A loud cry woke Franca up. She opened her eyes and groped for her cellphone in the darkness. When she found it, she tapped the screen and swiped down for the torchlight icon. With light brimming from her phone, she climbed out of the bed.
The tempo of the cry increased.
Franca sighed as she rushed out of the room. Why won’t her son just allow her have few hours of sleep? What does he want?
Standing outside her son’s room was a sleepy nanny rocking a wailing three-year old boy without success.
‘What happened to him?’ Franca asked as she took her son from her.
‘I don’t know ma.’
The boy stopped crying and relaxed on his mother’s chest. Franca went into the living room and settled on the sofa while the nanny followed with a lamp which she placed on the center table.
Franca looked at her son. ‘What exactly do you want?’
The boy scratched his eyes and gazed at her. ‘Mummy.’
‘What is it?’
He fell back to her chest and returned to sleep.
Franca’s head was still banging. She had been awake almost all through the night, going through the financial statements her accountant had prepared for her. She needed more sleep but from the look of things, sleep was nowhere in sight.
‘Can I take him in now?’ the nanny said.
Franca nodded, slowly releasing her son’s grip around her waist. The nanny lifted him to her shoulder and took him back to the room.
Franca decided to return to bed and get some sleep. As she walked back to the room, her phone beeped. It was a text message from her mother-in-law.
Iyawo mi. How are you? I just want to ask, are you not going to try to get pregnant again? Damilare is three. He needs a younger sister, don’t you think so? I’ll call you tomorrow. We’ll talk better then.
Franca hissed. Her mother-in-law was at it again. She and her husband were not ready for another child. There was no way she was going to give in to any pressure.
Power was restored just as Franca reached for the white cover sheets. Her husband was fast sleep beside her. She closed her eyes and tried again but when sleep wasn’t forth coming, she left the bed and went over to the table. She turned her laptop on.
Four stories in the collection box. Franca yawned, waiting for the first story to open.
‘Time to read.’ She whispered.
The first statement made her laugh.
My mother-in-law is a thorn in my flesh. Do you have any tip on how to relate with women like that?
I work from home and I enjoy it a lot. Right from the time I got out of campus, I’d known I didn’t have the patience for a 9 – 5 job. I tried it anyway but I didn’t last a month before jumping into another. Well, I stayed for about a year in the second place I worked and finally gave up on white collar job to start a business.
I’ve been married for two years and for the most part I’ve had to question if I heard God well. My husband and I quarreled and guess who the central topic of our frequent misunderstandings was? His mother!
My husband was raised by a single mother who never got married. Her son was everything she had. Franca, I have never seen a woman that possessive. It drove me crazy. Every time the woman came visiting, it was as if I was in some sort of competition for her son’s heart.
I just couldn’t get it. I’d be playing and laughing with my husband in the living room and her face would be so full of rage.
The part that infuriated me the most was when she threw a tantrum and my husband left my side to pacify her. It took almost thirty minutes to get her out of her sour mood. This happened again and again. In my mind I screamed,
‘Please can someone tell me what’s going on here!’
The day I left the sitting room because I couldn’t stand the drama, my mother-in-law lashed out at me.
‘How can you walk out on us like that? Are you jealous that I’m spending time with my son?
I’ve had to ask myself if the woman was fit mentally. I thought she needed to see a therapist or get her mental health checked. Her behavior was just so weird.
It seemed like there were two wives in the house. She’d sit with my husband, talking ceaselessly about how she had to raise him alone and when they start to laugh about memories in his childhood, she’d look my way to see my reaction. I was always pissed and at such times I was content surfing the net with no direction in mind.
My husband’s presence started to irritate me. We had less of sex because I couldn’t bear to have him touch me. I thought he was too weak and didn’t know how to take charge of his home. I got angrier every time I visited my best friend. Grace’s husband was the kind of man I’d always wanted.
Firm. Loving. Smart. Disciplined.
I thought my husband had no stamina. How can a man not stand by his decisions? Why would he have to consult his mother before taking major steps that concerned our family?
I started to wonder why I had not noticed his clinginess to his mother while we courted.
Several times I went back to the past wondering where I’d missed it. I remembered that Seyi always talked about his mother. ‘My mum said this,’ my mum said that.’ I had thought he was just fond of the woman. Besides I was very close to my mother before she died and it just didn’t click that there was something more I should have observed.
‘Why does your mum have to stay with us every weekend?’ I had said to my husband few months after our wedding. I didn’t understand why the woman wouldn’t give us breathing space.
But my husband was stubborn as usual. ‘She misses me. You know, she is my mother. I’m all she has.’
When all my pleas to get the woman to stay away from our lives fell on deaf ears, I just gave up trying. When he refused to take any of my advice because his mum didn’t like my idea, I didn’t complain. When he forwarded our monthly expenses to her, I kept quiet. When I pleaded with him not to get another car yet so we can buy a land and start building our house, he went ahead to get it anyway because his mum said he should.
Franca, I literally gave up on my marriage. Whenever my mother-in-law came to the house, I just stayed in the room, listening to songs on my phone or Jesus and Jollof rice podcast.
‘Hey sweetheart, why are you staying alone in the room?’ My husband would ask. ‘Join us in the living room’
‘I’m fine here, I need to rest.’
‘Come on, it’s family time.’
You and who is having family time. ‘I want to rest please.’
‘Mum insists I call you.’
‘Go back and tell her that I’m resting!’ Seyi would be so vexed that we’d get into a hot argument the following morning.
‘I don’t know why you don’t like my mother. When you married me, you married her too.’
I’d stare at him, boiling in anger. ‘Really? I don’t get it Seyi. Do you really love me? If you should choose between me and your mother, who’d go first? Answer me?’
‘What kind of stupid question is that? I’m just saying, be the good wife. Be nice to your mother-in-law. Is that too much to ask? She raised me alone in case you’ve forgotten. Several times, she had to sell her personal belongings just so I could get a better life. I am everything she has.’
Franca, I tried many times to salvage what was left of our marriage but it just seemed my efforts were not yielding results.
We went on a date once and we were really having a beautiful time together when the woman called and asked him to come over. My husband didn’t even think about how I felt. He was up on his feet before I’d say jack.
I felt choked Franca. Just two years into my marriage and I was already feeling stressed out. One time, when we were cuddled up in bed, I pleaded with him not to pick her call but he refused.
‘Sweetheart, I have never rejected my mother’s call. It’s abominable to do such.’
My hope dampened. The last time I had such beautiful conversation in bed with my husband was when I had a miscarriage. His mother had travelled to the village around that time and my husband had taken a week leave just to be with me. I had to seize his phone because the woman would not stop calling him.
Seyi jumped out of bed and hurriedly wore his pants. ‘Mum has fever. We need to go see her now.’
We got to her house and there was my dear mother-in-law looking hale and hearty, at least in my own estimation.
I was the errand girl that evening, while mother and son chatted in the living room.
‘Ehn! Bisola, there is vegetable in the kitchen. Would you be nice to prepare it for me?
‘My daughter, the woman that washed my clothes forgot to fold them. They are in my bedroom. Can you help me out?’
‘You know I’m getting old and it’s difficult getting down on my knees to scrub the floor. Would you mind cleaning my bathroom. You’ll find a brush and detergent behind the door.’
‘I’m sorry dear, there is just one more task left. Help me pick the beans in the store. When you are done, you can turn them into the empty paint buckets in the veranda. Thank you my daughter.’
Seyi sat there, unmoved. By the time we left her house, it was almost midnight. I was boiling with anger all through the ride home. I felt like slapping my husband when he started to talk about some of the funny things his mother had said.
‘Will you just shut up and drive! I don’t want to hear anything about your mother okay?’
The tiny thread that held our marriage together finally gave way. One afternoon, I came out of my home office, excited about an online facilitation program that had gone so well. I heard movements in my kitchen. At first I panicked. There was no way my husband could be back at that time. I also remembered that I had locked the entrance door.
I peeped into the kitchen. My mother-in-law was sitting on the kitchen stool, turning amala with a stick.
What! Seyi gave his mother a key to our house?
The woman raised her head and hissed. ‘You are such a lazy woman. You are always at home and yet you can’t take lunch to your husband at his place of work. You just lock yourself up in that room, sleeping. What kind of foolish woman are you? Get a job and stop living off my son!’
I didn’t know when I lashed out at her. ‘If you know how much I make in that room in a month, even your son in three years cannot earn half of it. How much does your son contribute to this family? His annual income is not up to half of what I spend on some projects. That we deliberately leave some information out in this family does not mean we are not aware of who calls the shots here!’
The moment those words came out, I regretted them. The woman stared at me, shocked.
I wished I could take back those words but it was too late. She was going to spill every word of it to my husband.
Of course she did. Seyi returned from work later that evening, angry.
‘You didn’t have to throw that in my face. How much do I contribute to this family? You really said that?’
His face was full of pain. A part of me wanted to apologize but another part didn’t want to budge. Seyi hurt me. He put his mother before me. Well, I thought of playing the peaceful party and apologized.
‘I’m sorry I said that. I was just angry. Your mum…’
‘Don’t bring my mum into this! Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks! You know what? I’m not in support of your business and I want you to stop it.
I laughed hard. ‘Are you out of your mind? I don’t care who you are. I’m not going to descend to your level of foolishness. Maybe when you are calm and you can think properly, we can talk. Right now, you are not thinking straight!’
‘Are you talking to me like that? I am your husband.’
‘So what? A husband supports his wife! A real husband will not allow his mother come between him and his wife. A real husband is not weak. He has the courage and wisdom to know where his mother belongs and the place of his wife. A good Christian man loves his wife like Christ loves the church! Besides, this marriage is not even working anymore. I think we should just go our different ways.’
My hands trembled as I spoke and tears were running down my face. The door opened just then and my mother-in-law strolled in, tearing at a piece of chicken.
‘Omo mi, don’t let this troublesome woman give you a headache. Dinner is ready. Come and eat.’ She held his hand and pulled him out of the room.
It was time to get away from the witch and her son before they drove me insane. With my eyes blurred by tears, I threw some of my belongings into a small box. All I kept thinking of was ‘Get a divorce! Be free from this stress.’ The more I thought about it, the more I badly wanted one.
When I stepped out of the house, two of my neighbours were standing beside my car, talking. They stopped when they saw me.
‘Mrs Aina, I’m sorry to intrude but I have watched how terribly your husband treats you. Please get a divorce and be free! We can’t allow men control us. My husband knows. If he tries anything funny, I’m getting a divorce right away.’
‘Exactly!’ The second woman said. ‘If you need a lawyer, I am here. That man should marry his mother!’
‘Take your time and think very well about this. Your peace is paramount here. You have our numbers, you can always reach us.
I thanked the women and got into my car. As I drove to the hotel, I pondered on their words but I was more upset that my husband had not run after me to stop me from leaving. He had sat there at the dining, staring as I pulled my box out of the house.
The tears were back. ‘Oh God, don’t leave me alone. Please.’
I wished my mother was alive. She’d know what to do. How I miss her. It made the pain unbearable.
‘Jesus, help me.’
Call Grace and Funke
Immediately I heard that in my spirit, I felt a resistance.
Why should I call them? My friends were always too spiritual about everything. It was the reason I didn’t tell them any of the issues I‘ve been having with my marriage. Even though Funke is my business partner, this was a different ball game. Besides, she was single and yet to be in a relationship.
When the nudge wouldn’t go away. I did. I told them I was done with my marriage and I couldn’t cope anymore. Nothing they’d say would change my mind.
‘Where are you?’ Funke asked.
‘On my way to Nesam hotel. I’ll just stay there for some days and figure out what next to do with my life.’
Funke came to the hotel. Grace couldn’t make it so we reached out to her through a video call.
‘So first of all, let’s take divorce, squeeze it and throw it into the trash can, right?’ Grace started.
I was teary again. ‘You guys don’t-’
Funke raised her hand. ‘Right now, we are just going to access the wisdom of the Holy Spirit on this matter. Let’s just pray and hear what he has to say.’
‘Thanks for your suggestions, but I don’t feel like praying! I just want to be alone to think. I’m not in the mood for all these spiritual stuff.’
Grace smiled. ‘When did being in the mood become a criteria for conversations with the Holy Spirit? We are praying together. Just give us one hour. You don’t have to say anything yet and we are not going to impose anything on you. At the end of the day, it’s still your call to make.’
I stayed on the floor crying while my friends prayed. Your presence is heaven to me by Israel Houghton played in the background.
Treasure of my heart and of my soul
In my weakness you are merciful
Redeemer of my past and present wrongs
Holder of my future days to come..
Your presence is heaven to me….
That song tore at my heart. I stayed on the floor, feeling the warmth of God’s arms around me.
So we sing
Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus.
Your presence is heaven to me.
My tongue turned loose. I knelt with my head on the floor, praying in the spirit. I was lost in prayers. I didn’t know when I started praying for my husband. It was something I’d not done in a long time.
It was right there I heard the instruction.
Pack your things, check out of the hotel and return home. Hand over your business to Funke and do whatever your husband wants.
Did I just hear well? ‘Lord, this is not fair! What will I be doing at home? I’ll be dead bored.’
I looked at my friends, the tears still pouring down my face.
‘What’s up?’ Funke asked.
‘I’m supposed to go back home.’ I said as I wiped my tears.
‘I sensed that too.’ Grace said. ‘Seyi is God’s son. God knows how to reach him. Right now, just take whatever step the Holy Spirit is directing you to take. Let’s just trust Him.’
Funke turned to me. ‘And as for your mother-in-law, Bisola, there is just one instruction I’m hearing God say.’
I laughed. I already knew what God wanted me to do. ‘Walk in love.’
I returned home that night. My mother-in-law was alone in the living room, watching a movie on Africa Magic. When I walked through the door, she glared at me.
‘What do you want here?’
Surprisingly, I was very calm. I went on my knees. ‘Mummy, I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you the other time. In any way I have offended you, please forgive me.’
Her anger turned to surprise. She opened her mouth to say something but faced the TV instead. I got up and went into the room.
Seyi was sitting on the floor, his hands folded on his chest. He didn’t know when I entered.
‘Bisola.’ He jumped to his feet and ran to hug me. He held me tight and I could hear his heart pounding.
‘Oh!’ He touched my cheeks tenderly. ‘How did things get this bad?’
‘I’m sorry for those words I said about you to your mum. I wish I could take those words back. Please forgive me. You are the most important person in the world to me and you are hardworking and you do your best to provide for this family. I’ve asked Funke to take over the business since you don’t want me to run it again. I’ll just focus on the online courses you suggested to me. I’ll read books and-‘
Seyi didn’t allow me finish before planting a kiss on my lips. He kissed me so passionately that I had to pull away to catch a breath.
‘How could I have asked you to shut down a business that means so much to you? What was I even thinking?’
‘It’s our business, you know that right?’ I said.
He laughed. ‘Sure.’
I wrapped my hands around my husband’s neck and buried my head in his chest. When last did we have a moment like this?
He whispered into my ear. ‘Let’s just go somewhere quiet. A hotel or somewhere. There’s so much we need to talk about.’
‘Yes!’ I raised my head and gazed into his eyes. I told him I had paid for three nights at Nesam hotel.
‘Help me pack.’ He said and reached for a travelling bag. As I folded his clothes into the bag, he told me how he’d frozen with fear when I walked out of the house with my box. I said I thought he’d come after me to stop me and he laughed and said, he did but I had gone. He had been too scared to call my number.
When we stepped out of the room with our luggage, his mother looked at her son as if to say, ‘What’s going on here.’ Seyi went over to her.
‘Mum, we’ll be away for three days. We just need to figure out some things. My phone will be switched off but if there’s an emergency, you can call my best friend. Frank will help you with whatever you need.’ He kissed her on her cheek. ‘I love you mum.’
She didn’t respond. She just kept looking at us as we left the house.
Did things get better with our marriage after those nights at the hotel? Absolutely! We talked, prayed, quarreled small (lol), played.
Is he still attached to his mother? Yes, but he is making deliberate efforts to say No to her demands. We figured that spending more time together would help him keep me at the center of his heart. We structured daily calls, planned weekly dates, had family retreats every quarter and made commitments to truly listen to each other.
My mother-in-law seem to hate me. I’m learning to be patient. It’s tough sometimes but God gives me the wisdom I need to relate with her. We also opened a grocery store for her beside some of her retiree colleagues. That has been the best decision we made. The distraction is a blessing.
Now that I’m pregnant, Seyi has a handy excuse for her demands.
‘Mummy, my wife is pregnant. I love you but I need to be with her.’
Guess what Franca, last week, my husband was transferred to Enugu to head a department in the branch of the company where he works. I’m so happy! I was relieved when his mum said she disliked the East and won’t be coming with us. I’ve been jumping around in excitement and my husband has been laughing at my funny dance styles. We’ll be leaving this weekend and I feel free already.
Well, I’m just glad I didn’t listen to my flesh. Every day, I am learning that in Christ is the treasures of all wisdom and the wisdom for a blissful marital relationship with my husband is not an exception.
Read also: To love and to hold