About three years ago, this writer had a distress call and had to make a 20-minute drive to a suburb of Accra.
There was a standoff; a mother had stormed the home of her son to demand that the young wife leave her matrimonial home.
The young woman sat motionless and speechless while the son, confused and helpless, paced up and down.
The mother claimed her son used to remit her every month but since he married her a year ago, he had stopped sending her money.
The young woman explained behind the scene that their business was not doing well, and she had to fall on her mother rather heavily for financial assistance to support the family.
Ego had prevented the young man from telling his mother the truth of their poor financial position.
The problems of mothers- in-law
In law, relationships are among the leading causes of conflicts and divorce in Ghana.
Studies also show that almost all in–law problems are female related, especially between a wife and her mother-in-law.
One reason is that unlike a man, a woman sees problems in greater detail and has greater difficulty getting rid of them.
It is also a fact that a woman sees anything important to her as an intimate part of herself.
She sees her son through the eyes of her romantic love and as a ‘little husband’.
A woman is, therefore, closer to her son. Her life revolves around him and she finds it hard to give him away.
If she is single, divorced or in an unhappy marriage, she transfers the emotional bond to her son.
Any woman coming close to her son is seen as a rival and she will fight you no matter how good you are, especially if her son reduces his assistance, affection and visits.
For some women, the marriages of their sons simply mean they (mothers-in-law) have been displaced to the background. Studies show that some women experience trauma similar to divorce when their sons marry.
Some come in for counselling and confess weeping on the quiet when their sons marry because they see themselves as divorcees.
A mother remembers in detail the pain she goes through during pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.
She sees her son as an investment and when she expects returns from her investment, a young woman from nowhere comes in to steal the hen that will lay the golden eggs.
If she does not get assistance regularly, then it must be the young wife leeching him and the mother will fight back for her share of his earnings.
In Ghana, marriage is about two families and the mother who transfers some genes to her son feels she has an obligation to have a say in the marriage of her son.
Some mothers think no woman can take care of their sons better than they do.
They, therefore, interfere in the marriage of their sons needlessly, thinking they are helping when in fact they are creating problems in the marriages of their sons.
Some young wives, feeling insecure, fight back to get hold of their husbands and, therefore, set the stage for constant conflicts with their mothers-in-law.
Qualities of a good mother-in-law
A good mother-in-law accepts that her son is an adult with his own interests and values and who has chosen whom to marry.
She accepts she is not responsible for her son’s marriage and gives her son space to nurture his marriage as he wants it.
A good mother-in-law takes her daughter-in-law as her own daughter.
She does not drain her son’s resources or make unrealistic demands but supports her son’s marriage.
On request and in productive ways, she shares ideas on marriage on issues such as finance, communication and parenting but does not ruin her son’s marriage.
A good mother sees her son’s marriage as an opportunity to extend her family.
She believes she does not lose a son but gains a daughter.
She sees the marriage as an opportunity to build wider bonds and greater love.
She, therefore, treats and loves her in–law as her own biological daughter.
Are you a good mother-in –law?
Your in-law relationship is an important indicator of the health of the marriage of your son.
The story above shows there are good and bad mothers-in-law.
Take a good look at your actions and inactions and honestly answer this simple question: Are you a good mother– in-law?
Choose today to be a good mother-in-law because your son’s marriage makes you part of a new family and as part of a chain, your contribution affects the strength of the new family.
Make the best of your in-law relationships by reaching out in love to all members of the family so that you can enjoy the beauty of love in marriage and the extended family systems.