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'MY MOTHER-IN-LAW DOESN'T LIKE ME'

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But Celine Bell has learnt how to live with it...

Want more from Celine Bell? Find out why she doesn't feel guilty about going back to work full time.

When asked if I get on with my mother-in-law, I’m never sure how to respond. She raised the person I hope to spend my life with, who’s a great bloke, and that must be in part down to her. But she doesn’t like me. It’s nothing personal. She doesn’t like anybody who takes her beloved son away from her (and, as she’s an Aussie and I’m British, I’ve taken him across the world). She was cross when we bought a house, as it tied him to the UK. Then we got a cat. They last longer than your average mortgage deal. Then we had a baby. And I think at that point she knew he was staying in the UK, at least for the medium term. And she showed her irritation and disappointment by lashing out, critiquing my parenting, from croissants for breakfast to working full-time.

So many of my friends and their partners have lost parents. Even the mere thought of losing mine sends chills through me. My husband still has his mum, so on paper we are very fortunate. We’re more than fortunate. With my mother-in-law comes her stories, I can hear straight from her about the time my husband demanded to have his bottom wiped at a dinner party. (In his defence, he was four). I can find out what his favourite food was, and why his nickname was ‘Pig-Won’t’. She gets out the faded photo albums of treasured pictures and together we smile at the cheeky blond in dungarees cuddling a guinea pig. The only thing we agree on is how cute our babies are.

The only thing we agree on is how cute our babies are.

As a mum of two boys, I can try and empathise with her on the geographical loss of her son. He’s not down the road anymore, or even a cheap Easyjet flight away. He is about a grand and two days away, from London to Sydney. And when my tiny toddlers are taller than me, and have exams behind them, and a rucksack to stuff with shorts and sun cream, and they board a plane to the other side of the world, I will think of her. Because my heart will board that plane too, and go with them on bus trips, and hire motorcycles even though I’ve banned that, and drink too much and sleep in beach huts with suspicious patches on the walls, and meet chatty girls (or chatty boys, who cares?) I hope to bring them up to spread their wings, and travel and adventure wherever they want. And when they do, it will be bittersweet because really all I want is to keep my beloved boys tiny, chubby-fingered, smiling, wobbling toddlers. And most of all, I want to keep them close.

And so I guess this is where I ask for patience. Because for every barely-veiled dig at my parenting choices, she has a story. And while the stories are embroidered and sometimes hugely warped in her favour, they come from the woman who grew my husband. The woman who fed him and cuddled him, and watched as he learned to ride a bike. Ok, so she’s never sent me a birthday card, and the scarf I sent her last Christmas was, ‘very cheap. Did you buy it off the interweb?’ But she raised my best person, and he has chosen – because of the freedom she raised him to have – to raise a family on the other side of the world. And while the aim of raising children is to give them these liberties, it must sting to have them in another time zone. So I give thanks for my cranky mother-in-law, and her complaints and her god-awful cooking. Because she gave the world her son, and now he’s on the parenting rollercoaster with me. I hope we give our boys the same freedoms, and that they pass it forward too.

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