Becoming a daughter-in-law for most women means their lives will change – new husband, new home, in-laws, and possibly a partial new identity through a change of surname. The stories of the late Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson (daughter-in-laws in the royal family) highlight the difficulty some women experience as they try to fit into their husbands’ family.
A daughter-in-law in a farm family can also find herself automatically becoming a business partner. Despite great attempts to make her feel welcome, she may still feel like an outsider. The old saying that, “ there is nothing thicker than blood” can ring true for a young woman joining a farm family.
Why is being a daughter-in-law challenging for so many women marrying into a farm family? First of all, no two families are alike. Each family has a culture that is somewhat unique. Cultural differences between families can be significant. For example, which parent was the key decision maker in your family – mother or father? How does this compare to your new husband’s family? What about males doing household tasks in each respective family? How many siblings do you each have? Where in the family hierarchy were you born? While these may seem to be subtle differences, they shape the patterns of an individual’s perception of how family members relate to each other.
When a woman gets married and becomes a member of a new family, she is marrying more than just her new husband. In most cases she is going to be sharing this person with the rest of his farm family.
A daughter-in-law needs to be aware of how she is perceived by her new family. Very few families want to have radical changes forced upon them. If you are seen as an instrument of change trouble could be brewing around the corner for both you and your husband. Immersing yourself in your husband’s family culture helps to bridge many gaps, yet at the same time caution must be taken not to lose your own personal identity.
For example, in your family birthday celebrations may have been a big event – cake, candles, gifts, flowers, cards, and possibly even an evening out with dinner. But in your husband’s family birthdays were possibly just another day – maybe a cake but no gifts, cards or flowers. Gifts and flowers may seem like minor cultural differences on the surface, but to a newly married daughter-in-law, this may feel like a mountain that is beginning to form between you and your new family. Your husband may have tried to impress you with special treatment on your birthday when you were dating, but somehow the magic of celebrating your big day is now getting lost in the day-to-day routines. Over time, hurt, anger and frustration can start to build.
How can a young woman successfully make the transition into the role of daughter-in-law in a farm family business? Continue to be true to yourself – don’t lose your identity. Try to differentiate between farm business and family issues. Become aware of the differences between your family’s culture and your husband’s, and try to understand and appreciate the different traditions. You and your husband have the opportunity to create new traditions that are unique to you – be creative. Team up with a good mentor. Ideally the best mentor should be your mother-in-law. She probably was also a daughter-in-law. On top of this, she knows your father-in-law and has been a mother to your husband. If anyone should know how to get along with these individuals it is she.