Guest Post by Jamil Ahsan
Being a male, writing an article on the Mother-In-Law posed to be a challenge. When researching this, I found that discussion forums on the internet (most of them being marriage counseling services both church and professional based) had postings coming from Women. When writing about and sharing my experiences of my Mother-in-Law who lives with us, I took into consideration the cultural, ethnic and moral aspects (including my own background), and not to criticize others on how they operate their own households. To start off, (Men and Women) ask yourselves and answer this question: How would your spouse react when you announce that your elderly parent(s) are moving in and going to be living in your household?
There’s the saying in the Islamic perspective that: “Heaven/Paradise lies under the feet of your Mother”. I’m sure some would argue the opposite of this when it comes to the Mother-in-Law. For those with Mother-in-Laws (whether they live with you or not) whom you see as complete angels and this saying stated above applies, you are really blessed!! The benefits of a Mother-in-Law to summarize a few here include:
• Extra help in the household
• “Free Day-care” if both of you are working parents with infants.
• Free Baby-sitting: (to go out with your friends without the kids in tow, “date nights” and vacations/getaways for some one-on-one time together).
• Cooking for you and the kids.
• Parenting advice.
• Financial aid (if financially well off) especially in these hard economic times.
I fell in love with, and married a beautiful, charming, fun, strong-minded, and career focused Woman who happens to be an only child. She also had an elderly, widowed Mother living with her that “came with the package”. Her Mother being of the old country traditional mindset wasn’t really raised to be self-sufficient and therefore dependent on my wife. My wife however, doesn’t get along too well with her Mother. She sacrificed a lot in her own life when her elderly Mother became a widow. Even I had to take a huge step back when it came to my Mom. But, in the eyes of our ethnic community the way they see it is that she and I did what they will dictate as the right thing.
Given both my wife and I are Desi (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh ethnicity), our ethnic, cultural, and moral traditions defines retirement planning is your children. I’m sure this applies to other ethnic backgrounds as well. To even consider placing your elderly parent(s) in an assisted living or nursing home is unacceptable and offensive. Doing so, and you’re shunned upon by the rest of your family, community, and your Aunties and Uncles (Elders).
Perhaps not only ethnic, cultural and moral aspects may apply, but for some households given the economic conditions (especially in these times), they have no options but to have to take in their elderly parents and In-Laws into their homes or even for families to all have to move in and live with them.
Despite the negative aspects of most Mother-in-Laws, my wife and I do appreciate ours’ with regards to some of the positive benefits that I’ve stated earlier. However there are the cost/benefit factors where the costs exceed the benefits, and also the sanity levels.
There’s no doubt that a Mother-in-Law or as some refer to as the “Monster-in-Law” or “Mother-In-Law from Hell” have impacted families and even marriages. Even my Mother too, and my wife’s relationship with her did have its moments. As for my Mother-In-Law (and my wife would agree here), can be quite the handful. Especially, when she lives under our roof!!!
To summarize just a few TOXIC issues of the Mother-In-Law:
• Dictating how we raise our children.
• Making decisions (based on our kids and our household) without consulting with us.
• Overriding our household decisions.
• Negative commentary aimed towards the spouse.
• Always up the spouse’s back.
• Invasion of privacy.
• In General, Overstepping boundaries.
Adding my experiences with my Mother-In-Law living under our roof:
• Her (selfish) needs come first, out of the expense of us and our kids.
• Overdoing the “Cry Wolf”.
• Stepping in on conversations between my wife and I, and our kids that are none of her business. (She even forwards herself in when my wife and I are sharing a laugh or a private intimate and romantic conversation)
• In her mind she sees that there is no wrong with what she does or thinks. If she makes a mistake, rather than admit it she will use us as a scape-goat.
• She objects when we have a party inviting our young Desi friends (including kids) over (Even our friends too when they have parties) but, not including the Uncles and Aunties.
• She objects to us wanting to spend a quiet intimate and romantic time together without her in the house. Even when we’ve made arrangements for her to stay a night or two with the relatives who are local here.
In general my Mother-in-Law expects to be included in everything, ranging from our private conversations, outings with our kids, parties, our friends’ places, our own social gatherings (without the Uncles and Aunties) and vacations. Not going too overboard here – at least she’s not in our bedroom!! In her mindset and she will argue: its either she goes with us or we shouldn’t even be going. And if she doesn’t want to go then we shouldn’t go.
To further brainstorm here: I’m sure many of you in similar situations have or may still be seeking solutions when dealing with and resolving issues with the Mother-in-Law. What makes things very difficult (applying to Women) if your husband happens to be a “Mama’s Boy”. And even for the Men whose wives have a strong bond, and see no wrong with their Mothers. For some couples, many find it impossible and too sensitive a situation to have to sit down with the Mother/Mother-in-Law to discuss matters where she is impacting the household or your spouse, and when laying down the household policies and boundaries. If the end result is a no win-win resolution, you both resent it, or the Mother-In-Law gets upset and goes off the deep end. (My Mother sure did that). As for the immigrant Mother-in-Law if she was to go back on her own free will, or even sending her back to the old country may not be an option if there’s no longer any family there or family that’s unable to look after her. However, most families remaining overseas or here locally will make the efforts to take in an elderly family member so they’re not out on the streets. My Mother-in-Law will not even have to worry or even think about what would happen to her, if anything happens to my wife and me. Her contingency plan is always going to be that there’s someone in the family, extended family, or our ethnic community who will take her in and look after her.
And I’ll bet for many sons/daughter-in-Laws have all said that it will be a blessing when the Mother-In-Law passes!!
In closing and open this up for discussion: A Bollywood movie called “Baghban”, seems to have impacted many viewers and their spouses thinking. At the end of the movie the main character makes this statement which is the moral of the story:
“If a Father can help a son to take his first step in life…
then why can’t the same son support his father to take his last step in life”?
This too applies to the Mothers as well with their sons and daughters.
Thanks for reading….