虎家婆 – tiger mother…in-law

My recent health problems lead to my husband’s panic about my life, I’m quite surprised he doesn’t hold a tiny mirror when we go to sleep just to check if I’m still breathing. It also makes me think about my mother-in-law. Every time something happens she has some ‘good advices’ or some crazy magic Chinese medicine I run away from.

I really love my mother-in-law, but for any girl dating Asian, especially Chinese man, they need to be aware that once it gets serious your lovely mommy is changing into tiger mother-in-law.

This article will be only about my personal experience and people around us, I cannot say every mother-in-law will be the same, but there’s quite big chance for that. So let me introduce you… MY 虎家婆! Or like my parents call her ‘Nafka’.


That lovely woman on the photo has never been a tiger mother to her son. There was no need – he was, is and will be number one, most handsome, not to mention the smartest, getting what’s the best in his life… And we – as we I mean any girl trying to get close to Mr. Top – are not the best. My husband told me non of the girls to Chinese mothers will be good enough. Just never.

EDIT 26.07

It’s just so funny I needed to add this: last night my husband whatsapped with his mom, sent her a picture of meal I made. Their talk looked a bit like that:

SHE: Eat more

HE: I’m old, I get full easily

SHE: You old? You look like teenager, Lina must love you deep from her heart when she sees you. Eat more!

Generation of men we’re interested in is in 99% a generation of one child policy in China, but also time when people couldn’t afford more than one child in other parts of Asia. Probably you all know that, we like it or not, son was more wanted than a girl – girl is given away, it’s ‘bad investment’, but son inherits everything and gives family’s surname to his child. Since parents had only one child, they spoiled them, treated them like a treasure. In their minds no one will treat their 小寳 as good as them. 小寳 grows up, becomes 大寳 and he finds a girl he likes. It’s not that bad if she’s chosen by mother, but if he does that on his own… Suddenly in her life there’s another woman taking care of the precious Prince, she will be nice to her but when they announce they get married she will show her claws.

Some people ask me about culture differences between me and my husband. I would say ‘I have more culture and generation differences between me and mother-in-law than with my husband’. At the very beginning, when things got serious and at beggining of marriage we could fight about everything – that she folds pants in different way than I do, so we keep folding one pair of my husband’s pants for a whole afternoon, when we played Chinese poker she will lose just to make him win, that how can I put dumplings on a table when therer’s rice, why I don’t put ginger into napa – napa is cold so I should put hot ginger in it! It got so ridiculous to the point she complained I eat too fast and my husband is losing face because of that… and he got scold for eating too slow.

You think that’s bad? My tiger mother in law is like a kitty comparing to some of what I know – suggesting divorce, forbid to get married, complain about the girl 24/7: too fat, too ugly, too poor, too rich (spends too much), health problems in the family, broken family, only a pretty face, lazy etc. Marriage is little bit like business in China, they don’t want their son to make a bad investment. Even if they don’t say things out loud you might get hints like ‘What a good husband you married, you must be so happy’.

I can see those terriefied faces of girls – don’t be. Just give them time, for a white girl honestly is easier to get tiger mother appreciaton – in the end their son is seen as ‘winner‘. But time and showing them you can take care of him as good as she can is the best way – in my case she saw me first time in late May, June we got married, things happened too fast for her but time showed that I cook Chinese food for him – because of course eating Western food he would die in a month, take care of his clothes, make him happy. If you can earn money or be from good family, give him some benefits it’s even better. You need to be pretty, but of course you cannot be more gorgeous than Prince. You should be smart, holding a good degree giving good money, but not smarter than him so he doesn’t lose the face. And you should pass all the hidden tests she will have for you checking if you’re clean, willing to work, how you do housework.

You might think that attitude of your (future) mother-in-law is very harsh, but they just want the best for their best sons. And I think it’s not only Chinese culture but every mother of a son – it was same for my parents, my mom had to show my grandma that my dad made a good decision.

Mother-in-law-daughter-in-law relationships are always difficult, no matter if it’s same culture or multiculture relationship and I think non of us can understand that until we become parents. At the end I have one good advice for women dating Chinese men – obey the mother, at least in fronts of her, relationship between mother and son in Asian culture is very strong, she will be with you until her last days and it’s always better to have a friend than enemy. And believe me, once they accept you, you become their new 小寳 they will take care of.

I wish all of you could have such mom like I have. 真的愛妳 as Beyond would sing!

28 thoughts on “虎家婆 – tiger mother…in-law

      1. Hi I really like your post as I myself married to a Hong Hong guy although he was born and raised in europe but his parents are from Hong Kong. I’m having a very hard time dealing with my husband family (parents in laws, brother in law and his wife), we live in europe and my in laws are already retired but they visit and stay in my place for almost 9 months this year. It got me crazy because my husband said they will only visit during summer and I can tolerate that around three months. The problem with them staying in our place (it used to be my parents in laws but my husband bought it) is the brother in law and his wife also coming everyday 3 times a day for breakfast, lunch and late night soup as they are self employed they come home late, they said they come because the wife is pregnant so the wife need nutritious food, but I find it annoying because it is not mother in laws house so my husband and i have a talk but there is no solutions,I feel betried by him and blaming him and his family for being so selfish by staying in our place forever. My brother in law also have a house but they said its too small and since it used to be the in laws house they keep the old tradition. I feel so sad stressed and depressed. They are never mean to me but they are unfriendly people and like to talk to themselves when we are in the dinner table and ignore my existence.
        I don’t understand why are they acting like that? No feelings that they are bothering a married couple life and household? My sister in law is very young and i don’t think if she understand the feeling of being a grown up woman. And I understand my husband position as a son ( he is a younger son) that he respect his family but I feel like his family doesn’t respect my husband privacy. I don’t want to and force my husband to chose between me and them I just wish they could understand that their present is bothering my marriage life and me as a wife. I really don’t know what to do beside being patience and wait till my in laws getting old then they cannot travel here as much anymore


        1. It’s hard to win with a pregnant woman, especially if she’s having a baby of the oldest son. Any chance for the time being until the delivery you two could swap houses so MIL can take care of the sister in law until one month after delivery? First grandchild always make them crazy, nothing else will matter (unfortunately). 😦


          1. Thanks for the answer! It feels nice to have someone to share my problem. The baby just born today! And I already ask my mother in law that starting next year I will cook every weekend Friday Saturday Sunday. I love cookin but my mother in law doesn’t understand this, she love to show off what a wonderful cook she is although sometimes I find it tasteless ;). I’m happy because my mother in law and everybody now is busy with the new baby. I will have my kitchen back because this is my favourite place as a woman “cooking for my husband”. I’m very disappointed actually because my husband family never include me in conversation and when something exciting happen they never text or call me always my husband who passed the news to me. Anyway thanks a lot! 🙂


  1. So do you actually get along with your mother-in-law, or do you just try to be nice to each other now that you two are in a situation that was forced upon the both of you as a result of your husband having married you?


    1. at the very beginning we literally just tolerate each other so he doesn’t feel bad but recently she finally noticed that I’m worth to be her son’s wife – it took a lot of effort and now I must say that she sees me as the best of all the women who recently enter the family when my husband’s cousins got married/engaged 🙂


      1. Heh, I see.

        But regarding your point about how Chinese mothers think their son is the absolute the best, my understanding is different. As I understand it, Chinese parents in general tend to have a realistic or practical view of their children, and in fact they can be rather brutally so. For example, if their son is not a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or otherwise successful, Chinese parents will often dismiss him as being a failure and be embarrassed about him for having lost “face” for the family. This is partly why, traditionally, Chinese children have experienced such pressure to succeed and why you have the “tiger mother” phenomenon.

        And this realism translates into the Chinese parents’ choice of the “ideal” partner for their children, too. You’ve probably heard of the expression “門當戶對”, which basically means in Chinese that one should marry someone who is his/her equal in education, socio-economics, and family background. So, it’s not really a case where no woman can ever be good enough for a Chinese mother’s son.


      2. somehow I cannot reply properly – I can only say about people connected to my family or friends so let me tell you other examples – man is really rich (his family used to be poor) now, even thought his fiance is daughter of one of the richest people in HK his father and mother don’t really like her because her parents are from Mainland China (to make it even more funny even thought he was born in HK his parents come from MC), the other example is my husband’s cousins girlfriend – she is well educated, graduated from university in France, family is respected and rich, even thought with hard work he matches her with money and her faimly likes him grandma from ‘our’ site and his mother complain that because she is too rich, even when she pays for herself, he spends way too much because they only go to fancy places or go out too often – so from my observations (it’s only my personal and people around me view) there’s always a ‘but’ – it took me a year and spending more than a month constantly with my parents to show her that we can match mr. prince 🙂 now she’s like ‘I knew my little treasure knows how to pick people around him’ haha 🙂 of course I cannot say for half a billion mothers every one will be like my tiger mother who still tries to ‘teach me’ being a good wife to him (‘ask Lina to cook you that, that and …) but everyone I met till this point in my life think that no girl can match their little prince 🙂


  2. Your second example illustrates the “門當戶對” principle very well. In this case, the woman is out of your husband’s cousin’s league from the perspective of his family: from a practical point standpoint, she would be too high maintenance as a wife, and from the perspective of “face”, the cousin and his family would probably feel a lot of pressure to provide for the sort of lifestyle that the woman is used to.

    Even your first example is arguably a case of “門當戶對”. Consider that traditionally, Hong Kongers have regarded their Mainland counterparts with great contempt, thinking that they’re dirty, poor, and unsophisticated. This prejudice can be so strong that it cancels out whatever great qualities that a Mainlander may have (e.g. education and wealth).


  3. “Some people ask me about culture differences between me and my husband. I would say ‘I have more culture and generation differences between me and mother-in-law than with my husband’.

    No doubt. 😀


    1. he is born and raised in Hong Kong, same as his father but mother in Shanghainese – so she’s from China and the policy was introduced when she was still there even though she’s was not affected by it (has older siblings) she has been an aunt to two boys that are both the only child (one from brother one from sister) and the only way of rising the baby she knows is the super-spoiled way just like they spoiled those two guys. she starts every message to my husband referring to him as little treasure that’s why I mentioned the connection between the policy and the way my MIL spoils his only son (because who cares about the sister, when she gets married ‘the nutritious water goes to someone else’s farm) 😉 I hope I explained well enough 🙂 thank you for reading my old post!


  4. Thanks for the explanation!

    I’d say your post still sounds rather scary to me. I’m also married to a Hong Kong guy but his family (his parents, in particular) take very little part in our lives. His mum never meddles with my affairs and I equally respect her and try to not impose myself too much when we visit them for dinner, for example.
    William is not a big fan of Chinese food as he spent a long time in Australia, plus, his parents being Indonesian Chinese, they are more used to Indinesian cuisine. This means that I don’t have to cook anything Chinese at home! 🙂
    I guess I have to say I am pretty selfish: I wouldn’t consider marrying someone from a different culture that would have a difficult mother or father…or any other such relative 😀 And my salary is slightly higher than my husband’s but he doesn’t at all mind! In fact, he sometimes says: “what if I quit my job? You could earn the money and I’d just be a househusband!” Half-jokingly, of course 😉


    1. I think there’s nothing selfish in wanting to be happy in relationship with someone 🙂 it has to be healthy for both of you! I don’t know if I could handle it all if my husband was ‘Asian-Asian’ (more than a decade he spent in Australia and America so his behavior and views are more Westernized and liberal) and obeying MIL but I’m handling it pretty well since my family is close to old traditional Chinese values haha 🙂 but as long as you and your hubby are happy there’s nothing wrong with being little bit selfish, that’s how you don’t feel like ‘loosing’ in your life 🙂 I wish you all the best! 🙂 and trust me – you’re lucky your MIL doesn’t interfere with your relationship because they can be annoying haha that’s why in Poland we have so many MIL-related jokes 🙂


  5. Wow. This is fascinating. I wonder about the difference between Mainland China sons, Hong Kong sons, and Chinese-American sons. I’m guessing that any mother with one son is going to spoil him, no matter where they live, but spoilage increases in a patriarchal society. My significant other is American born, with an older sister and a younger brother. His parents are more “tigerish” than “spoilers,” expecting excellent grades and pointing out perceived failures. Especially in math. (I’m going to write a post someday about how my guy’s Chinese mom bemoans the fact that her daughter, “could not be an engineer. She was not so smart in math. Not like my son. She could only be a doctor.” Jewish mothers everywhere gasp at this sort of blasphemy.) But the push for financial and academic success was far less in the Hong Kong born cousins, and those parents seem okay with it. So perhaps it’s the Mainland China thing to spoil your one child?


    1. I would love to read that post from you! 🙂
      Sing’s mom is sometimes weird – she will complain about him but when someone agrees with her, she will become all fuzzy and grumpy and ask them to stop talking crap. Because logic 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. haha, I’m like this! I may complain about my family but if anyone else does it, it is immediately not okay. Because logic, indeed 😛


  6. Hello, my boyfriend is from HK as well but he was raised in Australia and he currently lives there with his mom. The problem is that they don’t get along very well. I forgot to mention that I am Mexican, living in Mexico, and we have met once here and in november we are going to meet again in HK when he visits his grandma and then is when he plans to introduce me to his mom (we have been dating for one year now and she doesn’t know about my existence yet, my bf doesn’t want to tell her until he can actually introduce me to them in person, otherwise they will fight about our long distance relationship) I am really scared because he doesn’t even get along well with her, they barely exchange words at home because when they do, they always end up having an argument, he says that for her, nothing of what he does is good enough, and he told me to prepare myself because if he is not good enough obviously I am also not (he says that he doesn’t care about her mom opinions about me, because he truly loves me, but it is still scary). Any suggestions of what to do when I first meet her and also the grandmother? What should I definitely avoid to do? Any kind of gifts that are a tradition to give to in-laws in HK? Thanks in advance!


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