Three months living with Mother-in-law

Our daily life changed a lot during the past months. For one, our little baby was born and second, mother-in-law came to “help” us for three months. Those three months will end next week, so it is time to go through it all and see how life was with her.

I heard from other people all kinds of stories regarding the time when their mother/ mother-in-law came for three months to help out with their child (many stories would easily pass as horror stories!). They all had something in common; they had enough space in their house or apartment to get some peace from all the happenings. For us this was not so much the case, our current apartment is 40m² (~430ft²) without any door between the bedroom and living room, in which is also the kitchen. Three people plus a baby in such a small space will always lead to tension.


Well then, let me start with my experience during these three months:


The all too common problem with zuo yuezi 坐月子and how mothers/ mother-in-laws trying to enforce it upon the poor woman who just gave birth. The two weeks after my MIL arrived was a time full of discussions, shouting, cursing, crying and so forth between my wife and her mother. First MIL was more or less fine that her daughter decided against zuo yuezi however this changed more and more each day. In the end she was terrified that her daughter would suffer the fate of a bad health because of not following the traditions. It took much effort by my wife to get it through the (often) thick skull of her mother that she would follow modern medicine and do it the “Finnish Way”. As you can guess, MIL was still not convinced about it as she believes that Chinese are different people, who need special things to survive and stay healthy…

Only after she saw other Chinese women who recently gave birth and followed zuo yuezi she slowly changed her opinion. Why? Because all of these women had not enough milk for their babies evenDSC01803 with all those nice oily soups and they felt weak and unhealthy even 8 months after giving birth while my wife had enough milk and was back to normal within few weeks. I don’t want to go too far here but I would say that the zuo yuezi should go through an update to adjust to modern life more, the lack of hygiene especially is a dangerous matter for the baby. But then again, it is most of the time either the MIL’s or own mothers enforcing it and/or the fear of going against such tradition even knowing that it has barely any backup from modern medicine.



I always need special ingredients for my lunch

The trouble of preparing food (which also suits the gourmet taste of son-in-law). Yes, I can be pretty difficult at times when it comes to food but not in a way you might expect. The problem in the beginning with MIL was that all her food tasted the same. No matter if she prepared chicken, potatoes, tofu and all kinds of vegetables, it always tasted the same and this taste was close to nothing. I expect paper to have more taste than that. My wife got also very upset within short time and the result was that she gave her mother a cooking crash course which involved in actually using salt and other spices. Mother-in-law had refused in using them as it is all so very bad for the health but at the same time she is making a liter (~0.26gallon) of ice cream disappearing in no time each night!

These days I am no longer afraid of eating her food as it tastes rather good, not as good as my wife’s food (that is just unreachable for my mother-in-law) but still good enough that I don’t have the feeling to eat out each other day.


Nathan approves

The practice of taking pictures or videos of everything. I am not exaggerating when I say that mother-in-law is trying to record her stay here in Finland entirely. Whatever and whenever something happens, actually nothing really has to happen, her phone is in her hands and she takes pictures or videos. This is occurring especially when our little baby is doing something. I don’t know how often she filmed how we changed his diapers or bathed him. It is pretty much common that her head appears out of nowhere, over our shoulders, between our arms and and and, I guess you get it…

Now to the problem which is actually only bad for herself as she is recording everything on her old mobile phone the quality is very poor but besides that, the phone has not nearly enough space so she has to delete all the time material. After a while I was checking why there is so little space, well, everything is being saved on a micro SD card with only 256 mb space. After that I offered to buy a new one with 8 or 16 gb which are incredibly cheap, but no, she is refusing as she will buy a new phone soon but then there is the trouble again that she will still have her old micro SD card. I don’t want to force her so she will have to stick with the little space until she gets her new phone and with it lose a lot of pictures and videos of her grandson.



The need to go shopping. This is actually not that bad, as she barely buys anything thanks to my wife as she refuses most of the ideas her mother has about purchasing clothes and other stuff such as kitchen equipment. But now comes the kicker: she always wants to buy new things for herself and buy little souvenirs for all her friends from the dancing class. However she never ever wants to buy anything for her husband. Whenever we say that father-in-law might like this chocolate or those clothes her answer is the same “He doesn’t need this” or “He has already enough of this” or “He eats too much chocolate” and finally “Why should we buy something for him?”

Father-in-law taking picture of his wife with his phone camera…

As you can see she is pretty much focused on only her own needs/ desires when it comes to shopping and of course in saving face in buying stuff for her friends. Much to her dislike we bought last week in Germany a new camera for father-in-law as he first of all wanted one already since last summer and second because we could no longer stand them taking terrible quality pictures with their phones. MIL tried to convince us against buying the camera till the end but we succeeded! (Father-in-law will be so happy)



The three months with mother-in-law living with us went better than I expected. Sure, we had some troubles but it went pretty smooth towards the end. The whole thing went so well most likely due to the fact that I am a guy and lets face it, most guys can pretty much ignore annoying things around them at least for a while whereas in case my own mother would have been here there would be much drama after a short time between her and my wife. In case of another three-month visit I just pray it will happen when we already live in our bigger apartment as this little space right now also brings the problem of everything being too “stuffed” with everything, not just people.


29 thoughts on “Three months living with Mother-in-law”

  1. I always wonder – if you don’t follow ‘Chinese rules’ and damage your health how all those non-Chinese women around the world survived giving a birth… 😀
    PS I love your baby >.< so cute! 😀 My FIL would say 'good quality child' 🙂

  2. Was the reason that your mother-in-law’s food was so bland because she was without her usual spices? Was she making Chinese food or Finnish food? I am trying to imagine my Tibetan mother-in-law making food for us if we were in America. That would be really hard!

    Glad you got through the three months without too many issues. It was brave of your wife to stand up to her mother like that as the Chinese are very firm in their post birth beliefs. Anyway I enjoyed this post and I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work 🙂

    1. She was making Chinese food. The problem are not to get the ingredients here as there are many Asian stores selling the neccessary stuff but due to her not so good cooking skills (except noodles!) and then due to my wife’s pregnancy she did not want to use any spices (not even salt…)

  3. I’m not sure that your MIL is being selfish when shopping. My friend’s mother is like that when she’s out shopping with her, mostly because her husband insults her when she tries to buy things for herself when she goes shopping with him. Only choice is to get her daughter to purchase the things she wants, and since her husband always buys the things he wants (he controls the money) she feels it unnecessary that her daughter buys things for him.

    1. The thing is, she controls the money in the house so poor father-in-law has only the little money he can smuggle away from her for some own purchases. All money goes to her and she clearly enjoys it 🙂

  4. Every time I hear about zuo yuezi I’m rather horrified. Definitely needs a modern medicine-modern science upgrade.

    Congrats surviving 3 months with an in-law!

    1. Thanls, I should get a medal or at least some kind of diploma for this.
      Thus far my wife is the only Chinese woman I know who did not do anything according to zuo yuezi, mainly also because all the bad things she found about it due to research.
      I think if more Chinese woman would actually care to check about it they would do battle with their moms about not doing that tradition. The women I know here in Finland and in China were so far like this “It has been done for hundreds of years so it is a very good thing and I dont need to check about it” 😦

  5. That is indeed a small apartment you all are living in. It must feel like all of you are/were sleeping in the same room together. “…saving face in buying stuff for her friends” I can totally relate to that. When my mum goes back to visit her family and relatives in Malaysia, she will bring back chocolate by the kilo. I’m sure your MIL wants all those souveniers for herself to remind her of her trip to Finland…it doesn’t sound like she had a bad time at all but a very good one. Yes, she is stubborn from your description about the camera but I think stubborn enough to have a good time with you and your wife and Nathan, who’s looking very fine I must say 🙂

    1. I bought the apartment several years ago when I just started dating my wife, half year later we lived already together. Back then I did not think that everything would develope that quickly and now, fastforwarding another few years, we are three! This apartment is just too small but after summer we get our new 90m² which should be enough till our family extends again at some point 🙂

  6. If I ever have a baby and my MIL wants me to zuo yuezi I will tell her that we Westerners are special and after giving birth we need to do special things like showerind and eating normal food 😀

  7. Wow, your apartment really is small for 4 people. I used to live in an apartment that size with my husband, which was ok, but if anyone else would have been living there I would have gone crazy. I just need some space at home. Once we knew that I was pregnant and that my in-laws might be living with us for some time, we moved to a bigger apartment. It still felt quite crowded sometimes, especially since my father-in-law liked to turn on the TV all day for no reason and I prefer a more quiet home.

    1. It was a hard time but we pulled through now. Mother-in-law left few days ago but the last night we had my parents staying other as they travel past us to get to their cottage. This meant another full house day 🙂

      Now we are just happy to have more space for us but 40m² are just too small now even though the baby does not need much space on his own.

  8. The hardest part of my wife’s zuo yuezi for me was helping her finish all the meals that were delivered. We used a zuo yuezi meal service when our son was born and the portions were not only humongous but there wasn’t much day to day variety either. I break into cold sweats at the mere thought of another bowl of si shen tang [四神湯].

    1. My wife knew what kind of soups were awaiting her and this was probably another reason she fought so much against zuo yuezi. We encountered many friends who did the tradition and none of them felt good, some start to turn pale even now few years later just by mentionening the food 😀

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