Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mothers & Mothers-In-Law

Data in the Malaysia Community and Family Study 2004 has confirmed that mothers-in-law are the chief cause of divorces in Malaysia, especially in the Indian community. [The Star]

I don't know about you, but this is not exactly news to me. Women, being who they are, have that tendency to control others—especially those who they know they can control. Many men have that tendency too, but they tend to do it for different reasons.

My mom has migrated to Canada for a good 30 years now. Yet her mentality has not changed one bit. Up till now, I can still see how she tries to organize the lives of my siblings, even by remote control. I am the only one in my family who's immune from her many attempts to run my life. Some years ago, when I purchased an insurance policy and put Mia's name as the sole beneficiary, mom told me to share 50% of the insured sum with my sister, Bridget. I gave her a simple and short answer—"Never!"

At numerous times mom tried to bypass me and went directly to Mia to "suggest" some ideas. But I would have none of it. Don't ever try to run our lives. When and if we need her advice on anything, we will ask for it. Otherwise, we will work out our problems on our own, thank you.

Now, on the other hand, Mia's mom has been trying to brainwash me for many years to no avail. But just because I was trying to please her, I did go to church and actually read quite a bit of the Bible too. My mother-in-law is a religious Filipina and she goes to church every week without fail. Mia and JJ go to church too, though sometimes they'd miss a mass or two.

I can still remember the time when I just married Mia; that was such a long time ago. I was pursuing my Estate Management degree, whereas Mia was pursuing her Law degree. We planned to delay having kids. So we went to the doctor to seek his advice on available options for birth-control. We read up on the subject, of course, but we reckoned that there's no harm to seek the doctor's advice. On the doctor's recommendation, we chose the pill. But when Mia's mom heard about it, she tried to play doctor and "suggested" that the best approach was the "withdrawal method". Luckily she did not proceed to demonstrate that method to us.

I think a lot of the times it is just impossible to change the mindset of mothers and mothers-in-law. They will always be mothers and mothers-in-law, and they always know what's best for us all. But my formula has always been very straightforward—I just won't allow any room for them to start controlling us. Once you start allowing your mother to "organize" your household, you will almost always end up having to choose between your own mother and your spouse. And unfortunately in this part of the world, quite a fair number of us would choose our mothers against our spouses.

From the very beginning I made myself very clear to my mom—don't ever make me choose between her and my wife, because in all likelihood I will choose my wife over her. After all, although I don't believe in the Christian God, I did make that solemn promise—and I meant it whole-heartedly—"till death do us part"; unless of course if my wife is the one who breaks her promise.

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