Celebrating the naming of our gorgeous niece on Friday night was simply monumental. Not only is she beautiful and filled with all the cuddliness a newborn should possess, she is the third grandbaby to be born to my beloveds family this year. Her birth brought all the grandmas together; my mummy, mummy mi (beloveds’ mum) and big mummy (beloveds’ aunty). Glancing over at them adorned with their smiles and giggles, I had that gooey feeling, the kind that makes you want to polaroid that moment in your mind. You could taste the unity in the room.
Everyone knows of at least one in-law story; the mother in law who makes the wife drink earthy coloured herbal concoctions to bring about their grandchild, the forever enterprising brother in-law who’s constantly asking for money, the gisting sister in-law that has a wicked exaggerating tongue. Like most things in life, it’s the negative stories that spread and not the positive ones. It’s the negative stories that stick to the mind, forcing the targeted wives and husbands to stretch to unthinkable limits to alter the crooked mind-sets.
With true stories like these, it’s no wonder that the mere mention of living with your in laws or even having them stay for long periods of time, sends wives and husbands into emotional convulsions. Prior to marriage I was one of them, until I lived with my mother in law.
Naturally, the early days of our three year journey were filled with mixed feelings of nerves, anxiety and newlywed glee. We were all so conscious of not upsetting each other that we continuously wore our Sunday best pleasantries. We would all exchange greetings and then retreat to our respective caves. Pretenses wore off and eventually our realer personas were revealed.
There were challenging times like when my beloved was made redundant, mummy mi and I were both dealing with the shock. There were times when I had to breathe my way through her actions; ferocious cleaning is just her way. Mummy mi is infamous for throwing things away; in her repertoire is my beloved’s wedding ring, passport and my patterns for a dress I was making for a client! I should think there were times when she looked up to heaven and asked God to verify if I was ‘their’ wife.
Joyful and happy times outweighed the testing ones; we exchanged views on Nigeria, Nollywood and the news, enjoyed eating her delicious Ogbono soup and we were moved to see her eyes filled with tears at her surprise birthday party. I believe that period, did wonders for our relationship. We understand who we both are. I have greater respect for who she is and I’d like to think that she respects who I am. I understand that I am fortunate; there are many not so nice in laws.
They say you don’t just marry the man, you marry the family. Can you imagine a bride gliding down the aisle towards her charming, smiling groom accompanied by his grinning mum, dad, umpteen siblings and cousins? There wouldn’t be an altar or stage large enough to contain the geles and agbadas! Every couple pictures of a long life of love and frolicking and it doesn’t usually include a battalion of relatives.
In reality, no couple is an island. No matter how distant, there are family relationships that need to be handled. As a wise wife, a woman of virtue, relationship management is just another part of the job. It takes real wisdom to manage these relationships as they can become a real bone of contention between husband and wife. You know the scenario where the husband/wife is left looking clueless.
This extends past mother and father in law relationships, when siblings are added to this mix it can prove to be an interesting accumulation of different mind sets. Some siblings are so close that they are almost clones of each other; creating a loving and welcoming atmosphere. Equally, it could rouse up jealousy in the hearts of the otherwise amicable siblings. Some siblings distance themselves from each other; limiting communication despite the wide range of avenues. Getting involved in disagreements often proves to be a dangerous business. Do you assume the role of a peacemaker role, managing the blows of their verbal assaults, only for them to clout the referee (you) when they are done?
In this day and age where it’s difficult to buy land, flat, house, bungalow, maisonette, cupboard or shed, it can make financial sense to house share with your in-laws. You can put wads of cash aside for your dream abode. I agree you definitely become more… creative (cough cough) with your bedroom antics though, it’s nothing that some soundproofing in the form of loud slow jams and rooms opposite ends of the home can’t solve.
They’ll be ever so happy to see the products of your labour – their grandchildren. And you’ll be ever so happy that they can provide the first rate cost effective childcare that you need. You might find yourself breathing deeper to manage your growing need to Google every child related measure they try to put into place. Funny isn’t it, how despite the existence of your beloved being a perfect testament of your in-laws expertise, you still run to your search engine to be further convinced by unknown authors.
Historically, mothers in law get a bad run. They are pictured as an overpowering and controlling force. I’m not quite sure why this is. Why don’t fathers in law have the same stigma? Is it the idea that another woman would have more access to their son or daughter? Is it an over active mothering chromosome in action? Very often, I feel this chromosome is just a tad bit more prevalent in the mothers of sons. Mothers and their sons! Makes me wonder what kind of in-law I would be? Would I be the kind that constantly called to check if my fully grown MARRIED son had been sufficiently fed? Would I stand distant, swooping down from lofty heights intermittently to give insults?
I love ‘mummy mi’; and every time she calls me ‘daughter’, it moves me. She doesn’t say ‘in-law’ because doesn’t she see the ‘law’ and neither do I. We are bound by something much deeper than a marriage certificate and the complicated law of the land. It goes beyond the fact that we share a love for her son/my husband. She loves me.
So…would I do it all over again…yes. Yes I would.
Photo Credit: brownmamas.com
Ruby Suze is a yummy mummy who has been married for 5 years. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others especially, youth. Follow her blog: Forever Newlywed and on [email protected]