When I was expecting my first child, I once overheard my mother-in-law sharing with a friend of hers that I was pregnant – in the early months. I was so upset; I thought she had violated my privacy. Looking back, I know what I was thinking, but I also know what I wasn’t thinking.
I wasn’t thinking about the other side of the picture. I wasn’t realizing that all in-laws want is to be a part of their children’s life. So she slipped and shared with her two friends about my upcoming event. Big deal.
Boundaries with in-laws were always a thing, except we didn’t call them that in the old days.
If you crossed boundaries or were over-involved with your kids and in-law kids, you were a meddler, a doter, and interfering parent. If you talked too much, you were a yenta.
When I got married we had a particular preference with our parents and in-laws (which was hardly ever followed because we didn’t enforce it) was that they call before popping in. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t, and that’s the way it was.
Back in the 1980’s there were no cell phones, so by making that rule I was basically saying to my mil or fil that if they were driving down our block and wanted to stop by they’d have to go home and call us. Which was kind of ridiculous, I think now.
In fact, I look back at those days and I’m a little embarrassed at how unreasonably I acted. I mean, I know what feelings I had that motivated me to be kind of tough and strict in some ways. But still, I think I overdid things a bit.
Lucky for them, my in-laws weren’t pushovers. And they were smart – they’d be just in the neighborhood and just had to stop by and why bother calling from a pay phone or their home phone? They’d just stop by in the evening for just a minute.
And I would be upset (understandably) and make a big deal (by venting ridiculously to my husband).
Nowadays, I probably wouldn’t visit my children without calling first. That goes for my kids who live locally and those who live faraway.
How many times have I driven by my children’s house and wanted to stop by? All I had to do was call or better yet, text and bingo. I would be told “not a good time,” or “Yes, that’s great, come on over.”
Calling or texting to ask for permission to move forward into their turf is really easy now.
It’s easier for us to resist barging in at any hour at our kids’ home. So who am I to criticize my in-laws who had a different set of tools to work with in those days? It’s all about seeing the other side of the picture.
But today, we have other challenges to deal with, things that our own parents, grandparents never even thought would be an issue. We have social media and the personal computer, and smart-phones each of which lends to lots of sharing and posting. The truth is that our children
hate dislike prefer that we don’t share indiscriminately.
And I confess that I don’t follow that rule very well. In the same way that my in-laws would “just” stop by for “just” a few minutes to visit when they had the time or were “in the neighborhood,” in the same way I post a picture “just” on Facebook for “just” this once when I “just” have a great photo to post.
It’s hard for me, and it must have been hard for my in-laws. We parents want to share the good stuff about our grandchildren. And the pulling out of the pictures from our little purse just doesn’t cut it anymore these days for some reason. (that’s what my grandmother did with her friends back in the day!)
Look, with in-law relationships as with any relationship, the key is to do our best. To try to place ourselves in their shoes and understand how they feel. To remain true to our own feelings and needs. And to keep the communication lines open.
With a good dose of understanding, communication, and perspective about the other person’s situation, things can usually work out very well.