Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mother-in-Law: Rule of Threes

Brazilian Mother-in-Laws are a form of art. You need to approach them with delicacy, respect, and knowledge. No, you can not expect them to just fall in love with you, especially if you are female. You have to earn it.

The best tip I have ever received about my relationship with my Mother-in-Law came from an Aunt of my husband. People, prepare yourself because this is gold.

It is the rule of 3. You always insist 3 times. I'm sure I've mentioned this before but it is so important that I will mention it again. 

Now the rule of three is in relationship to activities with her. I will give you an example that happened just last night in my very own home. 

Mr. Rant and I had been planning to have a date night. This is a rare occurrence in my home as I don't have a full time maid who babysits and have yet to find a babysitter I trust outside of direct family members. Yes, I can be that anal. 

Anyway, my Mother-in-Law had offered to babysit, tonight actually, and we were supposed to go out. So when Mr. Rant mentioned that his Mother was upset about missing out on lunch with him and that he would like to take her out one evening to make it up to her, I knew where it was going. Of course the only possible evening in the foreseeable future was tonight. 

Given my interesting past with my Mother-in-Law, I have a lot of respect for our now good relationship and have an understanding of what makes her happy. If you think a happy wife equals a happy life than a happy Mother-in-Law gets your name on the list at the doorway to heaven. 

We both brought it up to her and she put her foot down saying "No no, I am babysitting for you tomorrow night."

Rule of 3 people. 

My rebuttal: "No no, you and Mr. Rant NEVER get any quality time. We can go out another night."

Her rebuttal: "No no, you and Mr. Rant never get to go out."

Me again: "Ah, I get to see him every day. We cuddle every night after the kids are in bed. But I'll let you babysit another day."

Her rebuttal... oh wait, there wasn't one. See, I've gotten so good at this point that I'm down to 2! Of course I did mention it to her again today and confirmed with Mr. Rant. Somewhere along the line it became my job to make sure it actually goes down as she never wants to put us out even though she does in fact want some time with her boy. Amazingly her son has yet to figure this out. You'd think he'd speak fluent woman after growing up in a culture like this.

And while some of you may say this is all immature and where is the direct communication, I will merely respond with "so you don't have Brazilian family, do you?"  It's a fact of life and when it comes to your Brazilian Mother-in-Law it is worth it!

Your Brazilian Mother-in-Law is the force in the life around you, like it or not. She cares for your family more than you could possibly understand and if that caring means she has to take you out, she will. Of course only in the name of what is best for your family. 

Keep in mind though, once you start to understand each other there is no better ally. She will have your back better than Captain America and the Hulk combined. Not to mention if a certain husband will not listen to your sound advice, Mother-in-Law will make it happen. 

It really is an amazing thing to watch, especially with mine who is so tiny she could just fit in my pocket. She's a pocket sized Mother-in-Law, conveniently sized to take anywhere.

What Golden Mother-in-Law advice do you have to share?


  1. O.M.G., you have totally mastered the subtle art of relationships in Brazil!!!!!
    This is so acurate it's scary, you are a MASTER in BRAZIL Rachel, I have to give you that!
    PHD I tell you.
    You need to write a guide into Brazil for expats book! ;)


  2. hahahaha I loved this post!

    I hope you all have a good time tonite! :)

  3. Thanks for this post! I may end up living with my boyfriend and his mother (possible future mother in law) when I'm in Sao Paulo (for 6 months or so until he can come to Canad with me) and I'm pretty nervous about it and how to navigate it! I will probably be asking you for more advice when I'm down there!

  4. This - "once you start to understand each other there is no better ally" - is pure gold! My Brazilian mother-in-law and I have the occasional run-in (well, it goes with the territory right?) but the better I get to know and understand her, the better we get on.

    I do find the Brazilian version of 'family' a little overbearing at times (do we have to attend the birthday of *every* cousin/uncle/niece?) but I have seen that now that I am part of the family, minha sogra will back me no matter what. Great post!

  5. Tom Le : You will certainly be invited to most birthdays of your cousin/uncle/niece but you are free to decide whether to go or not.
    Go and have fun :)

  6. You can pick the party but they have levels priority. Basically there are backlash levels for not showing up. For example, defcon 5 for the second cousin's party. Defcon 4 for the cousin's child's bday party that is located far from where you live. Defcon 3 for the aunt's party in a relatively close neighborhood. And Defcon 1 for the Grandmother's bday. You have to be there!


  7. Glad you guys like the post! And Kristi, don't be too nervous. Everything will work out! Most of us expats married to Brazilians have lived with the MIL at one point or another and made it out in one piece

  8. I find that interesting because I don't have a MIL; my husband was raised by his grandma and she passed away a few years ago =.

  9. What a sweet post, Rachel. Not only have you integrated, which I believe is important for personal happiness, but you have reported it in a funny way! My husband lost his mom at 6 years old. He has openly said he wishes he had her still.

  10. It's hard to live without your Mom. I think Brazilians, Brazilian men in particular, have a really hard time. Families are so connected here. I have to say it's one of the things that makes me really happy about raising my kids in Brazil

  11. DH and I are staying with MIL. She and I get along great. SIL, well that's another story...thank god I don't see her very often!

  12. Yeah, I know what you mean, Rachel. I feel bad for him. But he grew up kind of alone so he's used to, even though I'm sure it's been difficult.

  13. Haha, I think my mother-in-law got some kind of memo that Americans don't do things the way she would like to, because she is actually pretty good about giving us our space and not being too intrometida. I always feel like she's a little bit scared of me. But she's definitely not one of those "where is my son!? I need my baby" type of mothers.

    I think it's just because she's very educated, relatively young (compared to most of the other blogger's MILs), and she has 2 kids at home to get the coddling out of her system.

    I think I get the best of both worlds, because she's not pushy (except when it comes to my appearance), but she is ALWAYS ready to swoop in (on my side of course) if there is a dispute going on and I decide to tattle on Alexandre to her.

    I have a feeling, however, that the dynamics will COMPLETELY change when kids come into the picture! She is a gynecologist. JUST IMAGINE MY PREGNANCY.

    But you're adapting well and making the most of things, as always, dear Rachel!! :D I don't know if I'd be mature enough to let her commandeer date night.

  14. Just thinking about this stresses me out, my suegra is Colombian but it really sounds all about the same. We lived with her for 4 months and it was not ok...but once we moved out (which she took as a great offense), it got a lot easier. You sound very level-headed about this, the games drive me crazy, especially because in my case we definitely don´t agree about a lot of basic things (like me being her son´s domestic servant). I´d really like to get to a place where we can genuinely get along, though, because on a certain level I really do appreciate the dedication to family, and you do know all the craziness is done out of worry over their children´s well-being.

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  16. My sogra does not insert herself into our lives at all - but if I go more than about a week without visiting her, the next time I do, I hear, "Ta sumida, hein?" (You disappeared, huh?)

    We get along pretty well. Nothing like my colleague, who had a baby 3 weeks ago - one night, the baby was up all night and she finally went to bed at 7 AM. At 8 AM, her sogra came to the door (unannounced) and proceeded to call their phone repeatedly until the husband let her in. The sogra then started complaining about how poorly she was received, and when the husband said "For God's sake, mom, we have a newborn and my wife needs some sleep!" - sogra dearest said, "Is that my fault? I'm not the one who went and had a baby."

  17. I loved this post Rachel! And I can say that in Quebec mil are pretty much like in Brazil, gosh! Maybe even worse!!!!
    In my situation what helps a lot is the fact that she leaves 2 hours away from us and we don't get together all the time.
    She can be very kind as she can be a total bitch, depending on the weather I guess.
    It makes me sad because I am pretty alone here in Montreal and I miss having a family and all the good things that comes with that...

  18. Hi,ya:) Sooo true. I am a Brazilian living in Ireland and I used to believe that one day my husband's penny would drop and he'd figure out that us, Brazilians are a bit peculiar and love hinting (all the time!!). I used to be worse and would even say no to food when visiting people in Ireland and hoped they would insist more 4 or 5 times(better than ur mil, uh?. Well, they wouldn't and I learned when I starved myself. I've been giving my best friend some advice that things are not exactly the way we think it is and sometimes people wont guess what we really want if we dont spill the beans, (or puke them)but try to have a heart to heart chat to ur MIL and eventually she will get there. My friend is no longer arguing wiv her American bf 24/7 over silly things.(when she says she doesn't mind, she actually does and she'll have that sad dog face after 1 or 2 days) I suppose it is our upbringing that causes us to behave a bit immature, childish. Perhaps you should also jump on the bandwagon and play the same silly game with your MIL, she'll sure learn a lesson. I am stuck with an Irish one that is too blunt and even tried to measure me boobies while I was picking my wedding dress. Seriously, MIL are "prone" to be the craziest people in this world, one day I know I'll join the club! xoxoxo

  19. hahahaha, I'm loving all the input! I can see how the Irish wouldn't catch onto the hints;)And i don't know how I would feel about blunt. I'm so used to the opposite of that!

    Karina- I'm sorry you feel alone there! It's hard to adjust to places but eventually we do...

    brasilicana- hahahaha. She said that?!

    Eva, I was lucky as my MIL is very supportive of me being independent. At the same time she expects me to always be feeding her child (as if he can't himself).

    Danielle- SCREWED when you have a baby! lol. That first braxton hicks contraction you feel will make her put you up in the stirrups just to check ;)

    Meredith, At least he has you though :)

    Luasol, don't even get me started on the first couple of years with my brother in law! He actually pouted when my husband got married because he was jealous

  20. Rachel, you're a Saint, truly. My patience has been worn over the years and I'll just say that our relationship remains in the Defcon spectrum, it is so emotional and unpredictable. The most positive thing I have taken away from this experience is that I love, adore and treasure my mother even more than I did before. She's a Saint too. I wish she wasn't so far away, she's my support system, my advisor and my best friend. My Dad too of course. I love my family even more and love our normal rhythm, it's so peaceful and easy!

  21. I'm afraid while I have a Brazilian Mother-In-Law, I don't have any good advice. I think mine fits into another category, revealed someday when I write about book about my life in Brazil (she's got to earn her nursery home fees somehow, right?)

    I know, sounds mean. But you haven't met my mother-law... maybe for those of you in Rio, we can arrange an encounter :)

  22. Would love to plan an encounter, especially after that comment ;)

  23. I'm in the same category as Born Again Brazilian. My Brazilian MIL is certifiable. But, the stories I can tell!

  24. I just recalled a sogra story of my own - my husband still hasn't moved all of his clothes to my place yet, mainly because we have nowhere to put them. One day I casually mentioned to my sogra that we'd move the rest of his clothes one of these days.

    Well, later, my sogra apparently whispered to my husband, "Why don't you leave your clothes here? I'll wash them for you..."

    I relayed this story to my mother, and her response was: "Hey, if she's willing to wash YOUR clothes too... why don't you take her up on it?"

    ...but somehow I don't think I'll be making that request :-p

  25. For years I thought I was imagining things with my MIL... surely she didn't deliberately hand me my newborn, her used dirty Kleenx and walk away as I was telling her about my father's cancer diagnosis? Surely she didn't just scream at me that I forgot her margarine after I bought $300R of groceries (and in front of my visiting parents)? I now just walk away from her rants. I have realized that she really is just that self centered. The worst was when she hid her own jewlery and indirectly accused me of stealing it, (Grandma and Grandpa rescued me on that one). If she tries to force me into slavery of her son by offering to do some ridiculous thing he is asking, I let her do it and walk away. If she places me on the losing end of her competition on housekeeping (she has two maids and no kids at home), I walk away and join another conversation. After 10 years, I am done with being gracious, it was seen as weakness. If I can be treated as a maid, it is because I am one. I am sure she will plot to get back at me but frankly, once I turned on the FU, things got better, at least in the day to day.

  26. My Brazilian cousin in law has it ten times worse with her Sogra. It seems that what we gringas/gringoes go through is relatively minor compared to what an independent Brazilian DIL/SIL can experience. I am however, grateful I could use her as a role model for my escape!

    GREAT BLOG! thanks.

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