COMMENTARY: My other Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day around the corner, our thoughts turn toward ways to thank the amazing women who raised us. Regular readers of this column know how I feel about my mom, who will no doubt be canonized for what her seven kids put her through.

However, I’ve been lucky enough to have two mothers in my life: my mother-in-law has been a blessing far beyond what I deserve.

Everyone’s heard the dreaded mother-in-law jokes; they’ve been around since Roman author Juvenal wrote in the late 1st century, “One cannot be happy while one’s mother-in-law is still alive.”

Mother-in-law jokes

Men have been complaining ever since:

I haven’t spoken to my mother-in-law for two years. We aren’t fighting, I just don’t like to interrupt her …

— I really do have a soft spot for my mother-in-law — it’s out in the garden behind the garage …

— I bought my mother-in-law a chair for Christmas, but she wouldn’t plug it in …

I never understood these jokes because my wife’s parents have always treated me like family. I met my future mother-in-law in high school when we worked together on a retreat. She wore a bemused expression as she grappled with my warped sense of humor.

It’s a testament to her patience that we got along famously, and I fell in love with her daughter when she displayed the same adaptability, kindness and intelligence.


A woman brought three men to her mother so she could guess which was her new fiancée. Her mother looks them over quickly and declares, “It’s him.” Her daughter squeals with delight and asks how she figured it out so quickly. Her mother replied, “Because I can’t stand him.”

When I sought her blessing before asking for her daughter’s hand in marriage, my mother-in-law never betrayed any misgivings at the kind of life this 31-year-old lifeguard/graduate student might be able to provide her baby girl.

Instead, she opened up her heart and shared her amazing family with me.

Two lifeguards notice sharks circling a woman in the ocean. One begins to race to her rescue when the other grabs his arm. “Don’t worry. That woman is my mother-in-law.” Confused, the first lifeguard watches the sharks organize themselves beneath the woman, allowing her to ride safely on their backs all the way to shore.

“How did you know that would happen?” the first lifeguard asked. The second answered, “Professional courtesy.”

A welcoming hug

Every visit to my mother-in-law’s house finds her bringing me a giant cup of ice water with a welcoming hug. Every small repair I perform is accompanied by effusive praise.

She loves redecorating our house but never without asking my opinions. She is so generous with her time and talents that I’m often embarrassed at all the things she does for us.

A woman tells her husband to buy her mother an expensive birthday gift, so the man buys his mother-in-law a cemetery plot. The next year, his wife asks him to buy her another gift but he refuses: “She still hasn’t used the gift I gave her last year!”

As a fellow teacher, my mother-in-law modeled the dedication, creativity, and caring necessary to educate tomorrow’s leaders.

I’ve received a free education in what it means to sacrifice weeknights and weekends for the good of one’s students while never complaining about the many demands of the job.

Career guidance

Countless car rides to family events have turned into impromptu professional workshops that have proven invaluable in my career.

Two men were in a pub. One says to his pal, “My mother-in-law is an angel.” His friend replies, “You’re lucky. Mine’s still alive.”

I’m so glad my mother-in-law is still around for me to let her know how special she is to me. What she’s done for me goes beyond any “law” or filial obligation.

She has been as much a mother to me as my own, and I love her every bit as much. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there (especially those who are in on the joke).

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