL:  12+ years

K: What made you decide to move there?

MIL: Too long of an answer and too involved etc.

K: [giggle] Would you ever move back?

MIL: No, unless to outer island.  Also [I] would need much more disposable income because toooooo far away from everyone. That was a reason for moving back; the age of my grandmother, [my] kids didn’t know their grandparents.  I don’t even need to visit again. Never really felt I was in the tourist role. Too many changes last time.

K: ¡Viva multigenerational living! Did you watch the original Hawaii Five-O?

MIL: Of course.  Don (the father K’s hubby) was even in a couple of episodes as an extra. We did those sessions like you-all (meaning Kanesha and her girlfriends) do the Oscars!  It was always fun trying to figure out where they were.

Source

K:  Who were your favorite characters?

MIL:  The Hawaiian guy of course.

K: [bigger giggle] Did you ever see the original being filmed while you were living in Hawaii?

MIL: No.

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