When in-laws can see the bigger picture for the sake of their grandchildren

When my friend gave birth for the second time in May, both her mom and her mother-in-law came from out of town (Louisiana and Texas) to where they live in Atlanta to not only help out with their toddler, but also to help them out once they came home with the baby. My friend was having a planned second c-section due to her baby being breech, and so both moms wanted to come help support with the older toddler, cooking, cleaning, and general house maintenance. Both my friend and her husband were a bit worried about what the dynamic would be like. These two moms had never lived under the same roof before for even one night, so what would it be like for them to live together in the same house for two weeks straight? Her mother-in-law would be with them just for two weeks and would go back, but her mom would stay with them for about two months to help out. Let’s just add: both were not thrilled with the marriage to begin with. My friend is Bangladeshi Muslim, and her husband is third generation Mexican American, but from a very strict, conservative evangelical Christian family. He actually converted to Islam to marry my friend, which his mother was completely disapproving of and disgusted by. They both weren’t sure what they had in store for them, but they needed the help and support, so they agreed to let them come at the same time.

It ended up being a really fruitful, happy trip. Both moms were happy to tag team to help with the toddler, and when the two came home with the new baby, they took turns with different household chores, helped with cooking and cleaning, and of course, my friend’s mom made sure to cook her all her favorite foods and ensured she rested and recovered properly. Both moms actually got along really well; they both told their respective children that they enjoyed their time together and were even pleasantly surprised how well the trip went. There was no passive aggression, no back talking, no cheap jabs. They both did the adult thing and tried to make it work for the sake of their children and their grandchildren.

I could never see that happening with my parents and Chris’s parents. Chris’s parents would be completely fine. His mom would be overly careful and cautious, which would probably come to bite her in the butt. But my parents would find “hidden meanings” in every word and action said and done by Chris’s parents and find even more reasons to despise them. Passive aggression would constantly be present. And as Chris said, “I think I’d rather die” than have both sets of in-laws in the house for two consecutive weeks.

Plus, when I think of it, my parents did literally nothing to help me when Kaia was born. They tried to chalk it up to COVID, but the truth is that they were completely useless to us. They sent $300 (that was enough to pay for one night of night nurse support) as a gift. My mom made sure to call about every two hours to annoy me and get mad at me for not spending time to make the soup my aunt told me to make to help me heal from my postpartum wounds. I didn’t answer all the time because frankly, I didn’t have the time or patience to deal with her toxicity. She criticized the photos I’d send of Pookster and say that I was wrapping her too tightly in her swaddle, suffocating her, or not dressing her warmly enough. Other parents try to help their kids when they’re at this big next stage in their life. Even though my friend’s mom’s physical health wasn’t great and she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold the baby much, she still came to do light cleaning and to cook, which she knew she could do. My parents just tried to make things worse and more unnerving for me. My dad never even wanted to talk to me to congratulate me on the birth, or to ask how my healing was going. To this day, I cannot even remember the last time he’s spoken to me on the phone.

I think about what my therapist said during my pregnancy: “It’s okay to mourn the experience you wish you had but aren’t going to get. You should give yourself time and permission to mourn it. It’s not that you were not deserving of it. The people who are supposed to be key in your life to support you just are incapable of doing it. And that’s a reality for a lot of people in your position. You are not alone.” That’s just another way to say: find it in yourself to forgive your parents for failing you, in yet another way. She’s not exactly telling me to forgive my parents, but she’s saying, find a way to move on.

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