Ode to the Mother-In-Law

bear-family_300[Note: A version of this article first appeared in the May 2014 issue of Real Simple.]

We’ve decided in the May issue of Real Simple to celebrate the unsung hero (or antihero, depending on whom you ask) in our domestic lives: The mother-in-law.

Along with our in-book story “Mother-in-Law & Order,” we asked on Facebook: “What’s the nicest thing your mother-in-law has ever done for you?” And we got nearly 400 responses in three hours!

Yes, there were some funny (if dark and predictable) answers: “Stopped calling me.” “Moved away.” “Died.” But, overwhelmingly, came virtual love notes to wonderful mothers-in-law. MILs who shared potato-salad recipes; got up for the newborn’s midnight feeding; did laundry; bought groceries; shopped for wedding dresses; re-covered kitchen chairs; offered money, spare rooms, shoulders to cry on—sometimes even after the divorce (from Joni D.: “I have an ex-husband, not an ex–mother-in-law”)—and, of course, gave birth to many wonderful men.

A few other gems:

Melissa V.: “She bleached the grout in my kitchen, on my wedding day, because I hadn’t had time to do it.”

Margaret S. M.: “Made custom lined draperies for six windows measuring 124 inches long by 48 inches wide.”

Aubrey F.: “Surprised me with a weekend trip to Disney World to see my favorite band, Hanson.”

Lisa H. K.: “Changed my bedpan when I was bedridden for two months due to a broken leg while she was taking care of my three small boys under the age of four. Love this woman!”

Debra M.: “Makes me separate gluten-free matzo-ball soup for Passover.”

Barbara M.: “Signed for her son to get married at 20—I was 18—51 years ago.”
lisa p. l.: “Welcomed my two children from a previous marriage into her family and treated them like they were her own grandchildren.”

And my favorite, from Barbara B. A.: “She gave me a mother-in-law doll with arms and legs that Velcro on so you can ‘tear them off.’ She said it was for if she ever drove me crazy. I’ve been married 17 years and have never once thought of using it.”

I have the great pleasure of having a mother-in-law who, for the past 22 years, has helped without prying, offered opinions without passing judgment, and even forgiven me when our dog vomited all over her white carpeting. Really, what more could any daughter-in-law want?


If you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Twitter @kvanogtrop.

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