That won’t be anytime soon.
I had a serious relationship talk with my young son this last holiday and the notion of me being a mother-in-law struck me forcefully. I felt odd.
The subject of mothers- in- law and their daughters-in-law is often a cat fight; if you have a ‘good’ mother-in-law, you often have a ‘bad’ daughter in law and sometimes vice versa. More so, the lines between good or bad can become blurred, depending on who’s side you are on, the mother-in-law or the daughter-in-law.
We come up with names for them, like, “Monster-in-law, old witch, old hag, evil woman, the woman sharing my husband with me.” To hear the kinds of nasty stories told about mothers-in-law is to wish never to have one. I won’t regurgitate the silly mother-in-law~ daughter-in-law jokes peddled on the internet, they are as bad as many are true, suffice to say, there’s a long history of war between these two factions.
I’m not here to judge but I’ve often wondered why women mostly, never seem to see eye to eye with their mothers-in-law, how come, men are hardly found in cat fights with their mothers-in-law? I’m aware some men have had their fair share of mother-in-law wahala sha.
Many mothers-in-law have been held responsible for several broken marriages. What is it with these women, you’ll ask? These ‘harridans’ who just can’t seem to get it right with her daughters-in-law. What’s hard to get here? They both love the same man to pieces, yet can’t seem to agree on what’s best for this over-loved adult. And the men, how do they cope with the warring women in their lives? It can’t be fun, I’m sure, because it’s not like the two women fighting for his attention are equals, no, mother and wife are not on the same pedestal, let’s not kid ourselves.
And really, it’s funny how fast the daughter-in-law becomes a mother-in-law. Seewhadamin?
When I was getting married years back, my mother gave me awesome advice about my mother-in-law, (she is about the same age as my mother). Having ‘suffered’ greatly under hers, my mother had this to say, “Treat your mother-in-law with every kind of indignity, be impatient with her, never let her come close to your home, deprive her of good food when she eventually forces her way into your home, be rude, uncouth even, show her you are now in charge…but make sure you never have a son and a daughter too, for that matter.”
Haba, mummy, which kind advice be this!
But my mother was done, she looked at me, observed my mixed emotions and when she had satisfied herself that I was completely confused, walked away. Only then did I understand the import of her words. Why didn’t she talk normally like all mothers would to their daughters?
So I treated my mother in-law like I would a new friend I was eager to like me. Since I had plans to have children, I followed my mother’s instructions, I was kind to her and made sure I found out things about her that enabled me relate easily with her. Did I have issues with her?
Plenty, but like I said, I wanted this woman to like me. I didn’t suck up to her, no. I put myself in her shoes and often times, in my mother’s as well. I would have a son someday and would want to be part of his life, too.
Then I had a son.
I worked harder on our relationship because whereas I got on well with my father-in-law, like a house on fire, it was jerky and cautious at best with my mother-in-law. She didn’t seem to trust me and believe me, the feeling was mutual but I knew I had to have her on my side. I also had my mum to thank for helping me navigate the tricky geography of in-law-ism. Mum taught me well and I soon had a mother-in-law, who would often take sides with me. Even when I had to move on with my life, she would call to enquire about my welfare as well as the kids.
Did that help my marriage? Story for the gods.
Is that the case with all mothers-in-law? Nah! I’ll be naïve to say, this is a one size fits all method. I’m just saying, like my Yoruba people say, “Eni to ba fe tele tutu, a ko ko da mi si le.” This literally means, “If you must step on cool ground, then start by wetting the ground first.”
Will I do differently when I become a mother-in-law? I may be the cranky type, or the overbearing matriarch, I don’t know.
Only time will tell…meanwhile, future daughter-in-law beware!