~ When you marry someone, you marry the entire family. ~
I’ve known my husband since we were teenagers, which also means that we kind of grew up together.
I’ve known his family for years. We joke around, go camping and family holidays together and although I’m not super close to his mother at the time, she has always been a familiar person.
On our wedding day, I remembered what my mother-in-law said to my husband through her tears while they hugged.
“Now that you’re married, I hope that you will not abandon me.”
And this broke my heart.
As Muslims, we are taught that mothers hold the highest status for children. The teachings emphasise the difficulties of pregnancy, labour, breastfeeding and the unconditional love of a mother. Mothers are our “ticket to heaven” and I, as a new wife, was determined to help my husband earn his ticket.
Being the only son, it is without a doubt that he is responsible for his mother. And so, when we found a home to call our own, I was very supportive of the idea of asking my mother-in-law to live with us. For me, this decision was a no-brainer and there was no need for a discussion, except for when my husband informed his sisters that their mother will officially live with us.
With my charming and easy-going personality, it was not a challenge to get along with my mother-in-law. Both of us seem to adapt to each other quickly and I have always felt comfortable with her even when we were alone.
Since day one, living and winning with my in-law was not rocket science and I found out just how easy it was as I observe these behaviours.
Embrace Your Role
Being in a relationship is all about two individuals. And in that world, you are discovering both your likes and dislikes, your goals and your dreams, and your promise to love one another.
When you are married, you realised that you are also married to the entire family. Sure, having to live with the in-laws may seem overwhelming at first, as your world gets a little crowded out of a sudden. It is not only the both of you anymore, but it has become you, your love and a whole lot more.
In my experience, it was beneficial for me when I quickly discovered my place and where I stand in this new crowded world. I never felt like I must compete with my mother-in-law for my husband’s attention. In fact, I consistently remind my husband to prioritise his mother. This helps because it avoids unnecessary stress for my husband to choose between mother and wife. Likewise, my mother-in-law does not see me as competition for affection and we can all live harmoniously and blissfully.
Respect is earned, it is not expected just because a person is older. I respect my mother-in-law for being my husband’s mother and I am grateful for how she raised him to become an awesome individual. In return, my mother-in-law respected me as a daughter-in-law and wife of her son.
When we had children, she allowed us to do the parenting ourselves and refrained from butting in. She is great at knowing when to share parenting advice, to offer help and most importantly, she did not impose her own parenting style nor spoil our children although she loves them dearly and is very affectionate towards them.
Privacy And Personal Boundaries
I’ve come to learn what my mother-in-law likes and dislikes over the first couple of months and I discovered that we had a lot more in common than we thought.
We all have our own rooms and spaces in the house, and we are free to walk in and out of any room. But as adults, we know to acknowledge or inform each other when we need something in the other’s room.
I’m thankful that I do not have to worry about our privacy as a couple. My mother-in-law usually retreats to her room shortly upon seeing my husband and I lounging around on the sofa to allow us some quiet alone time as we binge-watch our TV series and chill.
Communication Is Key
The main reason why I am comfortable with my mother-in-law is because I made a conscious effort to hang out with her.
In the day, she catches up on her K-drama or her favourite YouTube channels. Sometimes, I will join her and engage in discussing the drama plot or discovering new recipes together. Through these intimate and alone sessions with her, she shares her experiences, wisdom and knowledge. And through these too, that she listens to my perspectives and ideas – it has become a relaxing, non-judgemental platform for us to exchange thoughts on ourselves, parenting, family values and a lot more.
Investing quality time and getting to know your in-laws will benefit you. With time, you will learn to relax in each other’s company and you find that hanging out with your in-laws can be easy and does not necessarily have to turn out to be a stressful event.
Stay Out of Family Feuds
Discussions can become heated when individuals have different perspectives and most of the time, neither is right nor wrong. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and ideas. If you find that you are caught in between one of these heated discussions, it is best to avoid taking sides, listen to the arguments and mostly keeping quiet.
If you feel like you must intervene and control the situation, offer advice that is constructive or provide a helpful solution that you know both parties are willing to accept. Otherwise, it is just better to keep mum and stay out of family feuds.
Offer Help Whenever You Can
My mother-in-law used to help with all the house chores during the weekdays when I was working, and I took over diligently over the weekends. Now that I am a WAHM (work at home mum), I relieved her of a lot of these chores, so much so that when she went for her annual health check-up, the doctor commended her for maintaining stabilised blood pressure levels.
However, there is a set of chores that I dread doing – folding clean laundry. To which, I had to ask my mother-in-law for help. Now we comfortably get into a routine in which I do all the other chores while she helps with the laundry.
A Life of Blessings!
I’d like to think optimistically that there are a lot more advantages than disadvantages of living with in-laws.
You get extra help around the house, whether it is doing the house chore that you dread or watching over the children when you run errands. You get extra company and never get lonely at home when the children are in school and the husband is at work – you will always have a friend.
Most importantly, you get the extra love from your in-law, for your husband, your children and yourself too.
Article contributed by Mas Tuty Suliani, a stay at home mum with two daughters.