Why Korean Mother-in-laws Are The Best
Korean mother-in-laws are by far the best mother-in-laws to have.
Okay, my title is misleading and the first sentence may or may not be entirely true and that picture is NOT of my mother-in-law. I only have experience with one mother-in-law, from here on out MIL, in particular and she just happens to be Korean because I just happened to fall in love with a man who is Korean, but she is pretty great. The tales of evil or mean MILs seem to abound, but where are the good stories? When was the last time there was a movie done with a nice MIL? Maybe MILs think they should be harsh and mean because the only stories they ever hear are of the evil and mean sort or because they had a terrible MIL themselves. Perhaps if we tell the tales of a good MIL, others will follow suit.
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Here are 6 reasons my Korean MIL is the best:
1. Boxes of Food
There was the box with 50 apples, side dishes and a pan. There was the box with what seemed like objects from a closet she’d recently cleaned out: cans of tuna, socks, boxers and two Kipling bags. There was the box of rice, two pots and side dishes and these are just the boxes off the top of my head. The boxes always have some assortment of fish, my MIL is from Busan a coastal city after all, and some meat. There are salty side dishes and kimchi sent up regularly. What’s not to appreciate when it comes to boxes of food showing up on your doorstep?
2. A Clean House & Delicious Food
My MIL is always on the move in her house or ours. There is always something delicious to be cooked or something to be cleaned, even if I’ve already cleaned it. There’s no talking her out of cooking or cleaning, it’s what she wants to do. I have to admit that at first this made me uncomfortable (read my first reaction to her FIRST visit to our house way back), especially when we were in my house. In her house she can obviously do what she wants, but in my house she is a guest so, wouldn’t etiquette entail that I do all of the cooking and cleaning while she looks on and silently judges? Not so with a Korean MIL. Delicious food and a clean abode, here we come… whether or not I like it. There’s something to be said for how nice this is though.
3. Caring Calls
Speaking Korean on the phone is not my favorite thing to do, especially with my MIL because she speaks a lot of southern dialect, but I know she’s calling because she cares. I also find the conversations amusing because they always hint at what is to come.
“Are you warm? It’s cold this winter. Is your boiler working?” (I got a parka in the mail shortly after this.)
“Do you like apples?” (As mentioned above, I received a box of 50 apples that week.)
“It’s very hot this summer. Are you keeping cool?”
She seems to know what I need before I know I need it and that suits me just fine. The year I received the parka was one of the coldest winters since I’d been here and though at first I wasn’t sure how fashionable a big puffy parka was, when it became cold, I didn’t care how unfashionable or fashionable it was as long as I was warm. My mother-in-law can tell me what I need before I need it anytime.
4. Lessons on Strength
My MIL is a strong woman and she doesn’t openly display her feelings that often, which at times has caused me to question whether or not she approved of me or what I was doing. I can probably count the number of times she has smiled without thought on two hands. I, on the other hand, can’t hide my emotions at all. I laugh, I smile, I cry and I also became ferociously grumpy and moody when I’m hungry or sleepy. My husband often reminds me that this is something I should consider trying to control and when I’m with his mother I can understand why. She is thoughtful in her requests and what she expects of people, but because of the way she carries herself, this underlying strength, no one denies her. I respect this strength that she has learned over time through many highs and lows in her lifetime and I know that I have the opportunity to learn a lot from her.
5. Appliances of Approval
When my husband and I moved into our first place, I was surprised to get a washer delivered to our house one day. My husband, who was just a boyfriend at the time, said his mom and sister had decided we needed a washer, which we did, and they were going to buy it for us. I’d never received such a large gift before. When we moved into our most recent house my MIL came to visit and I joked to my husband beforehand that she’d probably love the house with the exception of our small fridge that we’d had through a few houses and I wouldn’t put it past her to buy us a new one. What did she comment on? The fridge of course and her departing comment to me was that she’d be buying one soon. Since we don’t live together, she does this to show she cares and she approves and since the fridge was the only thing she felt the need to purchase, I know I’m doing something right.
As my MIL is Korean, she did not grow up hugging people, but I did. I need hugs. I need hugs to feel close. I need hugs to show that I’m close to you. I just need to hug. Why bow when a hug is an option? My MIL is by far my favorite to hug. She spreads out her arms well before I’m close enough to hug her to be prepared for me to swoop in and manhandle her. Sometimes I’m not even thinking about going in for the hug and she opens up her arms all ready for one, so of course I’ll take that hug whenever I can get it. I say manhandle because she’s a foot shorter than me so I practically pick her up. While I am a natural hugger, doing what we do, she is not and she awkwardly pats me on the back lightly while I’m hugging her in her attempt to be close, while not wanting to be that close, but all the time knowing that this makes me feel close. My husband and my MIL now hug as well. He didn’t want to be left out because he loves hugs too! I think this goes to show her willingness to be as open to my culture as I am to hers.
I know that I am a lucky woman and not all MILs are like my own.
My heart goes out to the women that have the mean MILs that just won’t end the cycle of harassment and berating. However, I do think it’s important to promote the goodness that some MILs possess and show to their daughter-in-laws. Korean MILs get a lot of flack, but I have to say that my mother-in-law does not deserve it at all.
To that end, learning about Korean cultural norms and taking the time to learn the customs and traditions that are particular to each family (Korean or not) also go a long way in helping overcome some differences that may cause issues in relationships. My family is quite traditional and my mother-in-law and father-in-law were surprised and happy to learn that I had taken the time to learn about the proper setting for the Jesa table as well as learned the steps and order of the Jesa ceremony that takes please each Lunar New Year and Korean Thanksgiving. They didn’t expect this, but I wanted to learn in order to show their family traditions respect as they have shown me respect. While my mother-in-law would likely wish I could cook more Korean food and would cook more for my husband, she seems happy enough that I’ll clean the dishes after dinner without being asked.