While every newly married couple is warned about nightmare mother-in-laws (we’ve all heard the jokes), something that is not mentioned is the sudden change in the balance of the family as a whole when one of your children gets married. As well as gaining a daughter or son, you are gaining a whole other family who will become part of yours for ever. Their advice will be just as important as yours and their role just as key. You will all attend the same ‘big’ events. You will love and care about the same people. And if you are lucky enough, you will become co-grandparents – and both be quite sure no-one has loved this grandchild quite like you!
Hoping my son’s wife would like his mother
When my son Jordan met Alanna, I was thrilled for him to have found such a loving, kind and beautiful partner. She was very inclusive of me as Jordan’s mother – and believe me, not every girlfriend is! As the mother of an only son, the one thing I prayed for was for him to marry someone who liked his mother! Yet to be absolutely frank, I experienced a roller-coaster of emotions when Jordan announced he was getting married . . . not that I didn’t like my new daughter-in-law-to-be – I loved her! But I was looking forward to really getting to know her and a nice l-o-n-g engagement of 20 years or so . . . . However, they were engaged and married within two months! No chance for me to get broken in and acclimatize to the idea – suddenly my baby (he was 32) was a married man . . . ! I must admit I had the fear, but my lovely and loving daughter-in-law soon put this to rest and I realized I had nothing to worry about . . . as the cliché says, I had not lost a son but gained a daughter . . .
Two sets of grandparents have to get along
But what if you don’t get along with your new ‘family’ . . . there may be basic, fundamental differences in approaches to life, be they beliefs, attitudes, outlook . . . there may be jealousy. You might just plain not like one another! One set of grandparents may spend wildly on their golden grandchild while you believe it is unwise to spoil a child . . . or maybe you believe in good manners as co-grandma lets the child run wild. It can be galling if you then risk being the less popular grandmamma! It can put your daughter or son in a terrible position, torn between his partner and his parents. Even writing this has made me realize how fraught this new relationship might be – and how extraordinary lucky I have been with my new family!
As well as welcoming Alanna into our family, I also had to be welcomed into hers. They could not have been nicer! I have totally lucked out with my new family and never stop thanking my lucky stars . . . and now that I have two beautiful grandchildren, the relationship has developed and deepened. There is no jealousy between grand-parents over who has my grand-daughter Bella and how much – when Annie has her, she asks me to come over! And I love to spend time with Annie as we can talk for hours about how gorgeous, talented, special and wonderful our two grandchildren are . . . which is of course entirely down to us and nothing to do with Jordan and Alanna! We also support each-other in terms of good grand-mothering – reminding each-other to zip the lip and keep any child-rearing opinions very much to ourselves!
Sometimes I am asked how I have such a harmonious relationship with my daughter-in-law and new family-in-law. Apart from choosing a fabulous daughter-in-law (!) I thought I would try to come up with a few, hard-won tips . . .
Lulu’s top tips when you become an in-law
- Be welcoming – they are probably just as nervous as you about meeting!
- Remember your daughter or son is no longer your property and this new person has priority in their life so try to be respectful of that
- Give them space – it is tempting to want to be part of their lives but it is THEIR life so allow them to live it as they wish
- When grandchildren come along be willing to babysit and spend time with your grandchild but do not move in!
- And my top tip – bite your lip!! Only offer child rearing advice if asked! And NEVER offer relationship advice (although if truth be known, if there’s ever a disagreement between them, I take Alanna’s side!)