The relationship between wives and mothers-in-law can be full of resentment. Other times, it’s nothing but pure bliss. ‘The Mothers-In-Law’ by Pulse will be exploring the dynamics of these relationships to find out the rules guiding the Nigerian women of today in them. We’ll bring you stories from different Nigerian wives and mothers-in-law every Saturday.
The Mothers-In-Law: We started well, but it’s all bad vibes now
“I’m not happy with the relationship as it is now because that’s not how we started off."
*Martha, 31, is a married Nigerian woman who speaks on this edition of The Mothers-In-Law about how quickly her relationship soured with her husband’s mum. She tells the story of how she went from being the older woman’s ‘adopted daughter’ to someone who gets blamed for everything, no matter how unconnected she is to the situation. Read on.
Would you say you had any serious fears about having a mother-in-law issue prior to your marriage?
No. Not really. I didn’t even have any fears about it at all.
What were you expecting before meeting your MIL? Did your own mum tell you anything in preparation for the meeting?
Actually, we attended the same church when we were younger and she knew about my relationship with her son. But for the most part, my own was to greet her anytime I met her in church. And when it was time to meet her as her son’s wife-to-be, I wasn’t expecting too much or feeling any type of way. I guess knowing each other helped to sort that out. It was just the dad that I was a little nervous to meet.
And how was that meeting?
It was actually amazing. I didn’t even think of her as my Mother-in-law. Back then she even told me ‘you’re my daughter, not my wife, blah blah blah.’ You know these things Yoruba mummies like to say. Besides, she has only one daughter so I guess it she was happy to have one more.
So what’s your relationship with each other like?
To her, it’s the mother-daughter type, but to me, I think I’m just being civil and respectful. It’s not that deep for me.
I’ll come back to this. For now, tell me about your best moments with her
Hmmm. When I wanted to give birth to my baby, she was there for me. I am grateful for that. It’s so funny because I ended up pooping on her hand during labour. LOL. She’s actually reliable like that. It’s just that she switches a lot. Omo. That switch can be epic.
Which brings me to the question of what you would consider to be the worst or most regrettable moments with her?
During my child’s christening, a fight broke out between my family and my husband’s due to the disrespect of my brothers-in-law. It was so crazy that my hubby had to face his brothers in an attempt to get them to stop being unruly. But of course, their parents were on their side to the point that they turned on my husband and me.
I think one of the most hurtful things she said on the day, which has still stayed with me till today, by the way, was that I have only given them one child and I was already trying to take [kill] two from her. And this was because during the heated confrontation with his brothers, my husband had angrily threatened to stab one of them with a fork.
Of course, my mother-in-law saw all of this and blamed it on me. They were all so furious that he was on my side and not theirs. To date, if he does anything they lay the blame on me. It used to bother me before, but now, I count it as a normal thing. Na today?
So it’s safe to say you’re not particularly happy with the current state of your relationship with her
Oh, I’m definitely not. I’m not happy with the relationship as it is now because that’s not how we started off. It’s worse now but I can’t say I didn’t try. I’ve tried to be as genuine as I can be but she has turned it all down so… I guess it is what it is.
Studies show that for most wife/mother-in-law relationships, tension arises out of feeling judged or criticised. Have you ever felt this type of way?
Oh absolutely. Apart from the above-mentioned case, I think one other issue I have struggled to deal with is how they’re literally watching you keenly to pick put your flaws and errors - and it’s not just my MIL. It’s like everyone in that family. It’s absurd.
If you say this, they’ll say you’re not meant to. If you do that, they’ll say you’re not meant to. It was also from them that I heard that wives are slaves; a statement that I immediately countered. As you can imagine, it caused a bit of a ruckus. But do I care? There was also this one time that my sister-in-law picked a fight with me because I referred to my child as mine. She literally said I should rather say their baby. Can you imagine picking a real fight over something as absurd as that? I really just can’t fathom all the bullshit. Now, it’s just vibes for me, abeg.
Do you see yourself turning out like your mother-in-law to your own daughters-in-law?
At all! I really do not care for other people’s affairs. I think that will be a major difference.
I honestly think that the reason why some MIL of this era act the way they act is that all they've ever known how to do is be there for their kids, particularly as stay-at-home mums. And now that the kids are grown and married, they still want to continue watching and monitoring. They won’t want him to do things on his own. They will want to control things in their own ways which is not possible. And that’s exactly what is causing my own issue.
Most common issues, especially around this part of the world often include MILs visiting without notifying you ahead, Black Tax, and elongated visits. Which of these can you relate with.
Black tax! See, it’s now that I really understand why my husband wanted us to settle down quickly even when I was still dragging my feet back then. I remember him saying he needed to escape from these people, as he is paying everyone’s bills In the family and was tired of it all. He felt that getting married and having a family would cause them to back off a little and let him cater to his family but did they? LMAO. Thank God it’s getting better now sha.
And then there’s also the issue of visiting without notifying us ahead. It happened back then when I was still pregnant. If she called hubby, and he didn’t pick her calls, she will call me and the next thing would be: 'come and open your gate.'
Sometimes this happened while we were still in bed! As early as 7am! I remember waking my husband to ask why he didn’t notify me that his mum was coming. He was like: 'she didn’t tell me anything either.' Eventually my husband had to tell them that anytime anyone of them wanted to come, they should let him know ahead. Guess what his father’s reaction to this was?
He swore to never come to our house again.
Yup! And we have kuku not seen his brake light since then. Overall sha, they’ve put an end to their surprise visits. Thank God.
*Name changed to preserve subject’s anonymity.
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