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SEASONS: When In-Laws Enter the Picture with Barbara and Stacy Reaoch

How’s it going with the in-laws? Barbara and Stacy Reaoch join Julie Lyles Carr in our series on Seasons and talk about their journey to becoming mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. They talk about the unique dynamics of releasing a son and gaining a daughter, the power plays to look out for, and what to do when your in-law relationships are strained.

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Julie Lyles Carr: Today on the AllMomDoes Podcast we are talking through seasons of life. Things where things change. Those times, where you have maybe had one name or one role, and then something gets added and then something changes again. And particularly those seasons of life where maybe it’s something that you’ve never done before, but you certainly are walking into a new role that is very loaded with mythos and expectations and all kinds of stuff. That’s the conversation that we’re going to be having today with Barb and Stacy Reaoch. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Barb & Stacy: It’s great to be with you. 

Julie Lyles Carr: So Barb, let’s start with you. Tell us where you live in the world, what you do, all the things.

Barb Reaoch: Well, I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and we’ve just lived here a short time. We’re from, we moved here from Texas, but we’ve lived in other places in the world and I enjoy living with my husband, Ron. We’ve been married over 40 years and we have three grown children. When we moved back from South Africa, we worked at Bible Study Fellowship for a number of years. So we’re glad to be here in Minnesota though. 

Julie Lyles Carr: That’s amazing. Stacy, how about you?

Stacy Reaoch: Well, I am married to Barb’s oldest son, Ben, and we’ve been married 22 years and have four kids that range from 19 down to eight. So we are in a wide range of parenting from college to second grade, which keeps us busy. My husband’s a pastor of a church here in Pittsburgh. And I write in spare moments of time and love women’s ministry. 

Julie Lyles Carr: All right. So the relationship between Barb and Stacy for listeners, if you’re keeping score is they are mother-in-law daughter-in-law and I was telling you, before we went on mic, I thought this would be such a great conversation to have, because when we marry into someone’s family, we know all the little statements about be sure, you know, when you’re marrying the guy, you’re marrying his family, but I don’t know that we always completely understand exactly what that means and what we’re taking on. I fell in love with my in-laws. I actually have said to before to people, oh, I fell in love with my father in law first and figured out he was probably the best way to get to Mike, which is no shade thrown at Mike. Mike’s like I know my dad was amazing, so I really adored my in-laws. They were incredibly kind and thoughtful and sweet people and we never did have what I would say was any kind of open conflict, but I can tell you Barb and Stacy, that those early days of trying to learn this new choreography of them being in-laws and me being daughter-in-law and me wanting to be a great daughter-in-law, but there are all the jokes out there about, oh my mother-in-law all of those things. It was a lot to take on. It was a whole, there was a whole lot more to that conversation than I thought so Barb, let’s start with you. What were some of the things that you brought to the table that were expectations of yourself as a mother-in-law or things like what society tells us relationship between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law or a son-in-law will be, what were some of the preconceived notions that you had?

Barb Reaoch: Yeah, well, preconceived notions. I, I felt there were a lot of expectations, as you said, Julie, and I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to live up with them. I knew that a lot of people really loved their in-laws, especially if they came from a Christian background, but most people struggled. So I didn’t know what to expect.

And I didn’t know what to expect of myself. I, I knew I would I wanted to love Stacy and get to know her and have her relate to me naturally, but I really wasn’t sure I could do that. I wasn’t sure if I needed to come in as the mother of now everybody or the friend or, or what. And so I did struggle with that and I wondered how, what my new role would look like.

Julie Lyles Carr: Absolutely Stacy, how was it for you becoming a daughter-in-law? What were you bringing to the table in that equation? 

Stacy Reaoch: Yeah, I think, you know, it was an interesting time of life because, you know, Ben and I had just graduated from college and, you know, we’re figuring out what we were going to be doing with our lives and Barb and Ron were getting ready to move overseas to South Africa. So that really, you know, put an interesting twist on things. I think, you know, I kind of like what you’re saying. I really loved them, you know, from the start, because I had met Barb when I was 17 and in high school and I wasn’t a believer yet. So God had really used them in my life to plant seeds of the gospel.

So I wasn’t. I wasn’t worried thinking, oh, we’re, we’re not gonna get along. This is gonna be really hard. But I think it’s more, I didn’t think about, you know, like intentionally needing to build a relationship, especially with the moving overseas. And this was, you know, before the era of zoom calls and text messages and I think I just kind of underestimated what I needed to do to kind of initiate and really try to purposely build that relationship. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Right. Right. You know, Barb you’ve written about, and I think this is, I love this transparency because I think for a lot of people, this dynamic can exist and it can be so subtle in some ways that we don’t quite understand what it is you’ve written about needing to process the grief of your family changing and to not allow bitterness to take root.

And I know some people who might go. Grief. I mean, that seems like a really strong word, but I can look back now as Mike and I were getting married and I can look at my mother-in-law in particular, she was an extremely precious, very emotional sentimental person. And as much as she was so kind and good to me, I can look back now and see she was processing a lot of emotions that I did not completely understand at the time about the changing nature of her family.

And I think part of that is I’m an oldest child. Mike’s an oldest child. We weren’t one of the siblings who was really experiencing what happens when a family goes through marriage and it changes and you’re adding people to the family. We were the pioneers, right? So we didn’t have that sense of, oh, things have really radically changed.

We were way out front, like, come on, you guys keep up. I can look back now and see that Linda in particular, my mother-in-law was really grappling as a sentimental person with, I think a strong sense of grief about the way their family was changing. Fast forward to me becoming a mother-in-law. I now have three in-law kiddos and the first couple of marriages, I was like, yeah, whatever.

I mean, we were so busy. It was just crazy trying to get the weddings. By the time we hit the third wedding in 15 months, Barb, I gotta tell you, I was like, Oh, my goodness. Wait a minute. Things are radically changing and I love my in-law kids. I have the best in-law kids. I will arm wrestle you about how amazing my in-law kids are.

But for the first time I kind of got hit with that sense of three marriages in it takes me a while. I’m a slow learner of like, whoa. Things have really altered. So talk to us about the place of appropriate grief in your family experience changing. It’s not something that’s terrible or awful the change and how you began to navigate that for yourself. What did you learn in that process? 

Barb Reaoch: Oh, I, I learned so much, Julie, like you mentioned, Ben is our oldest child. So I was entering this wonderful new relationship with Stacy with very little experience. And so I was really used to being a mom, you know, I was really used to being in that first place relationship with Ben and I was trying to figure out is that what I do with Stacy as well?

And so the grief came in that I had to recognize that my role had changed and change is good, but change does mean loss. And so I had to learn how to deal with it and also deal with it in a godly way that that’s part of the transition too. And I’m sad to say I wasn’t always great at that. And I was sometimes very disappointed with myself in the way that I had forgotten what it was like to be a new bride.

And, and so leaving and cleaving, which, you know, I, I, we talk about the book and I know you probably broach on later today, but, but it means that parents no longer have that first place relationship with this new couple. And so a mother-in-law can’t demand attention. And, you know, I was used to getting attention when I wanted to, with my words of wisdom or my interjection of invitations or whatever.

And so this new role meant that I, I wasn’t in the game. I was on the sidelines. And so, you know, I imagine a coach goes through a bit of a sense of loss when he, or she isn’t in there just doing everything and the excitement of the game I’m on the sidelines, cheering them on now. And, and that’s not a role of lesser value.

That that’s the other thing I had to, I had to learn. It just, it it’s, it’s a different job set or job skill for this phase of my life. And I’ve learned to love it that I’m not only building a relationship with my son anymore, but I’m, I get to build a relationship with my daughter-in-law and Stacy has been just the the very best.

So I, I I’m loving that. And, but it took me a time of transition to get there. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Stacy for you, how was it transitioning to becoming a daughter-in-law? And by that, I mean, this, sometimes people really struggle to release themselves into an adult understanding of these relationships. Sometimes people still want to be very attached to say their mom and dad it’s can be hard to make room for the in-law relationships that you’re wanting to build.

And sometimes I’ve experienced women who, if it comes to needing financial advice or something like that, they’ll run to their parents first over their spouse. And they don’t even think to include maybe asking for other voices, like from their in-laws. How is it for you? Because I think it’s very difficult sometimes, particularly when you’ve been raised in a home of faith to transition into all the sudden you are now the authority of your own new family, ideally, but I know a lot of couples who really struggle to understand that they are now a brand new entity, a family, and I know extended family that sometimes really struggles to accommodate that for them and to allow that. So how was that transition for you? Like one day, you’re this, the next day? Boom. You’re grown up. You got your own family now. How was that?

Stacy Reaoch: Yeah, it was, it definitely was a learning process in, in kind of a dance that we learned to do over the years. And we were pretty young, you know, 22 just outta college. And so I think I was trying to figure out what it really, what it meant to be a godly wife, what it meant to be a, a daughter-in-law or sister-in-law.

And I, you know, I always Ben and I do a fair amount of premarital counseling and we tell couples, it actually can be really helpful when you move away for a little while because you’re that I think helped us because we moved 12 hours from my parents and Barb and Ron moved to, to South Africa. And so we were in a way kind of forced to have a little bit more separation, but I think, you know, there is that leaving and cleaving that is done in multiple ways like financially, you know, realizing, okay, my parents are not gonna be paying our grocery bills or we’re not gonna be running to them when we have an emergency. But we need to figure things out ourselves and, and pray together and you know, have that first place relationship with each other before we go and look for other advice.

So I think, you know, just, yeah, moving a little bit farther away, actually helped, you know, over time our marriage strengthening and realizing, you know, we, we go to each other and we go to the Lord before we go to our moms or our dads. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Right. Stacy, for you in the work that you’ve done with women, with premarital counseling, with your husband, what are some of the top things that you see are problematic when it comes to beginning to establish a great foundation for a relationship with your in-laws. What are say, gimme the top two or three things that you see that can really trip things up?

Stacy Reaoch: Well, I definitely think there can be a competition going on that there can be, you know, just kind of some jealousy over, it’s two women who love the same man. Right. And so there’s expectations and desires on both sides, even in silly things like traditions. Like, are we gonna carry on the tradition that my mother-in-law started with what she made for Christmas dinner? Or are we going to create our own family tradition? And so sometimes I think even those little things of, you know, time and, you know, holidays and where you’re spending your time and just, you know, disappointing each other in different ways.

I think all of those have potential to kind of create some tension in that relationship. And really, you know, I think sometimes, the mother-in-law’s still wanting that first place relationship and not necessarily wanting to, to back away and give that space. And then the daughter-in-law may be feeling insecure, feeling like she’s gotta kind of really, really guard that relationship with her husband, because she’s afraid that he’s gonna be too influenced by his family. 

Julie Lyles Carr: You know, we’ve navigated some of that. My, I had moved around a lot as a kid, and so we had certain traditions, but I like you, Stacy, when I first got married, my parents were living 24 hours drive away and we ended up moving back to the town where my husband had been raised.

And so we had a lot of time with my in-laws, which was amazing but we had more of that close proximity. He’d been raised with a strong set of traditions, particularly around the holidays. I had too, but because my parents were where they were traveling to them was simply very difficult and not convenient a lot of times.

And so sometimes they would come down to us sometimes they couldn’t, but I had this really strong ethos of, okay, now I’m a family with my kids and my husband. I want to have this season, because I think this season will end, you know, eventually, and I wanna make sure that whatever I wanted to leave on the floor, when it came to holidays and all this stuff, I wanna do that.

And then my kids need to go on to develop their own traditions and do their own thing. And it was interesting because I found that just as strongly, and validly, there can be a sense of no, no, no. Like we always do the thing at grandma and grandpa’s and we do this and that, and, and that desire coming in, which is not a less than, or a, it’s just a very different way of looking at it.

And so Barb, how do we make peace, particularly in a situation where maybe our spouse wants to do things the way his in-laws have always done it. I it’s hard to know how to navigate that. I know for myself as a mother-in-law, I would probably tell my in-law kids. You guys need to figure out what you wanna do.

We’re gonna do this and such. You’re welcome to come, but I don’t have an expectation that you have to do that. At the same time, if we have somebody who’s listening, who’s like, well, I really do have a strong desire for my kids to come back and do this, that and the other. And, and how do I get honored in all of that mix?

How do we navigate all that? Cause holidays you’re so right, stacy. Holidays are a big one. So Barb help guide us through how we make those decisions. 

Barb Reaoch: Oh, holidays, come with a lot of expectations. As you’ve said, Julie, it’s just, it is just tough. So I think that, that husband that you mentioned who comes with a lot of desire to carry on his family traditions really needs to talk with his wife. And, and they need to explore what, how they are going to move forward together. And, and we mothers in in-law, we, we need to recalibrate our expectations and, and as much as we have wonderful remembrances of times that we shared with our family in the past we need to just as much desire that, that they develop their own.

Julie Lyles Carr: And Stacey to Barb’s point, do, how did you find that you were navigating the conversation as you began to think about family traditions? 

Stacy Reaoch: Yeah, I mean, I think we’ve, we’ve kind of learned over time. I think for me as a young wife, it was kind of realizing, like, I shouldn’t feel threatened by their, you know, somebody in their family wanting us, like for instance, in, in Ben’s family, they always would make these Italian Christmas cookies called pizzelles with this pizzelle iron.

And, and I actually remember my brother-in-law bought me, bought us a pizzelle iron for Christmas one of the first years we were married and I kind of had a little bit of mixed feelings cause I kind of felt like it came with an expectation of, and now you’ll make pizzelles every Christmas. But the thing is it has become a beautiful tradition that we carry on and we, and I have learned to really enjoy it.

And we, every year we get out the pizzelle iron and, and make the pizzelle and package ’em up just like my husband’s family did. But I think, you know, I had to kind of get over my own insecurity of, they just want me to do this. I have to do this, you know, but this is a way to honor my husband’s family and to honor him in something that he’s always loved doing.

Julie Lyles Carr: Right. You know, one thing that I have recently begun to think about when it comes to holiday traditions and this blending of families and encouraging my adult kids and their marriages to go do their thing, but also wanting to have some kind of broader family connection is what I would call transportable family traditions, meaning little things that maybe they can do, whether they’re with us or not.

Because we had our first Christmas with one of my daughters going with her husband to go see his family outside of Boston. And it was like, Oh, oh, we’re here. Wow. How do we get here? So fast and, and that idea of, Hey, take this little, here’s a thought, you know, take this with you or here’s a little something we can do. In my husband’s family they had something really funny they did, they would call each other two days before Christmas and say, Christmas Eve Eve gift. I still dunno what that means. And they would call each other on Christmas Eve and say Christmas Eve gift. So no matter what was going on and what the flow was going to be for the holidays, there was this funny phone call that you would get that was part of the experience that helped connect. So it was like a transportable kind of tradition. Now, Barbara say, so we’ve been talking about for all of us. You know, the in-law relationships have been sweet and there’s a seems to be cooperation and there are still emotions to process and ideas that we need to work through, but it feels like everybody’s trying to row somewhat of the same direction.

However, I know I’ve got listeners out there who are like, But you guys just don’t even know. You’ve never met my mother-in-law. You’ve never met my daughter-in-law. This was somebody who came in with an intention to completely disrupt or somebody who came in with an intention to control. Barb, talk to us about when those in-law relationships, you’re not just starting from a place of, well, what are my emotions like? And this is a big transition in my life. And what’s the kind of mother-in-law or daughter-in-law wanna be? When you’re actually dealing with a situation that is riddled with conflict and riddled with a lot of agenda. What do we do?

Barb, give us some ideas from the mother-in-law standpoint. If you find yourself not liking an in-law coming into the family and maybe not liking them for good reason. And then Stacy we’ll pop over to you and ask you about the in-law in the other direction. 

Barb Reaoch: And sadly, this happens and Stacy and I have talked with a lot of daughters-in-law and mothers in-law who are grappling with very difficult feelings and wishing things were different and wanting to know how, how do I navigate through this tough time? So for mothers in-law, I, I would say, just settle in your mind, a few things that will, will help you in this relationship. And, and one is to remember that your daughter-in-law is your family.

Now she, she is in your family and let her know that. Commit to love her as you love your son and your other children. You know, she, she may grind you and say things that, that you are just sure she wants to make you upset for that. And she may not use your recipes at all, or you you’ll go into her house and you won’t see any pictures of your side of the family up anywhere, but you are family.

So I would say just in your heart and in your mind commit to loving her. And then remember very helpful to remember that your greatest goal is to encourage the marriage relationship between your daughter-in-law and your son. So, you know, then you’re kind of taking yourself out of the relationship side of the things.

Sure. You’re gonna be disappointed. You’re gonna have challenges and it may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but keep up there that, that your role as the sideline cheering her on is to encourage the marriage. And so you’re going to encourage your son in this role by affirming his wife. And that means you’re gonna have to let the little things go. That does, that means you’re going to not go to her with everything that has upset you. You’re going to let the Lord deal with your heart and hers as well. Remember how long it took you to feel secure in your role as a wife and give her space and give her time. And, and lastly, I would just say, consider the differences as a gift instead of a threat.

She is a different person. Your son loves her. And so she’s she’s a pretty special gal and, and she may speak differently than you. She’s gonna be in a different generation than you are. So you may not know how to connect with her in all the ways that you connect with other people in your life. But those differences are a gift instead of trying to clinging to what you knew, broaden, freely broaden your circle of love and understanding so that you can learn from her different opinions and perspectives. You don’t have to reject that and you don’t have to by your rejection, judge that. Approach it with, what am I gonna learn from this? And how can I know the heart of my daughter-in-law so that I learn to speak in to her heart with God’s love. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Beautiful. Stacey, what about you as a daughter-in-law if you, how do you counsel people who find themselves where they feel like they have really good intentions in connecting with their in-laws and yet they find that there feel there seem to be these barriers up, like, no, you know, you’re, you’re the in-law, you’re not our kid, whatever the thing is, how do you help people navigate that kind of scenario?

Stacy Reaoch: Yeah. Well, I think it can be a natural reaction to just wanna quit and to just say, you know, it’s not worth it. I’ve tried and she’s not receptive. So I’m just gonna, we’re gonna go live our own life and we’ll see them as little as possible and communicate as little as possible. But, you know, I would encourage them to look to the example of Christ of how he pursues us and how he pursued us and loved us when we were in his enemies and sacrificially loved us. And so I think, you know, by his grace, we can keep moving toward our in-law, even when they seem unloving or uncaring. And that does take the grace of God to, to not give up and to keep moving toward them.

So I think, you know, there can be simple things such as like, you know, sending, dropping a card in the mail that you’re thinking about her sending her a text, you know, inviting her to come to your child’s soccer game that afternoon. I think there’s just different little ways that we can say, Hey, I still love you. I care about you. I want you in our family’s life. 

But I know also that there can be things that are bigger or that can feel like, okay, this is just full on conflict and full on attack or whatever. So I think, you know, in those situations you wanna, you know, go through that process of, you know, Look at your own heart, you know, take the log out of your own eye before you go to, you know, take the spec out of her eye and then, you know, try to forgive like Barbara saying overlook.

I mean, the Bible gives us so many commands of the benefit of overlooking offenses. Overlook and give grace as much as you possibly can. But if there are things that you feel like, okay, this is a repeated pattern of sin or a repeated hurt in our life. That’s when you do need to, you know, go to her directly.

And I would say with your husband, because things are going to be received better by the natural born son, you know, than the in-law. So let him be a part of it. Let him lead in initiating those hard conversations, but, but talk about it, you know, talk about whatever has happened that has caused a wall to go up and then be willing to own up to your own part. And be willing to forgive freely and not hold it against her and move forward in love. 

Julie Lyles Carr: And there are those situations you’re right, where you try to engage all of the appropriate ways of making someone feel that they are embraced in loved that you try to do the different things. And sometimes there are situations where godly boundaries have to come into play.

There are great resources to check out for that kind of extreme situation where all of a sudden it’s like, okay. We’re gonna have to really think through how much contact and when, but I do think that hopefully before anything would come to that place or that point, that people would begin to engage the really beautiful wisdom you have about, Hey, these are ways in which we can walk together in building the next chapter of family life, because there is so much in scripture about mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws and the way they interact and the way that they can bless one another. And there are also places where we learn some lessons about, as you have both been saying, leave and cleave is really important to find that new dance about how to be the best in-law to one another that we can be. Can be a huge part of the ministry to our family and the legacy that we get to leave when we show how to do that well. So I’m so excited that you have worked together on a project that you have put together for listeners. “Making Room for Her” is the new book that is coming out, that you guys are gonna be talking about.

With both here and I’m hoping to hope a lot of other places to help women find the best way to interact in this new version of family as in-laws. Barb and Stacy, where can listeners reach out to find out more about the book and more about both of you and the ministry that you both do? 

Barb Reaoch: Well, my website is a good place to find out more about me personally, and the other books I’ve written and that’s

And I love to write family devotion material. And so you’ll see a number of books that fall into that line. And this book with Stacy is the, is the first book on this line that I’ve written. So that’s kind of exciting too. And I would say that your listeners can easily find a “Making Room for Her” on Amazon.

Julie Lyles Carr: Right? Great place. And Stacy where and listeners find you. 

Stacy Reaoch: Yeah. My website, has all my most, my articles and another book that I wrote before this one, a lot of Christian living type things and Instagram at StacyReaoch or Facebook. 

Julie Lyles Carr: All right. Barb and Stacy Reaoch. Mother-in-law daughter in-law. So many great thoughts and such a fresh perspective on building strong relationships between mothers in-laws and daughters in-laws thanks so much for being with me today. 

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