Tuesday, July 7, 2015

From a Mother-In-Law's Perspective

Proverbs From Around the World

Korea: Good deeds of a daughter-in-law or a cat go unnoticed.
Persia: In the presence of the mother-in-law, what rank is the bride?
Japan: To give eggplant to a daugther-in-law is too great a kindness.
Tamil: If a mother-in-law breaks a huge vessel, it is nothing; if a daughter-in-law breaks a tiny bowl, the household is ruined.
Rundi: Better the glares of a foreigner than that of a mother-in-law.

Indian Mother-In-Laws (MIL's) far too often get a bad rap. I think sometimes they may be viewed worse than MIL's in 'western' cultures. It's understandable given the fact many cultures think of MIL's in a negative light and then there is the strictness of household rules in many Indian families. Add to that the hierarchy that was practiced for centuries. I could go on and on but most of you are already aware of what I'm talking about.

My current MIL is fabulous. She lets me make my own way and helps me when I need her. She  takes the time to have fun dabbling in my culture. She smile's so friendly and has a truly warm heart. The loving emotions I get from her are enough to bring a tear to my eye as I write this when she's clear on the other side of the world. I miss her. My MIL reminds me of the grandmother who raised me, cared for me and spoiled me with love. She has a deeply special place in my heart.

But that wasn't always the case. My first MIL was a tyrant. A flat out rotten bitch. Before I ever got married she was running around telling everyone she knew my marriage wouldn't last a year. I found out much later on when she exclaimed surprise (right in front of me) that it had lasted longer than a year. She constantly told lies about me - including that I never graduated high school when I had invited her sorry ass to my graduation! She sat inside of the church and told people that I worked with horrible stories about me and they had to stand up for me because they knew it was lies. And that's only a small sample of the rotten things she tried to pull.

Now I've entered a whole new chapter in life. I have become a mother-in-law and let me tell you, I have a whole new appreciation for the thoughts and feelings a mother goes through seeing her son bring a 'foreign' woman into his life. By foreign I mean someone who grew up completely different, someone who doesn't eat, sleep and breath the same way we're used to. Someone who challenges us all to learn new behaviors to adapt and adjust to each other.

I would like to think that I was never a trouble-maker for either of my MIL's. I know I'm the type of person who does my best to adjust myself, to try and gain acceptance. I'm far from perfect and I don't compromise my own values but I'm usually really good at finding a happy medium and practicing it. I delight in opening myself up to the family culture and minimizing my own resistance to things I'm not used to.

Now I know though, that isn't enough. It's still difficult for a MIL to just take in and adopt a new member of the family, no matter how good she may be. It's challenging to see the qualities you don't admire and keep your mouth shut. It's exceptionally difficult to try to offer objective advice when half of the equation is your flesh and blood and half is not. Being impartial is just not all it's cracked up to be when emotions are involved!

A mother only wants the best for her children. We don't want to watch them struggle, we want to pick them up when they fall down and we'll sacrifice whatever we have to just to ensure that the children are well taken care of and happy. As a MIL, we are under a new kind of assault that we don't know how to deal with. We have someone invading our territory. We've always been the one kissing the bruised knees and comforting the wounded heart.

When a daugther-in-law enters the family, those tasks become her domain and it's a shock to our systems. We're not sure how to just flip the switch and turn off those instincts. It's hard to let loose on the reigns after investing decades of time and attention to these details. When you become a MIL you get a whole new set of worries. A MIL knows that the new DIL doesn't have all the details about our precious babies. They may not know just how he likes his pancakes (or roti's) cooked.

Becoming a MIL feels a lot like getting replaced. 

It takes time for us to let go and learn that even  though things are no longer going to be done the exact way we've learned to do them over time, that this new woman can and will take care of our babies.

One thing that is unnerving to a MIL is that we know the new DIL already has a bad impression of how MIL's are going to be. We're not always given a fair chance from the start. I noticed with my DIL's that both of them started out quiet and shy. Hesitant to say anything or do anything or even be around much as if I was the Monster-In-Law typically seen in films and heard about the world over.

I saw the fear and trepidation on the girls faces as they came to meet me for the first time. I noticed the hesitation before they spoke about potentially heated topics in my presence. It hadn't been that long since I too felt those same feelings when I met my soon to be MIL in India in 2009. In each of those moments I knew I didn't want to be the dreaded MIL. I doubt many people would want to be that way.

I would like to think that even the most dreaded of MIL's doesn't really want to be hated. I think a lot of MIL's, myself included, often feel the need to teach the new DIL things about their life and family. With the Indian MIL there could also be the heirarchy still creeping in- in which they feel it's finally their turn to lead and direct and mold the new DIL into a suitable member of the family.

Some tips I can offer to help make your relationship with your MIL better:
  1. Always approach her as if she's a valued family member you're going to spend the rest of your life with. That doesn't mean you listen to her every word and follow her directions to the letter. Just listen to her. You are not obligated to oblige every whim. It's the value and respect that she'll feel you have for her that matter. 
  2. Move slowly. She doesn't need to know every cause you're an activist or on the first date. Wait and feel out the situation before you enlighten her on your views. There may be some things it would be better that she doesn't know. 
  3. Don't lie. There's a huge difference between not sharing non-important details of your life and flat out lying. If you know she's vehemently against something, you don't need to rub it in her face that you don't agree. However, if you smoke and drink and you know she can't tolerate those, it is in really poor taste to tell her you would never do that and then sneak around and try and hide it until you get the ring on your finger. That only invites dissension and negativity and you're over-stepping your bounds. The honesty needs to start from day one regardless of how you think she may perceive you. 
  4. Try to respect the fact that she did raise your spouse. She's not a tyrant trying to boss you around and be your second mother. Some of her advice might actually be good and could help you. She does after all have experience with your husband's needs, wants and tastes that you don't have. Think of her as a valuable resource. 
  5. Realize she can teach you something new and different and that's not a bad thing. Being stubborn never got anyone into a happy relationship did it? It can be hard not to be resistant but open your mind and just let her have her moment once in a while. Don't put up a wall and think she's trying to change/manipulate/train you.
What are some tips I missed?
How do you get along with your MIL?
Do you have a DIL? How does it make you feel now that the tables are turned and you're the MIL?


  1. I loved my MIL but she did get on my nerves. I hope I don't get on my DIL's nerves when I have one someday.

  2. Great tips! I'm going to need these one day because I have three boys. Luckily, I get along with my MIL now too.

  3. What an interesting post, no MIL here but I loved reading about it!

  4. No mother in law here yet! But those are really cool proverbs

  5. My MIL raised two very awesome boys. Unfortunately her middle child is pretty much the worst person on the face of the planet so... not sure what to think about that?

    Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird

  6. Great quote. When my husband and I were newly married, I wanted to tell that to my MIL. But as the years passed, she learned to respect and love me. We have a great relationship now and she loves me like her real daughter.

  7. MILs can be like monsters at times. I hope I won't be like that when I become one.

  8. Haha, that's a hilarious e-card!

  9. Wow! This blog gave me your perspective in life. I am glad that your life with your first MIL is over! Be happy! ^_^

  10. I needed this tips. Mother in law can be frustrated in terms of a situation where it's a first met up.

  11. I'm fortunate to have a wonderful MIL who accepted me from the first day we met. She has been a blessing over the past two months, as I've been recovering from surgery and she has stopped by to help out and take me to appointments.

  12. Bwahaha, I love the Tamil quote!!!!
    Wonderful post, it is so interesting to read. Great insights, as usual!
    I love my MIL, although we had some rocky times. It is really important for me to value her, and keep her a part of our life. Keep her informed, and included. Doing this has really made our relationship stronger. She has been a wonderful asset to my marriage.