Mother-in-laws of every culture have a bad reputation. Do you think Arabic ones are any worse than others?
Hind Al Alwadi*, 58, mother of two sons:
Yes I do! Mothers want to maintain dominance in the household. Also due to the nature of Emirati families, the son and his new wife stay with his parents after their marriage, so there are bound to be some clashes.
Samira Al Awadi, 41, mother of three sons:
Yes, because there is more friction between them when they are living together.
Leila El Hallak, 50, mother of two sons:
I don’t consider myself a stereotypical Arab motherin- law – I’m very kind and sweet! Historically, we’ve obtained a relatively bad reputation because our society is very family oriented, but I don’t think this is the case anymore.
Mrs Hijjawi, 49, mother of two sons:
Arabic mothers-in-laws are not worse, but they are more involved. I’m not strict, but if I was to see something I didn’t like I would mention it to my son; that way their partner would hopefully get the message.
What do all Arabic mothers-in-laws want from a prospective daughter-in-law?
HAA: She needs to come from a good family, be well educated, understanding of the son, the right age, religious, have good manners and be brought up on the traditions and values of the UAE.
SAA: Someone who is tolerant, a good listener and has good manners. Not someone with a temper, because we would have war with each other.
LEH: We want a kind, good looking and respectful daughter-in-law who will make our children happy and satisfied. Whether she has money isn’t so important because we’re brought up that the man is the head of the family, and the sole provider for his family. We prefer working wives to support our children, but this is not a necessity.
And what do they not want?
MH: I don’t want a daughter-in-law who lacks a sense of humor and she must take good care of her looks.
HAA: Someone who is selfish and self-centered, stubborn, rude and who talks back.
LEH: Unappreciative, irresponsible girls who are too open minded in terms of clothes and social behaviour.
SAA: Someone with a temper who is disrespectful, has no personality and allows her own parents to control and influence her. She must have a good style, but not be overdone like some of the young girls today.
How long does it take you to know if a girl is right for your son or not?
HAA: From the first visit I can’t tell if she's right or not. It all comes down to when I actually visit their home and I interact with the girl.
LEH: I have to meet the girl several times and prefer to sit with her alone without my son to have an open and friendly discussion.
SAA: It’s very difficult to judge in the first meeting; first impressions can cause false judgments so after meeting them several times I would know if they were right.
MH: We were out for dinner once with my son and his new girlfriend who I didn’t like at all. I was having a cigarette and my son said, ‘Mom, you choked me with your cigarette!’ I replied, ‘Well I’ve been choking since this girl joined us, so bear with it!’
What is every mother-in-law’s biggest fear?
LEH: That the girl is marrying her son for the wrong reason or for her own benefit.
HAA: Mine is that the wife influences my son to distant himself from his parents and family.
SAA: That his wife turns out to be something she wasn’t before the wedding. And of course, that my son will love her more than me (laughs)!
Who’s your dream daughter-in-law?
SAA: Someone cute, tall (because my sons are tall), educated, patient and who loves my son and me because it’s difficult to find a girl who would love her mother-in-law!
LEH: Someone who loves my son more than he loves her and who is willing to support him throughout the bad times.
MH: My dream daughter-in-law would be lovable, respectful, a good mother in the future and have good looks. Another important thing is the family she comes from- not from the aspect of money but from the aspect of coming from a nice, joyful family.
What are the secrets to winning you over?
HAA: To really win me over I guess she needs to respect me and my husband. Also, she needs to consider and treat us just like her own parents.
SAA: She should be softly spoken and quiet on the first meeting, smile, not be a princess and show that she helps her mother. The way that she greets you and other people and welcomes them is also important.
LEH: The best thing a girl can do to impress her in-laws is to just be herself, and to be genuine about her opinions and actions. Bringing me a present is also a nice big plus!
What’s a big no-no?
LEH: Dressing badly is not good, either in front of me or in my absence.
MH: I would not want her to be fake.
How can you be the best daughter-in-law?
HAA: Communication is vital. I have a very strong bond with my daughters-in-law because they visit me at least twice a week encourage my sons to visit and bring my grandchildren to see me which I’m really grateful for.
MH: By respecting me and my husband and never playing games. This way I assure you she will have whatever she wants.
SAA: I think the key is to see the mother-in law like she’s your own mother to truly win her over. Sometimes when the guy sees that his wife gets along with his mother, respects her and loves her, it makes him love her more.