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The Midlife Sage Says: Share Some Time, Beer and/or Pie with Your Mother-in-law

Unless your mother-in-law is a convicted felon or a pole dancer at the Kit Kat Klub, you should try and spend quality one-on-one time with her.

After all, she raised the person you married. If she lives far away, keep in contact with letters, phone calls, and photos of the kids. Encourage her to use the Internet to share messages and videos. And, if she continually repeats the same stories over and over, just nod politely. Then you won’t feel so guilty at her funeral.

Most young, married women juggle a three-page to-do list, and visiting with the mother-in-law probably isn’t a top priority. As I recall, that goal wasn’t included in my Top 100 Action Items as I managed a hectic schedule that included active children, a full-time job, a cluttered house, and a husband who preferred to eat dinner before midnight. Now, after all these years, I regret not spending more time with my mothers-in-law. (Yes, I had more than one.)

We never lived in the same state, so I didn’t really know them before they passed away.

The most time I spent with one was when I sang “Ave Maria” at her Funeral Mass. (I love singing in Latin because no one knows if I mess up the words. If I forget a phrase, I just substitute “Ave” several times and add a wordless aria.) I sang out of respect because she was a good person. I would rather have shared pie and wine with her while she was still alive.

This past week I had the pleasure of being with my son-in-law for a beer and a few days later with my daughter-in-law for leftover Thanksgiving pecan pie and wine. I highly recommend both activities. My son-in-law loves my daughter, is devoted to their daughters, and works hard at his job. Those facts are like music to the feeble ears of any mother-in-law. My daughter-in-law has the same positive qualities, and she is a lovely young woman. They provide a healthy, nurturing home for their children, and they include me in activities. I never want to deserve the comment, “Oh crap, do we have to invite your mother?”

Some of my friends have estranged relationships with their in-laws, and the annual Thanksgiving feast often turns awkward if the seating arrangements aren’t compatible with the guests.

I’ve solved that problem because the food at my house is served buffet style, first-come-first-served, and then find your own chair if you can. One exception: Great-Grandma gets to go first because she’s in a wheelchair. That’s one advantage of being the oldest.

The decades quickly tumble past, and a young woman soon becomes an older woman who becomes a mother-in-law. Become the type of mother-in-law you admire most. Be someone who gives advice when asked and doesn’t gloat that your turkey stuffing is still your child’s favorite. We mothers just want our darling adult children to be happy, and that means we know they are in loving, supportive marriages. Now, go call your mother-in-law and invite her for beer and/or pie.

Elaine Ambrose is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.