If you think the occasional visits upcountry to be with your in-laws is unbearable, try living a few metres from them, writes TATIANA SAINA
There is a reason why the Bible talks about a man and a woman leaving their parents to form a new family. In the African culture, teenage boys did not stay in their parents’ homes after circumcision. They built a small hut near the gate, a sign that they were about to exit their parents’ compound.
Just before they got married, they would build a house on the piece of land allocated to them, usually at the edge of the land. If they were unlucky not to inherit a piece from their parents, they would work hard to acquire their own.
This ensured that the new family grew with little or no interference from parents.
It is, therefore, unfortunate if you find yourself living close or even sharing a house with your parents-in-law. One of my brothers-in-law, who is so attached to his mother, built a house less that 100m from his parents. The result is a disastrous relationship between his wife and the in-laws.
To make it worse, his wife is not well educated and, therefore, is not employed. She often depends on our mother-in-law’s handouts. She, therefore, has to endure constant scorning from our mother and sisters-in-law. She has been demeaned and stripped of all dignity. Although she is mother of three, she is treated like a bothersome house girl, tossed here and there. The fact that her husband disrespects her worsens the situation.
Since most of us are in the city and her husband works in the neighbouring district, she is left alone to take care of our parents-in-law. She slaves all day to ensure that everything runs smoothly, but gets no gratitude from our in-laws.
For the few years I have been married, I have never heard a kind word about her. She is always criticised for being lazy and disrespectful. My in-laws always see something wrong in everything she does. Even my young nephews who stay with my mother-in-law scorn her.
She gets blamed for not being able to provide good clothing and food for her children even though from an outsider’s view (my view), it is clear that her husband is also to blame.
Whenever I find myself in a discussion where her dignity is being shredded, I either keep quiet or defend her. I know full well that the only difference between her and I is that I’m educated, do not live close to my in-laws and my husband respects me.