My husband and I have a beautiful daughter, Clara, now 3. When we were dating, my relationship with my mother in-law was cordial – she accepted that her son was in love with me, and treated me decently.
After we married, we had plans to get our own place. We scouted around for resale flats and condos, but never seemed to settle for the right one. In the meantime, my in-laws often told my husband that there was no need for us to get our own place. After all, they lived in a more-than-big-enough terrace house that was spacious enough for us to have our own privacy. My mother-in-law also said that it would be nice to be able to have dinner together every night. So, reluctantly, I agreed to that living arrangement, which I always saw as temporary, till we found the right home for ourselves.
When I moved in, my mum-in-law, who had been a homemaker her whole life, did most of the housework and I appreciated that. She also prepared dinner every day. On my part, I washed my own clothes — which wasn’t an issue to me — and kept our bedroom neat and tidy. I also contributed financially to the running of the household.
But there were the little things that she did, that made me feel that I was simply an outsider living with her family.
I’m not sure when things started to go sour. After my daughter was born in 2013, something changed. I felt like I was slowly being pushed out of the picture. My mum-in-law adores Clara, dotes on her and cooks nutritious meals for her daily. But there were the little things that she did, that made me feel that I was simply an outsider living with her family.
For instance, at dinner, while my mum-in-law would dish out rice for everyone, including my husband, I would have to do it myself. If she made green bean soup for dessert, everyone would have a bowl waiting for them at the table, except for me.
At Christmas, we make it a point to get gifts for everyone, but you can be sure my in-laws would get my husband and Clara something, but not for me. When my mum-in-law said she wanted to take Clara to Universal Studios, they bought tickets for everyone, except for me — so, I had to buy mine separately.
It may seem like I’m being petty, getting bothered by these things, but believe me, resentment does build up. As Clara gets older, I’m getting even more aware about how I’m not being treated as part of the family, and I’m sure she would notice it too, in time.
Bringing it up with my husband has proven useless, as he doesn’t see it as an issue. This has been the cause of our countless arguments. I suggested moving out a few times, but the discussion always hits a road block because my mum-in-law looks after Clara during the day, and us living apart would mean more inconvenience.
I close my eyes and dream of the time I stayed with my own parents and how “free” I felt.
I had heard of nightmarish in-law stories, but never did I think it would happen to me. Sometimes, I close my eyes and dream of the time I stayed with my own parents and how “free” I felt. I’ve even stayed back at work late, so that I don’t have to face my in-laws — this, of course, at the expense of spending time with Clara. I dread the day that my little girl asks me why her “ah ma” doesn’t treat me the same as the rest of them.
For now, I bite my tongue and hold on to the belief that I need to show my in-laws respect. I also hope to be a role model for Clara, so she learns to respect her elders in time. As a daughter-in-law, I just wish that I was shown some respect as well.
Grace (not her real name), 34, is mum to Clara, 3.