The war between Chinese wives and their mothers-in-law has been going on for as long as China’s recorded history. In a society where sons are treated as princes by their mothers and daughters have long been considered traded goods, it’s not surprising that mothers-in-law have always played a prominent role in their sons’ marriage. It makes one wonder if part of the appeal of marrying a foreign man is the fact that a Chinese woman will be able to escape the nightmare of dealing with a Chinese mother-in-law.
Chinese sons living the life of a prince only means that their mothers are the queen. So when a wife finally comes into the picture, it is understood that she must submit to the will of the queen. More often than not, these Chinese princes do not have the will to stand up to their queen mothers, being coddled all their life. So
they let their mothers have their way and their say, even when it comes to their own marriage.
The mother dominating her son’s life does not end when he gets married.
The mother choosing the wife for his son or approving of his choice is never a guarantee that she will not make her daughter-in-law’s life difficult. After all, she was also a daughter-in-law once herself and was subject to the will of her husband’s mother. In this sense, this ongoing war is also something of a well-kept tradition, a never ending cycle wherein the mother-in-law simply passes on the ill will she had for her husband’s mother to her son’s wife who, in turn, will pass it on to her own son’s future wife, and so on and so forth.
Chinese families redefine the term “tight knit.” Parents often live in close proximity to their children after they are married; in many cases, the parents live with their married son or daughter, depending on the financial situation of their child, i.e. if he/she can afford to provide a house/apartment for his/her parents and also give them regular financial support. Whatever the case, a mother meddling in her son’s married and family life is an expected and a widely accepted behavior.
It can be said that most Chinese women who are ready to get married dread the mother- and daughter-in-law relationship. There are, of course, a lucky few who end up with very understanding, sensitive, and considerate mothers-in-law; but, while it is more and more common, they remain the exception to the rule that the husband’s mother still rules his life.
Being with a western man has its many “perks,” not the least of which is the fact that western men lead independent lives; they reach a certain point in their life when they sever the symbolic umbilical cord that attaches them to their mothers. Unlike Chinese mothers, western/Caucasian mothers make it a point not to involve themselves in their sons’, or daughters’, personal lives, especially once they start their own families.
(This does not mean that mothers stop caring for their children’s well being; western/Caucasian mothers simply understand the value of letting their children stand up on their own two feet.)
There are also foreign men who remain so attached to their mothers through adulthood and even after they get married that they also let them continue to be a dominant influence in their lives. Unlike how it is with the Chinese mother-and-son relationship, such cases are the exception and not the rule.
Most Chinese women who prefer a foreign husband are certainly aware that being married to one means escaping the plight of countless Chinese wives who have miserable relationships with their mothers-in-law. Does this factor into their decision to be with a foreign man? Perhaps to some, this is one of the main reasons that they want a foreign mate; to the rest, it is an added and a very welcome benefit. But the most important thing for most of these women is to have the chance at having a happy married life.
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