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THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR MOTHERS-IN-LAW

They have been the butt of many a joke over the years and are often perceived as being interfering and controlling, but is the mother-in-law stereotype fair? Nowadays, most women get on with their partner's mother – with even Camilla Parker Bowles and the Queen having broken down the barriers famously erected by the monarch when her son married his second wife.

My own mother-in-law lives abroad but has been quietly supportive over the years, never interfering but always there with a bit of advice or a helping hand if needed. And I wondered if I was just lucky to have her or was the archetypal dragon regularly portrayed by comedians a thing of the past?

With this in mind, I spoke to a number of women who say that not only do they also get on with their mothers-in-law, but they have a great relationship which in turn makes life run smoother for everyone.

Clionadh Lynders Twomey is married to Brian Twomey and together they have twin boys – Dara and Killian (aged 8) – and live in Skerries. Her mother-In-law Eileen lives about five minutes away and they have a great relationship with each other.

"I have known Eileen for over 14 years and was introduced to her almost as soon as I met my now husband, Brian. Naturally, I was very nervous during the initial meeting but any myths and stories about difficult mothers-in-law were instantly dispelled as soon as I met her. I really am so blessed to have had such a good relationship with her right from the beginning as not everyone is so lucky.

"I have friends who reel off stories of disapproval and attempts by their mothers-in- law to undermine them. Luckily for me, the worst thing Eileen has ever done was give the boys a loaded chocolate brownie dessert with ice-cream when I wasn't looking. Mind you, she did have my husband's full approval.

"To be honest, Eileen is a total Godsend. While she enjoys looking after the boys, she also acknowledges that it is hard work and a big commitment. I am a bit of a mumtrepeneur and run my own (award- winning) business – The Sweet Treat Company. This means that my schedule can alter at any moment during the day.

"This is where Eileen comes into her own – we would never use her as a babysitting or child-minding service, but for school collections, meal times and after-school activities, she will always jump in and help me out. Not to mention the trips to the beach, the playground and, of course, the sleepovers which are all really exciting and fun times for the boys.

TRADITION

"I see first-hand the huge benefit of Eileen's involvement while interacting with the boys on a level which is removed from the day-to- day responsibilities of us as parents. The boys see her as the family historian and she certainly does add a rich sense of family tradition to our sons' lives.

"She is forever rolling back the years and is rejuvenated by the constant companionship of the twins. She derives immense satisfaction from caring for our boys and, ultimately, she will always ensure they are in a safe, nurturing and structured home environment which allows them to grow and feel loved.

"When I exchanged vows with my husband Brian on our wedding day, I wasn't just saying 'I do' to him, I was really embracing his whole family – for better or for worse. Thankfully, it was all for the better and it is well documented that the benefits of healthy family relationships are far reaching and all encompassing.

"Whilst we are certainly not a modern-day 'Walton's Family', we do make a point of meeting up every weekend for coffee and treats and catching up with all the activity of the previous week – it really is a lovely relationship."

Deirdre O'Sullivan is married to John and together they have three children (Sean, 13, Cian, 10, and Cara, 5). They live in Walkinstown and John's mother Maureen lives in Terenure. Deirdre works part-time at Kay's School of Floristry and her mother-in-law is always on hand to pick up the children from activities or give them a nutritious meal if she is running late.

"Maureen has always been a huge part of our family life, particularly in the past few years when I have been working more hours and the kids are getting more demanding with appointments and activities. Because working at the floristry is not a regular nine to five job, finding a child-minder isn't easy and it is also quite expensive – so my mother-in-law always helps out when I need her to. Some mornings I might need to collect flowers from the market, so I drop the youngest two to Maureen and she will bring them to school for me.

STIGMA

"Sometimes, I have to do floral demonstrations in the evenings and, again, granny never has a problem coming over. Occasionally, I will do courses at the weekend and without Maureen helping out by taking the kids to their various activities, I don't know how we would cope. She knows both my home and work routine so well that she is often way ahead of me in terms of what needs to be done.

"I would say that my mother-in-law is like my right-hand woman and it is great just knowing that the kids are with someone who loves them and has their welfare in mind all the time. She will also throw on a yummy dinner for them.

"I think the old stigma attached to mother-in-laws is fading away, especially now as childcare is so expensive and many women are more appreciative of the assistance and structure their partner's mother brings to the family. Any ill-feeling between in-laws would create a lot of negativity within a family and both my husband and I say how lucky we are to have both our mothers nearby and how lucky our children are to have such a close relationship with their grandparents.

"Mothers deserve all the love and respect there is, there is no point in wishing you spent more time with them when they are gone. One day I will be that 'mother-in-law' and I hope my children's partners will have as much respect and love for me as I do for my own mother-in-law."


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