We dated for a year and got married. I must admit, the one person who made the relationship very easy for me was my mother-in-law. I was a new person in town when I found her. The first time she took me home, her mother asked me a series of questions. “What do you do for a living?” “Where do you come from?” “Are you a Christian?” “Are your parents still together?” “How many siblings do you have?”
At some point, I started feeling uncomfortable but the smile on her face while asking me those questions put my heart at ease. In the end, she said, “You know Akuaba is my only child. She doesn’t have a brother or a sister. She came all alone so I have to ensure she’s in a hand that can keep her as the only child that she is. That’s why I’m asking you all these questions.”
From that day, her mother became my mother and her home became my home. I didn’t know the town so much and didn’t know anyone so they became my everything. On weekends, Akuaba will visit me with a variety of cooked dishes. “These are from my mom. You live alone so getting food might be difficult that’s why she cooked all these for you.” I will keep the food in my fridge and eat them as and when I needed to eat. Every weekend without fail, her mother cooked something and gave it to her to deliver. I called her my in-law and she called me “Piesie” meaning the eldest child.
Life was like that until we got married. My place was small and couldn’t contain the two of us so we rented a new apartment. Luckily for us, the place is closer to their house. It’s about five minutes’ walking distance. From the very first day of our marriage, her mother made it clear that she was going to be with us every day. I didn’t think much of it because she had become my mother too. She would come to our house on weekends, wash for us, and clean the house for us. I didn’t like it. I told Akuaba, “No, your mother can’t be doing these things for us. We are married now and should be able to do these things ourselves.” She answered, “I’ve told her not to worry but she doesn’t listen to me so allow her.”
On Fridays after work Akuaba would call me, “Go to my mom and collect our food. She says it’s ready.” I will pass by and this woman will load the car with different types of stews and soup. We wouldn’t have to do anything else before we eat. We would wake up, heat the stew, cook rice and we are good to go. When we want to eat fufu, we’ll heat the soup, send the cooked cassava to the machine and come back with already made fufu. Everything was simple like that but I wasn’t feeling good about it. To make matters worse, this woman won’t take anything from me. I will give her money and she will say, “No, why will you give me money? Aren’t you eating the food with my daughter?”
I thought it was going to stop at some point but four months after marriage, she was still doing the same thing. I spoke to her husband—my father-in-law; “I want you to tell her that we are grateful for everything. We can take it from here and live a meaningful life. Please tell her to stop doing all that for us.” My father-in-law smiled. He said, “Ever since you got married, has your wife cooked anything for you to eat before? I said, “No she hasn’t. It’s because her mother always brings us food to eat.” He said, “Please, ask her to cook for you one day. If you’re excited about the result, then you can tell my wife to stop cooking for you.”
I looked at him quizzically. He looked back at me. He said, “I know what I’m talking about. Akuaba can’t cook. If she boils water for you right now, it will burn. She’s my daughter and I know her. It’s not her fault anyway. It’s her mother who raised her that way. It’s the reason she’s trying to cover up for her. So, my son, it’s either you continue enjoying the food from her mother’s kitchen or you get ready for the worse.”
One Saturday morning, I took her to the kitchen. Everything in the kitchen was brand new. The only thing that has seen a lot of action was our microwave. We use it every day so it looked old. The rest were looking new and untouched. I told her; “Let’s prepare some light soup.” She said, “But we have some in the fridge?” I said, “Yes, I want something fresh from the fire.” She answered, “My mom prepared that one only yesterday so what are you talking about?” I said, “I’m talking about something you have cooked. Come let’s do it.”
She didn’t come. I ended up doing everything myself. That day I told her the plain truth; “I know you can’t cook. It’s the reason your mother does it for us. That’s not a problem. It’s not too late to learn. We are going to learn it together. We’ll be fine.” I spoke to her like a father will speak to her daughter. I wanted her to understand things from my perspective. The next thing she did was call her mother and tell her what I’d said to her. So her mother called to ask questions; “Piesie, is there something wrong with the food I cook for you? Then why do you insist that my daughter do it for you? Is there any problem?”
In the morning her mother came around. She cleaned our place like she use to and also cooked for us, this time, she did it in our home. She said, “Maybe you don’t like it when I bring it from my place so we’ll do it here.” My wife was in there with her, I thought she was learning something. Anytime I went there, she was sitting down pressing her phone. When her mom leaves and I tell her to cook something, it turns into a quarrel. She will brush everything under the carpet of anger and not talk to me for a while until the topic is dead. I don’t have a problem with a wife who doesn’t know how to cook. She has other qualities. Great qualities every man would love to have in a wife. My mind is fixed on those qualities than her inability to cook.
My problem now is how to wean her off her mother. She’s a good woman but I believe it’s time she allowed us some space to grow together as a couple. I’m not pushing her away. I’m not asking her to stay off us. I’m only asking her to give us space. Space here means no cooking for us and no coming around to clean and wash for us. We’ll learn to do it ourselves and in the process grow together. I’ve made this known to her but each time I raise the topic, she calls her mom and says it differently to her. It has gotten to a point where I’m getting angry. I see her mother around and give her a fake smile instead of something real. She talks to me and I pretend I’m listening but I don’t. I’m beginning to hate her presence and it’s not a good sign.
What can I do to push her away in a way that won’t bring enmity between us?
It’s like she’s the one I’m married to. She will call and ask what I will eat. I will finish eating and she will ask, “How was the food?” She will wash my clothes and fold them while the woman I married would be on the couch watching Netflix series on her phone. I want my wife to take her rightful place in the home while her mother is resigned to her rightful position as the mother-in-law.
Please advise on how to go about it.
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