Not-so-distant, but distant, in-laws

In-law relationships are a unique area of our lives. For some families the in-law relationship can be tiring, for others it can be amazing, and for some it just is. For me, my relationship with my in-laws is mediocre at best, and distant despite their across the street availability.

I’ve read the articles and I’ve been to therapy. 

The articles are crap. 

Therapy didn’t work. 

I expected my in-laws to be like best friends parents. Lucky for me, or maybe unluckily, growing up I had the type of best-friend parents who always had an extra toothbrush, an extra plate of dinner, and a safe drive home. The parents of my friends in high school and into university were always there for me. They are the kind of parent I would love to be.

That’s how I imagined my in-laws as a naive twenty-something young girl, and that’s how my heart got crushed because they aren’t anything like that. Their arms aren’t open, and they barely even know my name. 

My in-laws are the type of people who counted down till the kids turned 18 to kick them out. They joke about how their time is up and it’s their time to take in the world. But, as I become a parent myself, I learn we don’t ever stop needing our parents wisdom, support and love. When my kids turn 18, I won’t stop being their parent. I will continue to be their parent in new and fascinating ways. This I know because I’m thirty-something and I still need my mom’s support just like she needs her mom. It’s because I know my mom struggles every day without the love and support of her mom since her passing.

I kind of thought when we moved to town that the proximity would change the relationship. Maybe then there would be no excuses about visiting and spending time with us and the kids. The excuses filter in and the door never opens. 

This has drawn tension in the relationship: my expectations of them to be present in our lives, and their expectations to not be present. 

They say they want to spend time with their grandkids, but they never show up. They say they are waiting for our phone call, but when I call they are too busy.  Actions speak louder than words.

The kids speak of their other grandparents who live across the country because of Skype calls and packages in the mail. We might live across the street, but we see my parents across the country more often than them. 

It tugs at my heart strings and brings tears to my eyes. Buck up lady, you can keep it together, but I can’t because grief has never been my strong suit. I’m grieving a relationship I dreamed of having and one I witnessed between my parents and their in-laws.

Maybe you also have in-laws like this? The type you only see at Christmas & Easter, and maybe birthday parties? Know you aren’t alone. The perfect in-law exists for some, and not for others. Sometimes its a relationship that can’t be fixed and it’s okay to grieve the death of something you wanted because the act of “letting go” takes time and a ton of courage.


Anonymous, Northern BC

This post was submitted to us via email to be shared anonymously. We publish and share stories of motherhood and parenting from Northern BC. If you have a story or essay to share about your experience that might interest our readers email

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