Living on my own was just what I needed. It gave me space to think through my thoughts and the satisfaction that I had carried through – my words were serious and my feelings mattered.
It also gave me much needed alone time with my son, away from the constant commentary of my mother-in-law and eyes of judgement. I could be happy again and I could make it happen.
I know my husband was angry and distraught. But he had never taken my complaints or my tears seriously, and thought marriage was something that just existed after a wedding, not ready to put in any work or make the necessary sacrifices to have a family. I did think about him, but only for fleeting moments, before I went back to feeling free.
I was really determined that my husband would spend as much time as possible with his son. I could see that he missed him. That didn’t feel good. Fortunately my son was still small enough that he was happy wherever mummy was, and comfortable enough with his Nainai that the drop off every day was uneventful. It felt so good to pick him up in the afternoon and then have him all to myself. Weekends were much better too. My husband made more of an effort to spend time with us as family of three.
In fact all time away from my mother-in-law was wonderful and I gradually realised how much of a role that had played in my unhappiness. It wasn’t just that her being around had impacted on my parenting. I found that a (Chinese) man living with his mother is not the best version of himself. He becomes lazy, demanding and self-centered. She is not a bad person, and I know she is a product of the tough times she grew up in and conformist society she has always lived in. But living with her was very harmful, especially in such a small Chinese apartment. The cultural differences between us are painful.
We were apart for 4 months, but only really ‘on a break’ for two of those. There was still a lot of love left there and I realised I still had more to give in terms of working on my marriage. My husband needs a lot of work, but I want to help him, to be a better dad and a better husband. With his mother away, I believe he can do this and I have faith in him.
Going back wasn’t difficult. Both my husband and mother-in-law wanted us back. Our little boy was happy to have everyone around him at the same time. And we made a plan to adjust our living arrangements, which made me happy.
There’s much work to be done still, but I don’t regret any of it. I know I hurt my husband, but I couldn’t have gone on hurting like that much longer. When I see my husband and son together, I know I made the right decision to come back. It moves me, and we have so much to look forward to — the three (and soon to be four) of us. But for my sanity and our marriage, my mother-in-law can only play a small supporting role.