I've thought about you for a long time. In many ways, I didn't have a choice. You see people were always warning me about you. “Your daughter is your daughter for all of your life. Your son is your son until he takes a wife.” I hate that saying. I've always hated it. It made you seem like conniving thieves that planned to sneak into my life and steal my sons. I want you to know, I've never seen you in that light. I'm not an idiot. I know that there will be a time when you will take my place as the predominant female presence in my sons' lives. I'm cool with it. I believe that's how it's meant to be.
In my best dreams, we navigate this tricky relationship with love and respect. We see each other as allies, not enemies. We are teammates, not the competition. Sure, it will be difficult at times. Sometimes we'll overstep our boundaries, unintentionally hurt one another's feelings and draw lines in the sand. But hopefully we'll love each other and assume the best about each other.
I've never been a daughter-in-law. I was not blessed to have the “inside scoop” on my husband. There wasn't someone there to tell me, “He's always been like this” or “When he was a kid…” I got the benefit of my own mother's experience as a wife and mother but I never got the wisdom of my mother-in-law's experience. Some would say I'm lucky. I feel I missed out a little. There's a pretty special bond that can develop between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law. I know it's not easy, but it can be done.
I have made a conscious effort to keep you ladies in mind as I've raised my boys. No, I don't know who you are yet and I have no intention of seeking you out and choosing you. But as a mom, one of my primary jobs is to raise young men who will have happy, healthy relationships outside our family. I have tried to parent them in a way that they are ready to face the world, solve problems, be self-sustaining and contribute to society. These are lofty goals, I know. When it's time for you to raise your own families, I'd love to share some of my experiences and insights with you. But until that time comes, just know this…I tried to help you out a little.
Things I've Taught My Sons with My Daughters In Law in Mind:
1. If you used it, put it away. All the way away. Not kind of away or partially away. Don't set it down or leave it lying around for “later.” Put it where it belongs. We all know the minute you walk away, it will cease to exist and someone else will have to take care of it. And we also know, “someone else” is most likely your wife. She will not be happy about that. Save yourself the argument. Put things away.
2. Chivalry is not dead nor does it imply that a woman is incapable. Doing something chivalrous like opening doors, letting her walk through first, and pulling out a chair simply says that she is special and worthy of respect. Young woman are to be valued and treasured and hopefully their mothers have instilled the same beliefs.
3. Men are men and women are women. We are not the same. And that's OK. She'll do things differently, see things differently, feel things differently. That's how it's supposed to be. However, you still need to make an effort to understand how she does, sees and feels things. You don't have to be like her, but if you love her, you should try to understand her.
4. Bodily functions are not funny. Well, they aren't as funny as you think they are. Know your audience. When you're with your brother or your friends you can fart, burp and perform any other body activity you choose. Chances are, however, she will not find it as funny as you.
5. Listen and pay attention. Learn what makes her happy, how she takes her coffee, mustard or ketchup, what stresses her out, what relaxes her. Men like to think women are complicated. The truth is, we aren't. Just ask our best friends. They get us. You can too. 8. Don't make her repeat herself seven times. Listen the first time.
6. Real women are not physically perfect. We are strong, lean, thin, curvy, jiggly, floppy and saggy at various stages of our lives. Just like you, we will not look at 55 the way we did at 25. It's life. Expect it. Embrace it. Love it. Profoundly. Your mother endured a lot of interrupted showers and loss of dignity to teach you this lesson—let it not have been in vain.
7. It's the little things that show you love her. Take out the trash without being asked, change the batteries in her electric toothbrush, take the kids out to breakfast and give her a few hours to herself on a Saturday morning, know who her best friend is and suggest they meet up for a pedicure. We don't need jewelry and flowers to feel loved. We just want to feel like our husbands “know” us.
8. Put the seat down. No one wants to fall in the toilet in the dark at 3:00 a.m. any more than they do at 2:00 p.m. I'm not asking for the lid to be put down, just the seat. It's not a difficult request.
9. Being done fast and first means nothing if you don't do it right. This lesson was initially used in regard to homework but I'm pretty sure it can be helpful in marriage as well—if you know what I mean. No need to thank me for this one because that would be awkward. Just know that I got your back.
10. Marry someone who will love and respect you just as much as you love and respect them.
And so, future daughter-in-laws, all I can say is this: I tried. I did the best I could. I'm sorry. You're welcome.