Tale of a Trailing Spouse

American expat in Singapore. A career, friends, family, and place to call home–I gave up life as I knew it for the possibility of life as it could become. Seven years later as a seasoned and serial expatriate, I've lived in four countries on three continents. So far, it's been a wonderful ride!

What a wonderful world it would be

My mother-in-law arrived in Singapore last Thursday, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

No, really.  I love my mother-in-law.

I wanted to start this post with a sweet and sentimental quote about mother-in-laws, but my Internet search didn’t turn up any positive words on the topic.  I guess that’s because Google never met my husband’s mother, one of the finest women I have ever met.

My admiration for her began long before we even laid eyes on each other. Years ago, her only son traveled from the United States, where he was living, to his home in Cairo, Egypt in order to confess a secret: While living abroad, he had met a woman, whom he hoped to marry some day.

Ordinarily the news of an impending nuptial would be a source of joy to any Egyptian mother, but the son worried about the possibility that his parents would not be pleased because his Western girlfriend was neither Egyptian nor Muslim.  No one in the family had ever married a non-believer before, and he was uncertain about how the news would be received. So, he decided to wait for an appropriate time to share the announcement with his family.

Mothers, however, tend to have a sixth sense when it comes to their children.  This important secret would not wait for a convenient occasion. In the wee hours of his very first night home, the mother woke her son up from his slumber to make a confession of her own.

“I want you to know that if you have met someone, even a foreign woman, it’s alright with me,” she said.

Her open heart paved the way for her son to spill his happy secret. Her blessing made it all the more joyful for the son to ask me to marry a few months later.  And when I traveled to Egypt to meet his mother for the first time in 2007 as the new daughter-in-law, our introduction was even sweeter.  She made it known from the outset that even though I was born in a different land, culture, and religion, I was still a daughter to her.  And through the years, she has shown me nothing but the utmost respect and kindness. I am delighted to have to next few weeks to show her my appreciation in return through daily actions as opposed to mere words that are spoken over the telephone.

My mother-in-law and I enjoy Mexican food. I had a margarita; she had lime juice.

My mother-in-law and I enjoy Mexican food. I had a margarita; she had lime juice.

Even though she doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic, this has not been difficult. She has simple needs. To sit together, to dine together, to watch events unfolding in her country and lament together–I find the time passing quicker than I expected. Before I know it, she will be heading back to the uncertainty of Egypt–a prospect that brings me worry and not joy. I’d be happy if she could remain with us here in safe, secure Singapore. Even if this were possible, she would not stay.  Despite the political chaos, Egypt is her home. Her quiet, unassuming presence there and her constant example of love and tolerance makes that desperate country a better place.

I wish the world were different. I wish the religiously fervent and political ideologues all over the globe could learn the value in humility, tolerance, and respect. I wish people could see each other’s similarities before their differences. I wish governments chose peace over conflict. Basically, I wish the world could be more like my mother-in-law–and these are words Google can quote me on.

31 comments on “What a wonderful world it would be

  1. Emily Foley
    January 29, 2013

    Just too special Di. Treasure the moments and enjoy your time together. So sad your Mother-in-law does not live closer. Xxx

    • Diana Mahmoud
      January 30, 2013

      I wish we lived closer! These moments are too far between!

  2. ncholet
    January 29, 2013

    Absolutely beautiful! Enjoy every moment of her visit!

    I love my mother-in-law as well and am so thankful that we have a great relationship.

    • Diana Mahmoud
      January 30, 2013

      I guess we are among the lucky few! I look forward to catching up with you after her visit ends!

  3. Holleigh Mason
    January 29, 2013

    You sound like you are describing your good self lovely Diana as I know you to be when you are describing your mother in law…..Nadar has obviously or subconsciously found a wife who posses the qualities he admires so much in his mother. Sounds like a beautiful mutual admiration society in your home right now x

    • Diana Mahmoud
      January 30, 2013

      Awww, you are too sweet. Thank you for the compliment!

  4. kenju99
    January 29, 2013

    Excellent post. You are a lucky woman. My MIL was like most; believing that I was not good enough for her son (no one would ever be.) She thought I kept him from returning to NYC after he and I married. Not true. I wanted to move there and he refused. I hope you will have a wonderful visit and enjoy showing her that part of the world.

    • Diana Mahmoud
      January 30, 2013

      I can’t believe anyone would feel that way about you, Judy! Well, the proof is in the pudding. You have had a long, successful marriage. What did she know, anyway?

  5. expatlingo
    January 29, 2013

    What a beautiful post about a wonderful, loving woman. The world needs more like both of you!

  6. Florita
    January 29, 2013

    You are so lucky to have a mother in law like her!!and Nader to have a mother so very understanding.

    • Diana Mahmoud
      January 30, 2013

      We are so lucky! Our start could have been so different!

  7. englandia
    January 29, 2013

    That’s real love, isn’t it. All around.

  8. Jason and Julie Nitz
    January 29, 2013

    What a lovely post x
    I love feel blessed by my mother-in-law also.

  9. Jason and Julie Nitz
    January 29, 2013

    What a lovely post x
    I feel blessed by my mother-in-law also.

  10. Tania
    January 29, 2013

    Oh Diana, you brought tears to my eyes, what a wonderful woman you are (which I knew) and so is your mother in law. Sad that Google can’t say anything great about mums in law, but I had a lovely relationship with my mother in law too.

    • Diana Mahmoud
      February 2, 2013

      Well, you are too adorable and positive not to have had a nice relationship with her! I’m glad the post touched you and gave you good feelings!

  11. Janice
    January 29, 2013

    I have never met your mother in law, but feel like I know her thru your words and photos. She couldn’t be anything but wonderful if she raised a lovely person like Nader;)

  12. Susie
    January 29, 2013

    I loved this post Diana!

  13. expatlogue
    January 30, 2013

    I wish my mother-in-law was more like your mother-in-law…

  14. petroleumwife
    January 31, 2013

    What a refreshing post on mother-in-laws! I wish you both all the very best! Coming from a mixed background myself, I know what it’s like to juggle different cultures and ideologies at the dinner table. Half of our family is Christian American and the other half Muslim Arab. We managed to get along beautifully, but it definitely takes a lot of respect and understanding on both sides. Kudos to you :)

    • Diana Mahmoud
      February 2, 2013

      It sounds like we have a similar background with out families! It sounds like things have also worked out for you all too. Kudos to you too!

  15. BiKé
    February 1, 2013

    Wow, You are so lucky to have such a lovely woman as a mother in law, not all of us from a cultured environment experience this mostly us from Africa. This really brought tears to my eyes. This is my first time on your website and I don’t really know how i got here :) but I love your personality, I’ve read through some of your articles and still reading more. I think i’m going to be here reading for a while :) . Your articles are just so natural with things to relate with.

    • Christina
      February 2, 2013

      BiKé, I wanted to let you know that I appreciate your post. I look forward to reading more of your comments and perspectives :-) It’s nice to “meet” you.

      • BiKé
        February 2, 2013

        Thanks Christina, It’s nice meeting you.

    • Diana Mahmoud
      February 2, 2013

      Such kind words! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I am happy you stumbled across my blog!

  16. Karen A. Chase
    February 5, 2013

    I love and adore this post. I have joined a family that found it difficult to embrace my newest place in it, so it’s a joy to read of a mother-in-law so tolerant and filled with love that she found a way to balance her beliefs while she embraced you. I will share this for certain.

    • Diana Mahmoud
      February 5, 2013

      I’m really sorry to hear it. Your reputation proceeds you, so I can’t imagine how this is even possible. I think about how difficult my life and marriage would be if our families (my my side and his) had not accepted us. We dated in secret for two years because we weren’t ready for the drama our coupledom might provoke. But our worries were unfounded. We are very lucky indeed.

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