Meet The Fockers is pure fiction, but you wouldn't know it from the internet. Type 'in-laws' into google and you'll be overwhelmed with war stories of overbearing mother-in-laws and advice on everything from coping with criticism of your cooking to legal advice on whether you can actually divorce them. There's even a a website - ihatemyinlaws.com - where you can vent your spleen on the interfering old battleaxe and drunken old fart you chose to marry the offspring of. Exasperation at your in-laws is, apparently, virtually obligatory - a universal Christmas pastime to go alongside post-dinner flatulence and faking excitement at a mauve and pink checked cardigan from Aunt Enid.
From Gordon Ramsay's recent fallout with his father-in-law (leading to the wince-inducing open letter to his mother-in-law Greta) to virtually every joke Les Dawson ever made (sample: "I saw six men kicking and punching the mother-in-law. My neighbor said 'Are you going to help?' I said 'No, six should be enough') the poor couple have been the subject of many a cheap gag. It seems very sad that Britain has such a tradition of mother-in-law jokes and general in-law bashing, when the first thing you realise when you have a baby is that a close knit extended family group would be a very good thing indeed, and that other cultures are vastly more enlightened that ours when it comes to childcare. Instead, once children come into the equation things seem to get even worse, with fraught mothers dreaming of justifiable homicide when their burping technique is criticised for the 28th time.
Time, then, to mount the counter-attack. I love my parents-in-law for many reasons, but here are a small selection:
1. They have been known to drop everything, hop on a train and do a four hour round trip to help out with childcare when I felt ill
2. They are unassuming, helpful, kind and fantastic at knitting. Well, one of them is, anyway.
3. They have never once criticised anything about my parenting technique. They probably should have done on occasion, mind, given my daughter likes to go to sleep to the soothing sound of Metallica and practically her first sentence was "More Calpol please, Mummy!"
4. My mother-in-law makes what are scientifically proven (by me) to be the worlds greatest scones.
Though it seems to be unfashionable to admit any kind of warm feeling towards the parents whose DNA made someone you fell in love with, I suspect I am not alone. Surely there are others out there who have unassuming, helpful, kind in-laws who dote on their kids? Father-in-laws who get up at 5.30am to quietly persuade a toddler back to sleep so her parents can get some rest? Given the amount of childcare in this country done by unpaid grandparents who have probably earned the right for a quiet retirement, rather than having their houses decorated with smears of fingerpaint and chocolate, I think there must be unappreciated in-laws out there. So, time to out your saints-in-disguise and share your stories below.
By: Kate Carter