Have you heard the one about the mother-in-law who came to babysit?

Society has conditioned us to laugh at even the nastiest of mother-in-law jokes. It’s not pretty.

If you read that expecting a punchline to follow, you are not alone. Society has conditioned us to laugh at even the nastiest of mother-in-law jokes. The picture they paint is of overbearing, busybodies who treat their sons- or daughters-in-law with controlling contempt. It’s not pretty. But could it be true?

Jokes develop most readily from stereotypes. And many stereotypes are borne out of years of repeated behaviour patterns. Behind every stereotype is something that is at least recognisable, if not true. But how much of that is really just an excuse to justify our own sins?

It is much easier to assume the worst of another’s behaviour than to scrutinise the reasons for our own.

The mother-in-law / daughter-in-law relationship—like all relationships—requires grace, love, and a healthy dose of good communication. We need to make room for each other to grow, and we need some sober self-reflection.

Making Room For Her

Making Room For Her

Broadman & Holman.

No matter your age or stage, every daughter-in-law and mother-in-law needs help navigating their relationship sometimes.

Whether the struggle is one of feeling unseen, unheard, or unvalued, authors and in-laws Barbara and Stacy Reaoch have been there, and as they’ve put the Bible’s wisdom to practice over the years, they’ve found that the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law really can thrive in the midst of difficulty.

Broadman & Holman.

In light of this, Barbara and Stacy Reaoch bring us Making Room for Her: Biblical Wisdom for a Healthier Relationship with Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law. Without making light of particularly problematic situations that might require outside help or biblical boundaries, the Reaochs gently unpack what it looks like to love, appreciate, and honour our mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. They draw deeply from God’s Word, working hard to show us that every biblical exhortation to be as-Christ to one another applies just as much to in-law relationships (even difficult ones).

Writing with transparency and humility, the Reaochs begin chapter one by exploring the beginnings of their own in-law relationship—Stacy is married to Ben, Barbara’s son. Together, they draw alongside the reader as fellow travellers on the road, offering directions to help us discover the beauty that is possible in these relationships. They weave helpful personal anecdotes and stories of other women into the fabric of each chapter to show the reader what healthy in-law relationships can look like. They take us from first impressions and expectations to our differences in expressing and living life.

The Reaochs also delve into trickier areas such as conflict, suffering, and what it means to choose to love, despite the cost. Each chapter offers challenges to both daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law to help us resist the stereotypes—even in frustrating or hurtful situations—with grace and kindness.

I am not yet a mum-in-law, but over the years, I have thought much about what kind of mum-in-law I would like to be. I am fortunate to have had good models around me, including my own dear mum-in-law—I have much to emulate! And I am committed to loving my future (sons- and) daughters-in-law like my own while also giving them the space to leave and cleave.

I still have so much to learn and Making Room for Her has helped me to learn.

Yet, I am aware that I still have so much to learn (even after almost 25 years of being a daughter-in-law!), and Making Room for Her has helped me to learn. It has enabled me to think more deeply about both the big picture and the smaller details of what it looks like to nurture and grow healthy, warm, and Christ-like in-law relationships. I have also been challenged to consider what it looks like to care better for my own mum-in-law, especially with the difficulty of long distances and tricky time zones.

I would encourage all women to consider Making Room for Her an essential read, whether they are embarking on a new in-law relationship or have been in one for decades. The questions at the end of each chapter would also make for a good book-club read for Christian women. I suspect that Making Room for Her will be a repeat order for me from The Wandering Bookseller as a go-to bridal shower gift or Mother’s Day gift for friends.

To hear more about Making Room for Her from Barbara and Stacy Reaoch, listen to their interview on The Lydia Project: Conversations with Christian Women podcast on April 15th, 2022.