The Goodly and the Godly daughter
THE GODLY AND THE GOODLY DAUGHTER INLAW
I remember the tension my mum used to feel whenever my paternal grandmother was about to visit. She would run from pillar to post trying to look for means to make her comfortable and happy. The things we ordinarily couldn’t afford to eat are what she would prepare in advance for her visit. Though the rooms in our house weren’t enough, yet we were all made to make adjustments in our sleeping arrangements so as to separate a room for grandma (because she would never share). My mum would wake up early enough to wash the bathroom every morning and several other things, just to avoid a fight (which actually worked on most occasions but not without my mum bending over backwards to please her) even though these acts never got her approval, but it did fetch tolerance for a peaceful coexistence.
As we grew older, we understood that the war started right from the start because she didn’t approve of our mum, she preferred someone else for her son. Now, in spite of these entire struggles, I never saw my mum raise her voice at my grandmother or speak evil against her, not even once. As a teenager then, I couldn’t fathom why she won’t fight back whenever my grandma would start to verbally abuse her and criticize her over every mistake. But now I do. She was a godly daughter in-law and even though my grandma wouldn’t acknowledge it, but as mirrors in front of her children, I learnt from my mother what is expected from a godly and goodly daughter in-law.
There are several issues daily that stress us out already as women and adding the parent in-law issue to it can drown almost any one in despair. Acceptance and approval from our spouse’s parent is a big deal to every young woman who has the intent of having a peaceful home, yet there’s so much confusion and dilemma on how to get this and make this very important relationship work abinitio (believe me it is better to start on the right foot).
Like the story of my mum, I’m sure have seen or heard of various other instances where the daughter in-law-parent in-law relationship is so strained and damaged, distance seem to be the only remedy. All these stories is enough to make any young woman afraid, but don’t give up just yet. Great women of faith have lived through the most challenging scenarios and their life is a sure testimony that this peaceful coexistence is still possible.
Although three people are involved in this daughter in-law- parent in-law relationship, the problem in most situations is usually between the mother in-law and the daughter in-law. This may be because both parties are very emotional, perceptive and intuitive in nature; wearing their feelings on their sleeves and quite sensitive to criticism.
Here is the question I have in mind; how can we as godly wives or wives-to-be avoid an unpleasant situation altogether or repair it if it is already damaged? Because if we don’t, we put that man whom we love so much in the middle of a raging war between the two women whom are dearest to his heart.
Let us first take a look at some of the reasons for this common discord between the daughter in-law and the mother in-law; knowing the causes could help us avoid adding this hitch to several other issues we have to deal with in our marriage.
- The feeling of being threatened
Some mothers have had their sons all to themselves all these years, letting go to another woman is harder for some than others. They see the wife as a threat that might displace them, so this causes them to put up a wall right from the start as a means of protecting their territory.
- Their ideal expectation;
often times, mothers have this ideal wife they would want their sons to marry, but it doesn’t always work out that way; so trouble starts brewing when you don’t fit into the mould of their ideal daughter in-law. They think the wife is not good enough for their sons judging by their own established criteria. The unbelieving ones then try all they can to get rid of the new woman.
- The ripple effect;
When the mother in-law had gone through some unpalatable experiences with her own mother in law, some tend to set a yardstick of what they also expect from their own daughters in-law which might then cause trouble when the daughter in-law refuses to do some of the things they did in their own time.
- The first impression;
While we are not supposed to be hypocritical in our behavior upon our first meeting with our mother in-laws, at the same time there is nothing wrong with doing some research on what is expected of you as a daughter in-law before that first meeting. Seeking counsel from your own mother or any other mother figure in our lives to know the right things to say or do; bearing in mind their culture and way of life. Proper behavior at this first meeting could go a long way to get you that initial acceptance, but when you blow it at the first meeting, you will put her off from getting to know you better. This isn’t about eye service; It’s simply a wise attempt at laying a good foundation for this inevitably important relationship.
- Failure to set boundaries from the start;
As good as it is to create a good first impression and to be hospitable towards our inlaws; it is also very paramount to set some boundaries from the inception. Make sure to set reasonable boundaries from the start. Politely but firmly; and remember I said “REASONABLE BOUNDARIES.” Don’t pretend to love something if you can’t tolerate it, because if you do, and you later decide to put a stop to that thing, it often leads to misunderstanding and then a war will ensue. If you don’t like to do laundry, don’t start going over to her house every weekend to do laundry.
Taking Naomi from the book of Ruth as a typical example of a godly mother in-law, we will realize that a lot of problems would never arise between the daughter in-laws and the mother in-laws, if every mother in law is godly. Naomi had daughter in-laws which were of a different nationality, religion and background. Yet, she lived harmoniously with them; such that after the demise of their husbands, they stayed with her and were even ready to travel back with her into her own country, where they had neither family nor friends. Naomi wasn’t selfish; she put Ruth’s welfare ahead of hers, looked out for her, guided her and loved her regardless of their differences. Such aren’t to be called mother in-law but mother.
Now, regardless of the cause of this infamous problem in marriages or even the absence of this problem in your own marriage, what is expected of you as a godly wife towards your mother in-law? What are the things that God expects of you as a bible believing and obedient child of God? These are non-negotiable if we are really heaven-bound
- Love and respect;
Though it is difficult to love some mother in-law, regardless of how you feel towards her, it is expected that you respect her. Thinking about the price the woman paid to raise her son into that gentleman whom you love so passionately… respect is definitely in order. The bible also commands us not to rebuke but to treat the older women with respect as if they are our mothers (ITimothy5:1-2). If you are lucky to have a wonderful mother in-law, love her like she deserves, but if yours is different, learn to respect her accordingly. By doing this, you are showing good examples to your children, giving your husband peace of mind and eventually you might win her over by your kind deeds.
As a godly wife, learn to include your mother in-law in your lives, even though you’ve set some boundaries. Don’t shut her out completely from your lives. Include her in some celebrations, milestone of the grandchildren, special occasions (as the case may be), this will make her feel wanted and appreciated. Ruth gave Naomi access to her grandchild. Don’t keep the children away from her, if you are not living faraway, ask her if she would like to have the children for the weekend, I’m sure this will even give you the opportunity to catch up with some things you’ve been procrastinating, have a alone time with your spouse or an avenue to simply rest and catch your breath.
Hospitality in the home is very paramount and encouraged by the bible, but then, hospitality towards our in-laws is even more crucial to the peace of our home. Your house is not just for your own family members, (even though it’s unpleasing for the mother in-law to just drop by without prior notification), it is also her son’s house as well and hence, treat her like you will treat your own mother when she visits. Remember, that as inappropriate or unpleasant she may be, she is still your husband’s mother and he loves her as much as you love your own mother.
- Building bridges
Itis expected from a Christian wife that she would build a bridge between her husband and his parents when there is too wide a space. Remind your husband to call them, check on them, provide for their needs as far as your finances can go and keep them company once in a while. Yes, your husband is supposed to leave and cleave to you, but he should never have to abandon his parents because he is now married to you. Instead of destroying an existing bridge because of your own prejudice, you should rather repair damaged ones and build new ones. Create space for your mother in-law to talk with your husband. It shouldn’t be when they are talking that you find a reason to be lurking around that room, eavesdropping and playing detective. This is both disrespectful to your husband and will certainly be unpleasing to any in-law. Trust your husband enough to give him space to have a quality conversation with his mother.
Most times, we tend to be in a rush for this approval and acceptance from our mother in-law without giving allowance for the human factor. Come to think of it, it took some time for you to know your husband and love him; overlooking his entire flaw. Why not then give your in-laws the benefit of time and let them get to know you and to also see what your husband saw in you that made him insist that you are the perfect woman for him. Give it time, as my mother will say, “patience can cook granite to softness.”