In all honesty, I really do feel blessed. Interestingly though only someone in a family situation like mine could possibly comprehend this particular “blessing,” and many would not consider it a blessing at all. You see I feel fortunate to have not one, but two wonderful women in my life – both of whom happen to be my mothers-in-law, one from my first marriage and one from my second.
There is no doubt that there must be people reading this that would think I must either be joking or out of my mind. Isn’t one mother-in-law more than enough? How in the world do you feel blessed having two?
This certainly was not an instantaneous awareness for me. It was a long process and it took me years to appreciate these two very different women and the life lessons I can learn from them.
When my first husband left me I had thought that was where my “commitment” to his parents would end. Since he chose to leave would it not make sense for him to simply pack them up with the rest of his belongings and haul them off too? Weren’t they “his” parents? Reality soon sunk in and it became clear that that was not to be the case. My children, their grandchildren, were now the connection we shared and I knew that I would somehow have to figure out how to retain some bond with them, while moving ahead without their son.
Mother-in-law number “one” played a big role in my youth and watched me grow into adulthood. When remembering my childhood my thoughts overflow with memories of our shared experiences. Our families had been close; we were all part of the same small community. We spent chaggim together. My ex-husband’s family had been my extended family for most of my formative years. As tempting as it was at the time, I could not hold them responsible for their son’s indiscretions.
Mother-in-law number “two” entered my life at the beginning of a new and exciting chapter. I felt like a survivor at that point having come through a traumatic divorce whole and intact. I had been cheated on and emotionally abused. I was left to raise two small children on my own. She and my wonderful father-in-law embraced my children and supported and encouraged us as we became part of their family.
My two mothers-in-law are as different as night and day. At first that was confusing for me as I tried to figure out how they each fit into my life, but over the years I have come to appreciate each one for whom she is.
Mother-in-law “one” is of Ashkenazi background, born and raised in America. She is from a very small family and lived a typical modern orthodox lifestyle. She earned a college degree and has always been a true educator – inside as well as outside the classroom.
By contrast, mother-in-law “two” is of Sefardic background, arrived on the shores of America as an adult and enjoys the warmth and love of her large close-knit family. Listening to her re-tell her life experiences is like reading an exciting adventure novel, with the added benefit of her accent! She worked hard and committed herself to helping others – especially her extended family whom she and my father-in-law supported as they each left their home country in order to provide their families with lives of Torah and mitzvot.
These days my relationship with mother-in-law number “one” is somewhat limited, yet there is a mutual respect between us. We speak and write regularly, if not often, focused mainly around the love we share and nachat we receive from my children and grandchildren, which are her grandchildren and great grandchildren. I believe she not only recognizes, but also appreciates that throughout my divorce, re-marriage, and the blending of my family, I did what was best for her grandchildren and have raised them along with my husband to be wonderful caring individuals. In return, I appreciate that she has been there for my children and now my grandchildren over the years without meddling in my new life and new family.
My relationship with mother-in-law “two” by far is more interactive.