23 January, 2012

Being a daughter-in-law

I’m a good daughter-in-law.  I visit the parents-in-law regularly.  I push my husband (when he needs it, which isn’t often) to interact with them, or think of solutions to their problems.  I try to figure out how to make their lives easier.  I smile and nod and listen to their stories.  Yes, I moan and complain here and to my friends that my husband and I are stuck looking after them, and that my husband doesn’t feel he can leave the country because then there’d be no-one to take care of them.  (All their other children live overseas and show no guilt about it, and no intentions of returning, or even of visiting regularly.)  And actually, I'm quite proud that my husband feels that way, even if I wish he didn't.   But I have never let my parents-in-law know how I feel, and I never will.  That just wouldn’t be fair.  They are both in their 80s, and things are getting worse not better.  They need to feel secure, at least, in our presence when their future is increasingly insecure.

My mother-in-law is almost 89.  She’s been very lucky with her health, both physical and mental.  But she’s old, and she's never been very sensitive (even though she thinks she is), and age doesn't help that.  So I can’t really allow myself to get angry with her, and I certainly know I can’t begin to educate her or change her views.  As much as I want to sometimes.  As much as she makes me want to scream sometimes. 

So today, we visit and the first thing she does is point out the photos of the nieces and nephews on holiday in Malaysia swimming with baby elephants.  That was okay – we’d been emailed the photo, and so didn’t have to discuss it with her, or hear her rave about how beautiful the boys are, what beautiful children they are, so stunning, she’s never seen anything like it, their eyelashes, have you seen them?  Not this time.  Then she whips out the photo of her great-niece (one who has never given us the time of day) with her 3 year old daughter and new-born baby.  I bite my tongue, and find something else to do (I’m such a coward) whilst my poor husband has to look at the photo.  He shrugs, easily, deliberately disinterested.  “A baby.  They all look the same.”  Somehow, it isn’t impolite from him. Guys can get away with so much. I wanted to hug him.


  1. Wow and ouch. My not-quite-I-L's like to constantly harp on about the baby - their only grandchild (apart from our 3 dead ones, which obviously aren't worthy of 'grandchild titles'). Yep I know they're entitled to be excited and happy and full of it, but its interesting when I hear Mr Stinky trying to talk to them about our ivf/chances/whatever, and within seconds, its back to "the baby" again.

    Go your hubster! They can get away with so much more!
    Its like a wide-open cut that I think no-one but us babalost/baba-trying really cue into

  2. He EARNED that hug. I hope you gave it to him later on. I don't see my in-laws very often, maybe I should be grateful. They're great people, but the few times we talk over the phone they constantly complain about having no grandchildren, and my mother-in-law always comments on celebrities that got pregnant at such and such age through such and such treatments... Ugh.

  3. Ouch. This post hit a tender spot in myself. Recently I sent an email to MIL, telling her that we'd "given up on baby making" and we haven't thought about a future with kids anymore (just so she knows - she knew already since years ago that we had problems in that area). Her reply was really sweet, but still reading this post made me realize the tender spot that IF has created.

    1. And HUGE HUGS to youuuu...I think you're not just a good DIL, but a WONDERFUL one!

  4. Aw, your husband sounds great. And well done for not arguing with your MIL, it must be hard to bite it back sometimes.

  5. I try to be a good daughter in law, although I know I am certainly not the Italian Catholic daughter in law my FIL expected. ; ) I never knew my MIL, but my stepMIL can drive me nuts sometimes. She now has a grandson, her one & only, & of course the sun & moon & stars rise & set on him. ; )

    And then out of the blue, she will do something so kind, like givng me an ornament for my Christmas tree "for the baby." Go figure.

  6. Oh for goodness' sake. Why do people have nothing better to talk about that children and babies? My mum is always talking about her godson (even though she told me she doesn't believe in Christening children). I. don't. care.

    Good on your husband for saying that.

  7. What a wonderful husband!

    I don't think you were a coward, it is hard to be confrontation in those moments, esp. with a Mom-in-law and especially when she's in her latter years.

    Ross is typically better about responding to comments about babies, having babies and so forth than I am. I think there is something different for men that makes it simpler to respond than for women. I am not sure exactly what it is - cultural, socialization, etc., but it is there.

  8. I hope you aren't threatened (hee, hee), but I want to hug your husband too Mali! Although my MIL is baby-crazy in her own way, she is incredibly sympathetic and supportive of My Man and me and our unsuccessful efforts to have our own children, thank goodness.

  9. Hello from Indonesia :)
    Aren't you, yes, a good daughter in law. I cannot imagine visiting mine regularly, and I fled the scene everytime MIL had to mention babies. Most of the time I just opted for the easy way out: letting DH visit them without me. So you see? Not a coward at all, you sweetness you.