Here's the story I've heard repeatedly from different women:
When I got married, I moved from my hometown to Sokcho, because my husband is from Sokcho. I didn't know anyone here except for my husband's family. My mother-in-law made my life miserable by criticizing everything I do.
One beautiful, educated woman, while recovering in the hospital from the birth of her first child, was told by her mother-in-law, "Next time, have a boy."
Another woman was told that she should have her 19-month-old son toilet trained. The same MIL wouldn't allow this pregnant daughter-in-law to order chicken at a restaurant because of AI (the avian influenza scare). Boiled chicken is safe, incidentally.
The whole situation seems to be a form of hazing. When a woman gets married, she leaves her family, her hometown, and essentially becomes part of her husband's family. Women who were treated horribly by their own mothers-in-law, in turn treat their daughters-in-law horribly, because that's just how it's done.
Matthew's Chinese co-worker says things are similar in China. She just has one daughter and has gotten a lot of grief from her mother-in-law because of that.
I feel a bit guilty when women ask me about my own mother-in-law. No, she doesn't criticize everything I do. After raising two sons, she's delighted to have two daughters-in-law. Some of my friends in the States have issues with their mothers-in-law, but those are individual personality differences, not a cultural institution.
Learning Something New
6 months ago