Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Village to Raise a Child

I visit many parenting forums and chat a lot with mums from all walks of life and something I have noticed is the problems with extended family support.

Almost every site has the discussion regularly on how unsupportive the in laws are. Either they are very rude to the daughter-in-law, or interfering in parenting choices, or showing complete lack of interest in the children.. the list could go on.

This made me wonder what is behind this seemingly huge problem. What is it in society that has lead to the development of such poor relationships? And it is a huge problem. It does take a village to raise a child, and increasingly it seems that our villages are being reduced to immediate family only. This at the same time as there are huge issues with PND, increases in difficult births (over 40% of first time births end in Cesarean) which means a longer recovery time, tightening belt buckles with the economy in trouble meaning more primary caregivers are having to consider working. Again, the list could go on!

I consider myself lucky to have a positive relationship with my in laws. Yes, there is always going to be some squeezing of the lips shut, biting back retorts to the throwaway comments the MIl gives as she sees how different bringing up a baby is today, but it is worth it to keep the peace in what is pretty much an excellent relationship.

So what makes my in laws different to some of the horror stories out there? I think it is in part to do with the fact that they are both still working and enjoying their work. It helps that my MIL thinks that she was a barely adequate mother (she was wonderful!) so doesn't feel she has anything to offer me other than support (that means no advice, bliss!) They are also very much a happy couple who still spend a lot of time together, very secure in their relationships.

Is the secret to becoming a good in law (for if we are mothers, then most of us will be in that role some day) making sure that your life and relationships are full? I think it is.

Maybe if you are having problems with your in laws, think about what is behind that problem, what is making them controlling/vindictive/ unsupportive/disinterested etc and acknowledge that they are a creation of their experiences even if just to yourself. Also realise that time moves on and things change, but that doesn't make their experiences invalid, you can learn a lot by looking at what was done in the past and knowing that you Will/will not do it in the future. Hopefully doing that means that when it is your turn, you won't repeat the same mistakes of your in laws.

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