When my husband and I first started dating, I was definitely nervous about meeting his family. From what I could gather, he was really close with both of his parents and sister. That was a first for me: most of my past boyfriends didn't have the best relationships with their families, which meant that there was a lack of urgency when it came to “meeting the fam.” But with my husband, it was different. I knew that his family's opinion of me would matter. Luckily, I didn't have to worry. His mom and I got along swimmingly, and now, my mother-in-law is basically my best friend.
I first met my future in-laws during winter break. It was right after the holidays, and I visited their house in Pennsylvania before heading back to Boston for the spring semester. Not wanting to arrive empty-handed, I came prepared with a tin of cookies that I had baked myself. During the car ride there, I worried about everything I could possibly worry about: What if they didn’t like me? What if we have nothing to talk about? What if I get awkward and weird? Pretty much every possible scenario ran through my head.
But as soon as I walked through their front door, all of that anxiety fell away.
It’s hard to explain why we got along so well, but to be honest, I don’t even really remember an awkward “getting to know you period” with my in-laws. From that very first visit, we were already a family. At the time, that would have been a totally weird thing to say out loud, considering my husband and I had only been dating for three months, but that’s how it felt. There was a natural ease that came from spending time with them, a sense of comfort that I immediately felt without even really knowing them at all.
Over holidays and vacations, we would carve out time to spend together, whether it was going shopping or out for manicures.
As the years passed, I became especially close with my mother-in-law. She and I would email all the time. We'd send each other funny pictures or memes over Gchat, and we could have long phone conversations about pretty much anything at all. Over holidays and vacations, we would carve out time to spend together, whether it was going shopping or out for manicures.
When my husband and I got engaged, I had heard all the horror stories about in-laws and wedding planning. I had friends and co-workers who warned me that when you start planning a wedding, that's when your in-laws' "true colors" come out. But I knew that my experience with my future mother-in-law would be different. As it turned out, I was right: we planned the wedding together, and it was so much fun. She was there when I picked out my dress, and we spent an entire weekend together making centerpieces and hot-gluing burlap bows.
The relationship I have with my mother-in-law will never replace the relationship I have with my mother, but that’s the thing – it’s entirely different, and that's why it's so great.
I thought of my friends whose mother-in-laws were incredibly annoying during wedding planning, pushing their own agendas and forcing unwanted traditions. My mother-in-law was never like that, and incidentally, neither was my own mother. Both sets of parents seemed to understand that we wanted our wedding to reflect our relationship, and we were fortunate enough to escape wedding planning without getting into any fights over religion or customs.
Of course, the relationship I have with my mother-in-law will never replace the relationship I have with my mother, but that’s the thing – it’s entirely different, and that's why it's so great. Through my husband, I feel like I’ve gained a new and separate family, yet in some ways, I feel like I’ve known them forever. And while there’s no rule that says you have to consider your in-laws true family (and many people don’t), I’m grateful for the fact that I genuinely do, and that spending time with them is always something to look forward to.
This winter, it will be nine years since that first winter break when I showed up at my in-laws' home with a tin of homemade cookies. In the near-decade that has passed since, there have been so many holidays, summer weekends on the lake, family vacations, emails, and phone calls. This year, we’ll embark on a new aspect of our relationship, as my mother-in-law won’t just be my mother-in-law, but also the grandmother to my daughter. I’m excited to see where that road takes us, what new chapters lie ahead, and I'm excited for my daughter to have two grandmas who are equally amazing.