First published in The Portsmouth News, 1st July 2014
In-laws: the butt of some of the 50 Greatest Jokes of All Time, as listed in The Telegraph recently. Or perhaps, depending on your personal circumstances, you prefer the term ‘out-laws’? It’s a true adage that we can’t choose our families, and it’s also true for the family that we inherit after falling in love with our partners.
Interestingly, fathers-in-law never seem to cause the same outrage that their female counterparts do. Why is this? I’m fascinated to know because, being of the XX chromosome persuasion, it’s a role that I may one day end up in myself.
Perhaps mothers are more protective of their offspring and see the partner of their child as a constant threat, even when proven to be an erroneous fear? The hackles are up, and up they stay.
I have had two mothers-in-law; one when I was very young in my first marriage, and another from my current (and to reassure you, Mr Lush, final!) state of matrimony. One of these women rang her son when we were first dating to enquire as to whether I might ‘just be after his house’, which was amusing on many grounds. Firstly, I owned my own property, and secondly, although his was a charming abode, it was not Beckingham Palace and hardly warranted a pre-nup to protect it from gold-digging paws.
I also have a step-mother-in-law who, whether due to her step-nature or nurture, is very unassuming and easy-going. She takes great interest in whatever the kids and my husband and I are up to, and we have a very laidback relationship. But life is a complicated thing, with twists and turns and tangled webs; rarely do we find ourselves in the old nuclear family.
My own mother seems, in my entirely unbiased and objective opinion, to be a marvellous in-law. She’s extremely supportive of both my husband’s career and my own, takes time out of her own busy life and relationship to phone us and to see the children, and casts no aspersions on our life choices. Instead, she attempts to support from the wings, and swoops in like some deus ex machina if it all goes wrong.
I hope that when and if the time comes, I manage to model her lead. I love the entire concept of The Family and hope that I will welcome others to ours with open arms, and an open mind.
Assuming they meet my relentlessly high expectations of course.