Dear Mother-in-Law,

Knowing that you have never raised a daughter, I can now see and understand what a shock I was to your system when I came into your life! I didn’t know what it was like to raise or interact with a daughter either, until I gave birth to a wonderful little girl almost 14 years ago. So I can share with you what I’ve learned so far when dealing with a daughter; it’s almost always a fragile interaction that needs to be treated with the outmost respect, and as much kindness and empathy as one can muster. Her entire life will be a learning process and it would be great if we guide them and teach them how to be kind to themselves and others. A “handle with care at all times” package, if you will. Because breaking the spirit of a daughter is an unfair crime we commit against them and the future recipients of her broken spirit. A broken woman raises broken children; broken children grow up and help to break others.

Along with the list of important lessons I’ve learned so far, and another big reason for us to get along is because we teach our daughters by example how to treat other women and themselves.

You not raising a young daughter meant that you were spared some of the molding years, which were very challenging because I was working against the grain of your and my pedigree – I had to find a way to empower, support and love my daughter beyond all of the kinks in the many stages of her development. What I saw as a plus when we met, was that you didn’t need to raise me and go through all of that because I was already fully formed into a young adult! I was the daughter you didn’t need to worry about having my heart broken, paying for my bills, putting me through college, and most certainly you didn’t need to worry about me marrying the wrong guy because I found your son, and he’s pretty amazing, so I was all set, right? Not in your eyes because you were skeptical. Granted, I had many vulnerabilities and fears of trusting “mother figures,” but I was managing quite well before we met. And sadly, we met at an untraveled and rocky-road, both skeptical of each other, so we chose to walk it alone, with stubborn and unkind attitudes. We put on our blinders and chose to battle for the road, not realizing that the road is there to bring people together and had been placed there by fate/the Universe and didn’t need anyone to fight over it or claim it. Together, we built a fractured foundation to carry the weight of our relationship and had no one to blame but ourselves.

So, at the tender age of 22, when most kids are just graduating college, I was dating the man of my dreams, had the job of my dreams and everything was looking up for me. Then everything changed two-years later when I married your son. You had to welcome someone new into the family, a daughter-in-law! I look back and see that you didn’t have the tools to handle that change, but you also didn’t have an open heart. So there I was, unwelcome, joining the family and “taking” your first-born son. On top of that, I longed for a lot of support and understanding from you, but you couldn’t handle helping out what you, wrongfully considered, the competition.

I was no different than any other 24 year-old, fearless, hungry to succeed, on the edge and uninhibited. And I was married to a man whose mom feared everything about 24 year-old me! I love deeply but also disliked people deeply when they lack empathy and respect towards me, and all of those things about me, at that age, scared you to death. I took your world by storm and it must have been frightening for you. And while I was successful and had a lot going for myself, I was also still very young, impressionable and with much to learn. I needed your guidance not your judgment, your support and not jealousy.

In the beginning of my marriage to your son, I rode a rollercoaster of many emotions; I was unpredictable with my reaction to your comments, criticism, circumstances and situations, but I expected you to hold my hand and gently guide me, not shame me or create more issues. Even during those difficult years of starting a life with my new husband, and starting a family, there was one thing I knew for sure – we were divided. I knew that we would never have a good relationship if something didn’t change, but I never felt your willingness to want things to evolve and get better for both of us, you’ve wanted to have everything your way. That’s where I hoped that you as the elder, would have more experience and tap into your wisdom and heart, and gently, caring, and lovingly, guide me to understanding what I didn’t understand and help me along to evolve. But now I get it, you didn’t know it or understand it yourself. You lacked experience and growth to empower yourself, let alone other women. At 40 years old, I’m just learning how to do that myself and learning has required me to become fearless in some ways, that's really scary for me so I can't imagine what it's like to watch me go through it. There's never an age limit to learn to take care of yourself and evolve, thereby becoming accepting and respectful of other people's growth and evolution process.

I took care of myself very well before your son came into my life. I promise you, your worries about me taking time to work on my craft isn’t taking anything away from him or the kids, it enriches all of us. You don’t need to worry about us, unless you’re also going to show support, understanding and kindness. Every time we’ve had issues, I’ve wondered; how would you feel if the tables were turned and my family was hard on your son? Your hands would be tied and you would just have to watch from the sidelines, as your son was being treated unfairly, just as my family watches as I struggle with our volatile relationship.

Accepting others as they are is not a character flaw; it’s a blessing that feeds our hearts in unimaginable ways. And as much as we have the right to feel a certain way about each other, we also have the choice to do it kindly, lovingly, and respectfully. The problem from the beginning was that you had a hard time letting go of your son, who was your first-born. I have a son too and I can only imagine what that must feel like. I hope when my time comes to be a mother-in-law that I will be able to express all of my fears of the unknowns in a kind, understanding, loving and empathetic way. I have learned so much from all of this and hope that I can tap into this wisdom when my kids get married.

You’ve voiced your dissatisfaction with my lack of attention and love toward you. Would you love or give attention to someone who challenges your life choices, judges you, and retaliates against you when you don’t live your life, as they want you to? We were both living with a broken foundation that was shaky on a good day, we carelessly mishandled our relationship, and we didn’t try to understand the anatomy of loving and respectful mother-in-law and daughter-n-law relationship.

There might not be a quick resolution to our situation because we each choose to hold on to a laundry list of “emotional catastrophes” that we’ve created over the almost two decades we’ve been in each others lives. As of today, I let go of that list and the resentment that went with it because it's weighing me down, and I need all of my energy to focus on being kind, forgiving and loving to myself. But if there’s only one thing to take away from this entire experience, I take away the realization that when we can’t utter the words, I am sorry, it strips away trust and empathy, and an already broken foundation comes crumbling down. I know what you’re thinking, how can I air out our dirty laundry? This can be any woman’s story, we all have power-struggles with other women and we lack empathy and care when dealing with each other, especially when our hearts are tangled in it. We’re not the only ones dealing with these types of issues.

And so I ask you, mother-in-law -- how do you rebuild after something like that? I’ll start, I’m sorry for hurting you, making you feel unwanted and unloved. And I wish you enlightening moments filled with peace. Handle your heart and the heart of others who entrust you with them, with care at all times. Namaste.

-Fabiola 

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