Follow "What Women Think" by email - subscribe securely here

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


What do you do if you miss your mother-in-law? Reload, and take better aim.


Well, we've all either got one, had one, are one or know one. Like "great-aunt" or "stepmother" it's one of those ambiguous relative categories. Sometimes you hit the jackpot; sometimes the poker machine sucks the very life out of the marrow of your bones and leaves you a heaving, angry, impotent raging mess.

This column isn't about hitting the jackpot. It's more like coming third in the chook raffle at a local RSL.

My own mother-in-law (albeit now ex) had more issues than The Courier-Mail. And was so dumb she wouldn't have passed a blood test. She had the personality of a dial tone. Could have been because she was short, could have been because she was married to a verbally abusive alcoholic, could have been because she ignored her son for his first 20 years of life and right when I married him, she was in the throes of deciding that she needed to make up for lost time.

Her way of doing this was to adopt a fragile, helpless persona and wail away about how she needed things done around her house and how my husband's father was a good for nothing layabout and how her darling boy was the only man she could rely on. Etc.

He could be mowing the lawn, cooking a bbq or watching football and she'd ring, demanding his attention.

"Oh son, I'm just having trouble changing a light bulb."

"Oh son, I can't quite reach the mix master on the top shelf of the pantry."

"Oh son, could you just move Ayers Rock fifty miles closer to the coast."

The dear thing tried so hard to get on with me, but I was having none of it. Not after she cooked my parents a pre-wedding supper at her house and asked them to contribute to its cost. Not after she left my two month old daughter alone on the change table while she went to answer the phone.

My other mother-in-law (interestingly also an ex, but by de facto only) was a nightmare as well. My boyfriend was the youngest of all-girl siblings and he had spent his life being cosseted by females. Until I came along and expected him to pull his weight. He was pretty much incapable of doing this.

And why should he when mummy was always there to rescue him.
She didn't like me one bit. I got in trouble for not making him lunch every day. I got in trouble for not keeping the children quiet when he wanted an afternoon nap. I got in trouble for not bounding to the clothes line to retrieve his work shirts when it started to rain. Etc.

For every great story you hear about a mother-in-law, there is an equal and opposing story.

Things like rearranging of the kitchen cupboards when they house-sit. Feeding children sugar then admonishing you for their hyperactivity. Buying the kids wildly inappropriate outfits but creating the expectation that they should wear them. And then photographing the poor kids in this nauseating get-up. So years later you have huge psychiatrist bills when the kids discover photos of themselves at a school function wearing something akin to the Danish national dress.

Why are mothers-in-law so suspicious of us? Is it because their sons now share all their secrets with us instead of them? Do they not realise that grown men don't usually have thought processes that run that deep? Or that any secrets they have sometimes involve some sort of group lesbian fantasy and frankly we'd rather they kept that secret all to themselves.

Were Adam and Eve the happiest and the luckiest couple in the world, because neither of them had a mother-in-law?


No comments:

Post a Comment