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 even 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.
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.
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?”
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.