We grew up with certain unquestionable truths passed down through the generations. One of those truths is the unquestionable evil of all mothers-in-law. Since our days of youth, we’re indoctrinated with the idea of the “monster-in-law” which we will all come to face at some point in our lives. Mothers, friends, acquaintances all seemed to agree: There’s nothing worse in marriage than a mother in law. Try arguing for the possibility of a normal one being out there somewhere and watch people pity your naivety. The painstaking visits to his family’s house, the uncalled for passive aggressive comments about your cooking in comparison, the constant interference in your personal lives; the list goes on and on. But after more than two years of marriage, and having my mother in law be one of the closest people to my heart, I’ve decided to put an end to the nonsense. This is dedicated to all you girls that are about to get married and carry around the curse of “how am I going to deal with this woman”. I am personally testifying that there is such thing as a great mother-in-law.
Before I got married, my then-boyfriend-now-husband made his mother out to be “a cool person that you would not really think of as an in-law but more of a friend.” I laughed at the idea because how else would he describe his mother to me, right? If she was crazy, he’d probably not want to share that small caveat with me from the get-go. Having heard monster-in-law anecdotes for most of my life, I went to meet her and tried to keep an open mind. She seemed like a nice enough woman, no red flags, no passive aggression, nothing alarming yet. She turned out to be sweet, funny, unusually youthful, and on my wavelength in almost everything (including and most importantly, humor, which is the way to win my heart in any situation). I tried finding the catch but couldn’t help noticing that we became friends instantly. Throughout my one year engagement and almost three years of marriage, we’ve been extremely close. Having my family living far away, she has become almost like my second mother. Seeing her always feels like meeting a very good friend of mine. I felt like I’ve defied the law of in-laws. I’ve placed my flag in the grounds of a newly discovered inhabitable planet!
We visit my in-laws’ once a week, always on Thursdays. Whenever there are plans being made for Thursdays I have to remind my friends that it’s my in-laws’ day. My friends always give me this grimace that’s meant to say “sorry, that must suck”. Explaining to them how great my in-laws are is kind of like trying to convince someone that you saw a monkey speak Chinese; it is always received with a baffled knotting of the eyebrows. I decided to combine my Thursday plans with my in-laws plans; we were all to hang out together. My mother-in-law instantly loved my friends showering them with snacks, many rounds of mint tea, and homecooked food and so it became our weekly hang-out spot. If they don’t show up on Thursdays, my mother-in-law would have me call them at least ten times to convince them to come. With loud music, food, and lots of laughter, my mother-in-law’s place became our comfort zone. She embraced all of us like we were her immediate close family. Having my family scattered around the globe, Thursday nights at my in-laws’ house became my anchor. Nothing and no topic was off limits, everything was welcomed with open arms.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all mothers-in-law are misunderstood secretly pleasant creatures that we’ve unjustly judged over the centuries. But having your son get married and leave the house for good after twenty some years is a huge deal and they try to cope with it in different ways. We all have doubts and worries and maybe sometimes we can’t communicate them very well. It’s an emotional time for everyone, let’s agree on that.
Too many times I’ve heard the seemingly unbridgeable differences between wives and their mothers-in-law, the proverbial Berlin wall that sometimes does not come down during entire marriages. My mother-in-law broke all the myths. Too many times I heard the all-too-familiar story of how mothers-in-law would treat the new wife as a next-door neighbor trespassing on their vegetable garden. What I’m trying to say here is that there are no laws for marriage, most importantly with how your in-laws will turn out. It’s a kind of wheel of fortune where your pointer might fall on the conniving calculating evil woman or maybe the sweet understanding maternal one that in some cases one can become your best ally. A lot of women go into marriage with the preconceived notion that their husbands’ mothers are something to be dealt with rather than enjoyed. We, as Egyptians, need to stop flowing the negativity feed into the cannulas of our friends and families. Have your own experience untarnished by others’ judgments. Always keep an open mind; God knows you’ll need it in marriage.
Nada is an HR professional and an aspiring novelist. Find her on Instagram @the_nuun.