How To Get Along With The Mother-In-Law

woman carrying baby at beach during sunset
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Happy New Year guys! I know it’s July, but when one wakes up is his or her morning. Think about it, whether one rises at 6am or at 12noon, one still has to go through some, if not all of the usual first up routine. And as the wonderful writer Chinua Achebe says “it is morning yet on creation day”. That was all a long winded way of saying that I regret being away from here for most of the year. Life is happening to me guys, life is happening. In the most wonderful of ways, but still all very new and sometimes stressful. Raising a family is one of the most delightful, yet all consuming sacrifices/gifts any human could ever ask for. I am thankful, but I am also overwhelmed and at times, left with absolutely no energy or reserve for anything more. Anyway, I am here now, to try again to continue  my rambles here in this freedom square. I have written this blog for almost 6 years, and I am thankful for all of you, and for the traffic that flows through here.

While raising a family, I reckon it is all the more difficult when one does not have the support of the proverbial “village”, the support of a trusted community of extended family and the familiarity of known spaces and structures to help to raise your family. That brings me to the topic at hand; getting along with your partner’s/spouse’s family/mother in law. For this post, I am more interested in relationships with the mother in law for the ladies in relationships.

You see, when a woman raises a son, the emotional connection and society’s nurturing of boys can be quite different to girls. Don’t we love to spoil our sons and raise them to be entitled? Boys are raised with privilege; especially when it comes to life skills of the nurturing or domestic kind. Mothers spoil their boys, it is a fact universally acknowledged, which is probably why that feeds into the other universally acknowledged fact that “a man who is in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. Why? One might ask. Because some men (traditionally, of course all that is changing nowadays) need to be looked after. Apart from birthing the heirs, who else is going to do the cooking and cleaning and all that great stuff? But I digress.

Mothers prior to the appearance of  the wife, looked after their sons. They want him to be loved and nurtured and they want him to be obeyed and listened to and treated like a king. In addition to all these, mothers were the sole proprietors of their son’s love and adoration and affection before the advent of the wife. I think this is why there always seems to be a competition when a woman becomes a serious contender. There are 4 kinds of mothers-in-law:

The Nobody Is Good Enough For My Son kind

This is the kind of mother in law who you can never ever impress. She tells you exactly how her son likes his shirts ironed, and how hot he likes his jollof rice, never mind that his taste may have changed over the years. With this mother in law, everything is a competition. She is concerned that you are replacing her and there is nothing anyone can do or say to change her mindset. She will throw curveballs your way everytime she has a chance, and does not hide the fact that she does not think you are enough. I bet you fight with your husband every time this mother in law visits.

How to get along with this kind? Just make your peace with the fact that she raised a good man (hopefully he is one), she’s probably lived half of her life so you cannot really change her. So what do you do? As hard as it sounds, you have to tolerate her. Ask for her ideas for family gatherings, or just life in general, and make sure to give her some positive feedback when you have put that extra curry she insisted that Jim likes in his jollof rice. When she comes to visit, prepare yourself mentally and stay busy to take your mind off her sniffs.

The Meddler

This mother in law is literally the worst. She’s the kind who will ring your husband in the middle of the night, and insist that your first child, whom you carried for nine months, never mind the hyperemesis gravidarum you suffered in the first trimester, and the subsequent pre-eclampsia and fourth degree tear you had post delivery, be named after her father. She’s the kind who wanted to see your wedding dress and immediately decided it was too revealing, long sleeves and all. Do you remember taking a drive around the auto stores looking at that lovely SUV or perhaps the Eco friendly cars, then suddenly your husband changes his mind to an ugly 7 seater MVP in order to fit your unborn family of 4 children? That was all Mama meddler. Now you have an ugly 7 seater that you hate to drive, even though you have only one child named Afamefuna (thanks to Mama Meddler), sitting in the back. You fight with your husband everytime this kind of mother in law visits.

How do you manage Mama Meddler? Your action plan will depend on a) Is hubby a mummy’s boy? OR b) Is he a reasonably independent son. If he’s a mummy’s boy, girl, you better make friends with Mama Meddler and ring her as often as you can. Co-opt her into your planning, I know it is hard, but do you want your second child to be named after her great-aunt? Do you want your marriage to end in divorce? It can all be managed in the meantime until family life becomes so busy that hubby is fully integrated into this new lifestyle and stops running to her with every decision and difficulty. In the interim, suggest things that you want to happen for your family to her and bring her to your side. She will most probably claim it as hers, and voila, suddenly her meddling is working for you. The best solution to this is really not to marry a mummy’s boy, but I guess there’s someone for everyone.

If he’s the second kind i.e reasonably independent and logical, then perhaps agree on a family decision making process and keep tabs on when things have changed. Do not suggest that the idea came from his mother, but highlight the timelines for the change and ask about the evolution of the plans, and where the changes emanated from. If he’s logical, he may begin to see a pattern and the relationship with his mum will evolve to “keeping you informed”, and not “asking for your opinion”.

The Genuinely All Embracing Mother-In-Law

If you have this kind, then you have lucked out. She’s genuinely a lovely woman who embraces you with open arms and is thankful that her son has met someone who completes him. This mother-in-law makes it easy to have a new family and just lets you get on with your lives. She dotes on her son, but has no attachment issues and wishes you all well. Mind you, some of these all embracing mothers-in-law may be a little bit suffocating. Some chat non-stop, offer endless words of advise and gifts, visit quite often and maybe even call you more than they call their sons. Listen, take it. You may feel that you do not need another “mummy” because your mother is probably already driving you nuts. However, think about the good sides; it is definitely better than having a meddler or someone who doesn’t think that you are good enough. Who knows, there maybe days when you wish for a shoulder to lean on and she may be there to support you.

You will get along with this mother in law by tapping into her wealth of knowledge regarding your significant other’s upbringing. She will be delighted to tell you stories of him as a young child, she will probably be delighted to host you to visit on holidays without criticising and inspecting your every move. Chances are she will make a spectacular grandmother to the grandchildren. Make the best of her and let her be a wonderful binding ingredient for you and your family.

The Mother-In-Law Who Does Not Care

The final kind of mother-in-law is the one who probably lives in the same city as you but does not visit, and has no interest in your family. Many women prefer this kind, but there’s probably a vaccum in your husband’s life if he does not have a present mother. There may be buried issues there regarding his upbringing, so in as much as this can be a relief from the first two kinds, you may wish to uncover the reason behind this deficiency just to make sure it does not affect the relationship you have with your partner/spouse and the children going forward. Make a point to send birthday wishes, and mother’s day wishes and Christmas visits if you can.

Finally, I think that sometimes we  go into relationships with the fear of the famous “monster-in-law”. Some friends have told me that they went into their marriages ready for the “battle” of places with the mother-in-law. In some cultures, newlyweds live with the parents in law, and this can make things a little more intense. It is probably not a terrible idea to be self-aware and to put your best foot forward while engaging with the entire family (not just the mother) of your partner/spouse. Going into any situation with our backs up tend to manifest themselves in our body language without our realisation.

What would I do? 

I’ll do my very best to get along with her, this is someone who’s played a key role in raising my loved one, I’ll try to be myself with them, or shall we say an improved version of myself. I’ll reach out and stay connected, I will most probably follow my husband’s lead.

Chances are -you’ll be ok.


Should Men Pay All The Bills?

I am fascinated by relationships, by our very human need for love and companionship, and everything in between. I am also a hopeless romantic, so everything about relationships to me, is beautiful. But we all know that this is not the reality and lately, the more I speak to people, the more it seems to me that the basis, the foundation, the crux, the soul, if you wish, of most relationships, is finance. It makes or breaks relationships, partnerships, marriages. If you are looking to find a husband or a wife, you better be ready to discuss finances I think.

Photo source:
Photo source:

So without further ado, my big question really is; is the man responsible for taking care of the woman financially, whether they be boyfriend/girlfriend, partners, husband/wife? Should a man pay all the bills in the home should they be married and have children? Is the man responsible for paying the bills, whatever they may be? I spoke to men and women alike and what an interesting mix of responses.

Almost all the women I spoke to told me that they wanted to be with a man whom they were sure could take care of them. Women told me that the man had better be ready to pay for a trip to the salon, a vacation abroad, meals when they were out, gadgets including mobile phone credits, and shopping sprees. One person asked me of what use the man was if he could not provide for her?

“I equate love to gifts, if a man gives me stuff, then he clearly cares about me.” Another woman told me.

It depends on the relationship, if a man is wealthy, then it would not be a problem to provide for his woman. However, if he were struggling and earning a certain income like the woman, it may seem unreasonable to expect him to cater to everything. Someone said to me that men are providers, and feel much more happy and in control when they are able to provide for the people in their lives without having to ask the woman to contribute. But doesn’t it also depend on the relationship being shared by both parties? If both people are in a partnership built on a solid foundation of friendship and equality, then naturally most responsibilities will be shared fairly depending on income bracket. In this part of the world though, that seems far fetched, as most relationships are still very traditional, with the woman expected to be submissive to the man, the man is in control and is not necessarily accountable to her for his actions.

In order to maintain this position, a man is required to pay all the bills and occassionally give a monthly allowance to his woman. her responsibility is to take care of him and the home front, prepare the meals, raise the children, respect and honour him, and defer to him, even though she has a job. To women, when a man takes care of the finances, it makes it easier for them to submit and revere him as tradition/society requires. A friend once told me that she often found resentment in her heart, because her husband did not play any active role in the house, except grudgingly bankroll stuff. She had a job as a teacher which did not pay much, however, she was on her feet all day, and was exhausted by the time she got home. He insisted on freshly cooked meals, and would never get up when the baby cried at night.

I spoke to some men who told me that they could never be with a woman who makes more money than they did. This to them would be too dicey. Women can be quite mouthy and unable to control their emotions. More money would give a woman a big head, and she would very quickly slag off her husband and be disrespectful.

“She can keep her money, I will provide for my house. I am the head of the family.” Someone told me.

Again it depends on the situation, if a woman kept all her money and spent all the man’s income (if he’s not rich), will there be resentment at the end of the day on the man’s part? Will he wonder what she did with the stash she earns? A former colleague once told me that he was married to the most selfish “nuisance” (yes he called his wife that) on the face of the earth. Apparently, she refused to tell him how much she earned, but she knew his’. He could tell that she made quite a bit of money, about 10% less than he did, he knew because he determined the average salary of people on her grade level. Not only did he not know how much she earned, he paid for everything in the house including her personal items and “grooming” including brazillian hair which cost him as much as $1000, and which she proceeded to weave unto her scalp. He was nagged for months until he saved and paid for the fake hair. She would go off with her girlfriends and buy really stunning jewelry and beautiful shoes, and then ask him for money for food for the house and toiletries too.

It made him resentful because he could not treat himself much, as he was down to zero at the end of the month. On the other hand, some men require that their wives hand over their salary at the end of the month/on pay day. He then gives her what she needs from it. That shows that a woman is respectful of her husband and is submissive as stated in the good book. There are also scenarios where the woman pays for stuff and would do it through her husband so that he does not feel like less of a man. For example, there are casual workers who have come to fix the plumbing or the fence, she then gives him money to pay them. The dynamics of relationships are always very interesting.

I spoke to a few men and women who are quite progressive and told me that both parties must share all responsibilities; whether they be financial and/or domestic, if both parties have jobs. That way, everybody feels like they are part of the relationship and nobody feels used, or feels like a freeloader. These progressives believe that the two parties should split the bills if they are living under one roof. Two salaries/income streams are certainly good and can provide a better lifestyle for the couple and their family. With two incomes, it may be easier to live in a nice house, or perhaps take a vacation or buy a home. One person should only have to pay for stuff all the time should the other party be laid off from work.

Are women really golddiggers? This is the vibe I got from speaking to people. Men here say women are consistently nagging them for stuff. You take a woman out today, you are not even sure you want to see her again, and the next day, she’s calling you and trying to get you to buy her brazillian hair, or a new iPhone. Women on the other hand, say men are selfish and are consistently playing with multiple girls on the side, and that although they do not admit it, men like the power of wielding their wallets and get very intimidated once a woman wants to pick up the bill. If she does, she is arrogant, will never make a good partner in a relationship and is “showing herself”. I personally, will attempt to contribute on a date, and will look out for body language. If a man says no, I will never ask again, but will do other things like buy tickets so both of us can see something, or get dessert. It’s a path to be threaded carefully.

What do you think about finances in a relationship? Should a man pay all the bills? Have the times changed at all?


Hell Has No Fury Like A Woman Scorned

I was going through my archives, and I found a piece I wrote in 2005. I was 22, volunteering as part of the National Youth Service Corps in a small rural community; a relationship had just ended, I was angry, bored and lonely and it showed in this piece. I had a good laugh reading this. Actually, all the pieces I wrote during that time were dark, angry and violent hahaha. Check this one out, it’s a lot of rambling 🙂

Sons Of Adam

You are like Pharoah
The female’s bane
That cup overflows yet
Take a sip
A gulp…
Like a greedy child
The insatiable rider at the peak of dry season

I smell a rat
His voice trembles so
Those sweet lips refuse my offering
Are we still composing?
Hear more fragments of soundless soprano
If you are not my bane
Speak those words I long to hear
What omen…who stops you so?

Like the greedy child
You clutch the dry fish in your tight fist
Yet you seek another and cry for more
No more sweet words
I know your type
The bathroom has become the switchboard
Seems you answer the call of nature
As you answer the call of Eve’s child
Speak up then…be heard.

So I win
I know your type
Lover …Man…Poet
The devil’s envy
The devil’s envoy
You tell me…what more do u want?
I tell you man
I have seen Shakespeare
I sat at the helm of his royal excavation
And Aphrodite and Nymphs blessed me at birth.

Speak up Adam’s offspring
What more do you want?

My talents abound
In good time… the rain will fall
Look …the clouds lie in wait….prepare the path

Last night I sharpened that metal
I had no corn stalks to harvest
Listen sisters
No wild growing plants or weed

Only one wild stem full of seeds
Seems the stem began to flowers to tend
Listen sisters
It’s flower remained unattended

So I took care of it
You do not want it coming near your gardens
I sharpened that metal
He played me with words.

But the eyes must see
They believe as they see
No sweet words trick me
He’s like a tortoise
Cunning …slow…sure
Last night I chose to be Thomas

Listen sisters
I did him in.