An open letter to my mother-in-law

mother in law

Dear Mother-In-Law,

There are a few things I have wanted to say to you for a long time. Some of them are long overdue, but I have heard there is no better time than the present, so I am just gonna lay this all out there.

I knew from the moment we met that we were totally different types of people. I knew that I would NEVER be like you in many ways. I knew from the moment I saw you come upstairs from the basement where you were hard at work doing laundry to refill your husband’s tea glass that I was NEVER going to be like that.  Seriously…You walked across the length of the house and up two sets of stairs to refill a man’s tea glass. A man that, I might add, was sitting at the table literally in the kitchen. No ma’am…that is not how I am wired.

I had no idea when we first met that one day I would be your daughter-in-law. I didn’t know that our lives would forever be intertwined by a web of relatives & events & phone calls & family gatherings.

I had no idea that bringing my kids to see you would always involve such chaos. It’s clear that my desire for organization & your desire to just be “in the moment” didn’t mesh at times. I cannot count the number of times I had to remind my kids to get dressed & clean themselves up before bounding out to see you for breakfast. I didn’t think it was illogical to expect them to do that. Clearly, our brains function differently.

I cannot even count the number of times you called me to ask the kids birth dates…& their ages…& their sizes…how to spell their names & their favorite music/toys/games/shows. I began to feel like I should carry a master list around with me so that I could just spout the information off to you, knowing full well that I was only going to have to do it again very soon when you couldn’t find the random piece of paper you recorded it all on.  I am sure you shoved it in a purse somewhere. I am sure it will turn up when no one needs the information anymore.

I need you to know that I am not you.

I don’t think like you.

I don’t act like you.

I don’t dress like you or cook like you or even like the same type of music as you. 

I don’t raise my kids the same way you did. I haven’t learned to just leave the dishes until a better time or ever felt the need to pack 5 or 6 overnight bags for a LITERAL overnight stay. Every time you came to our house it looked like a Samsonite display at Kohls.

And don’t get me started on what a shopping trip with you was like. I seriously cannot even grasp why every trip to any store turned into a day long journey. It had nothing to do with your health or your ability to get around. It did have everything, however, to do with your desire to look at literally each & every item a store had for sale. It didn’t matter if it was WalMart or Belk or the gift section of a gas station. It all had to be seen. And we all had to loiter around and wait for you to be done looking.

We are so different.

But here’s the thing.

Last November, I lost you.

I say lost because that is how it has felt since you were taken away so suddenly on a normal Thursday a week before Thanksgiving.

I have a head full of stories to share & a phone full of pictures & a car load of kids & you are gone. Just gone.

And all of the sudden I realize all that you taught me.

It never mattered to you if I ever refilled your son’s glass of tea or not. You loved me anyway.

If I wanted the kids to get dressed & clean up before breakfast, you were right there encouraging them to obey & smiling all the while.

Yes, you called me often for the kids’ sizes. Often. But, that’s also because you bought all their Easter clothes & school clothes…you filled massive Easter baskets & put Santa to shame when it came to Christmas. Birthdays were enormous events & you never hesitated to make the 2+ hour trip to celebrate a birthday or graduation or holiday or just to have lunch. And I am at a total loss as to how I will ever fill those shoes. We fumbled through Thanksgiving & Christmas in a fog…Easter came and it felt so physically painful to ponder what to dress the kids in. And now it’s almost time for back-to-school shopping and I have no idea how to do it. You made it special & fun & memorable & those moments are etched indelibly on my heart & I CANNOT BE YOU.

I have been blessed with a mother…a wonderful mother. And she is here & she is present & she loves my kids.

But, she is not you. She fills a spot that is hers to fill…and your spot feels like a gaping wound that I will never be able to fill the void of.

Thank you for not ever requiring that I be you.

Thank you for holding me when I failed.  Thank you for always telling me you loved me & that I was needed & wanted & appreciated.

Thank you for lifting my heart when it was broken & for staring me in the face & reminding me that I have worth & value & that my contributions to the world are only mine to make.

Thank you for helping me live with no regrets.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the physical embodiment of unconditional love.

Your presence is so missed. My heart feels the loss with such great magnitude. We all struggle with looking forward to big events knowing you won’t be there to laugh & cry & celebrate with us.

I am so grateful that we loved big & we shared our hearts with each other. Thank you for being vulnerable with me & for never hiding behind your story. Thank you for being you.

There will never be another you. I recognize that. 

This void will, in some way, always be here as a reminder.

Things that leave big holes are things that filled big spaces.

You filled my space with love & I am forever grateful.

and so there is that…



married mother of 5. lover of hot chocolate, books, and all things vintage. country girl with a city girl heart.

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