I was having my weekly ABC at the Damai Phase 4 food court last Saturday afternoon. Seated at the next table were two women. One of them was lamenting to the other about her daughter-in-law. I'm not sure what was it all about, but it had something to do with that woman's disappointment in her son. She said that her son was always defending his wife; whereas she felt that the son should be loyal to her as his mother. She felt that she had the authority over her son simply on account of being his mother.
I'm not in the habit of listening in on other people's conversation, but it's hard not to hear such an animated conversation. Unfortunately, I did not hear the other side of the story, i.e. the daughter-in-law's story. So as a policy, I won't comment on the merits of this mother's complaint. I can only pity her for her predicament.
Elsewhere in this blog I have discussed this topic before, but I propose to revisit the same topic again here now. Women are of course peculiar creatures—forgetful creatures. I should know because apart from being married to one of them, I have also seen so many interactions between mothers and their daughters-in-law in my day.
Let me hasten to say that I'm convinced that there must be a fair number of mothers whom are good friends with their daughters-in-law. I mean truly good "good", not just good on the surface, if you know what I mean. But in many, many cases, mothers can very rarely live under the same roof with their daughters-in-law. Well, at least not for very long. They are like time bombs—sooner or later, something will give, and the explosion will usually be ugly.
The whole problem revolves around those two little words, "Authority" and "Loyalty". When a woman marries a man, she'd usually feel like she has authority over her husband, and she'd expect his loyalty too. Moreover, that authority and loyalty are even more than what her mother-in-law deserves. In due course when there is friction between her and her mother-in-law, she'd expect her husband to support her.
However, when she eventually has a son of her own, and when that son gets married, she'd assume authority over her son, and she'd expect her son to be loyal to her, not to his wife! It is a strange reality about women in general. I'm not sure if it's a case of forgetfulness—as in forgetting the time when she, too, was once the daughter-in-law to somebody's mother, and that as a daughter-in-law, she had assumed authority over her husband and demanded his unconditional loyalty.
Well, I'd consider myself quite lucky in that my mother had long ago migrated to Canada. Over the years she's been visiting us every now and then, but had never actually stayed for a prolonged period in my house. I therefore have no opportunity to prove the above theory about women as far as my own mother is concerned, but I'd bet my bottom dollar that if it is fated one day that my mom comes over to stay for good, it would be just a matter of time that there will be frictions between her and my wife. It is almost natural for this to happen between a mother and her daughter-in-law!
There will be bound to be occasions when my mother would be tempted to "share" some of her wisdom on how to raise children properly—that children shouldn't eat junkfood up to 3 hours before dinner, because that would spoil their appetite; that the kids are spending too much time watching TV, and should be spending time studying; that kids have no business having cellphones of their own. And the list goes on and on. I dare say that some of these policies are good ones, and my wife would have no problem in agreeing with them. Nevertheless, there will be some ideas that may be not so agreeable to my wife.
And then there are also other matters where mom would sometimes like to throw in some of her ideas. For example, she would suggest that I put my sister's name, at least as a co-beneficiary, for my life insurance policy, instead of naming my wife as the sole beneficiary.
So let me repeat—there will be bound to be frictions. If I'm lucky it will remain a ticking time bomb that will never explode. Maybe my mom would end up lamenting to her friend at a coffeeshop like that woman at Damai Phase 4 above. But if I'm not so lucky, the bomb will explode with serious consequences. What would I do then?
Well, first and foremost, I'd like to listen to both sides of the story, and then assess which side I can agree with. Let me just say it here now that I am immune from the expectation of the society—that my loyalty should ultimately go to my mother. Not in the least. If I can't agree with my mother, I shall have no qualms in telling her, with due respect, to back off. I told her, for example, that there is no place whatsoever for my sister's name to appear in my life insurance policy even as a co-beneficiary; end of story, and there's nothing more to discuss, thank you. This has nothing to do with being ungrateful to my mother; but if it is deemed as ungratefulness anyway, then so be it; life goes on. But of course on the other hand, if I can't agree with my wife, then I will also tell her to back off.
There is no end to the argument of who, between mothers and daughters-in-law, deserve a higher authority and loyalty over/from the son/husband, although I suspect that in this part of the world, the majority of the population would say that mothers deserve more authority and loyalty. Well, what can I say, this is not the first time that my opinion is different from the norm.
I'm very lucky that having been married now for over 25 years, there has never been a quarrel between my mom and my wife. It would have been a rotten deal—and I would have done it anyway—for me to have to tell one of them to back off!