New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: The Dilemma of Living With a Mother-in-Law Vs Culture

BECAUSE this is sensitive, I will waste no time in flowery preambles. It is just plain unfair for the mother to move in with her married child. Since women seem to have a higher propensity for stomaching tough situations, I will not say much about how it might affect the girl whose hubby's mother moves in with them.

But when it is your wife's mother who has moved in, man, your little goose is not just boiled, it is deep fried.

The mother-in-law is not the issue, lest I am blacklisted, but for her to move in until further notice is one of those things one should only do when all else has failed, which will not make it any rosier.

Living in the same space with the mother-in-law is in itself a tricky issue, but when this mother-in-law is from one of those cultures with astronomical scruples about how a man relates with his wife's mother, it is hell with the fire freshly stoked.

You know, those rules of you do not look her straight in the face; you do not walk within a certain radius of where she is seated; you do not shake her hand (anyway, how would you, since you cannot get close to her) and you cannot sleep in the same house.

Then she falls sick and, since her daughter cannot drive, yet you have no time to wait for your buddy to come drive her to hospital, you end up breaking cultural norms.

Where I went to school, it was a punishable offence to greet and/or talk to someone without looking them squarely in the eyes. It was interpreted as shady to look aside for a lingering minute.

So how can I then spend a full day - saying nothing about a week, month and possibly years - talking to this venerable old woman without even knowing whether she is her true self, or her junior sister, since I cannot look her in the face to prove?

How can I learn, at 30, 45, 60... to not pass through the corridor between the outer kitchen and the garage, because this is her favourite place after the sun is out? Why should I have to spend on constructing a new house in the little yard when we have a huge house with three redundant rooms between my wife and myself?

Aversions to people we love do not come from complex situations and the wife's mother moving in can easily be one of those little things that can kill a great relationship. You begin to see those traits you thought were acquired habits your wife picked from boarding school and now you realise they are genetically passed on, and the one who passed them on is living right under your roof.

Mothers wish their children well, so there is no way she is going to see things, which she deems unfavourable for her daughter's marriage and keep quiet. Don't you see her beginning to throw little hints here and there?

Don't you understand why your wife has started making demands she did not make prior to the old lady's moving in, and telling you to do things differently than you have always done them? Is that not a recipe for repulsion and, ultimately, a possible grudge between you and the innocent woman who gave you your adorable wife?

Children love their grandmothers, but they want to love them when they visit them in the warmth of their homes in another town or in the village.

When the grandmother moves in, there is likely to be friction between her and the kids' mother because of the lapse in time between when granny raised her own gal and when that gal got her own kids and started raising them.

As a result, the grandchildren begin to see a creased-faced monster where they used to see an angel and that will be the beginning of Jajja's desire to move out. The question then will be: Where to?

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