How I Survived Another Week with my Mother-in-Law

Well, it happened. As it was bound to.

My mother-in-law came to visit, spent a week criticizing everything and now I see everything through her eyes.

I see the water damage on the floors instead of the refinished parkay; I see the weather-stained roof on the sunroom instead of the beautiful view behind it; I see that my dishwasher needs to be replaced and my refrigerator is mildewed and my kitchen counters are cracked, even though I already knew that.

“Your floors are sticky!” my mother-in-law said. And she was so aghast, it was as if I had committed a crime. “There are fingerprints EVERYWHERE!” she said.

She chased me down the driveway, wagging her finger. “And another thing!” she called.

I don’t know why I’m surprised. That’s the way it always is between us. One mother criticizing another.

I guess I thought it would be different because of the new house. Because I worked so hard to get it, because I spent all of my money on it, every penny that I ever earned, and I was proud of it. And I thought she would see that: how hard I worked for my family.

But of course, it’s never enough. You always fall short, it seems, in the motherhood department. One way or another.

I am a working mom. And it is hands-down the hardest thing I have ever done. It is harder than writing a novel. It is harder than going to college, harder than grad school, harder than all the papers or articles or books I have ever written.

Just getting the kids dressed, fed and out the door every day is a minor miracle.

I’m not saying being a stay-at-home mom is a cake walk either. All of it is hard. Going to work is hard. Staying at home is hard. Motherhood is overwhelming, in any way, shape or form. And all of us are struggling.

Yes, my floors are sticky. Yes, my cupboards need a thorough cleaning.

But you know, I have other things I want to do. I have kids I want to play with. I have stories I want to write. The dishes can wait, as Ellen Gilchrist would say.

I have this life. I have right now. And I’m not going to waste it only seeing the flaws in it.

I just have to remember how to see it that way. Because I don’t right now. But I will. I know I will.

Thank God my mother-in-law lives in Florida. That’s all I can say.

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