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‘My mother-in-law drove us apart’

“’Child,’ said my mother-in-law when I first shook her hand to introduce myself, ‘what have you done to yourself?’ Ronald and I were twenty-four, were very much in the festival scene and had been terribly in love for six months.

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His mother looked at the tattoo on my upper arm in disdain. ‘Generation gap’, I thought, ‘she’ll get used to it.’ But she went on, “Well, and then a ring like that in your nose, what do your parents say?” She hadn’t even mentioned her own name yet. “Well, pleasant too,” I thought, but kindly finished the courtesy call. Less than an hour after we left, she was on the phone with my husband. How on earth could he have chosen a type like me?

Background

Ronald grew up in a wealthy family. A big villa, a nanny in the house, and with Ascension or other long weekends ‘just a snack’ to Kuala Lumpur or Dubai – that idea. His father was always away for work, his mother was there for the children. Her appearance to the outside world was – and still is – of vital importance to her; her whole life took place at the bridge club, the tennis court and at the hairdresser.

I grew up in flats. There was never money for vacations, and certainly not for the babysitter, but my parents always made sure that my brother and I had everything they needed. They worked hard for that; I know the value of money and have always followed their lead. It didn’t matter to me what Ronald’s background was. I fell for him, for those dark curls, his worn-out army boots, his cheerful disposition and the love we shared for music. And he loved me just as much.

“Such a name?”

“She will change,” said Ronald – afterwards against his better judgment. We got married, and four years later our son Nick was born. All the milestones we had lived up to then were darkened thanks to the judgments of his mother. The food at our wedding: too little. My family: too simple. That we loved camping: shabby – Ronald was raised in luxury resorts. I thought she was insufferable.

Ronald’s father just let it all happen. When he was there, he turned pale in the shadow of his wife, and ducked into the corner of the room with a newspaper – in silence.

Nick was barely three hours old when she came into my hospital room and even before a ‘congratulations’ managed to say,’ Gosh, Níck, did you say? How did you come up with such a name? ‘ I was full of hormones. Was exhausted and could only cry at all. “Such a name?” I said, “what do you mean by that?” Every sane person says something nice, right? But no: “Well, it is not quite at the level of our family,” she said. I thought I was going crazy. She had become a grandmother for the first time and she was concerned about the ‘level’ of his name? And what exactly was that level?

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BMW in the family

Ronald watched me explode and took his parents for a cup of coffee. Not a hair on my head thinking of handing over my baby to her. “I’m done,” I said when Ronald came back to us alone. “I don’t want to be condemned and beaten every time I see her. If our child and I are too little, then the contact should stop here. ‘

Of course I reacted hormonally and too strongly. It was his mother. But in the years since, the humiliations kept coming. I put a shirt on Nick with a Disney character, she thought it was vulgar. When I was feeding him on a family birthday, I had to do so elsewhere, ‘in discretion’. When my parents gave him a ride-on car for his first birthday, she spoke the winged words: “Well, look, still a BMW in your family.”

The relationship between Ronald and me came under pressure when I refused his mother a regular babysitting day. Of course she could always see her grandchild, but relinquishing the care of someone I hated so deeply was really going too far. Ronald thought his mother deserved the same chance as my mother, who babysit every week.

‘Not intended to be continued’

When getting pregnant with a second child didn’t work out, our relationship quickly went downhill. The medical mill affected our marriage, adding to the underlying tensions that were already there. After three years – Nick was now five – we decided to let go of our desire to have children: if it came, it would come, and if not, it wouldn’t. “A wise decision,” said my mother-in-law. “Some lines are not meant to be continued.” For a moment I thought she meant line of the medical mill that we were walking. But what I secretly feared turned out to be true: she meant our bloodline.

I said she could leave and I cut off contact. After that it was a fight between Ronald and me almost every day. He thought I was forcing him to choose between me and his mother, I thought he should support his wife. I suggested he go alone with Nick on family birthdays, he thought I was failing. That was not the case: I granted Ronald and Nick the contact with their family, I just chose not to let myself be treated so derogatory anymore.

Crying divorced

“Maybe my mother was right,” Ronald said one evening three years ago. “Maybe our backgrounds are too different, and our worlds just don’t mix.” Our worlds? We had our own happy world for twelve years! Moreover, his mother does not have eternal life: was he willing to choose her and to leave his family for the rest of his life?

He did it. Crying, I signed the divorce papers. I didn’t want to lose him, but my self-esteem was worth more to me. Nick is now eleven and the two of us have been living in an apartment for two years now. Every other week he goes to his father, because Ronald fulfills that role fantastically. My self-confidence has taken a big dent. Recently I have a friend who adores me. It takes some getting used to, but it feels very nice. Ronald is still single. I hope he gets out of his mother’s yoke one day, at least before he bumps into a new woman. ”

This article has previously appeared in Kek Mama.

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