De band tussen een schoonmoeder en een schoondochter is lange tijd een onderwerp van fascinatie en bezorgdheid geweest, en wordt in de populaire cultuur vaak afgeschilderd als een bron van spanning en conflict. Terwijl sommige gelukkige individuen naadloos verweven zijn met hun uitgebreide familie, worden vele anderen geconfronteerd met de uitdagingen van het navigeren door de ingewikkelde dynamiek van deze delicate relatie. Van botsende verwachtingen en verschillende perspectieven tot het gewicht van traditionele rollen en moderne waarden: de reis van het smeden van een harmonieuze verbinding tussen deze twee centrale figuren kan bezaaid zijn met complexiteiten die geduld, begrip en een niet aflatende toewijding aan wederzijds respect vereisen. In dit interview vertelt de geïnterviewde over haar relatie met haar schoonmoeder. De geïnterviewde is 30 jaar oud. Ze houdt van tennis en zwemmen. Zij werkt in de gezondheidszorg.
De eerste keer dat je je schoonfamilie ontmoette, wat was een van de eerste dingen waarvan je dacht: “Oh, dit is anders dan hoe ik ben opgevoed.”
Ik merkte dat de ouders van mijn man erg afhankelijk zijn van hun kinderen. Zijn ouders konden kleine klusjes niet zelf oppakken, zoals iemand bellen of boodschappen doen. Mijn man en zijn broers en zussen waren vaak betrokken bij de dagelijkse taken van de ouders, wat van hen werd verwacht. Als ze die taken niet zouden doen, had ik het gevoel dat de ouders hier negatief op zouden reageren. Zijn ouders verontschuldigen zich ook niet. Het is een groot probleem als dat gebeurt. Dit is anders dan hoe ik ben opgevoed. Mijn ouders bedenken dingen zelf. Als ze vroegen of ik iets voor ze kon doen en ik zei ‘nee’, luisterden ze naar mij. Ik heb nooit het gevoel gehad dat er niet als gelijken naar kinderen werd geluisterd.
How would you describe your upbringing? How is it different from your husband’s family?
My parents have always given me the feeling that I have an equal say in certain matters. I am being listened to seriously. No assumptions are made. As far as other upbringing is concerned, it does not differ much from my husband’s family. I think there is a different dynamic, just like with many other families. My husband’s family is much closer than the family I come from.
Can you explain the difference?
I think a big difference is that the family I come from consists of both sons and daughters, while his family consists of sons only. I don’t know if that is the main reason, but it does create a different dynamic than when there are daughters in a family.
In addition, a few customs have been adopted from the country of origin, which they still hold on to quite firmly. I am a bit more open-minded about these customs. This may partly be because I am naturally critical of this, but I also think because they have certain views of which they think that there is no other way and you just have to accept it. So there is more emphasis on how you should behave.
What expectations does your mother-in-law have of you?
Perhaps partly because of the above, but I soon noticed that my mother-in-law makes a difference between sons and daughters. Her views on women and how women should be are very, in my opinion, orthodox. For example, women are supposed to clean or cook, and if you have a child, it is better to stay home to take care of the child.
To what extent is it difficult that she has expectations that you disagree with?
I don’t want to offend her, but some expectations go against my principles. I strongly disagree with her. I can’t act on that, which puts me in a dilemma. I feel powerless. It feels like a kind of power play or harassment. I have a lot of trouble holding back and it feels like I don’t matter. Sometimes I even doubt myself and wonder if it is my fault that I cannot meet the expectations or find them too much. My husband does not always understand where I come from and often thinks that I can adapt. My mother-in-law has a negative image of me because I am ‘the girl who doesn’t listen’.
Why do you think she tries to impose those expectations?
I honestly feel like she doesn’t have bad intentions. She just has the feeling that she knows better and knows how to behave as a woman. Anything that deviates from her perspective is weird or wrong.
Have you found a way to deal with those expectations?
Not really yet. I try to discuss it, or I try to adapt as much as possible. But I think that’s a shame because it often goes against my principles and own character. I no longer recognize myself and it feels as if I am fading away.
To what extent do you think something should be brought up by you or her son?
I would appreciate it if her son would say something about it occasionally. He knows his mother better than me, and he knows me too. I think that it is an important, but also challenging task for a man to find a healthy dynamic between his wife and mother or to facilitate that. Of course, some things need to be addressed between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. You can talk to each other directly. I think that is also healthy and good. The man should stay out of that conversation. However, he can talk about it with his wife in private.
What advice would you give to women who disagree with their mother-in-law?
I would advise women to decide whether the issue is something they want to address in a conversation with their mother-in-law or if they need help from their husband. See how you can discuss this with her in a respectful manner. I would especially try not to speak from negative emotions such as anger. I think you can try to start the conversation from vulnerability. In many cases, she has been in your position.
What would your advice be for mother-in-laws?
I would advise them to put themselves in their daughter-in-law’s shoes. Talk more about her feelings if she wants to open up. Occasionally admit that things could be different. You were once a daughter-in-law yourself, so that shouldn’t be that difficult. Above all, try to realize that she is also someone’s daughter and child. You wouldn’t want your daughter to be treated like that, would you?