My in-laws have just left for the airport along with the husband’s aunt and uncle. Hugs were exchanged and reminders were made. A truckload of unsolicited yet welcome advice (and they were actually good to keep in mind) for a lasting marriage were given. There were a teeny bit of tears (though I won’t say who cried *wink,wink*) and “please come back soons”.
The past two weeks we had them over were fun (we got to show them around KL and Singapore) but very tiring nonetheless. So here I am, just a couple of hours after they left, sitting on our couch and munching on M&Ms. I refuse to move from this spot and I am just listening to the sound of my breathing. Everything is so quiet and now, I can relax. Wow. It feels totes foreign. Our home was filled with people for the past two weeks and now it’s back to normal.
Don’t get me wrong. I love having visitors and I love my in-laws. My husband’s family members have been nothing but nice to me. But you know how it is when you have visitors – it’s stressful. Even for my husband and they’re HIS actual parents and blood relatives. I guess it comes with the Filipino trait of being hospitable. We go out of our way to be very welcoming. Put it this way – you see those tourism slogans of other Asian countries who say that they’re also hospitable? Quadruple their hospitality and that’s the only time you’ll know that you’re getting treated the Filipino way. Have you ever heard of people letting visitors sleep in their bedroom while they camp out in the living room? No, Sorry. Alvin and I are not that hardcore. But a lot of Filipinos do that to make sure their guests are comfortable. And we don’t just do this for our families, we do it for friends and even acquaintances. So when we say we’re having guests over, I just know I’m gonna need at least a week to recuperate from all the traveling and tour guiding I’ve been doing.
While I’m lucky to have in-laws that are nice to me (my mother-in-law, a person I expected to make my life hell after seeing all those rom-coms is actually very motherly to me), I must admit that I was very anxious before their arrival and I’m sure most other married women there would agree. Whether your in-laws are loveable like mine or monsters from hell, it will always make you anxious to know that they’re coming. It’s like having VIPs as visitors.
I think my anxiety came from the urge to prove that I’m taking good care of their son and our home, despite us living alone abroad. They know I didn’t grow up like most Filipina women do. I grew up trained to be a career woman and not a homemaker. So I guess I wanted to put all their worries to rest and give the impression that “I got this.”
And I’m glad to say that I did it. Successfully, of course. I actually feel proud about this achievement and I’m pretty sure that Alvin’s parents left Malaysia loving me even more. I’m quite sure I left a good impression on his aunt and uncle too whom I met for the first time when they arrived here for their short vacation.
So here’s a random (and honest) list of just a couple of things I learned from this visit which I hope will help any anxious newlywed out there who’s having in-laws over for the first time:
1. Clean the house
A disorderly house means one thing to in-laws: You’re not taking care of your home well enough. If you have a day job, you might get away with the house not being close to perfect. Like having a scarf laid down on a console table or leaving the remote controls in the dining table. But make no mistake about it: The pressure is greater for the stay-at-home wife.
I’m pretty busy too as life as Alvin’s wife entails having to go to the embassy every now and then to help out on events. I love doing this and if there are days when I go there a bit often, a lot of the chores at home end up taking a back seat. I can’t do everything in a day after all! 😉
The trick to having a house that’s easy to clean is to make sure that the moment you move in, you keep it clean. Everything is in place, you have the proper furniture (make sure you don’t buy too much as it can just make a room look cluttered), and from then on, you just keep everything where they’re supposed to be on a daily basis. My husband and I made it a habit from day 1.
To be frank, my husband is a lot more OC than I am and he helped me so much when it came to the cleaning. Our house, which was already clean in my eyes went through general cleaning that night (with my husband’s beady eye checking every nook and cranny that we can wipe) before the in-laws came in and I’m telling you – the look on their faces was epic. They thought it was all me! Thank you, my dear husband for always making me seem like a better wife than I actually am! Haha!
2. Cook for them at least once
One thing to expect: Filipina mother-in-laws (MIL) will take over your kitchen. Make no mistake about it. I can cook dishes decent enough for my husband to actually feel like we can invite guests over but once the MIL is in your home, let her have your kitchen.
Personally, I don’t cook a lot because I hate having left overs. Who would eat them? I’ve also been trying to get to lower our rice intake as Alvin’s mother’s side of the family has a history of diabetes and hypertension. Also, my husband and I are not fond of repeating the same dish on the same day. But know this: Filipina mothers always cook A LOT. There are 4 of you? She’ll cook for 6. So there will always be left overs. Luckily, my father-in-law loves eating rice even in between meals so technically, my MIL was just cooking enough for us.
No matter how good of a cook you are and no matter what your weight is, they will still cook a ton. They’ll tell your husband he gained weight but insist on feeding him rice even in the mornings. I guess that’s just how Filipina MILs are. Teach her way around your kitchen and turn it into a mini bonding. Make sure your kitchen is pretty much complete with the basics – pots, pans, and spices you need for everyday cooking. As an extra touch, I made sure to inform my MIL that I’ve been feeding her son healthy food. When I cook, it’s always MSG free and the ingredients are always fresh.
I baked for my parents-in-law the day they came to KL. I made Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes. My husband ate most of it but they were able to taste a couple and they loved it. That was the only time I cooked while they were in KL and they’re pretty much happy about it.
3. Clean while they’re there
No, not general cleaning. It’s best to show them that as soon as you kiss your husband goodbye before he steps out for the office, you pick up the broom and sweep the common areas a bit. Even though there’s not really any dust yet. I do this almost everyday during the weekdays and when my parents-in-law saw it, I’m pretty sure that I sealed the deal on being diligent.
4. Be sweet
Offer them drinks. Remind them to rest first after their flight (even though it’s just 3 1/2 hours from Manila to KL, flying can be exhausting for older people), talk to them and tell them about your happy, married life.
5. Speak softer
My normal speaking voice is a couple of decibels and pitches higher than the normal voice of a 25 year old female. So I’ve been using my news voice all the time. I’ve been told that it makes me seem more mature and caring as opposed to my usual angry/bitchy sounding self. Loving/caring is always a plus for in-laws. 😉
6. Make them feel at home
Teach them their way around the house. Do they want to use the washing machine or the coffee maker? Teach them how it works. Less trouble for you to make their coffee or toast their bread and they’ll even feel more relaxed because they get to do normal things they do at home. But don’t forget to still offer to do those things for them every now and then.
7. Stay hydrated
If you’re having in-laws over, chances are, you’re going to have to take them around your city while your husband is at work. Tour guide duties can be very tiring and I found myself constantly parched during their visit. Make sure you cover a lot of enjoyable places for sight seeing as well. Bring a camera and take their photos. It will make a great present at the end of their trip.
8. Be patient
More often than not, parents may say or do something you don’t like in your own household. It’s a case to case basis. It can be the littlest of things where your father-in-law left the remote or if your MIL rearranged your cleaning materials and now you can’t find them.
They’re older, different people who will see you and your husband as their children forever so they would sometimes overstep their boundaries when they’re at your place by doing the things they’re used to do for your husband back when he was a kid. (Especially if they were hands-on parents)
My husband, being the diplomat he is, would always tell me (even back when we were just boyfriend and girlfriend) that it is often best to see things from a different perspective as most of the time, the people around us are not doing the annoying things they do to hurt us directly. It can be because a.) they’re just used to doing it that way or b.) they are under the impression that it is the right thing to do and c.) maybe what you see as smothering can be their way of caring.
Luckily, I didn’t have such problems with my MIL. I find that she respects my kitchen a lot and though she did a lot of cooking during her time here, she did most of it the way I would do it. She would ask me how to work my kitchen equipment such as my electric oven and even the coffee maker and even for my opinion on the way the fish should be cooked. It was very sweet and respectful of her. She made me feel that I am the woman of this house and I so appreciate it.
If you aren’t as lucky, first of all, let me give you a virtual hug! Assess the situation. Is it a minor thing that you can just smile at, skirt around, and eventually let go by going zen for a few minutes? Or is it a major thing that you cannot just agree to like, say, overhauling or tweaking some things about the house which you like the way they are?
Breathe and don’t lose your temper. Know that it’s your and your hubby’s house and though they are just visitors, some in-laws feel that they can always have a say with how you live your life. I’ve had friends who complained that their MIL would tell them how to cook adobo (even though they have their own family recipe). There’s even one friend who’s MIL would always complain about everything she does – the way she cooks, cleans, and even raising her kids.
Know that it is your life with your husband and that you two make the decisions for your new family. If you don’t like what they’re telling you ignore. If they push for it, calmly tell them that with all due respect, you appreciate their opinion but you would like to try things your way.
I hope this can be helpful to my fellow newlyweds out there. If you stumble upon this blog and you have things in mind to add (or if you just want to rant about your in-laws), don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. I’ll get back to you sooner now as I’m free! That is, until we start going all out in planning the ASEAN Ladies’ Circle Coffee Morning that the Philippine Embassy will be hosting in a few weeks. Hihi!