Monday, October 31, 2005


Pentheraphobia is fear of mother-in-law. The symptoms: breathlessness, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, shaking, heart palpitations, inability to speak or think clearly, a fear of dying, becoming mad or losing control, a sensation of detachment from reality or a full blown anxiety attack.

Most sufferers are surprised to learn that they are far from alone in this surprisingly common, although often unspoken, phobia. Pentheraphobia is an intense fear of something that poses no actual danger. While adults with Pentheraphobia realize that these fears are irrational, they often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety.

Like all fears and phobias, pentheraphobia is created by the unconscious mind as a protective mechanism. At some point in your past, there was likely an event linking mother-in-law and emotional trauma. Whilst the original catalyst may have been a real-life scare of some kind, the condition can also be triggered by myriad, benign events like movies, TV, or perhaps seeing someone else experience trauma.

But so long as the negative association is powerful enough, the unconscious mind thinks: "Ahh, this whole thing is very dangerous. How do I keep myself from getting in this kind of situation again? I know, I'll attach terrible feelings to mother-in-law, that way I'll steer clear in future and so be safe." Just like that pentheraphobia is born. Attaching emotions to situations is one of the primary ways that humans learn.

Sometimes we just get the wiring wrong.The actual phobia manifests itself in different ways. Some sufferers experience it almost all the time, others just in response to direct stimuli. Everyone has their own unique formula for when and how to feel bad.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Still an out-law?

Is the New Age mom-in law in tune with the changing times? Jessina Aboobacker assesses the infamous 'saas-bahu' relationship.

WINSOME TWOSOME: A relationship that has stood the test of changing times.

WITH JOINT households giving way to nuclear families, the mother-in-law, daughter-in-law friction points have reduced to almost nil. But the mother-in-law continues to be a bogeyman for new brides. A most infamous of relationships, it is often said that "If broken by mother-in-law, its an earthen pot, if by daughter-in-law, it's a golden vessel." Why does the very utterance of the word "Mother-in-Law" bring a scowl on every unattached and married woman's face? This notorious rapport has been written down in history as a one of reciprocal abhorrence. Even the media is lending a helping hand, by portraying episodes on the sliver screen that further promotes the deterioration of the relationship.


The wedding jitters and glitters have drawn to a close, and all the reminiscence are neatly assembled in your wedding folder; the honeymoon has been meandered through and the number of visits and parties are slowly diminishing. Now, its time to get into the serious business of accepting, and being accepted into the connubial family. " Before I was married I was advised by all and sundry to ingratiate myself with all the members of the in-laws amicably. Everybody had a spoonful of advice to contribute to my conjugal dish. But I was bedevilled with internal conflicts when faced with reality and the answer to it was millennia away. Each family is different. We should unearth our own solutions to tackle the circumstances," says Geetha Manoj, a bank official.

The onus of this fragile assignment is primarily positioned on the shoulder of the daughter-in-law, to make the silky transition from her biological family to her nuptial family. And she is ever enthusiastic to make this smooth conversion in a harmonious manner, than all her other current and former acquaintances. But this glossy operation is tedious exclusive of apposite support. "Paradoxical as it may sound, his family is always his. Do not try to trade it for yours. Be yourself and try to bust the `ideal daughter-in-law' image. It's your marriage that should be the epicentre of your life; all the other relationships will follow. But this job will be deficient without the aid of all the family members," advises Gopinathan, a counsellor.

Kitchen mystique

Women consider themselves the sovereign of the kitchen. "Relationship administration, in a joint family revolves around understanding, what in management jargons are called decontrolled and empowerments. The aptitude to acknowledge the reality as a changed circumstance, and the ability to become accustomed to this change, is the triumphant anecdote of decontrol."

Says Saradha Menon, a retired professor and mother-in-law of Geetha Manoj. " Giving away is painful, be it the love of your son or the household responsibilities. But we ought to give away, make this sacrifice gradually and whole heartedly to maintain family truce." She adds.


Tolerance is the only tonic for this infection. There is difference in generation and this fact has to be acknowledged by both the generations in question. It may not be easy for the mother-in-law to recognise a non-interventionist member from the current generation, who has her own liberal views on various aspects of life. Similarly, it may not be easy for the daughter-in-law to accept a conservative and opinionated member from the older generation. "It is here that the two generations should strike a tactful balance. Both the people can take a couple of steps forward or backward and meet at a common platform. This could crack a lot of marital discord for the couple as well." Says Mr. Gopinath.

Give and take

Every relationship thrives on this beam balance of give and take. Give more than you take and take only as much as you give. Do not pin too much expectations, as each is an individual and they have limitations. Try to make a smooth sailing in the troubled waters of marriage. " The first question my friends in college threw on me after my marriage was - how is the mother-in-law? By that time we did not even get a chance to talk to each other in length. I think we ought to communicate all our thoughts to our mothers- in-law as we do to our mothers and then we'll find them opening up

to us as they do to their daughters. This could also begin from the other end if you are fortunate enough." Says Dr. Shijeena Ahmed.

Vicious cycle

"Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are like the tempest and the hailstorm", goes another maxim. This relationship is like any other relationship and needs maintenance. But due to the hype imparted to this relationship it is always misunderstood as a step motherly one. Todays daughter-in-law is tomorrows mother-in-law. History will repeat. But this bitterness should be done away with. That is why a day of the year, October 24, is dedicated as Mother-in-law's day. " I was not aware that such a day existed until my friend told me. This mother-in-law's day I have decided to treat my mother-in-law at the most unsurpassed restaurant in the city, just the two of us, to commemorate our relationship. Without her support and timely helping hands I would still be a novice in the game of marriage," says an overwhelmed Ms. Aarthy Kumar.

The balancing act

The men in the family can play an important role in this relationship. " When I become a father-in-law and my wife a mother-in-law, we will very willingly give the reigns of the household to the next generation and lead a very peaceful and carefree retired life. This way we can live in a happy ambiance. I have saved for my retired life so I will not burden my son with the responsibility of taking care of us, " says Mr. Jacob, a bank employee. So, do not leave a gap for trouble to be sandwiched between relationships. Fill the gap, and play a fair game in the name of love. More hard work after a hard day's work!


Segala sesuatu tentang mertua memang nikmat diceritakan. Kita bisa terbahak-bahak saat menceritakan peristiwa yang telah lewat. Namun tangisan darah bisa pula terjadi saat kita mengalaminya.

Di Indonesia dengan budaya keluarga-besarnya, menantu-mertua merupakan persoalan klasik. Tanpa menyerang kaum feminis, persoalan klasik ini lebih jamak terjadi diantara jenis kelamin perempuan: menantu perempuan 'melawan' mertua perempuan. Lihat saja sinetron-sinetron televisi kita, sajian 'pertandingan' mertua-menantu ini bisa jadi berbelas-belas episode tanpa berkesudahan.

Ruang konsultasi di koran dan majalah pun tak jarang disinggahi topik menarik ini: masalah antara mertua-menantu perempuan. Jawabannya nyaris sama, bagai paduan suara dengan satu dirigen: kalau anda menikahi suami anda, anda juga menikahi keluarga besarnya.
Kartun-kartun dan 'joke' orang bule lain lagi ceritanya. Yang lebih ngetop adalah menggali hubungan antara mertua perempuan dengan menantu laki-lakinya. Entah apakah ada kajian kultural-historis mengenai hal ini.

Heran yang kedua, (hampir) tidak ada mertua yang menyampaikan keluhan ke ruang konsultasi mengenai menantunya. Apa ini tanda-tanda bahwa masalah mertua-menantu hanya dialami sang menantu, sementara mertua sih oke-oke saja? Siapa tahu ada yang tertarik meneliti hal ini. Bukannya urusan konflik selalul melibatkan dua belah pihak? Kok ada konflik yang hanya dialami satu pihak?
Pendek kata, membicarakan dan menganalisa perilaku mertua memang nikmat, dimana saja dilakukan.

Mitos Keabadian Ibu

Oleh: Karlina Supelli (Majalah Pesona, November 2005)

Betapapun ingin melindungi, seorang ibu tidak pernah bisa memilihkan bagi anak-anaknya sebuah dunia siap-jadi untuk dinikmati.

.... Setiap ibu bercita-cita melahirkan pahlawan budiman cendekia. Hanya saja masa depan bisa jadi berisi cerita Calon Arang. Ibu yang dikhianati putrinya yang jelita Ratna Manggali, tetapi tergoda cinta suami; namun yang kemudian memungkinkan si ibu menjalani penyucian dosa. Atau menghadirkan Malin Kundang yang pulang kampung ingin pamer keseksesan; karena risih memiliki ibu renta dan sengsara malah lalu memperoleh kutukan.

Kita tidak tahu. Masa depan tidak pernah ada sebelum kita tiba di sana. Boleh jadi ini pula alasan orangtua tidak berhenti menasehati. "Berdoalah untuk anak-anakmu". Dan kita tidak bisa lain kecuali tidak letih berharap, semogalah "Gusti Allah tidak tidur," dan mendengarkan doa manusia (Ungkapan sederhana "Gusti Allah ora sare" merupakan pernyataan keyakinan kuat orang Jawa bahwa TUhan tidak pernah tinggal diam menghadapi apapun polah tindak manusia.

Doa tentu tidak cukup. Ibu punya karya betapapun itu tinggal masa lalu yang ia rawat dalam ingatan. Ingatan menatih anak berjalan pertama kali, mengajari mereka berdiri di atas kaki mungil mereka sendiri, bukan dengan tubuh menghada ke ibu, melainkan membelakangi. Mengajarkan seorang anak kecil berjalan dengan membimbingnya dari belakang bukan semata perkara melatih teknik melangkah. Upacara 'turun tanah' yang lazim dirayakan di beberapa daerah Indonesia sarat makna. Itulah saat simbolik ibu melepas anak dari gendongan untuk menghadapkannya ke dunia terbuka. Bisa jadi anak hanya tegak berdiri lalu membalik ke pelukan ibu. Bisa juga ia melangkah tetapi terjerembab. Ia berdiri lagi, terjatuh lagi, lalu berlari.

Ibu semata membuka ruang kemungkinan berisi keragaman yang sebagian besar tidak pernah ia sendiri dapatkan. Betapapun ingin melindungi, tidak pernah seorang ibu bisa memilihkan bagi anak-anaknya sebuah dunia siap-jadi untuk dinikmati. Mereka bukan tawanan masa depan sang ibu. Mereka merajut benang mimpi ke dalam ruang waktu mereka sendiri....

... Para ibu khawatir ingatan anak-anak terhadap mereka tidak sekuat harapan mereka. Anak-anak gelisah karena tidak mengerti tuntutan dan tindakan ibu, sementara sadar bahwa mereka akan terus mengecewakan ibu. Betapapun akrab mereka menjalin persahabatan, betapapun berbagi kisah cinta dan teman, selalu ada kemarahan tersimpan. Selalu tersisa salah paham antara apa yang ibu rasa merupakan kewajiban, dan yang anak harap dalam kebutuhan. Ketika mengintip buku harian merupakan pelanggaran terbesar yang dilakukan ibu terhadap kerahasiaan pribadi anak, bagi ibu boleh jadi ini ibarat semata menyiapkan masakan yang layak.

'Perpisahan' ibu dan anak merupakan ritual yang ditunggu bersama. Ada sorak tetapi juga awan kecemasan yang menggantung dalam masing-masing benak. Ketika anak demikian menyita perhatian, ibu terengah. "Kapan mereka bisa mengerjakan sendiri semuanya?" Ketika saatnya tiba, ia gelisah. Masihkah ibu punya kontrol atas dunia apapun yang dimasuki anak sesudah perpisahan? Ia ingin anaknya bahagia. Ketika anak menikah, ia resah. Entah karena seorang perempuan lain kini mengambil alih hampir semua fungsi yang ia pernah jalani; entah karena seorang laki-laki 'asing' kini memandu hidup putrinya. Ketika cucu lahir, nenek ingin segera melompati pagar sebuah kawasan yang sesungguhnya hanya boleh ia masuki dengan mengetuk pintu terlebih dahulu.

Anak-anak tidak berbeda. "Kapan aku cukup dewasa untuk bisa pergi dari rumah? Kapan aku punya kontrol sendiri atas hidupku?" Seraya mengucapkan selamat tinggal kepada ibu, mereka diam-diam menyimpan harapan. Ibu bahagia kala harapan menjadi kenyataan. Sekalipun itu mungkin hanya ketika anak sedang amat berduka atau sedang sangat bergembira. Selebihnya adalah kawasan yang tidak lagi bersentuhan melalui indera kecuali sesekali. Tentu bukan perkara abai, melainkan kegagapan berkeluarga atau bekerja seperti yang juga mungkin pernah ibu alami.

Di tengah keletihan menjalankan fungsi ibu, diam-diam ia impikan kebebasan..... Tetapi tidak mudah mencintai kebebasan. "Sejak mereka lahir, aku berjerih payah mempersiapkan anak-anakku untuk bisa hidup mandiri, untuk bisa hidup tanpa aku, ibunya. Saat itu sudah tiba... diam-diam kita meratapi kemandirian mereka. Diam-diam kita berharap mereka selalu bisa kita rayu dengan kidung agar mau kembali ke pangguan untuk terlelap sebentar, seperti kala leh=lah bermain ketika mereka masih bocah.

Bagaimanapun anak-anak adalah daya hidup itu sendiri. Ketika kehidupan akhirnya meminta mereka, ibu jatuh dari mitos keabadian Sang Ibu. Ia semata penghubung garis kehidupan dan tiba masa kehidupan berlanjut, dengan atau tanpa dia.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The mom-in-law myth

Can you love your man's mom?

Mothers-in-law have a reputation for malevolence that they don't deserve, says Catherine Eden, who would like to improve their image before she joins their ranks.

Read any fairy tale and you'll come across a clutch of classic archetypes: the beautiful princess, the handsome prince, the evil sorcerer, the fairy godmother, the knight in shining armour...each of them a blueprint for stereotypes that play out to this day.

The ‘mother-in-law-from-hell', like the cruel stepmother, is a variation of the wicked witch archetype. The mythical mother-in-law is critical, meddlesome and demanding; she finds fault with your cooking and disapproves of the way you discipline your children. She's the butt of silly jokes, the reason for almost compulsory eye-rolling, and her mere existence provides ammunition for that stinging insult in the heat of matrimonial battle: ‘You're just like your @#* mother!' 'Oh really? And what's wrong with my mother? She's a whole lot better than your @#* mother!'

Mothers-in-law get dragged into squabbles, blamed for misunderstandings and accused of having all kinds of troublesome traits. How did they get such a terrible reputation? Perhaps there was a bad batch somewhere along the line. As happens with inferior wine, there must have been a generation of mothers-in-law who went off, leaving a sour reputation as their legacy.

One of the good things about the age we live in is that we are learning to recognise and release old patterns of behaviour that no longer serve us. Bad-mouthing your mother-in-law, just because she is one, is one of the habits that must go. After all, she didn't choose the role. You foisted the title upon her the moment you picked her child to be your mate.

It would be different if you were like Asha from Delhi, who had an arranged marriage. ‘My mother-in-law was very kind and understanding,' she says. ‘She chose me for her son, so she was well disposed towards me from the start, and did everything in her power to help us make a success of our relationship.

'In traditional African culture, a bride has great respect for her mother-in-law, who welcomes the young woman into the family as if she were her own daughter.

‘You move into her house the moment you are married,' explains Nomsa, ‘so it's very important that the two of you establish a good relationship. Of course, some mothers-in-law do push their luck and expect you to take on all the domestic chores, but if you get a good one, she'll become your friend and ally, acting as a mediator when your husband is troublesome, and taking care of the babies while you go shopping!'

Later, when the female grandchildren reach puberty, it is the mother-in-law and her female relatives who take the young girls through their rites of passage and prepare them for womanhood.

In our fragmented Western society, however, there are no rules for how a mother-in-law should behave. She could be a high-powered businesswoman, a nipped and tucked aerobics instructor, or a retired nature studies teacher who can't wait to sew some tray cloths for you. It's just the luck of the draw.

If you are fair, you'll agree that it's impossible to generalise about them. I have known some saintly specimens: women who have helped out with money, time and expertise without asking for a thing in return. And I have known some mean-spirited mamas who have seen newlyweds' struggles as some sort of karmic payback for their own distant difficulties. (‘Oh, how I suffered! Don't expect any sympathy from me!') The point is, they would have been saints or sinners anyway, regardless of their status. Your mother-in-law will mutate into a monster only if you create an environment that encourages her to do so.

I confess that I wouldn't be thinking so kindly of these much maligned creatures if there wasn't a good chance that I will become one before too long. Given their current profile, I don't want the job. The label ‘mother-in-law' sounds so official, bossy and controlling. No wonder we have a preconceived vision of their ruling our households with a rod of iron.

It's time to break the mould. I'm more likely to be swimming with dolphins or ballooning over Bolivia than bullying my children and their partners into submission. I really don't mind what they do as long as they do it with conviction and as long as it makes them happy. When the time comes, I'd far rather be called a mother-in-love than a mother-in-law. After all, isn't it love that gets you the title in the first place?

It may sound mushy, but think about it: it's not as easy to moan and groan about a mother-in-love. Change one little word and you change destiny. If you start off looking for the potential beyond the myth, you may discover a person you'd really like to know.

Words by Catherine Eden
From May/June 2002 ClubCard Magazine

Sunday, October 23, 2005

M-I-L Jokes (#2)

Is it possible to kill a mother-in-law with newspaper?

-Yes, if you wrap an iron in it.

My mother-in-law was bitten by a dog yesterday.

- How is she now ?
- She's fine. But, the dog died.

Hello. Your mother-in-law fell into my pond which has some crocodiles into. - The crocodiles are yours, so you'll have to save them.

A pharmacist tell a customer.

- In order to buy arsenic you should need a legal prescription. A picture of your mother-in-law just isn't enough.

Mother to daughter.

- Your boyfriend such a jerk that I would be delighted to be his mother-in-law.

A man was standing on the corner of an intersection watching a funeral procession pass by, when suddenly he was struck by an unusual sight: behind the hearse followed a man leading a goat on a rope, who in turn was closely trailed by a line of young men. Approaching the man with a goat, the bystander inquired:

- Excuse me, sir. Can you tell me who has died, and why this strange following?
- Well, you see, the man answered, "the person in the hearse is my mother-in-law. Yesterday, while picking vegetables in our garden, she was struck from the behind by this goat and killed instantly."
- Really! the bystander said eagerly. "Think I might borrow him for a day or so?"
- Sure, responded the man, "but you'll have to go to the back like everyone else"

Saturday, October 22, 2005

M-I-L Jokes (#1)

Two men were in a pub. One says to his mate, "My MIL is an angel." His friend replies, "You're lucky. Mine is still alive."

A guy brings his dog into the vet and says, "Could you please cut my dog's tail off?" The vet examines the tail and says, "There is nothing wrong. Why would you want this done?" The man replies, "My MIL is coming to visit, and I don't want anything in the house to make her think that she is welcome!"

George went on a vacation to the Middle East with most of his family, including his mother-in-law. During their vacation, and while they were visiting Jerusalem, George's mother-in-law died. With the death certificate in hand, George went to the American Consulate Office to make arrangements to send the body back to the States for proper burial. The Consul, after hearing of the death of the mother-in-law, told George, "My friend, the sending of a body back to the States for burial is very, very expensive. It could cost as much as $5,000 dollars." The Consul continued, "In most of these cases, the person responsible for the remains normally decides to bury the body here. This would only cost $150 dollars". George thinks for some time, and answers the Consul, "I don't care how much it will cost to send the body back. That's what I want to do." The Consul, after hearing this says, "You must have loved your mother-in-law very much, considering the difference in price between $5,000 and $150 dollars." "No, it's not that," says George. "You see, I know of a case many, many years ago of a person that was buried here in Jerusalem, and on the third day he was resurrected. Consequently, I do not want to take that chance!"

Mother Knows Best: At a senior citizen's meeting, a couple were celebrating their 50th Anniversary. The husband stood up and was telling story of his dating habits in his youth. It seemed that every time he brought home a girl to meet his mother, his mother didn't like her. So, finally, he started searching until he found a girl who not only looked like his mother and acted like his mother, she even sounded like his mother. So he brought her home one night to have dinner, and his father didn't like her.

I picked my MIL up at the airport last night. Yeah, those airport lounges are so dark!

Doctor: I'm sorry to say that your MIL had a heart attack.
SIL/DIL: That's impossible!
Doctor: What do mean that's impossible?
SIL/DIL: She can't have a heart attack! She doesn't have a heart!

My MIL said to me, "I'll dance on your grave." I said, "I hope you do. I'm being buried at sea."

Adam and Eve were the happiest, and the luckiest, couple in the world, because neither of them had a mother-in-law.

Does it really surprise anyone that Mother-in-law's Day occurs less than one week before Halloween?

I have never made a fool of my MIL.
I just leave her to display her natural talents herself.

My MIL and I were happy for 20 years.
Then we met each other.

A man finds a lamp, rubs it, and sure enough a genie appears. The genie tells the man he may have 2 wishes. He will get whatever 2 things he wishes, BUT whatever he gets, his MIL will get double. The man thinks for a while & then proclaims "1. I'd like a million dollars. 2. Beat me half to death"

Q: What is the difference between George Washington, Richard Nixon, and your MIL?
A: Washington couldn't tell a lie, Nixon couldn't tell the truth, your MIL doesn't know the difference.

Q: What are the two worst things about your MIL?
A: Her faces.

I always know when it's the mother-in-law knocking at the door – the mice throw themselves in the traps.

Last week my wife and I went car shopping, and the salesman asked if I wanted a car with an Airbag. I said, "No thanks. I already have a Mother-in-law."

I find it interesting that if you rearrange the letters in the word "mother-in-law" you get the words "woman Hitler".

"It was really cold outside today."
"It was colder than a mother-in-law's kiss!"

Q: The difference between outlaws and in-laws?
A: Outlaws are Wanted!!

Then there is the joke about the guy who was told by his doctor that he has only 6 months to live. He decides to move in with his mother-in-law, because living with her for 6 months will seem like forever.

Wah... Mertuaku Galak Lo!

Hubungan menantu perempuan dengan mertua perempuannya kerap digambarkan bak kawasan kaya konflik dan intrik.

Meski sejatinya, tak ada calon menantu yang sejak awal berniat "makar" terhadap calon mertua. Atau sebaliknya calon mertua merencanakan perang dengan calon istri anaknya. Namun, benang kusut pertentangan internal ini bukan tidak mungkin diurai

Konflik antara menantu perempuan dan mertua perempuannya bukanlah bawaan sejak lahir,” tegas Dewi Matindas, psikolog, membuka uraian soal “perseteruan” yang satu ini. Konflik ini timbul sebagai buah persepsi atau anggapan masing-masing pihak, yang diperkuat orang lain di lingkungannya.

Padahal, persepsi itu hasil kesimpulan atau penilaian yang belum tentu betul. Namanya saja persepsi, tentu tak lepas dari subjektivitas, pengalaman, dan kecenderungan tiap individu. Sialnya, anggapan tadi kadang disamaratakan, sehingga menjadi stereotipe.

Jika seorang menantu atau mertua terlalu berpegang teguh pada stereotipe, dampaknya bakal sangat buruk. "Persiapan perang” pun menjadi sangat berlebihan. Seorang calon menantu, misalnya, bisa saja merasakan jantungnya berdebar-debar kencang (bahkan nyaris copot) saat diperkenalkan dengan calon mertua. Ada perasaan cemas dan takut yang menggayut.

Di pihak calon ibu mertua, peneropongan pun tak kalah berlebihan. Kesimpulan akhirnya bisa saja menjadi sangat ekstrim, seperti menganggap calon menantunya tidak becus, tidak layak atau tidak pas menjadi istri anaknya. Sikap berlebihan ibu mertua itu, menurut Dewi, karena yang bersangkutan merasa sebagai orang yang telah melahirkan, membesarkan, merawat, dan mendidik anak laki-lakinya.

Si ibu kenal betul kelemahan dan kelebihan anaknya. Dia juga punya harapan tertentu pada anaknya, yang kadang terucap, kadang tidak. Kalau anak laki-lakinya mulai berhubungan dekat dengan “perempuan lain”, muncul perasaan tersaingi. Timbul juga rasa takut kehilangan, atau takut adanya perubahan sikap si anak yang tidak sesuai dengan nilai-nilai yang sebelumnya ingin ditanamkan.

Tak heran banyak ibu akhirnya bersikap sangat protektif terhadap anak lelakinya. Menantu pun dengan gampang menyimpulkan, “Mertuaku galak lo!” Soalnya, dalam praktik sehari-hari, ibu tersayang kerap mengecek apakah menantunya telah merawat dan memberi perhatian pada anaknya dengan baik. Sang ibu berharap, langkahnya selama ini diteruskan atau diikuti menantunya, kalau mungkin dengan cara yang sama persis. Padahal, menantunya adalah manusia lain dengan pribadi berbeda pula.

Dua nahkoda

  • Ada baiknya kedua belah pihak yang berseteru memahami posisi dan perannya masing-masing dalam keluarga.

Apalagi kalau menantu perempuan tinggal di” Pondok Mertua Indah”. Ia harus sadar betul kalau posisinya “lebih rendah” dari mertua. Sebagai pendatang baru, dia tidak bisa langsung merenggut seluruh perhatian dan cinta suaminya. Dia juga perlu mempelajari mertuanya, misalnya tentang hal-hal apa saja atau peran apa yang masih tetap ingin dimiliki atau dipertahankan mertoku.

Cari tahu semua itu lewat dialog. Faktanya, si menantu memang tidak bisa dan tidak mungkin mencabut tali kasih ibu dengan anak lelakinya secara total. Jika dialog tidak bisa sering dilakukan, misalnya karena tidak tinggal serumah, ajaklah suami menemui ibu kandungnya secara berkala.

Ajakan sebaiknya memang datang dari pihak istri, agar ibu mertua tahu kalan menantunya sungguh-sungguh memiliki perhatian.

Tidak hanya menantu, mertua pun perlu diberi kesadaran tentang posisinya. Dalam benak si ibu perlu ditanamkan bahwa menantunya masih harus banyak belajar untuk menjadi istri yang baik. Karena masih dalam taraf “belajar” itulah, wajar kalau ada banyak hal yang belum dipahaminya. Berilah menantu kesempatan untuk belajar dan terus belajar.

Ibu mertua dituntut memiliki kesabaran lebih, dan yang paling penting, perlu banyak menahan diri untuk tidak ikut campur tangan dalam urusan keluarga yang baru terbentuk. Kalau masih sebatas sumbang saran sih tidak dilarang. Dalam kesempatan berdialog dengan menantu pun, topiknya sebaiknya dibatasi, agar tidak terkesan terlalu menggurui atau mencampuri urusan pribadi mereka.

Ada juga mertua dan menantu yang langsung akur begitu bertemu. “Banyak menantu bahkan akhirnya sangat tergantung pada ibu mertua. Mereka memanfaatkan mertuanya untuk melayani suami, anak, sampai urusan rumah tangga sehari-hari ungkap Dewi. Kelihatannya, hubungan jenis ini tak bermasalah. Namun, tanpa disadari, justru membawa dampak negatif lain, yakni keluarga baru itu tidak akan cepat dewasa dan mandiri.

Berdasarkan pengalaman, konflik ibu mertua dan menantu kerap terpicu jika keduanya lebih sering berada di dalam rumah. “Secara psikologis, dua perempuan yang mempunyai peran sama, sebagai ibu rumah tangga dalam satu rumah, akan sulit menghindari konflik. Ibarat kapal, ada dua nahkoda. Masing-masing merasa punya kekuatan dan peran,” tutur Dewi.

Untuk menghindari konflik, salah satu pihak biasanya berusaha mengalah. Padahal, “Jika mengalah dengan menekan diri secara terpaksa, menahan perasaan sehingga dirinya tertekan, justru kurang baik. Bisa merusak batin,” tegas Dewi Matindas. Lambat laun, kekesalannya akan meluber dengan “memusuhi” suami. Kalau mau mengalah, ikuti dengan sikap menerima kenyataan.

Perlu kepribadian matang

  • Perbedaan sifat, sikap, tingkah laku, serta harapan ibu mertua dengan menantunya memang berpotensi konflik.

Tapi percayalah, konflik yang muncul itu bisa diredam. Bukan dengan menyamakan persepsi dua pribadi yang dari sononya sudah beda, tetapi dengan saling membuka diri dan menerima kenyataan. Misalnya, kenyataan bahwa mengubah diri sendiri akan lebih efektif daripada mengubah orang lain.

“Faktanya, ‘kan tidak semua mertua jahat dan galak,” ungkap Dewi Matindas. Apalagi kaum hawa sekarang punya pendidikan dan wawasan yang jauh lebih bagus. Dengan bekal itu, mereka tidak lagi mudah dipengaruhi berbagai stereotipe. Pun kehanyakan mertua dan menantu sekarang tidak hanya berperan sebagai ibu rumah tangga, tapi juga pekerja, sehingga diyakini lebih mudah membuka diri.

Meski begitu, tak bisa dipungkiri, masih ada juga menantu dan ibu-ibu mertua yang percaya pada stereotipe lawas. Pada menantu dan mertua jenis terakhir ini, tak ada jalan lain, stereotipe yang mengganggu itu harus dimusnahkan dulu. Karena tak akan ada hubungan harmonis dan keterbukaan, jika stereotipe itu masih bersemayam di hati masing-masing.

Adat istiadat (bukan suku) juga turut mempengaruhi hubungan menantu dan mertua. Setiap keluarga dan komunitas biasanya mempunyai nilai-nilai yang ditanamkan sejak kecil. Contohnya, seorang anak yang dibesarkan di tengah keluarga berlatar belakang guru, punya nilai-nilai berbeda dengan anak yang dibesarkan dalam keluarga berlatar belakang pedagang.

Kepribadian yang matang sangat diperlukan untuk menyikapi perbedaan nilai-nilai tersebut. Ketika memutuskan menikah seorang perempuan tak hanya dituntut memahami pasangannya. Namun, juga berani ”menikahi” keluarga besar calon suaminya. Makanya, kalau tidak siap mental, sebaiknya jangan buru-buru menikah.

Omong-omong, kok para laki-laki sepertinya enggak pernah punya masalah dengan para mertua?

Menurut Dewi, itu karena mereka lebih sering berada di luar rumah dan tidak "mengurusi dapur" secara langsung. Konflik biasanya timbul berkaitan dengan tanggung jawabnya sebagai kepala rumah tangga. Jika suami tidak mampu memberi nafkah contohnya, barulah meletus persoalan.

Ambil sisi positif

  • Buat yang terpaksa (bermukim sementara atau selamanya) di "Pondok-Mertua Indah” tak ada alasan berduka. Apalagi menyesali nasib sepanjang umur.

Yang perlu dimanfaatkan, ambil dan pelihara sisi positifnya dan buang jauh-jauh sisi negatifnya.

Sisi positif yang bisa diambil, “keluarga baru” hasil kolaborasi anak dan menantu itu bisa belajar membina keluanga dengan baik dan benar dart mertuanya. Juga tersedia keuntungan fisik (sudah ada tempat menetap), sosial (hangatnya keluarga besar dan keamanan), dan finansial (tak perlu bayar rumah kontrakan) lantaran masih bisa nebeng fasilitas orangtua.

Sedangkan dampak negatifnya, tidak bisa cepat belajar mandiri. Padahal, membangun sebuah rumah tangga mestinya menjadi tanda kemandirian. Orangtua sangat berperan agar keluarga baru ini bisa cepat mandiri. Kalau mereka dirasa sudah siap secara fisik, mental, dan finansial, segera saja lepaskan dari rumah induk. Kalau perlu didorong. Bantulah seperlunya dan jangan terlalu melindungi.

Jika orangtua terlalu khawatir, si anak pun akan ikut was was tidak bisa menjalankan rumah tangga. Apalagi, "Penguasaan keterampilan berkeluarga di zaman ini tidak lagi menjadi hal penting yang harus dipelajari. Contoh sederhana, hanyak pasangan muda yang tidak lagi merasa perlu menguasai pengenalan bumbu masak sampai cara mengasuh bayi."

“Kalau dulu, tidak tahu satu macam bumbu masak saja bisa celaka. Sekarang sih aman, toh ada banyak restoran dan makanan siap saji yang gampang didapat,” ujar Dewi Matindas. Dengan kata lain, apa yang menjadi hal penting dalam pensiapan berkeluarga, kini mulai berubah.

Dulu, persiapan berkeluarga lebih menekankan pada keterampilan mengurusi seluk-beluk rumah tangga. Sekarang keterampilan itu dikalahkan, salah satunya barangkali oleh keterampilan menguasai ilmu pengetahuan dan teknologi.

Biar tidak ketinggalan zaman, hal-hal seperti itu kudu diketahui menantu perempuan dan ibu mertuanya, supaya kelak tak ada lagi konflik di antara mereka. (intisari)