Our maid is really nice. (I only refer to her as a “maid” because that’s the word my husband uses. My Chicago sisters make great fun of me for this, especially since they happened to catch a photo of her dressed in an Alice-from-The-Brady-Bunch uniform, that my mother-in-law made me buy for her.)
We get along great. I’ve never seen her sit down. She stays with my daughter when I need her to. Sure, she’s not a great cook, but she’s getting better and I really shouldn’t eat as much as I do anyway. In exchange, I let her do her job. Everything runs quite nicely.
But when my Brazilian mother-in-law comes to stay it’s a different story. There is constant conversation about how things should get done. Most of it I’m still not able to translate. She made our maid cry on more than one occasion. She driven our maid to try and quit. On the days that my mother-in-law is set to arrive, I’ve noticed our maid comes in late. I suspect it’s because she struggles to pull herself out of bed on those days, knowing what she’s in for.
This is not an uncommon situation. I’ve seen other Brazilian mother-in-laws go after the help. I’ve heard stories of maid and nannies quitting because they couldn’t take the mother-in-law. But what is the driving force around this phenomenon?
It may be a version of your typical American story. The mother-in-law comes to stay and rearranges the cabinets, rearranges the furniture, disinfects the bathrooms and rewashes all the children’s clothes. (In the U.S., my mother-in-law actually did rearrange the cabinets when she came to stay with us for an extended period, but I was working full-time with a new baby so I didn’t care because she also set the table.)
I get that our elders believe they can do it better, because those wrinkles should pay for something. But I thought the fun of it was to make your son’s misguided spouse selection be the target of criticism. Why take it out on the people who break their backs for next to nothing?
I’ve confronted my mother-in-law on the issue. I flat out told her not to even talk to our maid, and if she needs something to tell me. But because language is my disadvantage, and my mother-in-law has not conformed to my requests, we are back to square one.
The situation has only made me dread my mother-in-law’s arrival. Because when it comes down to it, I’m backing the one who takes care of us all day long, not the one who comes to cause trouble.