Ahhhh yes....the usual villian in most Chinese dramas, the formidable Chinese Mother-in-Law.
In most Chinese literature, she is usually the cause of the young bride's misery. She throws in nasty criticisms on just about everything from her cooking to her parenting style.
The mother-in-law, popo in mandarin, is usually tough and controlling. Due to traditional family relationships and due to the fact that she is the current matriarch of ther household, she holds higher authority over everyone and of course, over her daughter-in-law.
In most traditional chinese families, the bride moves in with the groom and his family. This is especially true if he is the eldest and/or the only son.
I have heard many horror stories of the mother-in law (MIL) reprimanding her daughter-in-law(DIL) and meddling with the way she is raising her children. The most common though revolves around her criticism that her DIL, at least based on her own opinion, seems incompetent in taking good care of her beloved son.
My mom is very much familiar with these horror stories. So she told me, "L, I know you are very outspoken, very opinionated and very brave...But please I beg you don't make a rebuttal when certain points of improvements are pointed out to you by your in-laws. Just nod and say, yes. Never disagree openly. Tell your husband so that he may relay it to his family."
I replied..."Ma, I don't understand half of the things they say. So, don't worry. In fact, I do say yes even when the question demands for a different answer. Yes na lang ako ng Yes."
Given the anticipated difficulty, the KE TSENG list includes a pair of shoes and stockings for the mother-in-law. This is very symbolic. This is a sign of respect. This represents a peace offering before war even starts.
This is the traditional style:
This is what I got my future mother-in-law:
I breathe a sigh of relief that I am blessed that S' mom is very nurturing and soft spoken. She is not the type who pries into people's business. Her only request is that I eat well and that I learn Fookien.
She is not very strict with traditions and in fact told, me that I don't need to complete my ke tseng list because she doesn't demand. To her, what is important is that S and I understand (ie not kill) each other.
It also helps that it was her nephew who introduced me to S. Her nephew told her about me and my family and she asked S if he is open to be Kai Shao-ed to me.
Before I agreed to the kai shao, I also asked if my potential in-laws are "mabait".
The MIL, afterall, plays an important role in the young couple's life. It is her generosity that will make the ting hun possible. It will also be her job to prepare and assist the young wife during Ge Lai (post partum care).
So, imagine that if your Chinese MIL doesn't like you. Your life will be hell. Some MIL make sarcastic comments, some compare you to their own daughters or their favorite DILs, some give you the silent treatments and some purposely exclude you in the conversation.
We were initially scared that my mom will be the evil witch towards my brother's girlfriend because she is Filipina. But because I am the second in command after my dad and because I am planting good karma seeds, I told her to behave and be pleasant.
Now, they go on vacations together. She loves her!
But, if I didn't intervene, I'm sure that my mom would be the BELLA FLORES to their mini telenovela Afterall, she has mastered the art of raising her eyebrows, rolling her eyes, you name it!
The conflicts are also magnified when you live under the same roof. Sus, if nag aaway ka nga sariling mong pamilya, how much more sa ibang tao di ba.
Hay, I am so lucky that S bought a home for us. I am admittedly difficult to live with. I can't live with my parents because my mom screams a lot. I struggle living with my brother because I don't always like dealing with his occasional mood swings. And the weird part is, I can't even live with myself because I seem to shed hair and the hairs on the floor inflict stress on me.
Truth be told, all mother-in-laws just want to keep morsels of their sons' affections and attention. So don't deprive them of it.
They also just want to share their way of doing things. I'd like to think they don't mean harm. I have done so many focus groups/FGDS to know that both the wife and the MIL mean well. Sometimes, it's just the way things are said that create conflict and the good intent is lost.
Still on Pause,