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If men are from Mars and women from Venus, where does that leave the mother in law? Is she perhaps the third sex that no one acknowledges except in the most negative way?

Two men were in a pub. One says to his mate, “My mother in law is an angel.” His friend replies, “You’re lucky. Mine is still alive.”
How many Mothers in law does it take to change a light bulb? She just holds it up there and waits for the world to revolve around her.

Sometimes I think the mother-in-law is seen not so much from Mars or Venus but something in-betweenus. She is a butterfly, transformed into a slug; a totally unrecognisable version of her previous self.

Was the first MIL Eve, do you think? Poor Eve. You would have thought that being a by-product of Adam’s rib and an afterthought was enough of a burden to carry through life. Being stuck with the dubious honour of first MIL must have crushed her. I’m sure that as a mother she did her best, even for Cain. She must have found the MIL role confusing, particularly as she had no comparisons to make or anyone else to confer with. One minute she was the family matriarch, handing out the wisdom gathered from life experience, hindsight and insight, the next, she’s finding herself a second class citizen. If she had anything to pass on to her daughters-in-law it would have been that they should prepare for the time, twenty or thirty years hence when they would find themselves bursting out of that cocoon.

There would have been no point talking to the son-in-law. His happy future is assured. MIL’s counterpart gets a free pass. His job consists solely of sitting in the corner of a sunny garden reading a newspaper. Father in law, FIL, lifts his head up now and again, takes a sip of lemonade previously handed to him by a doting grandchild and smiles at the good life and the world in general. FIL has mutated from loved father into treasured father-in-law without breaking into a sweat. As long as he keeps to that sphere and doesn’t catch the eye of the feminist movement he’s safe. (Given the choice of being a loved FIL or mere man I’m sure he chooses the former).

We believe that mother knows best; we tell it to her time and again in cards with roses on them and sing sentimental songs to her all year round. She is the expert on toilet training and scraped knees, broken promises and broken hearts, a well-regarded figure who has dedicated decades of her time and energy to her children. One day soon a light bulb will go off above someone’s head and political correctness will catch up. Women who don’t criticise other women because they are women may catch on to the extraordinary concept of mothers-in-law belonging to the same sex.

Here’s an addendum. As you might have picked up from my article, I believe that we are a selectively politically correct society. We won’t criticise women or girls; even constructive criticism is forbidden, but mothers in law are fair game. What to do about MILs isn’t in the ragbag of ideas that the sisterhood dips into. And it doesn’t have the imagination to realise how important it is to take notice now. I could go on, but I think I will save that rant for another day.

To be fair, it’s hard going on both the MIL and the DIL at first. A shock to the system and sometimes a power struggle, which is why FILs don’t get it in the neck the way MILs do. No one’s ever taken notice of FILs, so they have lost nothing.

Can I just say that this story was not born of my personal need to unburden myself. I get along just fine with my DIL and she with me. I hardly got a chance to know my MIL who died soon after I was married (no I had nothing to do with it). My DIL and I will be forever linked by her children / my grandchildren, her partner / my child. I understand that if a relationship is going to succeed it needs constant care and upkeep and the MIL / FIL relationship should not be any different.

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2 thoughts on “Mars and Venus and inbetweenus

  1. I agree that the F’sIL are pretty lucky to generally enjoy a low profile, there are not too many jokes around for them. As for the M’sIL, they do cop a bit of stick but I didn’t think it was from from other women so much as from the guys (Sons’IL). As you point out Mary, in another 20 or so years it will all come home to those who have criticised before.

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