Us moms sure do complain a lot. Among ourselves, mostly. And for good reason. We’re tired, we run the school calendar and the social calendar and ALL THE CALENDARS. And our poor bodies! Generally, I’m all for chiming in on a good whine-fest over drinks with my friends, but there’s one very popular topic I stay out of: in-law griping.
Unlike many women I know, I love my in-laws.
There. I said it.
It wasn’t always this way. I mean, I’ve always liked them. But initially I was a bit ambivalent about the whole extra-mom-and-dad thing. I didn’t accept their every invitation, I got annoyed on the (albeit rare) occasion they stopped by unannounced, and I had no desire to travel with them. Maybe it’s because my own parents divorced when I was young and I’ve always had a strained relationship with my mother, but I just wasn’t used to having parental figures so involved, or even interested, in my life.
Once I had a kid, though, everything changed. When I was home alone with a two-week-old and the pilot light on our hot water heater went out, my in laws rushed over. My mother-in-law held my son while I hunted down batteries for the flashlight so my father-in-law could fix it (and change our furnace filter while he was there). A few weeks later, when my husband and I ventured out together for the first time since becoming parents, my mother-in-law sat on the couch and held our son for the entire two-and-a-half hours we were gone. My in-laws have continuously supported us in big and small ways, and I’ve grown to love having them around.
These days, they have a key to my house and they’re welcome to stop by whenever they want (though they now know to always call or text first). And last week I surprised even myself when I suggested to my mother-in-law that we all take a trip together.
I know not everyone’s bonus parents are as wonderful as mine. But if you have a set in your life, try giving them a chance. Here are a few reasons you should:
1) They’re free babysitters.
Finding a good babysitter is hard. Finding a good babysitter who’s available when you need them is even harder. Chances are good your in-laws’ social calendar isn’t quite as packed as the 25-year-old’s down the street. Even better, you don’t have to pay Grandma and Grandpa $15 an hour. Or any dollars an hour.
2) You have them to thank for your spouse (and in turn, your kid).
Your in-laws raised your spouse! Even if he drives you crazy sometimes, there’s a reason you chose him as your life partner. And it’s likely he gets some of his redeeming qualities from his parents. Try to focus on the good things (about all of them) instead of the the less desirable personality traits they share. Especially because your kid may inherit some of those same quirks someday.
3) They are a window onto your partner.
Talking about your significant other with the people who know him or her best (or at least did until you came along) can offer insight you wouldn’t otherwise have. Whether it’s something serious or your mother-in-law filling you in on how she finally got her son to regularly empty the dishwasher, it’s all valuable intel.
4) They want to spend time with your kid even when you don’t.
Yeah, sure. You want to spend every second with your perfect little angel. Except when your spouse has been out of town for three days and you’ve been stuck at home with a sick kid and you’re pretty sure that if you have to read that damn Richard Scarry car book one more time, you’ll start leaking motor oil out your eye holes. That’s when your mother-in-law will come over (with Taco Bell if she’s awesome) and read it aloud 13 times in a row so you can go in the bathroom and scroll through your phone like a zombie.
5) You can get real with them.
Most of the in-law horror stories I hear involve a mother-in-law crossing some unspoken line in the sand. But if you cultivate an actual relationship with your in-laws, you’ll have an easier time communicating with them — this might include asking them to, say, not come over without calling first or to stop sharing pictures of your kid online. (And if you’re just nodding and smiling when your mother-in-law upsets you and then complaining about it to your husband or your mom group, that’s NOT setting boundaries. And it’s not going to fix anything.)
6) They’ll spoil your kid. And that’s okay.
You want to give your child everything in the world, except you don’t want her to be spoiled. That’s where grandparents come in. It’s kind of their job to do it, or at least that’s what they’ll tell you. And you can’t really argue with that — though you can definitely tell them to keep the loud and ugly toys at their house. (Bonus: If you have a good relationship with them, maybe they’ll even spoil you, too. My in laws love to take us out to dinner, and my mother-in-law treats me to monthly manis and pedis at my favorite nail salon while my father-in-law babysits.)
7) They’re like parents without baggage.
Look, we all know that parents (at least the good ones) are valuable and important no matter how old you are. But even the best moms and dads come with a lifetime of baggage that can sometimes complicate our adult relationships with them. With in-laws, you get a bonus set of parents who won’t constantly bring up that time you blew your tuition on a trip to Ireland, or give you side eye when you order a second glass of wine at dinner.
8) They’re Free Babysitters
Oh, did I mention this one already? Because IT’S REALLY, REALLY GREAT.