I am your only son’s first and only love. We met in college. From the moment I met you, mother-in-law, I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I have been married to him for 15 years. I have given you two beautiful granddaughters.
Yet, I never thought you loved me . . . until this week.
Bridal showers. Weddings. New babies. Christmas. Easter. Birthday parties. I never felt included in the big family events. Of course, I was invited. Yet, being invited is not the same thing as being included. My feelings have been crushed so many times over the years, but I never had the courage to speak up. I let grudges pull me down into the darkest sadness. I pushed you and your family away . . . until this week.
A family emergency hit us all hard this week. Time stood still. I watched each of your four kids try everything in their power from letting their worlds come crashing down. They watched their parents both take on serious health issues. They packed up their childhood home.
They found a tumor. In your brain. You had a major surgery. Your sick husband of 45 years moved to another state for better care. We welcomed you into our home for two weeks. You also planned a big move to another state. You packed up the only home you ever lived in. Crisis taught us that time is not unlimited. We finally talked.
Mother-in-law, I never thought you loved me.
I knew you loved your son and our children, but I never thought you loved me. The real me, not the daughter-in-law me. I always desired a real relationship with you. I wanted you to invite me out to lunch. I wanted you to want to have a friendship with me.
I would look at my girlfriends who have great relationships with their mothers-in-law
with envy. I was so jealous of what others had. More than anything, I wanted to be included. I wanted to be needed. I never knew you wanted that too . . . until this week.
For over 15 years, we were not close. I felt threatened when you came to visit. I felt like you were trying to outdo me with lavish gifts for my girls. I felt like you questioned every darn thing I did as a young mom. You always cleaned my kitchen when you visited. I used to get so mad because it felt like you thought I was a terrible
housewife. Now, I realize you were trying to help.
I felt invisible. I felt unimportant. I felt like you tried to keep me happy to get closer
to your son and your granddaughters. I felt used. I felt unheard.
I felt completely and utterly mad at you . . . until this week.
Welcoming you into my home for two weeks while you recovered from surgery, changed everything. Perspectives switched to places I never imagined. Watching you recover from major brain surgery, waking up in my daughter’s bed, making your breakfast every morning, giving you your medications at 8 a.m.—I quickly learned that you needed me and wanted a relationship with me just as much as I wanted and needed it too.
The roles were reversed and you were vulnerable. There was no plot. You were not out to get me. Recovering from brain surgery, your authentic self was out on display. You told me you loved and respected me. You cried to me. You told me you were scared. You showed me that you are human too. You asked for my opinion. I finally felt seen for the first time in years. We finally talked.
Mother-in law, I never thought you loved me.
You have three daughters. My sisters-in-law. My relationships with each of your girls are unique and to be honest, not as healthy as they each could be. I have had my feelings hurt so many times. None of them included me in their wedding. I never felt like I was one of the girls. It was always known that I am an in-law. It was said many
times. All I ever wanted was to feel like I belonged. I kept those hurt feelings bottled up for years . . . until this week.
On that last day you stayed with us, you asked for 10 minutes with just me. We ended up talking for over an hour and a half on my front porch. I will always remember the way the trees swayed in the wind as we chatted about topics that now feel so silly and trivial. You asked to speak to just me—without your son, without your daughters,
without your grandkids.
For the first time in over 15 years, I knew you cared about the real me.
You cared about clearing up misunderstandings and miscommunications. You wanted to talk to me. Even more importantly, you wanted to listen to what I had to say. You gave me the space to express the feelings I have been so scared to
show for so many years. You cared about me. This week, I felt that you love me.
Yes, you love me because it brings you closer to your grandkids and your son. Yes, you love me because I brought your two granddaughters into this world. Yet, now this week, I know in my heart that you truly love me for me. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know one thing: I love you, mother-in-law, and I am rooting for you and for us.