When it comes to in-law relationships, it is not always horrendous. GARDY CHACHA found wome who co-exist peacefully with their mothers-in law
“He might be your husband but he is my son!”
These words may be spoken or may embody the thoughts of an angry mother-in-law when communicating with the wife of her son.
Not that mothers-in-law are born acerbic to their daughters-in-law; it just happens that the fulcrum of their relationship has a certain degree of grit that makes for a battle triangle between a son, a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law.
But in an age where war already chars the surface of the earth, any more heat within a family makes life a morose adventure.
It is only last year that images of a mother to a successful millionaire athlete brandishing a machete on one hand and a damning club on the other graced local screens. The woman went virile on her daughter-in-law, accusing her of murdering her son.
Monica Mucheru, a psychologist at Kivuli Counselling Centre in Ngong, offers that there’s the tendency for a mother-in-law to feel invaded by the new entrant in the life of her child, since attention would greatly shift from her to the son or daughter’s spouse.
Mucheru further explains: “When individuals marry, they enter into new families that are often different in culture and lifestyle. It takes time for them to settle and be part of the newly acquired family, which should create a lively environment to ease the transition.”
Ideally, a mother-in-law is supposed to let their son or daughter live a relatively detached life. In many traditional African cultures, a husband was chosen by the girl’s parents. Decades of transformation in our thinking and civilisation has usurped the powers of a parent to cajole their daughter or son into marrying someone for the sake of maintaining status and appeasing the gods of tradition.
But although lovebirds can now choose a partner, it seems mothers-in-law — especially those of the husband — are likely to incessantly have a hand in the crafting of decisions (of immense importance) like having grandchildren and the proportion of monetary assistance she receives.
The influence of the husband’s mother is pronounced because in many cultures, the girl marries into the man’s family and has to adapt to the new relationship.
The usual disposition of a mother-in-law is largely dependent on how well life is unfolding in her son or daughter’s house.
Agnes Maina, a married businesswoman, points out that trust forms the centre of in-law relationships.
“The society has many stereotypes and before you get married, you hear descriptions of your would-be mother-in-law and she’s also told about you in very unflattering remarks. So, going into your marriage, the mood between you two is already tense,” she says, adding, “From your first encounter as her son’s wife, there are feelings of mistrust, which lay the foundation for an explosive relationship.”