Ngozi: “His mother is not dead & I’ve always prayed to God for a man whose mother is late!”
Ngozi: Mama Dozie na
Nobs: Who’s Dozie?
Ngozi: Oh, sorry, my new boyfriend.
Nobs: And what’s wrong with his mother?
Ngozi: He wants us to meet his mother and I’m really not sure how to go about this because I was hoping never to have to deal with this.
Nobs: Negodi onye. People are calling people they know nothing about “boo” while others are in what they describe as “undefined” relationships and here is someone willing to take you home to mama and you are complaining?
Ngozi: It’s not that, I just don’t have to have a mother-in-law. Their wahala is plenty jo.
Nobs: Mana, you want your own mother to be alive?
Ngozi: Before nko
Nobs: That’s not fair
Ngozi: Okay that’s true but she’s Igbo and I’m just scared!
Nobs: Scared of?
Ngozi: Scared of meeting her and whether or not she will approve of me.
Nobs: Then you don’t have to but if you decide to there are certain things that may help you.
The above was a conversation I had with my cousin who wished death on her future mother-in-law. Truth is, I’ve heard women say they will prefer a husband whose mother is dead because they say “ that will surely reduce drama on the home front”.
The irony is that they want their future husbands to come to them “motherless” while they keep theirs forgetting that in some cases, when issues arise, they may need their mother-in-law to talk sense into their husband.
You know what else is funny ?
Your mum is the one that will come for Omugwo, stay for months watching AfricaMagic while picking her teeth after eating dried meat, pack things when going and would even take some gifts back for your father and you will expect your husband to make her feel at home.
Forget what you heard, Igbo mother-in-laws are great prayer warriors and you will meet them alive and well, drinking small stout straight from the bottle.
As a true Nigerian with a great spirit of giving back to the society, I’ve decided to share some of the advice I gave my cousin in preparation for meeting the future Igbo Mother-in-law.
Grab your pen and paper, follow my instructions, and if it works for you, please inform me so that I can send you my account number.
Greet like a Yoruba Girl irrespective of Your Tribe
You know that your mother-in-law by default is a member of the strongest group in Igbo land known as “The Umuada”. The Umu Ada are the group of people who will not allow for a dead person to be buried if their food has not been completed at a burial ceremony and they don’t even wear any kind of uniform. Just picture that.
Once you see your future mother-in-law, at least at the first meeting, bend at your knees while greeting her. She may ask you not to greet her like that again after the first date but show her that you are properly trained and you have respect for mothers. The Igbo mother-in-law does not necessarily expect you to kneel down, but then if she’s going to be your mother-in-law at some point, she needs to know that you will always see her as a ‘bigger’ person.
Don’t call her “Aunty”
The Igbo Mother-in-law may not be the most educated person in the room but she’s very sure she is not your “Aunty”. I totally understand that we use the “Aunty” tag for anyone older than us but then if you are dating (read as having sex with) her “child” then she clearly does not deserve the “Aunty” tag. Save the Aunty title for your husband-to-be’s older sister if she is present at the meeting.
I agree that calling her “Mummy” upon first meeting may be a bit too forward but you can make do with “Ma” at the end of every sentence or when she calls on you but always remember she may advise you to refer to her as “Mummy” before the end of the meeting or in some special cases, her traditional title like “Ada Ugo” or a religious title like “Ezinne” or something as simple as “Mama Emeka”.
The thing is, with time, she’ll tell you whatever she wishes for you to call her or you can call her whatever your husband calls her but you CAN not begin with “Aunty” if you intend to get that far.
Biko, Hapu LBD, Mini Skirt & Jeans
Hear me out, the Igbo mother-in-law is not bush or anything and I agree you would like her to see you in your true form but for the first meeting you cannot be trying to study her facial expressions while battling to keep your legs closed.
A dress or pencil skirt and blouse (below or at least covering the knees!) is a winner for this sort of meeting and you can show off your curves with a belt on the waist.
Most of them like to see that you have a little bit of a love handle because of “child bearing”. I don’t know what the two have got in common but yeah.
Save Your Opinion until it’s needed
It’s all cool and the gang to be well informed about everything under the sun but during the first meeting, please don’t jump into their discussion or champion one against the other unless you are asking her about her “Health”, ‘Work” or “Meeting August”. Make sure that every time that you are included in any discussion, you don’t try to argue her son’s opinion on anything. She would not want see you as someone that will always shut down her son during discussions and in the long run ask her son to stop her from visiting or worse, listening to her.
It’s Okay to know “Odi nma” & “Daalu”
If you are Igbo already this may not concern you but if you are from a different tribe, then it’s totally okay to learn and use a few everyday Igbo words like “ Kedu = How are you”? This is followed by a simple response of “Odinma” = Fine or “Adim mna” = I’m fine”. Your Mother-in-law does not expect you to be an expert in Igbo Language but she would like to see that you are making an effort. Remember, the “Kedu –Odinma” phase takes place within the first 4 seconds of meeting and please, I know you are not Igbo, but try not to answer her “Kedu” with “I’m fine, Thank you” as such behaviour may push her into speaking Igbo to you for the rest of the meeting.
Don’t Fall for “The Drinking Water Glass Trap”
It’s one of the oldest tricks in their book; she may place her drinking glass a bit further from her and at a point, she will try and reach for it without actually touching it. Nne, she can reach but she’s only trying to see your reaction. It does not matter if you are sitting at Umuahia while her seat is at Enugu, please get the glass for her and if her glass is half empty, fill it up. I agree you are not her slave but you would do the same for your mother, she’s only trying to see if you will come through for her in times of need.
Doing the dishes
Nne, if the first meeting is at her house and not a hotel, please insist on taking your plates to the kitchen yourself. They may have a house help or a cook but avoid passing your plate to them and instead look for an opportunity to take the dishes to the kitchen yourself. You may be stopped half way by the help but initiate taking the plates to the kitchen yourself. If the meeting is just between the both of you, don’t ever let her wash the dishes, she may say “Nne, rapu ba”, but please, please, Nne, insist and say you do the dishes at home and its not a big deal.
Don’t sell yourself as “Oku Enu”
Your Igbo Mother-in-law does not need to hear about how good you are with make-up. They claim to love “natural beauty” and will not want an “Oku Enu” for their son.
She may ask you certain things about make-up just to see how much you depend on it, don’t claim to have too much knowledge, make it sound like something you can live without.
Pause! Don’t get me wrong, the Mother-in-law understands the concept of tattoos but if you’ve got a tattoo on your boobs, please don’t rock the push up bra and V-neck attire to the first meeting. She may ignore the tattoo on the other parts of your body but not on the Nri Nwa grandchild ya. How can you have “gaga gaga” on the boobs and plan to breast feed her grandchild? When you become part of the family, gradually introduce her to the tattoos but on the first date, nara ha turtle neck.
The Igbo Soup discussion
The Igbos love their soups and your mother-in-law does not want to believe that her son will marry someone that cannot prepare that Onugbu soup for him. I know you may not even end up cooking for your husband mana, but you don’t have to tell your MIL outright that you intend to hire a cook for that. Before the meeting, learn certain things about their native soup and maybe find out on how it is prepared. You can use your boyfriend’s sister for lessons. If he’s from Imo, find out about Okazi/Ofe Owerri, if he’s from Anambra state, find out things about Onugbu or Ora soup. She can never ask you to go prepare one for her but you just need to know how its prepared and sound like you know your way around the kitchen.
Onwa December & Communal Cooking
You already know that the Igbos love to go home to their hometown for Christmas, biko, if the issue of coming home to the village for Christmas comes up, tell her that you are very open to it and would like to visit. The Igbo mother-in-law does not want any woman that will keep her son in the city during Christmas and not allow him come home to see her and learn more about his tradition.
During Christmas, in most cases, the food is prepared by the wives in the family compound. Sell her the idea that you are a team player but it is also important that you are a team player to avoid issues with your husband’s brother’s wives.
I’ve not written this to make you see her as a bad person; they are very protective of their sons especially the “first borns”. I write hoping someone will read this and take on the important points within, maybe feel less at a loss. Your Igbo Mother-in-law is a fellow woman and will love you like her daughter, you just have to make her feel like she is gaining a daughter and not losing a son.
Ngwa, ne ikwe, ne kwa, aka odo’.