I have been reading with interest this series on In-laws and last week. I noted that a husband shared and so decided to share my experience as a wife.
I have been married for over a decade now and have had several interactions with my in-laws but I believe that the tone for this interaction at the end of the day is coloured by what the other partner does or say to their own side of the family .
One incident comes to mind that illustrates this point for me. I learned greatly from it, although at the time it occurred, I did not see it in the light. I am also very happy with the way I responded to it as it has set a precedent in my home that will continue through the ages except, of course, someone decides to rock the boat.
My home like every other home is not bereft of the interferences of in-laws which understandably is part of the whole marriage business, especially in our African context where you do not only marry the individual but the family. However, it seems like the proverbial handshake that turns to an elbow shake is a frequent occurrence in most African homes.
I returned home one day and my dear husband dropped it on me that our children are expected at their auntie’s out of state house for vacation. What was most infuriating was the fact that he was telling me the night before they were expected to leave. Obviously, they had all been planning this for weeks and I felt undermined. I told him point-blank;
“they go nowhere. Why would you plan a vacation for our children with your side of the family without my input?”
He got furious, this was a request from his elder sister who apparently must be obeyed and not offended but I did not give a hoot. We argued and he even told me that he did not need my permission to take his kids anywhere. Really?
To be honest, our children have visited their auntie over the years but I have always gone with them. I have never left my children to go on their own, never. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them visiting but the underlying reasoning of they are our children and we decide when we want them got me exasperated. I reiterated my No much to the chagrin of my husband.
He huffed and puffed like the big bad wolf but the roof didn’t cave in. lol
He threatened to take them by force, I wasn’t shaken and right there I made a decision that if he took them, I was going to go to the police, stomp my in-law’s place and remove my children with militia force. I started making calls to prepare for the invasion lol. My hubby realized that I was dead serious and he had crossed an invisible line. I returned the next day and met our children at home. The holidays ended and they never went for that vacation
It is very easy for in-laws to take privileges as rights and entitlements and the wife of the home can easily become a second class citizen. Somehow, our patriarchal culture alludes all parental rights to the father and depending on his disposition, his family members can easily start acting also as if the children belong only to their brother and their side of the family.
I don’t support the culture of children belonging to one side of the family. Children belong to both parents and any situation where decisions are made without the input of either parent is crazy and always a cause of strife. Unfortunately, this culture is well-practiced in Nigeria and mothers are sometimes left out of crucial decisions concerning their child(ren) but if the child(ren) becomes unruly or exhibits any deviant behavior, the mothers bear the brunt.
It is doubly sad that women most times are the worst culprits of promoting this culture, acting and asking questions like when we married her, did she come with any child? Widows are usually the worst hit but as a mother, you should insist that decisions that involve your children are not made without your input.
.Someone might say but you went too far, I disagree. This is how it usually starts. Something small, quite harmless and familiar like visiting an auntie but before I know it, more decisions will be made about our children without my input.
Like most women, I know how in-laws can often misinterpret privileges as entitlements. I have experienced it over and over again but with this incident, I said “NO MORE” and put my foot down. And it worked without even confronting the in-laws directly.
Being tolerant of the requests of in-laws and family members does not necessarily mean becoming relegated to the background. Sometimes you have to speak up and insist on your rights. One of the good things about the whole incident was that it sent an unmistakable message to all parties and I know that the next time, they would do things the proper way.
Sometimes, the much-desired change we require may not be dramatic and we may have to insist on somethings as they may be the pattern for future decisions and actions in our homes. Trying not to rock the boat may not always pay in the long run. Amidst my hubby /in-law drama, I learned the importance of putting one’s foot down.