My daughter texted me at 6 a.m. about her future mother-in-law. A told her and his brothers that they had created a plan and a budget with an eye toward purchasing their first home, much the same discussion C and I had. Curious the differences in perspective. Whereas I was enthusiastic and supportive and very excited about their plans and their good fortune in finding second jobs that could accommodate their schedules and make them a decent amount of extra money, A’s mother was worried about them working too hard, being less available for family events, and changing the family custom of giving and exchanging gifts. What about their wedding? If they ceased exchanging gifts they would likely not receive anything when they do get married.
A is accustomed to the way his family thinks, C is not. She is having a tougher time adjusting to their world view and how upsetting it is to A and how much influence it holds for him. My advice was to just give it some time to cure in their hearts and minds. She and A are their own little family unit, and while our opinions and ideas are important and matter to both of them, they should not hold superior influence over their own goals and methods to reach them. I stressed that personal finance is just that – personal.
As for the gifting thing, new ideas are going to be intimidating, especially for a family as close-knit and as large as A’s. His mother, his family has been his primary support system his whole life, and it is going to take some time to accept that he is a grown man with a fiance whose desires and ideas have to come first and carry much more weight and influence.
Patience, grasshopper, patience.
But it’s difficult sometimes for me as C’s mother not to immediately take her side and defend it to the death, to want to tell A to shape up and not put my daughter through all this family drama. But I won’t, because I do think C has to learn to let go of some of her own hard-won independence and blazing her own trail to learning how to compromise and melding pathways with her future husband. She is fiercely protective of him in her own way, but she is not yet to the point of standing up for herself and confronting his mother and step-father, which would probably back them down significantly. It’s not her style; we do not do direct head-to-head conflict all that well. Ours is a family of solving little problems before they become big giant problems that explode into conflicts of amazingly ridiculous and hurtful proportions. A’s family tends to be more dramatic, and what we consider little problems would be non-issues to be swept away as unimportant. To his credit A does stand up to his mother and step-father, but since C tends to be more passive and quiet or completely absent in the face of the dramas … they tend to discount her. It is infuriating, but she partially brings this on herself by not being physically present at each and every one of the family dinners and parties and events. Sometimes she is working, sometimes she is busy with her own family commitments, and sometimes she just cannot cope with it. For all the time she and A spend at our house for our monthly family dinner summits or impromptu events, she spends 5 nights with his family and A even more. Not that I am counting, of course; this estimate comes straight from them.
So at 6 a.m. I am supporting and coaching my daughter via text on dealing with her in-laws and how they impact their lives. This is one of those situations that make me glad they have decided on a longer engagement, to have some time to iron things out and get on the same page of teaming up to tame the parents expectations.
I am far from a perfect in-law, I’m sure. However, our non-pushy, non-traditional approach to holidays and celebrations and such works in our favor. The fact that I dread wedding planning and feverently hope C continues on her pathway toward small, maybe courthouse ceremony has been well received. Informal events at my house I could definitely handle, but I dread the formality of wedding planning with an aversion akin to my irrational fear of frogs and toads and their hopping ilk.
Every family is different, and in marrying A she is also marrying into his clan. She accepts that, but learning how to cope with it is an ongoing challenge, one she wishes would simply fade away. Sorry, not likely to happen, so deal with it. Just trust your own mom has your back, and is awake at 6 a.m. for consultation before work.