Survival Guide: Chinese mother-in-law

During the past years of blogging I read often comments like “You must be a very patient man”, “I could never live that long with my mother-in-law” or “You are a role model of being able to cope with MIL”. I don’t really think that I am a role model or even that patient. It is a mix of all kind of things which help me to endure every year my crazy Chinese mother-in-law for three months at our home. Of course there is also no real “guide” on how to deal with Chinese mother-in-laws as every person is unique and my MIL, even though very crazy, she is not the worst kind of person you can imagine. To get some view on other bloggers Chinese mother-in-laws you should try for example the blogs of Betty, Lina and Jennifer. They all got hilarious stories about their dealings with their MILs.


Nathans instincts are telling him to run!

One thing you might notice after seeing those three blog recommendations is that they are all women. Yes, I actually don’t know any male blogger writing about his dealings with Chinese in-laws (in case you know some, please do tell me).  Seems that I am touching a subject that is not too common for men to write about! It is also not a bad thing as you will notice that there are certain differences between how I as a guy am able to endure my Chinese mother-in-law and how women from other blogs manage it. I’ve been told that there are some women who could never ever manage to live for more than a few days with their in-laws. Of course I am no expert when it comes to women but my wife explained it in a way that even I get some tiny idea on what might go on. Mind you this is just how things were explained to me and will most certainly not mean that it can be applied on everyone. It goes somewhat along these lines: The mother-in-law always looks out what is best for their son, nothing and I mean really nothing what the daughter-in-law is doing will be ever good enough in the eyes of a MIL. Did I get it more or less right? Feel free to give feedback. This seems to be the key factor which could lead to certain problems between MIL and their daughter-in-law.


Rest in peace poor kitchen rag

How is it for a guy? I don’t want to generalize again as it is just from my view as I have zero ideas how other men are doing it. I am somehow able to endure three months without too many problems because of one big thing: I don’t care too much! Really, I know MIL’s insanities for several years now and even though it leaves me speechless I don’t really make any drama. Sure I try to set up certain standards which all of us should follow (especially MIL). Sometimes this works, sometimes not. For example it has not worked thus far when it comes to kitchen rags or leaving oily handprints everywhere. I respect that my mother-in-law has her own view on how things should be done but there are some limits. This is where my dear wife comes into play. She has actually much less patience when it comes to her own mother. Most of the times she goes tell her mother how things are being done in this household before I can even open my mouth to comment on something weird MIL has done again.

As you can see it is not only my attitude of not caring too much about all the crazy stuff MIL is doing but also how my wife reacts to her own mother and makes certain that it our home doesn’t turn entirely into a monkey-house. Besides that I also kind of switch off most of my brain activities during every three-month visit (not that there is much brain activity anyways but I reduce it to a bare minimum).  So things which would drive me at normal times insane such as the need to clean the apartment at least ten times a day due to the mess MIL leaves behind just don’t receive any reaction anymore in my head. I see the mess but my brain does not react accordingly and thus much stress is avoided. The constant background noise which is my wife and her mother talking/ arguing doesn’t even bother me anymore, in fact I don’t hear it. There are many occasion where I sit in the living room watching my favorite TV show indifferent to the fact that I am placed right between those two women “talking” a bit loud…

My wife in the arms of crazy MIL, in the background you might notice an elephant with a long neck

Is it just me who switches of the brain when dear mother-in-law is staying for three months? I think not. I actually know some other guys who are married with Chinese women and do the very same thing as me when their MIL decided to stop by for three months. Whenever my wife would ask them how it is with their mother-in-law staying for such long time they just shrug their shoulders. However I must say that these other guys are all Finnish just as me. I have heard stories about other men from around the world having big time troubles with their MIL. I guess it is this Finnish mentality of not giving a damn which helps me to survive all the insanities around me.

P.S. The featured image on top is one from back in the days when I was in the army, who can find me? (Also Nathan’s godfather is in that picture!)

How do you deal with your mother-in-law?

Be sure to follow me also on Facebook and on Twitter as I will post there occasionally pictures which do not find their way into my blog posts. Furthermore I also have a YouTube Channel in which some videos might pop up from time to time

46 thoughts on “Survival Guide: Chinese mother-in-law”

  1. I think in some ways it’s easier to take a MIL when you don’t take her personally. As in, “she’s like this with everyone.” The only problem is, my MIL is much nicer to her son-in-law than she is to me, the daughter-in-law.

    Before I visited at the same time and discovered that my MIL makes an effort to have her son-in-law’s favorite drinks on hand and they go to his favorite restaurant, I shrugged off much.

    Just imagine how much worse it would be if you were the daughter-in-law. Maybe your MIL is actually holding back!

  2. I’ve not looked at the photo from your army days closely because I’m still working away.

    I guess your ability to cope with your MIL appears to be largely due to your personality and outlook. I assume you put your wit to good use.

    Over the years, I have learnt to be mindful due to circumstances beyond my control. It will either kill you or it will make you stronger (it can either be a positive or negative outcome).

    Here’re some MIL jokes:

    An old Les Dawson joke.

    I haven’t spoken to my mother-in-law for two years. We haven’t quarreled. I just don’t like to interrupt her.

    My MIL is banned internationally from playing poker, as she keeps all the chips on her shoulder!

    1. Great jokes!
      There are things in the world where you just have to try to deal with it / even ignore it as it would just eat you up in the end. I think my personality helped me to get through many bad things in my life /)

  3. Thanks for the shout out! Hilarious post as always though now I am lucky because my MIL is much less annoying on video chat from 8,000 miles away! LOL!!!

  4. I don’t know if I agree with the advice to switch off the brain or not (I’m still MIL free in my life, but one day…) Still don’t be humble, I and everyone else all admire your resolve for good reason!!!

    1. I think it only works to switch off my brain as I know it is ‘only’ for a few months rather than a constant situation. God knows how everything would work out in case she would be living with us all the time…

  5. Sounds like you are very laid back, Crazy. Nothing seems to be bothering you and you just go with the flow. Really don’t know how you put up with the background noise. Even the sound of the TV when my mum is watching it when she comes over is enough to annoy me…and trust me, the TV isn’t that loud.

    1. I can be laid back when it is needed like in this situation. However there are also times where I am somehow not able to get so easily over bad situation such as when I was back in the day on a long fruitless job hunt etc
      Usually it is also very annoying for me to have constant background noise but during those three months I somehow manage it fairly well 🙂

      1. Hard to say if its just men. I somehow learned also to deal with it through swimming…you might think it is silent when you have your head under water but you actually hear every movement by other people and can make it hard in the beginning to focus on your own swimming technique 🙂

  6. I think it is because your wife is standing on your side and providing you with perspective, that’s why maybe it is easier for you to deal with the MIL. If she took MIL’s side, I think you will go crazy very soon!

    1. I don’t even want to imagine how life would be with my wife taking her mothers side! Now I have a situation which I can live with so I hope there won’t be any changes at some point in the attitude of my wife 🙂

  7. It’s “bad” enough that you have one mother, but when you get another through marriage (your wife + her mother), and compound it with the cultural differences, I imagine that’s a recipe for CRAZINESS! Maybe in the next life, you’ll be her mother-in-law 😀 Hahahahhaa.

  8. I think the key is, as you said, not giving a damn, haha. If you got angry at every crazy thing she does then you would always be in a bad mood.

    My MIL didn’t do any crazy things yet (unless you want to count peeling crabs for me). We don’t see her than often though, maybe once every 1 or 2 weeks and usually for a short time.

    No idea who you are in the picture hahaha.

    1. I think the situation would change for you when your MIL decides to stay with you for several months. You would suddenly see many weird things in her behavior 🙂
      In the group picture I am in the last row somewhere …okay I am in the last row the last guy on the right side

  9. Sometimes going with the flow and not taking things too personally is very important! Besides, your wife is there to warn her mother if she starts getting too crazy 🙂 Glad that you’re dealing with it fine.

    A lot of Asian mother-in-laws are similar I think, in the sense that they think they know what is the best for their sons and anything the DIL does is never good, haha. It’s the way males are generally brought up in Asian households.. too much of mama’s boys, haha.

  10. I would like to object your statement that moms only want all the best for their sons. I, in fact, feel that Chinese mom actually likes me more than her son/s. She always wanted a daughter, and although I don’t speak Cantonese I always tried hard to communicate with her and spent a lot of time with her. I asked her to teach me about HK and Chinese culture and let her teach me how to cook, and therefore our relationship might be really good. I am glad it is, because otherwise it would have been impossible for me to live together with her in such a small apartment for more than 5 years.
    The reason why I almost ended up with more than one stomach ulcher might have been the reason that she, and Chinese dad too, are very… very old-fashioned and still live in China in the 1980s rather in Austria 2015. As I am younger, they are impervious to any of my advice, and all the more Chinese mom sometimes doesn’t know how to hold back her opinions. Any other person here knows how to hold back and just shut up if their opinion insults their beloved ones, makes them angry or sad. She on the other hand sometimes even picks fights because she is bored.
    I thought about writing a how-to guide for others about what to do when living together with in-laws for so long… But maybe nobody expect me is so crazy to let themselves torment for more than 5 years. 😦

    1. I am actually looking forward to such how-to guide by you 🙂
      Often it happens that an older generation (not only Chinese…) tend to ignore all advice given by a younger generation. For example my MIL doesn’t believe anything we say as “back in the day” it was done differently…strange enough though is that MIL believe all the crap she reads on Weibo and WeChat groups.

      It is good that you could create a good relationship with your MIL and being so interested in the culture and cuisine is always a good point for Chhinese (and biggest point is the fact that they always wanted a girl 😛 )

  11. My mother is difficult and has considerable temper. But after a few decades, one has to figure it out: raising 6 kids full-time is a very hard job. She was also isolated, not knowing English and no family members from her side in Canada.

    What is your MIL good in terms of her strengths?

    You’re right…best to let wifey explode if you can’t explain.

    Hope you chat up more with FIL whenever he is around.

    1. My mother in law is fairly good in bargaining anything…well she tried it even at the embassy when applying for the visa, of course it didn’t work there though!
      Besides that she can pretty much talk with everyone as long as it’s in mandarin, she has no restraints talking to total strangers about.
      I hope that father in law is coming next summer to visit us for some time

  12. Ha! I found you in the photo, even before I read your response to Marta. At first I thought everyone looked the same. I was about to give up when I looked on the top row.

    You’re smart to avoid getting angry and to just ignore things you can’t change. I think it’s harder for your wife. She has a long history with her mom. Everything reminds her of something in her past. Mothers don’t always recognize that their grown children are mature now and capable of making their own decisions and running their own houses.

    1. Oh wow, didn’t imagine anyone to find me there. Had to check myself for a minute when I found that picture last week.
      I just try to go with the flow when my mother in law is here. There is just no purpose in going really against anything as it would only create tension and that’s the last we need when she is here for three months. She often forgets that my wife is grown up these days and actually knows in many aspects better than the mother…

  13. Is it you in the middle in the second row from the top? Don’t have a clue about Nathan’s godfather though. Sounds like you have developed a healthy way to handle your MIL, and through your blog, you’ve even turned your relationship into something really entertaining:)

    1. Nah, wrong !
      Top row the guy on the far right is me and on the far left is the godfather 🙂
      In retrospect many of the happenings with MIL are very entertaining for me but often enough it is at first upsetting or maddening. So many things she has destroyed over the years…such as the backseat door of my car has many scars from her 😦

  14. I think it’s interesting that the time spent with the family is so similar. My parents in law will visit us in Japan next year for three months as well. After reading so many stories about your MIL I suppose I am somewhat lucky I still am not able to understand her, because my Chinese does not exceed the initial “Yes-No-Thank you”-Phase (though I am trying ^^”)
    I am looking very much forward to spend time with my parents in law, but it will definitely hold some challenges as well. The biggest one being home alone all day with them, without the means to proper communication, while I am working from home…

    1. Within short times you will have some regulated day rythm with them which results that you wont be in each others way too often even with the communication issue. I also have big time trouble talking in Mandarin with them as they speak Xi’an Hua…which makes especially FIL sounds like speaking an entire different language to me. During all of the visits of MIL I was at home as well the entire time, but back then I could always escape to do some sports. The last time however I was too sick to escape her wrath and could just watch how she destroyed the apartment without being able to do anything against it….

    1. Good that I checked the spam folder. I usually do it every week but due to my bit bad health I hadnt done so for several weeks now! Guess how much spam there was but luckily your posts were just on page 5 of the spam list so I found it pretty quick

      1. On page 5 of the spam 😦 It is happening a lot when I comment on other blogs, very annoying. Hope you are feeling better, Timo. If not, get well soon and looking forward to more posts from you next year 🙂

  15. I like the Finnish mentality of not giving a damn! Fortunately, I get on fine with my mother-in-law and my husband gets on fine with my mother- though I don’t think we would like to live with them for very long. I haven’t read the other blogs you mentioned so I’m going to check them out- it will definitely be interesting to read the point of view of a woman with a Chinese m-i-l. I can imagine some differences in opinion there for sure! 🙂

    1. Finnish mentality is something special. When something bad happens to someone there they mostly go on on just as before because “things just happen…”
      For me three months are plenty to have my share of insanity for a year each time 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.