The Un-Monster-in-Law


monster in law
A mother-in-law helps a new mom accept the loss of her own mother.

Again, I felt territorial. Why won't they back off? Being a first-time mother, without a mother, stressed me out. I thought everyone would judge me, and I didn't want my mother-in-law there. I didn't need witnesses to my ineptitude.

Embracing her was out of the question. I could not do it. At first, I deemed her overbearing and meddlesome. I needed to place a five-foot bubble around me for metaphorical space. She and my father-in-law always stayed in our tiny New York apartment when they visited. (Hadn't they heard of hotels?) I didn't want help. I didn't want her affection. I wanted her back in South Carolina. Give advice: How do I get my mother in law to move out?


They arrived. Marsha took that little six-week-old baby in her arms, rocked her, soothed her, even got a giggle out of her. She was a baby whisperer. Although I'd never admit it, I was taking mental notes. New ways to hold her, burp her, quiet her down.

With the birth of my daughter came the clarity to see why I rebuffed her: I did not want my mother-in-law to replace my mother. That hole in my heart was purposefully empty, a placeholder for the mother I couldn't have. My immature behavior was stuck back in my 23-year-old mind, the one that lost her parent far too young.

I've learned to accept Marsha and all of her good will. I never want my daughter to see my unwarranted distaste for this very warm-hearted person, and I especially don't want her to treat her grandmother this way. I learned how to develop a new bond with someone who wants to share—not take.

It took gaining a daughter to find a mother—not the one I was originally given, but a supportive, giving parental figure nonetheless.

I can't have my mother back. But I can be a good mom to my daughter and show her how to love in the face of loss.

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