Mother in Law Stereotypes Are Just That

If you're getting ready to be a new mother in law (or daughter in law, for that matter), you're probably a little uneasy, to say the least. After all, there are a lot of stereotypes that come with "the in-laws." But here's a bit of encouraging news. Not all mothers in law have to be controlling and hard to please. Just listen to these inspiring stories about wonderful relationships between mothers in law and their daughters in law.

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A photograph from Candi Geist's wedding day 13 years ago typifies the relationship she feared could develop with her mother-in-law. She and her husband, Mike, got married after only six months of dating, and his mom, Deb Geist, wasn't exactly thrilled with the quick pace.

Plus, Michael had divorced the year before, and Candi had a 6- year-old son from a previous relationship.

"We did the courthouse wedding and did a reception (at her in-laws' home) and there's this picture of my mother-in-law and she's making this face," Candi says. "It looked angry."

"I think the sun was in my eyes," Deb Geist interjects with a big laugh as the two women sit in her living room, recalling the early years of their relationship.

It also didn't help that Candi was "really nervous" about how she and Deb would accept each other.

"Before I married my husband, I didn't have a good female mother figure in my life. My biological mom left me with my grandma when I was around 2," Candi explained. Though the odds seemed stacked against it, Candi says she indeed has found a mother figure as well as a dear friend in Deb. "She might not be related to me by blood, but if I could pick a mom, she would be at the top of my list," Candi said. Stereotypes Misleading Their relationship is a testament to the crucial role that that mothers can play for their children's spouses. They may receive a bad rap through popular stereotypes, but mothers-in-law often serve as a source of strength, wisdom, stability and love for the new additions to their family. For many of our readers, the term "monster-in-law" couldn't be further from the truth. Laura Call of Springfield insists she has "the world's best mother-in-law" in Helen Call. "She is one of the most caring, thoughtful, generous, warm- hearted individuals I have ever met," Laura said. Laura married Helen's son, Patrick, almost 20 years ago. And the women had a great relationship right from the start, despite sharing some significant differences. Helen raised a large, Catholic family of 12 children six boys and six girls -- that's expanded to include 24 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Laura is Jewish.
"I never, ever once felt that she treated me any differently or loved me any less for being from such a different background," Laura said. Over the years, Laura says she's come to appreciate how Helen remembers not only big events but all of the little things going on in her family members' lives, as well as Laura's own family. "You would think someone who has that many people in her life that she's trying to keep up with, that she wouldn't remember all the little stuff," Laura said. Helen is a frequent volunteer at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and with local charities. She also attends all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren's events, such as concerts, plays and sports games. "She's juggling hundreds of balls in the air, and she still can make you feel special," Laura said. "If someone is going through a hard time ... if she can do something to alleviate concerns or make the situation easier, whatever it is, she'll do it, whether it's brining food or watching your kids." One time when Laura and Patrick and their son, Zachary, had to wait five days before they could move into their new home, Helen let the family stay with her. No Horror Stories "I totally feel like I lucked out there because you do hear a lot of horror stories about people's in-laws," Laura said. "I think I hit the jackpot."
What Laura perhaps appreciates the most is Helen's devotion not only to her own children but to their significant others as well. Helen Call says that's a priority for her. "You'd have to say I have 24 kids because their mates are my children, too," she said. "I'll tell you, my kids are all wonderful, and when I say my kids, I mean all 24." Candi Geist says her mother-in-law's ability to treat her the way she does her own three children is what she treasures as well. "She might have been cautious with me in the beginning, but over the years, she has never shied away from expressing her opinions, yet not in the ways that most mothers-in-law are criticized for," she explained. "She will disagree with her son as easily as she will with me." Candi said Deb also embraced her son, Ryan, who's now 19. Candi and Mike went on to have three more children, 12-year-old Abby and 18-month-old twins, Maxx and Ella. As they raised their family, Candi appreciated Deb's presence in their lives more and more. When Abby was 4, she contracted encephalitis and had to be hospitalized during two different stints over Christmas and New Year's Day. "Not a day went by that (Deb) was not there. She was there to help support us and tried to make our worst Christmas less awful by bringing dinner to us in the hospital," Candi said.
Deb also provided Candi with a shoulder to cry on and reassured her. Later, when the twins were born, Candi and Mike's furnace broke on their first night home with both new babies. "Again, she stepped up and invited all of us into her home for what ended up being a two-week stay," Candi said. Now Deb baby-sits the twins during the week while Candi and Mike are at work. And every Sunday, Deb hosts the family at her and husband's home for dinner. Candi says their relationship has blossomed in the process. "She is not just a grandma, not just a mother-in-law, she is also my friend. We go to movies together, have been on vacation together, and I really do enjoy my time with her," Candi said.
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