My Mother in-law Is In The Trunk!

by Paul I. Adujie

At some point, Mrs. Dele-Ogunrinde appeared pointlessly condescending, such as when she wrote: Her only pride and joy is now going to re-channel all his love and attention to you and she is not going away easy. If he also happens to be her retirement plan as is the case in LOT of African situations, you have to be bridle lest you meddle with the flow of cash. So you see, you’re fighting against lot of odds. Haba Madam!

Does her generalization vary with education of the mother, sister aunt in laws? Does it vary with income? Or was she just writing to inform the world that Africans are poor and needy, with sons as retirement plans and all? What a newsflash-splash she has! I want to be married into Dele-Ogunrinde’s family, and foreswear to protect my wife against attacks and torture from my mom and Mrs. Dele-Ogunrinde’s mom, African mothers in laws both!

Here below is an excerpt of a recent book review piece in The New York Times regarding mother in-laws.

(There Are Other Mother In-laws) Outside Africa


February 5, 2006

I Married My Mother-In-Law,’ edited by Ilena Silverman

A Fine Old Conflict – Review by PAMELA PAUL

Given how callous, scheming, selfish and altogether exasperating in-laws can be, there is little conversational sport more gratifying than badmouthing them. While denouncing family members to the outside world is rife with peril, vilifying in-laws who serve as a kind of proxy family is not only socially accepted, it’s encouraged. There’s only one catch: the in-laws themselves, and often the spouse, can never get wind of what you’re saying. Even in our tell-all age, the only safe way to discuss certain in-laws is when they’re dead.

Herein lie the conundrum that Ilena Silverman, an editor at The New York Times Magazine, faced while compiling her anthology, “I Married My Mother-in-Law.” When she contacted writers about contributing, “many said they’d love to read a book about in-laws, they just couldn’t write about their own.” As she explains, relationships with in-laws were “fraught enough; who wanted to ratchet things up by taking it public?”

So it’s a considerable feat that Silverman pinned down enough writers and worthy ones at that to assemble an absorbing, often affecting, collection of essays. Though authors like Amy Bloom, who offers a vicious post-mortem on her lesbian partner’s parents in “Dead, Thank God,” operate at an advantage (divorced writers also have license to savage, and the one pseudonymous writer, in an essay called “My In-Laws Made Me Do It,” rips her former in-laws rightly as “not simply eccentric, but bred-in-the-bone cruel”), some of the best writing is more nuanced. Martha McPhee’s wistful essay about never meeting her husband’s dead parents, Matt Bai’s beautifully written “Family Without Stories” and Jonathan Goldstein’s hilarious account of his emotionally needy father-in-law are standouts. Tom Junod’s contribution about the improbable friendship between his reckless, indulgent parents and his cheap, modest, prudent in-laws also made me laugh aloud.

The book comes complete with a pair of glittery writer-couples. The Harrisons, Colin and Kathryn, deliver strong essays, each dealing with death, though in very different ways. Michael Chabon describes the loss of a father-in-law in an early divorce. And though, as Chabon’s wife, Ayelet Waldman, writes in her counterpart, “Dividing the Man From His

Mother,” the “tug of war between a mother and daughter-in-law over a man is an age-old phenomenon, the stuff of sitcom jokes and Greek tragedy,” her take is so fresh and witty one hardly notices the cliches inherent to the subject.

Nonetheless, there’s a formulaic diversity to therapeutic anthologies like this one a kind of something-for-everyone-ness, whatever your sociopolitical identity or emotional sore spot. We’ve got the lesbian daughter-in-law, the interracial couple, the clash of classes. There’s the cross-cultural barrier, the political rift, the early misunderstanding since overcome. The ideal in-laws, the terminally ill in-laws, the downright crazies.

Still, Silverman doesn’t rely on vinegary screeds, and that makes the book especially worthwhile. Many of the relationships described are affectionate, some even loving. In-laws are, after all, our half-chosen families the source, and often reflection or amplification, of those we love. While Colin Harrison’s father lies on his deathbed, Kathryn Harrison writes: “I don’t know how much my father-in-law has given me in the years since I married his son. . . . Here’s what I do know. I love him, unreservedly.”

Pamela Paul is the author, most recently, of “Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships and Our Families.”


As you can see from The New York Times piece above, bad mothers-in-laws are bad, whether African, Europeans or Americans are same. Mother in-law is in the trunk or boot! is an American car sticker!

Does anyone know why? It is probably because there are some mother in-laws from hell in America, a clear indication that hellish mother in-laws are not the exclusive preserve of Africans, as some would have the world believe.

When I was married my mother did not bother my American wife…my mother was just happy that I was married! Some mothers would have mentioned the fact that my marriage was childless…. but my mother NEVER made any such reference to her or to me.

My mother would qualify as an African mother in-law… and she does not have any rift with my brother’s wife! My sister in-law and my mother actually frequently conspire against us about a lot of things…and they jointly harangue me about re-marrying! My sister in-law and my mother…are both STRONG in Christ…. when my mother vacations with my sister in-law, I try not to talk to them…. because they do tag-teaming on me….. about why I should serve the LORD and why Marriage is God’s will etc. So, which mother in-laws in Africa is Folasayo talking about…. where is the research or empirical data? In the absence of research, I am relying on my personal experience! Folasayo should be told that it is quite possible for human qualities to be individually idiosyncratic.

All mother in-laws world wide …are equal, or all mother – in-laws are individuals with individual merits or lack thereof…. read the above generalizations slowly, and you will realize that it is hazardous to accuse African mother in-laws in a sweeping generalizations sorts of manner brought upon African mother in-laws, courtesy of Folasayo, who appears loathe to can Nigerian Languages, Languages! But instead she

calls Nigerian Languages Dialects!

Folasayo, went overboard in too many instances in her article, for instance, she claimed that African mother in-laws, actually hate potential daughter in-laws before they set eyes on them! As when Folasayo states “those who even before meeting you have their gun barrels loaded!” Isn’t it the case that there are bad husbands, bad wives, bad daughter in-laws, bad father in laws in every culture? Isn’t it equally the case that there are immature husbands in every culture? Isn’t there a universal precaution to be observed by all and sundry going into holy matrimonies or any meaningful relationships for the long haul?

As a general principle, no mature man or woman should allow anyone to plow over or bulldoze their spouse verbally or physically, no mature and reasonable spouse should tolerate such idiocy, but why would anyone pretend that human foibles and sun rise are limited to Africa?

And why would Folasayo and some other African women in the Diaspora pretend to want the selfish benefit of mother in-laws as babysitters, but careless about corresponding obligations of the wellbeing for mother in-law baby sitters? I take the view that no one can nurture your child better than you, not even mothers of the spouses! You must make your mistakes and learn along, as you raise your child, but heck, my mother I trust more than ten babysitters! Financial costs are not everything in childrearing!

I read Folasayo’s article with consternations as the article was simply another unneeded pile-on, pile-on unto the already large and heavy heap of stereotypes that have been dumped on Africans over extended period of time, African women this time, were take severe beating from the hands of a daughter, not a husband.

Folasayo’s article neglected to inform her readers that there all sorts of negative stereotypes and unedifying pejorative references to mother in-laws in America where Folasayo lives, unedifying references such as ones on car bumper stickers “My mother in-law is in the trunk” or T-Shirt proclaiming similarly offensive sentiments about mother in-laws, and so are some books and television sitcoms on the vileness of some mother in-laws. In the face of all these, why the undue hyperbole and extreme exaggerations by Folasayo, regarding the unthinking wickedness or evil of African mothers, especially the in-laws among them?

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1 comment

Aigbokhan Prest March 28, 2006 - 8:14 am

Folasayo or whatever she calls herself is a loss to womanhood.Anyway a lazy woman will always attribute her dirtiness to the death of her husband.


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