I've previously blogged about the fact that I am a mother to boys. An article by Jemima Lewis in the Telegraph this weekend reminded me of this fact. Jemima has come to the realisation that she is becoming a mother-in-law and went on to quote three studies that show just how much daughters-in-law hate their mothers-in-law. She then goes on to explain why they are so hated - because it's always the women that are more emotionally involved in family life. It's far easier to hate someone involved in your life than someone who isn't.
There is so much worth commenting on here that I'm not to sure where to begin but I'm going to have a go:
My future daughters-in-law
For a start, here's hoping that I actually have daughters-in-law rather than two permanent batchelors who still expect mummy to do their laundry (or indeed two gay sons but I'll take a sashaying son-in-law if he's willing to do girly shopping with me). I think the batchelor option is highly unlikely as I barely do my children's laundy now and they'd get pretty short thrift if they turned up at our front door age 30 with a bag full of dirty boxers. I am determined that my sons will be self-sufficient males. They will know how a washing machine, dishwasher and cooker work and will employ this knowledge readily. They are already undergoing intensive training with modules on:
- how to tidy up
- how to put your plate in the dishwasher and actually wash a dish
- how to cook (they're pretty good at baking - particularly the licking of the spoon - but they also know what you put in a bolognaise and stew)
- how to put the toilet seat down
- how to use a plate when eating crumbly things
- how to hoover and dust
I'm not saying the training is going brilliantly, but they're only 3 and 4 so we've got a few more years to get it right. The reason I am doing this is threefold.
A) I refuse to perpetuate the venus/mars cycle of life in which men assume magic fairies tidy the house and cook, or that meals come from small boxes in the Tesco ready meal aisle.
B) My cunning plan is to have my sons able to clean and cook by the age of 10 so that I can put my feet up and go into early retirment.
C) I want my future daughter-in-laws to like me and what's not to like if I've presented them with a perfectly trained husband?
You see - and I know I shouldn't set unrealistic expectations as therein lies future disappointment - but one day I'd like to have daughters-in-law who actually want to spend time with me. As Jemima points out, men have to cut the ties with their mothers in order to grow up. The only way to really get them back is via their wives. Which brings us swiftly onto point number 2.
Women - the protectors of family ties
Jemima hits the nail on the head when she says that women hold the extended family together. Years of feminism have helped train men into realising that they too are responsible for helping around the house. But there is something that still remains the almost exclusive female domain: the maintenance of relationships. Jemima describes it as follows: No sooner has a man hoisted his bride over the threshold than he hands over responsibility for the emotional upkeep of his clan.
This is so true that I actually yelped when I read it. It's why I have searched for, bought, paid for, and will wrap every single present for my husband's sister, her husband, son and my mother-in-law. Not to mention his two godchildren. I don't even mind doing this. It involves shopping. What I do mind is that he seems to find it exhausting to even look at what I've bought. As though having to look at and approve of the gifts I've spent hours sourcing is all a little tedious. I believe he'd find watching paint dry slightly more interesting.
Then there's Christmas cards, which again, I have blogged about previously. I'd like to conduct a poll to find out how many men write Christmas cards vs the women in their lives. I'd hazard a guess that 98% would be written by women and the remaining 2% would be written by freaks of nature. This is because men just don't care. Honestly. They couldn't give a shit if they never received a Christmas card or if Christmas cards were ever sent. Women, however, feel that it's important to retain the longstanding friendships. We judge our worth by the health of our personal relationships. This leads us to write cards to people we've never met, who our husbands used to go to uni with and who he hasn't seen since but who he mentioned in passing that we should invite to our wedding and as a result means we might want to stay in touch with.
It's also the reason I spent this morning jogging between our neighbours houses in bitterly cold wind delivering Christmas cards. It's important to me that we have good neighbourly relations. It makes me feel warm inside to know that my 90 year old neighbours will get a hand written note just in case nobody else sends them a card. Yet the sky would be filled with flying pigs and satan would be donning a fur coat before my husband even thought of doing this. It's not that he's a bad man. He's just a man. Ergo, cards do not enter his frame of reference much the same way tampons don't.
There are all the birthday cards, new baby cards, welcome to your new home cards, keeping an up-to-date address book, phone calls enquiring after health/how exams went/saying thank you for a great evening and other ongoing relationship maintenance which all falls into a woman's domain. And while we all accept this, the question is, why do we? It's just plain wrong. I can't believe that any man would genuinely like to lose touch with all of their friends and family. And that's exactly what would happen if women didn't do that relationship maintenance for them.
I guess I need to add a new module to our sons' training programme titled: Relationships - they're your job too. This might mean that one day our children will be the ones buying us Christmas presents because they want to, rather than delegating the job out. And even more importantly, if we end up with daughters-in-law who'd rather visit Wales in winter than come spend an afternoon with us, at least our sons will still pick up the phone and call us occasionally. Most important of all, perhaps our future daughters-in-law won't feel like their in-laws are a burden who they are begrudingly responsible for, but rather, that they're simply nice people that they'd like to spend time with.
Wishful thinking I'm sure. But it's worth a shot.