Let Them Leave and Cleave :: Parenting Tip Number Nineteen

We are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites, as well as other affiliate links. See our disclosure page for more info.

As of May 15 of this year, I have been raising children for twenty-three years, so while I feel somewhat qualified to share parenting advice, I am fairly new at this mother-in-law thing. 🙂 My oldest son, Joshua, and his wife Alissa, have only been married for two years. I am sure many of you could offer much more advice on the topic of being mother-in-law. However, I will share a little that I have learned.

It is vital that we let our married children “leave and cleave.” Not only is this Biblical, but it is just common sense.

Jeff and I decided, a long time ago, that we would not be interfering in-laws. We want our married children and their spouses to WANT to spend time with us, not to do it out of duty or obligation.

I don’t know about you, but I find it very difficult to confide in an overbearing, controlling person. We know that our married kids will have little desire to have a close relationship with us, if we are controlling. We want them to feel free to share with us what is going on in their lives, without fear of interference.

While Jeff and I are Joshua and Alissa’s friends, and brother and sister in Christ, we have absolutely no authority over our son any more, and most definitely no authority over our daughter-in-law. Yes, Biblically they should honor us (and they do), but just as Biblically, we need to let them become their own family. Though we will always have a special interest and love for Joshua and Alissa, because they are part of our extended family, they are now a separate family We need to respect that fact and allow them to be their own family.

We need to let our married kids make their own mistakes. We need to let them make their own decisions. They need to have their own successes…and their own failures. Unless our married kids are violating Scripture, and we would confront them just as we would any other brother and sister in Christ, it is wise to keep our opinions to ourselves. As I was telling a friend recently, this is true even if we have to bite our tongue until it bleeds. 🙂 In the long run, this is so much better for our relationship with our married kids, and also for their marriage.

Our married son has chosen to do some things differently in his home than how they have been done in our home. He has even changed some of his doctrine (gasp!!). You know what? That is okay. Honestly, if our son would choose to do something just because “Dad and Mom did it that way” then we would not have raised him the way we had hoped. Our desire is that he and his wife search Scripture for their answers. If they do that, even if they land a little differently than we do on some things, then we will have, by God’s grace, been successful as parents.

Personalities come into play, too. In combining their personalities in their own home, Joshua and Alissa’s “family personality” will look different than Jeff and Kim’s “family personality.” So, even practically speaking, they will
do things differently than us. That is okay, too.

As a mom, this can be tough. After being very involved in Joshua’s life for nearly 21 years, it was hard to step back and be completely hands off. And, if I were to be truly transparent and open, I have struggled to accept the new normal. I still miss his presence in our home very much. I miss our family of seven. But, just as Joshua has moved on, I need to move on, too. He is doing exactly what Jeff and I raised him to do, which is to follow the path where God has led him.

And the usual disclaimer. I am writing this from the perspective of someone whose married adult son, and his wife, are striving to live for the Lord. Some of you may have adult married kids who are not living for the Lord, or perhaps are not even believers or married to believers. My heart aches for you. I can’t imagine how hard that would be. It would definitely be harder to step back and not try to get involved. While I wish I had some great words of wisdom for you, this is totally out of my realm of experience. But please know that I care, and I can sure pray. Please feel free to drop me a private message and I will pray for you and your married children.

I found it interesting that Jenn wrote a post to her future mother-in-law (mother-in-love) recently! I know she’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments! 🙂

Kim

Kim Stilwell has been married to her best friend, Jeff, since 1987. They have five children, Joshua (1992) who has been married to Alissa since 2013, Joseph (1995), Josiah (1997), Jessica (1998) and Jennifer (2001), as well as eight children in Heaven, all of whom died before birth. Kim was a missionary kid who grew up in Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Peru. She met Jeff, also an MK, at a missionary school in Peru. Immediately following their wedding, they attended college in Iowa and have lived there ever since. Kim is a full time stay at home, homeschooling mom. In her spare time, she likes to write, and has a column in the NICHE newsletter.