How To Meet Your Mom {And Other Tales from the Sandwich Generation}

How To Meet Your Mom {And Other Tales from the Sandwich Generation}

I met my mother in an airport. 

Not the woman who birthed me, nor the one who raised me; my other mother, my second mom, the audacious and radiant mother of one of the best people I know.

Scant baggage, high hopes, and her grandchildren waiting to meet her, my mother-in-law arrived in Texas on a Spring morning last year. Sixteen years gone by without seeing her son, their reunion was a crumble of tears and bear-hugs. 

It is not lost on me that I married a man without ever meeting the woman who had brought him into the world. Two years after our wedding, I finally embraced my husband’s mother for the first time.

And then we brought her home. 

Kathryn and mother-in-law

My husband, mother in law, and I in May of 2018

To help Belkis emigrate from Venezuela and live with us was not a decision made lightly. Newlyweds, raising a gaggle of kids, and adjusting to a blended family, our act was full.

I also wondered if she would like me.

Will she and my mom get along? What if my kids are too much? Is my Spanish as good as I think? {Spoiler :: it is not!}

But as tensions grew in Venezuela, so did they in our hearts. We dug deep, considered our expectations, and laid our plans.

We readied ourselves for a major life change as best anyone can, which is to say, we were woefully unprepared.

A year later, we are all still standing. Our home and hearts a little more full, each of us a bit wiser, I can’t help but reflect on our process to get here and everywhere we’ve done right and wrong.

To meet, verb. 1. To come into the presence or company (of someone) by chance or arrangement. 2. To touch or join. 

I could have simply met my husband’s mother and went on about my life but that was not our plan. We were joining together, weaving a different sort of cloth. And that takes a little more than a handshake. If I were to help someone through this journey, I know what I would say.

Welcome to How To Meet Your Mom, mother-in-law edition ::

SPACE

Space may make the heart grow fonder but I suspect is isn’t miles you need. Simply the space to let a person be themselves is what it takes to foster trust and understanding. In our case, mother and son also needed space to reconnect after lost time. 

The first few months, my husband and mother in law were on cloud nine. It was easy for me to feel a bit out of place, no longer the center of his attention most of the time. But I didn’t want to be that person and the way I avoided it was to give them the room they needed to make up for sixteen years. 

TIME

One of the mistakes we made early on was being selfish with her time. We wanted that space, after all, to bond and catch up. But there was little left for her to make friends, find employment, and meet people. 

Just like you wouldn’t stay too long at a party, getting to know someone means not monopolizing their time. We are her family, after all, not her friends. She needs some of those, too. 

SHARING

The trick to getting someone to like you? Ask for their pencil. Sharing is an incredible bonding activity that draws humans together. Being the younger counterpart to this mother-daughter duo, I couldn’t possibly have anything to teach her. So, instead, I asked for her to show me things. 

We bonded over family albums, and how to care for plants. Every time I ask my mother-in-law for her help, that spark of adoration and respect grows a bit bigger. 

APPRECIATION

This probably seems incredibly obvious but all healthy relationships involve showing how much you appreciate each other. Whether it’s a colleague, a teacher, a friend, or your family, people need to know they are wanted. 

Especially in the case of a parent moving in with an adult child, the act of gratitude changes the dynamic.  At one point, my new mom must have felt a burden. It is up to us to make sure she feels like the blessing that she is.

This isn’t earth-shattering advice, just the good stuff of life. My advice would be the same for anyone moving in with a new room-mate, making new friends, or meeting your mother-in-law for the first time. It’s really just about meeting someone- both where they are and somewhere in the middle. 


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