Musings of a young African wife trying to cope with life in her new family.
It is absolutely un-African for a couple to live alone. It is irresponsible, selfish and greedy to live without an in-law. Since an African marriage is a union between two families, not just the two persons involved, you are expected to marry along with your spouse one or more of his/her family. If they are good, bad or ugly it’s all part of the matrimonial package.
In the past when people lived a communal life it was usually just a question of a woman moving into her husbands family home but with development, advancement in lifestyle, and white collar jobs in the cities away from the larger extended family, newer generation African families tend towards the nuclear type. However modern an African family may be, it can never entirely escape the odd in-law.
Even in this present day, it is necessary to live with in-laws in order to “scratch each other’s back” as the saying goes. Normally, the general expectation is one of mutual benefit; a kind of symbiotic relationship where both parties protect each other’s interest. For instance, a couple may need to have someone around to help out with household chores. When babies start coming, it is extremely difficult to cope without such persons especially if the woman is working and away from home. (They scratch your back) While they are doing that for you, in turn you are responsible for their feeding, clothing, education and every other need. (You scratch their back).
But be sure your marriage has a thick skin and be careful who “scratches your back” because some in laws draw blood!
- Say goodbye to privacy once you have an in law in the house. Since minor issues at home will be repeated and blown out of proportion to the larger extended family, a good daughter in law must take her in laws into confidence regarding every issue at home to ensure that the correct version gets relayed to the larger extended family. Moreover it will earn her bigger points if she does not put them through the indignity of having to snoop, dig, pry and interfere in the couple’s private affair just to have juicy gossip to pass on.
- You may find yourself struggling for control of your home. A wise daughter in law should not go having bright ideas on how to run her own home. It is wicked to wrench control of the home from your in laws who have been efficiently in charge of their brother’s house long before he met and married you. You must allow them carry on same way they did before you came along and gratefully learn the ropes from them so that your days will be long and your path less rugged.
- You may find yourself on the other side of the camp with your spouse. If you married into a closely knit family don’t take it personal if you become “them” and your spouse and your in laws become “us”. You may be treated as an outsider and excluded from “their” family issues or affairs. Do not feel hurt because only envy and jealousy will cause you not to be happy at such display of love and unity. In cases of misunderstanding at home, stand by him while he spits fire and brim stone when your relations are at fault to enforce discipline at home, it doesn’t matter that he fails to caution his relations when they misbehave. In fact, be prepared for him to take sides with his relations over you, his spouse! On no account must he be reported back home as being controlled by his wife.
- You may have a hard time convincing yourself you are in your matrimonial home and not on a visit to your spouse’s family home. This is the case where there is an overwhelming presence of one spouse’s family members, in some cases the entire family! A good daughter in law gives everyone a sense of belonging.
- You may find that your in law is your co-wife! If your in laws never liked or accepted you or if God forbid, an African woman’s worst nightmare, pregnancy is delayed and since it is un African for a man to be the cause of a couple’s bareness, be prepared for very high traffic of “sisters” in laws who may end up proving your husband’s manhood by getting pregnant for him. In laws, outlaws!
Published in: Family