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A tribute to my other mother

May 20, 2012

by Michal Ann McArthur
Bend, Oregon

I suppose because of Mother’s Day, like you, I’ve been thinking about mothers lately. I had a remarkable mother, and one day I’m going to write a glowing tribute to her and she’ll deserve every word. But I’ve been blessed with two moms, and right now I want to write about my “other mother,” my mother-in-law. None of the snarky jokes about mothers-in-law would rightly apply to her. Yes, she was only human and no, she wasn’t perfect. But I think she’d be an inspiration to all of us who are currently serving in the challenging role of “mother-in-law.”

I met her for the first time at the airport. She and her husband and daughter had just flown in for the wedding. The first thing she did when she stepped off the plane was to give me a warm hug. Did you notice that I said “the first thing”? She hugged me before she even hugged her son. That sent an incredible message to me: you are part of my family now and you are every bit as important to me as my son. Wow. I was stunned. And until she passed away, she continued to treat me that way. It gave me a sense of security and belonging.

She and I were very different, but she never—and I’m not using this word lightly—never criticized me or made me feel inadequate. She certainly could have. She was an attractive woman, kept her hair and nails immaculately groomed, could sew, play the piano, arrange flowers, decorate cakes, and do all sorts of arty crafts. I was good at none of those things. But she recognized what I could do and affirmed me often. She built me up and never tore me down.

To her, family was the most important thing, and she communicated her love in so many ways. She turned every special occasion, especially Christmas, into an extravaganza of delight with gorgeous decorations, beautifully wrapped gifts, and wonderful dinners. She baked birthday cakes to order, especially fulfilling my children’s fondest fantasies.  We lived several hundred miles away, and before we would come for a visit, she always asked what each of us wanted to eat and drink. I had to be careful how I answered because I knew she’d knock herself out getting every last thing on the list. When we arrived, she had treats and toys waiting for the children on their pillows. She was clearly excited to see us and often teared up when we left. She and my father-in-law would stand in the driveway waving until we were out of sight. I never doubted that she loved me or my children.

As I think back, I’m sorry that I never told her I thought she was the best mother-in-law a girl could ever have. If you think your other mother is a gem, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to tell her so.

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Discuss this article

Jan May 21, 2012

This article touched me beyond words. What an example she is to all of us. If I can be half of that to my in-law children, I will count myself successful! Such a good reminder. Thank you, Michal Ann, for sharing this chapter of your life.

Alpine Dan May 21, 2012

A rare gem is multiplied in worth. The world is a better place for the love of that mother in-law.

Andrea Parunak May 21, 2012

What a great inspiration! I hope I manage to come even half this close to mother-in-law perfection.

Nancy May 21, 2012

Thanks for this moving tribute to your other mother. My other mother is a gem, too. I’m going to write and tell her.

Dawn May 21, 2012

What a great reminder to be grateful for the many special women and types of “mothers” we have in our lives.

Yvon May 21, 2012

Very touching tribute! I felt blessed to have known my husband’s mother only six months before she died and was grateful for that gift.

John May 21, 2012

A very warm tribute to your mother-in-law. And some wonderful examples of how to nurture good relationships for all of us. Thanks.

Kay May 21, 2012

She sounded like a gracious lady, you were definitely blessed! I too was blessed by a wonderful mother-in-law. No,she wasn’t perfect, but she loved me despite me. I miss her, and look forward to the day I will see her again. Thank you for sharing… Kay

Kathi May 22, 2012

Sigh! I had a super mother-in-law, although she died 33 years ago. A mother-in-law like yours I’ll never be, but I certainly admire her style! I totally forgot one of my grandson’s birthdays (between babysitting for the births of two other grand children at other kids’ homes) and so am going to try to make up for it by having a birthday party for all the grandchildren in one family when I go to visit their next baby, due in three weeks. Manicure? Well, I clip my nails every couple of weeks if I’m lucky. But, I hope that even though I’m very different, my kids and grand kids still understand (even a little) how much a truly love them. Guess that’s really your message, isn’t it? Appreciate our parents, and love our kids. And let them know!

Judy Renner May 22, 2012

A good check list for me as I am a mother in law to two beautiful ‘daughters’. We all need role models and it sounds like your mother in law was a great one for you.

Carolyn May 22, 2012

How fortunate you are. She sounds like one wonderful person.

Nancy May 24, 2012

You and I were blessed to have had wonderful, loving Mother-in -laws. A role often overlooked and often unappreciated. Great article.

T. Taylor May 28, 2012

The mother in law role is a tricky one in deed. Thanks for sharing such an inspiring yet realistic example. It’s clear, your “other mother” made the choice early on to manage the role well and enriched many relationships. I’m blessed to be the mother in law of a very precious young lady whom I loved the minute I met her but I also so know plenty of gals who have “learned” to love on their daughters in law. My hat goes off to them!

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