All mother-in-law jokes aside, I am lucky to have two of them. My husband’s parents divorced when he was very young and both remarried, finding wonderful partners that have long been loving stepparents to Rob since he was a little boy.
Kay O’Beirne and Lucy Dillon are very different people but each is special in her own way. Kay, Rob’s mother, is the type of woman who can get things done. She spent 39 years as a civil service employee and can accomplish even the most challenging of errands within a day or two. Kay remembers names and dates and events like they happened yesterday and makes a mean she-crab soup. She loves her dogs and cats like children and will never let a stray go hungry. Lucy, Rob’s stepmother, is the kind of woman who can make a wedding garter belt for a girl when, at the last minute, she can’t find hers and the reception is about to start. Lucy knows how to simulate the look (for a fraction of the cost) of the expensive “Pottery Barn” type decorating style and how to make an old chest of drawers suddenly look like the coolest sort of “shabby chic” style. She also makes the best spaghetti and meat sauce ever.
Since I’ve first become a part of Rob’s family, these two women have made me feel at home and loved, which is more than I could ask for. As the mother of two boys, I can only imagine how it feels to know that one day, your son will bring home a serious girlfriend or fiancé and you will have to make room for her in your heart, whether you click with her or not.
Now that I have these boys, I realize—every single day—how difficult this mothering business truly is. The laundry list of mistakes I make is impressive. I am inconsistent. I sometimes lose my temper. I nag. I criticize. I am occasionally sarcastic and snide. There are times I just don’t feel like making dinner or changing sheets or doing laundry or checking homework or…well, you get the point. But at times like these, I often think about my two mothers-in-law and the fact that they each raised two boys themselves. Lucy was mostly a stay-at-home mother while Kay worked but both were good moms in their own ways. I marvel at Kay’s organizational skills as a young mother, and how much she had to prepare and plan for each new day and week. Having predictable meals and clothes laid out the night before may seem rigid, but I can see how sanity-saving such planning is when you’re up at the crack of dawn and out of the house by 7:30 a.m.
By the same token, I am impressed with Lucy’s creativity and ability to make beauty out of the simplest things. Give this woman some glue, a few leaves and fabric scraps and she can make an elaborate table centerpiece. Lucy can see possibilities where others might just see ordinary objects. She is tireless in her efforts to decorate a home and will help out her family members with home-improvement projects at the drop of a hat, even if that means travelling for a day or two to get there. Which brings me to my next point. Kay and Lucy put family first and it shows in everything they do. It’s easy to say family is important, but to actually live it is another story. Kay cared for her ailing mother after a stroke for years while Lucy played nursemaid to her own elderly in-laws before they died. Currently, her 90-year-old father lives with her and Rob’s father for part of the year. Both Kay and Lucy have experienced staggering losses in their lives. Lucy’s youngest son was killed in Iraq in 2006 and Kay’s husband of more than 30 years died suddenly 10 years ago.
As Mothers Day approaches, I think about my two MILs and the fact that someday, perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to be a role model for the women who fall in love with my sons. I wonder what they will think of me and whether I will be able to love them unconditionally and whole-heartedly. You cannot choose your daughter-in-law (well, OK, arranged marriages DO still happen) but it is my fervent hope that I can make my daughters-in-law feel as welcome and accepted as I did when Rob and I got together. For all you who are mothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers or any other category of “mom-hood,” I wish you a beautiful Mother’s Day!