The mother-in-law circled a gesture of hospitality around herself. “Come on in, Claire. Make yourself at home,” quietly laughed her daughter Sophie, standing next to her. Claire humbly smiled and followed James to his room. Her husband closed the door behind them, hugged the girl, and smiled. “Here, Claire, you and I are finally a family.” Claire, trusting her husband, leaned on her. “Don’t sleep late tomorrow, Claire,” her mother-in-law told her at dinner.
“You’ll help me make breakfast. We have a big family, of course.” Ava, the girl, softly smiled. Her husband’s family was indeed big—four brothers and a sister. To tell the truth, the oldest brother was already married and lived separately, and the youngest was in the Army. James was the second oldest.
Fortunately, James’s dad built a big house for his family before leaving this world, and there was enough space for everyone. Every family member had their own large room. Of course, when Claire and James decided to get married, there were no questions about their accommodation. “Let’s live with us for now,” said James. “The house is big, there is enough space for everyone, and you won’t be bored while I’m at work.”
James worked in team shifts at the wood processing factory that was located five kilometers away from the township. The salary was good, and that’s why they decided that Claire would not be working and would dedicate herself to creating comfort and coziness in their small family. Their decision was supported by James’s mother.
“Of course, Claire, the wife’s purpose is to take care of her husband, so there would be a hot, delicious dinner waiting for him, a clean house, and a loving wife. And he would provide financially,” Claire then thought about how nice her mother-in-law was going to be. “I had to work my whole life myself and look after the house and bring the kids up.”
In the morning, Claire woke up early, as she promised, and helped Ava make breakfast. Then, after farewelling her husband to work, she did the dishes after everyone and went to her room. She had to make her bed, clean up, and sort out her clothes. Claire, the mother-in-law, came into the room without knocking.
“When you’re done here, clean the other rooms as well. Clean up and then start making lunch when Sophie comes back from school. I want her to eat some hot soup right away because what kind of food is there in her school? Just the snacks. It ruins her,” Claire was surprised by that request but didn’t say anything. After that, she realized that she should not sit all day not doing anything, and she should help Ava. After all, she was the mother of her loved ones as well as her own.
And it went on like this. In the morning, Claire would be the first one to wake up and make breakfast. Then, after farewelling everybody to the doors, she would go to do the cleaning, the cooking, the laundry, and the ironing. Ava would only give her orders on what to do. “Claire, did you get the laundry? Here, take Sophie’s and the boys’ bed sheets as well,” and she would throw a large pile of bed sheets at the girl.
When Claire decided to use the automatic washing machine for the first time, Ava put her chest up to protect the device. “What’s up with you? This thing is so expensive. We only use it for specific clothes. Moreover, you need to save the electricity, and it doesn’t wash properly. It’s more reliable to do it with your hands. It is not scary. I have washed with my hands for my entire life, and I am not even a bit tired of it.”
“Claire, clean Leon’s. He apparently ate in his room again yesterday. There are crumbs everywhere. And wash Noah’s work uniform. It’s been two weeks since he’s worn it unwashed. So up Leon’s pants, bleach Sophie’s blouse, and get Noah ready for a meeting.” Claire was circling like a squirrel in the wheel all day, serving her big new family. Ava wouldn’t help her with anything. She would go out after giving out the orders and talk to the neighbors all day.
After a few months of living like this, Claire wasn’t happy that she agreed to live with her mother-in-law. “It’s better to live in the storage room or in the dorm than like this,” the girl sadly thought. But she couldn’t risk complaining to her husband. James still noticed that there was something wrong with his wife.
She lost weight, got paler and skinnier. She would perform her spouse’s responsibilities unwillingly, preferring to fall asleep right away. “What’s going on, Claire?” he tried to get the girl to talk to him, but she would only shake her head and answer, “Everything is okay. I’m just getting used to my new family life.”
Claire’s silence was also impacted by Ava’s perspective that the house chores did not have anything difficult about them compared to the past. As women would be responsible for the whole household, and it was a sin to complain about this part of your married life. “If your husband doesn’t drink, doesn’t fight, and brings the money home…”
One time, an accident could take place at the factory, and James was sent home early. He was glad that he could spend more time with his wife. The man went to the store and bought a cake and a bottle of champagne, and he walked home all happily, whistling. He was greatly surprised when he didn’t see his wife at home. “And where is Claire?” he asked his mother, standing next to the fence.
“Well, she’s probably at the river,” she waved her hand. “Did she go for a walk?” James thought and went to the river as well. He found Claire on a raft. The girl was rinsing the linen, and there were two huge bowls with the linen next to her. “Claire!” he exclaimed. “What does all that mean? Did we collect so much dirty linen? But even so, why don’t you use a washing machine?” Claire got up from her knees, approached her husband, put her head on his chest, and started crying.
Worried, James hugged his wife and told her to tell him everything. Everything she had been holding inside for a few months splashed out of Claire, along with tears. “What is she? Did she go insane?” James demanded angrily. “Let’s go!” He threw the linen into the bowls, put them on a cart standing next to them, and ran to the house.
“Mother, I brought my wife to the house and not a maid for you!” he screamed when he saw Ava. “What did she complain?” Sophie had already gotten back from school and was standing next to her mother, angrily looking at Claire. “And you, James,” referred to his sister, “what do you think? You think you’re so flawless and you’ll find yourself a rich man who was going to hire a maid for you? You can’t wash your pants yourself.”
“And what are you angry about, my son?” Ava countered calmly. “It’s been like this my entire life. The wife must take care of her husband and his family since she has entered his house. What’s so special here?” “What is special is that it’s not the 17th century anymore, and I don’t want my wife to ruin her health while slouching to serve my lazy relatives. And why don’t you let her use the washing machine?
Do you even know how much electricity it uses? And, by the way, I’m the one paying for it.” The argument turned out to be loud. James’s brothers, who came back from work, joined it. No one wanted to lose a maid, so that’s why everyone picked their mother’s side. But James was unstoppable. “My wife is not going to work for you any longer. Fortunately, dad separated this house from everyone. I have my part in it. That’s why Claire and I will have our own household.” James said as he hugged his wife and led her to their room.
“If they hurt you again in any way, tell me right away. Do we have a deal?” Claire said cheerfully. But the girl could not breathe out with ease. She was freed from the house chores, but the constant blaming, humiliation, and mocking had started. She didn’t wash the dishes correctly, she didn’t put them down correctly, she didn’t clean properly after herself at the commonly used places, and she was still not allowed to use the washing machine.
“This is our machine,” said the mother-in-law angrily, biting her lips. “You disconnected from our family, then don’t use our things. Be thankful that we let you use our dishes.” Claire wasn’t upset. The hand washing for two people was still better than for six. However, her calmness only made them angrier.
One time when the girl was carrying a bowl with washed linens to hang them out in the backyard, Sophie tripped her as she did not mean it. Claire lost her balance and fell down from the porch. The pile of wet linen dropped from the bowl right on top of her. The girl fainted after feeling a horrible pain at the bottom of her stomach.
She woke up already in the hospital. James, who had turned gray, was sitting next to her. “What’s up with me?” whispered Claire. “Everything is fine now,” the husband said, his voice trembling. “Just one thing…” “What?” The girl got scared. “Claire, we lost our baby. But don’t worry, the doctor said we’ll still have children.” James leaned in and hugged his wife.
The couple went to their rented apartment after the hospital. Soon, Claire got a job at a local library, but she only worked there for a short period of time. A new calm and happy married life had arrived. Claire got pregnant at the planned time. James and Claire had their first baby, happy, and James started building a house.
By the time their daughter was born, the family had moved into their own home. But only using some common phrases, James and Claire kept in touch with the mother, the sister, and the brothers. The birth of the grandchildren didn’t soften Ava at all. The woman wasn’t aiming to nanny them. She was always confident that she was right with her treatment of her fiance. Claire wasn’t hurt by her mother-in-law’s treatment. She had enough help from her parents and enough care and love from her husband.
This story is based on real events and was told to the author by her close acquaintance. Thank her for sharing. In real life, it was even worse. The couple, James and Claire, were together for 45 years. They had four children who became successful people.
Unfortunately, James has passed away, and Claire is still doting on 12 wonderful grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Dear friends, if you like this story, give us a thumbs up and leave a comment. Subscribe to our channel—that means a lot for me. I’ll see you in the next chapter.