The following story was narrated to The Weight She Carries Contributor Ivy Chibanda.
Growing up, my worst fear was not getting along with my mother-in-law when I got married because I had heard a lot of stories about mothers and daughters-in-law not getting along with each other. I didn’t get it though. I thought it was every mothers’ dream to have her son married and wean him off so he can grow and have his own family. I find out people are different…
I got married at twenty-five, and because of the nature of my husband’s job, he couldn’t stay in Zimbabwe, he travelled a lot. However, as per tradition, as soon as you are married, you have to stay with your mother-in-law for a few days, or a month at most, then move out if you have to. I was welcomed well by my husband’s family. I didn’t move out after a month, I just continued staying with my mother-in-law.
It was bliss for the first few days but eventually it became hell on earth. It was mostly because my husband no longer sent money directly to my mother-in-law but through me, and for some reason, she thought I was keeping most of it from her and giving her just a little.
What made the situation worse was the fact that I wasn’t working. Jobs were scarce and my husband had told me not to worry as he could take care of us. He didn’t want me to feel strained as I was pregnant.
Staying in a home that’s not yours is hard, trust me. I couldn’t buy groceries at my own will, I had to consult my mother-in-law. I couldn’t eat anything at any given time in her kitchen because she thought I was misusing her son’s money and being irresponsible. She would say mean things about me to her daughters in my presence, but pretend she was referring to some other person when clearly she was talking about me.
I really wanted to move out and stay in my own home, but we were saving to buy a bigger house and I had to endure her mistreatment. I told my husband at times, but he didn’t like the friction, and it was difficult for him to choose between me and her as obviously he loved us both. I eventually stopped complaining to him and I would just talk to God and cry to Him for an answer.
A few years later, we managed to buy our own house and I moved out with my kids. She was going to be lonely, I knew. Her husband had passed away way before I got married into the family. No matter how bad she treated me, I had grown to love her. I couldn’t leave her with just the helpers. I thought of Naomi and Ruth in the Bible, I was not going to leave her.
We moved in together and we rented her house out so she could have extra money. Staying with her is not a bed of roses but we have learnt to live together and accept our flaws. I eventually got a job and now she respects me for it. I have freedom to do what I want because she cannot question whose money I am using to buy whatever I want. Before I got the job, she would often pass negative comments about us misusing her son’s money even when she was in my house. She would insult me through my maid. I got used to it and turned a deaf ear.
I have learnt over the years, that you can never campaign for love from your mother-in-law. People are different, some have been blessed to get mothers-in-law who love them dearly like their own, and some have mothers-in-law who treat them badly no matter how good they are. Sometimes, it’s not that they are terrible, as daughters-in-law, we are also human, we also err. Good or bad, we should be grateful that they gave birth to the men we call our husbands.
Treat that woman as you would treat your mother in remembrance that your mother is also someone’s mother-in-law and remember, there will come a time when you will be someone’s mother-in-law. Do unto others as you’d want them to do unto you. There are blessings attached to taking care of our in-laws. It’s important that we do good no matter how we are treated. God is not blind. He will wipe your tears and help you through your situation.