I love my mother-in-law. I'm not just saying that on the off-chance she will see this article. I mean it! She's great, and it just so happens that the holidays are her absolute favorite time of year and her joy is contagious. So let me tell you some of the things that the best mother-in-law does during the holiday season, because while I know it's popular (and sometimes downright necessary) to complain about our MILs, I think the good ones deserve a little bit of a shout out from time to time.
The concept of a mother-in-law is weird right? It's like getting a bonus mom, but one who didn't raise you, might not know you super-well, and who will always love your partner more than they love you (which is completely understandable and as it should be, I feel). You know what else is weird? The holiday season. Yes, it's great (twinkling lights and carols and gifts and good food and the Danish concept of hygge!), but it can also be stressful. By definition it's a break from your usual routine, which can be super nice (and necessary) but can also be a bit chaotic. Combining in-laws and the holidays, therefore, can (and often is) a recipe for disaster.
But, sometimes, you get a MIL who you wind up loving not just because she raised the person you've decided to commit yourself to, but because you just genuinely like her. Here are some of the ways she demonstrates her sheer excellence during the holidays.
The best mother in law...
Doesn't Try To Dictate All The Plans
There are some mothers-in-law out there who have a very "my way or the highway" approach to holiday merriment... which is just as fun as it sounds, by the way.
Look, we're moms, too, and we get it: everyone wants to see their babies as much as possible on the holiday (both original babies and the grand ones). But the best MILs know that there are multiple families involved who all have the same wish, so they don't put up a stink if, say, you have to leave halfway through Christmas day to go to another relative's house, or just can't do the first night of Hanukkah with her this year. She's flexible and reasonable.
Coordinates Gift Giving With You
She doesn't insist on striking out on her own without talking to you so that you can avoid duplicates, wrong sizes, and things that, while given with good intentions, are just not the best idea (age-inappropriate gifts, for example).
Doesn't Go Completely Over-The-Top
We know that grandparents like to spoil their grandbabies... but there's a limit. The best MILs recognize that... or if they don't, are open to hearing it (gently and kindly) from you.
Respects Your Traditions And Choices
If your family doesn't do Santa, your MIL doesn't insist on telling the children he's real. If you save the biggest Hanukkah present for the last night, she doesn't tell you to give it on the first. If you're hosting and tell her that dinner is at 5, she doesn't passive aggressively inform you that her family always ate after 7.
That's not to say she doesn't get a vote in how the holidays go for the family (she is, after all, a member of said family) but she can acknowledge when things aren't her call.
Helps You Cook/Clean
Praise be for the MIL who helps with the chopping of carrots and washing of dishes and basting of assorted roasts. Putting together a holiday is friggen work and, unfortunately, it's work that too often is undertaken by women with little to no assistance from anyone else. The best MILs will not let you work your fingers to the bone by yourself while the rest of the family kicks backing watching A Christmas Story for the 10th time that day.
The very best MILs will yell at everyone capable of helping to get in there and help you, because why should it just be the women making the holiday cheer?
Watches The Kids So You Can Go Shopping
It seems to me that there's always a couple of items that online retailers just can't provide. Or items you really need to see in person in order to purchase properly... and, like, going grocery shopping with kids in tow is tough enough as it is, let alone shopping for gifts for them that you'll have to somehow keep hidden.
Enter the best MILS (obviously those who live near enough to babysit, of course, which is not always an option). An afternoon playing with Grammy is fun for the kiddos (and, hopefully for Grammy as well) and is just what you need to get those couple of things... and also maybe a latte because you've earned it. (Ask your MIL if she wants you to bring one to her as well.)
Gives Gift Cards
Because, truly, is there a better gift than the gift of allowing someone to choose their own gift? I just don't think so.
Doesn't Give Passive Aggressive Gifts
I once had a friend whose (step)MIL is very Christian and my friend is Jewish. My friend's husband had converted to Judaism and they were raising their children Jewish. Her MIL was not OK with that and undermined my friend on the subject whenever she could... including giving her a holiday gift of a decorative Christmas village, complete with a church.
Yeeeeeah... she was definitely not the best MIL...
Doesn't Food Shame
Half the fun of holidays is the holiday food... of course, going an entire season without some relative or another making you feel like crap for enjoying a jelly doughnut on Hanukkah or Christmas cookies would be a real holiday miracle. Of course, the best MILs do not contribute to this most insidious of traditions and just let you enjoy your dinner in peace, without oh-so-subtly bringing up "New Year's Resolutions" as you take a bite of an oil-fried latke.
Doesn't Show Favorites
I feel like it goes without saying that the best MILs don't show favoritism toward any of their children or grandchildren... or in-laws, for that matter. She treats everyone with kindness, love, and respect.
Knows When It's Time For Everyone To Go Home
I have another friend whose MIL was coming to visit "for a month." Now, in and of itself that is a very long trip but due to the fact that she was traveling internationally (and very far) and couldn't come frequently, a longer visit made sense. OK. Cool. It was all agreed upon and everyone was cool with that.
FOUR MONTHS LATER THE WOMAN HADN'T LEFT!
Like... lady! Go home, for goodness sake!
This is, of course, an extreme example, but all the best MILs know that too many adults in one space can cause issues and they know when to call it quits.
Respects Your Rules For The Kids
Great MILs respect the fact that your children are yours and you and your partner know what is best for them. As such, if you set down a rule (no toy guns, for example; or no sweets before bedtime) they will restrain all their indulgent, grandmotherly instincts and back you up.
Knows When The Rules Can Be Bent For Optimal Grandma Magic
Because, let's be honest: the best daughters-in-law know there's a little bit of wiggle room here, right?
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.