My mother-in-law is a very nice woman. She has been open and accepting of me for all my oddities from the very beginning. I have every reason to believe that she is happy that I and my daughter (from a previous marriage) joined her family, and added another granddaughter to the mix shortly thereafter.
This doesn't at all change the fact that I am in a mild panic because she is coming to visit tomorrow.
I think it's because she's a good housekeeper. I'm not.
Everyone has the level of clutter and mess they are willing to live with. Hers is very low. Mine, much higher.
We have several layers of "acceptably clean" depending on who's coming to dinner.
Just us four: If the table has too much on it, we eat dinner on TV trays together.
My sister and brother-in-law: We clear the diningroom table.
My own parents: I change all the bedding and make sure all seating is clear. Done.
A party: Every major surface is clear. I have located and made accessible the appropriate toys, games, etc. A lot of cooking happens.
My mother-in-law: I have never achieved a level of cleanliness for this that relieves all my stress. I think it would require starting over in a new house each time and not admitting the children or the dog.
So, why is that?
I imagine her coming into my house and suddenly I can see how cluttered and dusty we are.
I don't really think she judges me or us for this. She knows how ridiculously busy we (I) am--working full time, feeding everybody reasonably well every day, getting the tween and the preschooler to all the right locations, finding time for my own writing, and sometimes putting my feet up and watching an old movie. I also sleep more than she does.
Is it a kind of competition? That seems silly. But, just because something is silly doesn't mean I don't suffer over it. (Remind me to tell you about how jealous I get over my so-not-a-flirt husband sometime.) Maybe I really do feel like my house has to be as neat as hers if she's going to see it. It's unrealistic: we have a lot more stuff and a lot more day to day chaos. But since when have I limited my desires to what is realistic?
A kinder view: maybe I'm just being a kid. Maybe I need that gold star, that moment when she says (again), "Wow! The place looks great! You must be taking good care of my son and grandchildren. You're awesome!" It's actually pretty funny to imagine her making that speech as she walks through my door tomorrow afternoon.
Still, maybe it's good she comes to visit from time. It makes me strive for that impossible level "Mother-in-Law Clean." My house looks way better than it usually does.
It may even last a day or two after she leaves.