Before I got married, my mantra was “Your in-laws are not your friends.” As mantras go, I repeated this often to myself and my friends, and believed it with all my heart. Each time one of my friends got into trouble with their in-laws or prospective in-laws, they were sure to come wailing to me with ‘my stone’ (in our local language you tell someone “take your stone” when you want to say they were so right.) If only I had a stone for each time this happened; I would have built a house by now (okay, I exaggerate. But just a little!).
Then I got married! And God, being the gracious God He is, did not allow me to eat the fruit of my lips but gave me the most amazing in-laws possible, especially by way of a mother-in-law; the relationship I dreaded most. Let’s face it, most women think their mothers-in-law have it in for them, and if we will be honest we have it in for them too. I have had a friend tell me that “Fortunately my mother-in-law is dead.” Yes, it is that bad. So after God gave me this precious gift; who sometimes I consider a reward for all the ‘wahala’ my husband gives me sometimes I found myself wondering why I had believed my mantra with all my heart. My mother had had an okay relationship with my paternal grandmother as far as I could remember and, to the best of my knowledge, no one close to me had horrible in-laws so why, why had I believed they were ‘monsters-in-law’ with all my heart?
Maybe it was all the Nigerian and Ghanaian movies I had watched, or maybe society had conditioned me to think or expect that, or maybe I was just incredibly lucky. You see my mother-in-law breaks all stereotypes. Her son is her only son, and yet most days he feels like the two of us always gang up against him. The expectation when a woman has just one son, who also happens to be her first born, is that he will be a proper mama’s boy and woe betide the woman who is unfortunate or foolish enough to marry him. Not the case here. Almost always, the accusation is, “You supported my wife against me” or “You supported my mother against me”. Tough luck, honey! I know there are incredibly horrid in-laws out there, and my view on those is that incredibly horrid in-laws are a result of incredibly horrid human beings. I don’t think in-laws are bad people per se, but rather that there is a direct correlation between a person’s character generally and the kind of in-law they are. If you are not a nice human being you cannot be a nice in-law.
My mother in-law is an incredibly nice human being, as are my other in-laws. When my husband does something that pierces my heart like a sliver and venting to God doesn’t cut it, it’s not my own mother I call oh, I call my mother-in-law. My reasons for this are simple. One, there’s absolutely nobody in this world who will protect my husband’s reputation more than his mother. I can trust that whatever I tell her will not be repeated to anyone else or even the beau himself – save when she has my permission to blast him on my behalf. Two, she won’t think less of him or love him any less – a risk I stand if I tell my mother. Three, she will pray and pray and pray – because every mother wants the best for her son. When we have disagreements she almost always takes my side – she is a woman after all. And when she doesn’t, she explains why this time she thinks I’m in the wrong without being judgmental. In this my TTC journey, I do not know what I would have done without her support. There have been days that the only thing that pulls me out of my black hole is her prayer and her understanding.
I do not mean for this to be a tribute to my mother-in-law. Well maybe a little. My point though is that I have eaten humble pie. “Your in-laws are not your enemies” is my mantra now. And just maybe, if given the chance, they may even become your friends. Look at it this way, they love your spouse as much as you do and want the best for him/her; even if that best is you.