OK, so not all mothers are perfect. But, the persistent folklore that mothers-in-law are to be shunned is a tragic waste of usable nurturing. In truth, it’s one of society’s most foolish myths.

While standing at a checkout counter some time ago, I heard the same old, tired whine about mothers-in-law. The customer said, “It’s easy to find the right card for mothers, but that’s just not the case for mothers-in-law.” She rolled her eyes as if she’d just described psoriasis. “Oh, isn’t it the truth?” the clerk responded with compassion seen only when two women share bare-naked awfulness.

The customer, shoulder’s drooped, carried the burden of the world in her bag as she left the store. How sad, I thought. Is it possible I’m the only woman with a great mother-in-law? And, is it my imagination, or do I not have the best, most perfect relationship with my daughters-in-law? OK — maybe my son-in-law rolls his eyes once in a while, but I betcha on his worst day he still likes me.

A perfect role model for such painful family issues was my dear mother, the mother-in-law of no less than 12 better halves, some male, and some female. Every one of those in-laws would choose to live with my mom if their marriage to her children broke up.

Mom revealed, in years past, that she’d like to “brain” her in-laws when they make her children cry, but she withholds punishment in exchange for a working relationship. “They have the power to keep me from my children,” she told me, “And, I’m not about to give them an excuse.”

Over the years, mom has cuddled her crying daughters and comforted her sons, while miraculously maintaining a relationship with the spouses. Even the ex-in-laws praise her. Now, that’s a mother-in-law.

See, what those snippy ladies in the store don’t take into account is the process. It’s elementary: Baby is born. Nature then bonds, binds and embeds baby into mother’s emotional system in order to preserve the helpless infant. Years later, after care-taking has turned into sacrifice and love into eternal commitment, some stranger comes along and swipes that child away from said mother.

Said mother suddenly becomes the meddler and intruder. There’s no ceremony, no official cutting of the apron strings, no trumpets, no purple hearts, not even a sword to fall on though she certainly could use one when she finds herself on the heap of discarded servants.

You call yourself a compassionate person? Then recognize your mother-in-law is a feeling individual who just doesn’t learn very fast. She wasn’t schooled on how to let go on this magnitude. She can’t immediately control her lonely heart from crying, or stifle her alarm when she sees that her son isn’t getting his favorite breakfast. How’s she supposed to know that she’s to be seen, only when invited, but never heard?

Have a little mercy for the soul who brought your mate to earth, nurtured him or her into someone you found yourself attracted to. Something must be right about this person who makes you shudder.

If for no other reason, be careful. If you are a parent, you too will be one of “us!” And, when that happens, you’ll fully understand what mothers mean when they say — “no one warned me that becoming obsolete could hurt so much.”

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