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And my Chinese mother-in-law was anxious to clear them away.“Look at all of these clothes,” she said, lifting up a shirt and then the jeans, sighing.As sort of “low woman on the totem pole” in her new family, one of her main jobs would be to serve her mother-in-law and make her happy.The Chinese mother-in-law (at least in ages past) had a reputation for being pretty demanding and difficult to please — after all, she had once been low woman on the totem pole as well, and had risen through the ranks to become mother, mother-in-law, and hopefully, grandmother.One day, my inlaws chastised Da Sao for enrolling her son, Kaiqi, in too many afterschool activities.Another day, they declared her too lazy, spending too much time on the computer.
The looming prospect of a live-in mother-in-law was enough to break a relationship, in the case of my friend, Peter Pi.Da Sao is no saint — but not once did my inlaws suggest that Da Ge, her husband, did anything wrong (Da Ge, according to my husband John, is an uninvolved father who has also exacerbated his son’s behavior problems).Clearly, this was a troubling Chinese mother-in-law, daughter-in-law relationship. For thousands of years, daughters-in-law have dreaded their Chinese mothers-in-law. Because the son’s mother has more power and status in the family.A great deal is heard of the tyranny and cruelty of these mothers-in-law, and there is firm basis of fact for all that is so often said upon that point.But it must at the same time be borne in mind that without her the Chinese family would go to utter ruin.