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Should We Outlaw In-Laws?

February 24, 2014 by Diane

Women's hands are open the cupboard doors, dark wood

A friend told me, “Whenever my mother-in-law comes to visit, she rearranges the canned goods in the bloody kitchen cabinets. Every time.” Which, according to my friend, is bloody often.

Strange behavior, but uncommon, don’t you think?

Think again.

My mother told me that a neighbor–we’ll call him Sam–had a visit from his cousin-in-law and the man’s wife. Sam picked up the guests at the train station, shocked by how robust they’d become, and invited them to make themselves at home. Not only did the cousin and wife rearrange the cabinets in the kitchen, they changed the shelves in the refrigerator—they raised one and lowered another and shuffled things around and ate copious amounts of food, and when they complained that there weren’t any mixed nuts or Hostess Ding Dongs, Sam drove to the store to buy some. The in-laws didn’t fork over ONE CENT the whole time they mooched and whined and did their rearranging. And finally, finally, when the household had reached its collective limit, the visitors filched the best of what was left in the pantry: the expensive jar of stuffed olives, the homemade blackberry jam, the Perrier, the Belgian chocolates, and from the back of the freezer the top of the wedding cake…“snacks” for their ride home on the train.

Should we outlaw in-laws?

Should we write a law stating that if any member of the family stays for an extended period of time, they must live according to the rules of the household, and not according to what their anxiety demands?

Or should we accept that these people, who we would normally have nothing to do with if it weren’t for some silly marriage vow, should we accept that these in-laws have a clear case of Squirrels in the Doohickey and use it to our advantage?

For instance…

I could use a mother-in-law to clean out my bloody desk. I’ve tried scheduling ten minute increments to rearrange the mess, but the mess seems to multiply and morph, and spill over and under, until I can’t find my feet when I’m typing on my laptop. I need a larger desk. Or a mother-in-law.

I have a friend who could use a mother-in-law to put his paperwork in order. He could greet her at the door, set her purse on top of his filing cabinets, open one of the overstuffed drawers and let her have at it.

Do you have a mother-in-law who enjoys being highly opinionated at the dinner table? The next time she opens her mouth, say, “Mother dear, I think I stored the tray for the desserts in the garage. Could you poke your head in and see?” If your garage is anything like the garage where I live, you won’t see her for a week!

As for the cousins, well…you know how sometimes you forget to clean out the fridge, and there’s questionable stuff growing in Tupperware containers that you’re afraid to open because you have visions of The Exorcist swirling around in your head? Invite the cousins. They’ll clean it out.

Here’s my advice: When the “stuff” you accumulate starts to take over, invite an in-law for a visit.

Then kick back and let nature take its course.



  1. Joan merdinger says:


  2. Carolyn Ferriano says:

    Liked this.

  3. mydangblog says:

    My mother-in-law took my son to church to receive communion when we were away on vacation, because she was pissed that we hadn’t baptized him. I wish she WOULD mess with the pantry instead of my son’s soul. Great post!

    • Diane says:

      That’s got to be the ultimate mother-in-law-butting-in story. Wow.

      Hey, thanks for the comment. And the visit! I’m heading over to your blog now. Love the title: My Dang Blog.

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