The Daily Mail reported the story of a harsh mother-in-law, Carolyne Bourne, who tells off her future daughter-in-law in a nasty email on her poor manners.
According to the Daily Mail, Carolyn Bourne, a famous English flower arranger and grower, told off her future daughter-in-law, Heidi Withers, in an email. The email has since gone viral and if anything seems to render her blast on manners ironic. Mrs. Bourne refuses to acknowledge the letter to the press.
It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.
Unfortunately for Freddie, he has fallen in love with you and Freddie being Freddie, I gather it is not easy to reason with him or yet encourage him to consider how he might be able to help you. It may just be possible to get through to you though. I do hope so.
If you want to be accepted by the wider Bourne family I suggest you take some guidance from experts with utmost haste. There are plenty of finishing schools around. Please, for your own good, for Freddie’s sake and for your future involvement with the Bourne family, do something as soon as possible.
Here are a few examples of your lack of manners:
When you are a guest in another’s house, you do not declare what you will and will not eat – unless you are positively allergic to something. You do not remark that you do not have enough food. You do not start before everyone else. You do not take additional helpings without being invited to by your host. When a guest in another’s house, you do not lie in bed until late morning in households that rise early – you fall in line with house norms.
You should never ever insult the family you are about to join at any time and most definitely not in public. I gather you passed this off as a joke but the reaction in the pub was one of shock, not laughter. You should have hand-written a card to me. You have never written to thank me when you have stayed. You regularly draw attention to yourself. Perhaps you should ask yourself why. No one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash, celebrity style behaviour.
I understand your parents are unable to contribute very much towards the cost of your wedding. (There is nothing wrong with that except that convention is such that one might presume they would have saved over the years for their daughters’ marriages.) If this is the case, it would be most ladylike and gracious to lower your sights and have a modest wedding as befits both your incomes.
Upon reading this email, I wonder a few things:
Who released this e-mail? Was it the daughter-in-law or a bitter party close to the daughter-in-law? A family’s public strength relies on discretion and the protection of private matters; it just seems that while the release proves the point that Mrs. Bourne is an egomaniac yet doesn’t resolve the root issues between the pair, nor improve the relationship between both families. This decision was poorly thought out and just makes everyone involved look bad.
Is this letter really about helping her daughter-in-law to really integrate with the family or is the letter about herself and her need to have a daughter-in-law that fits her ideas about how her daughter-in-law will behave? Naturally, a mother who cares for the happiness and success of her child wants them to choose a mate that helps them grow in positive ways. It’s even more natural to worry that their child has chosen a mate that is not a positive influence. However, it seems that this message has crossed the line of the concern of their child’s well being and into the territory of selfish, image based motives. After all, who your child has chosen as a mate is not necessarily a reflection on you as a parent, especially when they’re in their late 20’s and beyond, but of their own values and ideas for selecting a spouse. What they do is beyond your control and for the most part, beyond your concern.
How are these two women going to create a strong relationship and heal the damage after this humiliating, now public, email?After all, Mrs. Bourne is the elder and the mother figure in the relationship, it’s up to her to show good manners by being an example, even perhaps taking the daughter-in-law aside privately to gently discuss behavioral concerns that affect the overall balance of the family; gaining clarity on her daughter-in-law’s perceptions and feelings that could then naturally evolve into mutually beneficial changes and mutual respect.
Reflections on Family Integration:
Integrating into a new family isn’t always so simple, especially when the family comes from a different social or economic background or even from completely different cultures.
In my case, I remember having to learn French dining and social customs, guest manners, and general politesse upon meeting and integrating with my husband’s French family. It was, at times, awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes, it was aggravating. The sociologist in me told me to stop insisting my way and become the participant observer taking cues from my mother-in-law and family members in doing what was right according to their customs.
Fortunately, many of my faux pas were chalked up to cultural differences, rather than social or economic differences despite the fact that my family background is working class while their background is bourgeois. I never felt like a nuisance or outsider, even if sometimes I’d insist on doing things my own way. If I had indeed made an offense or came off as impolite, my in-laws would take my husband aside and explain the situation, asking him to explain their point of view or even kindly just point out my mistake without getting judgmental.
It takes time, even years, and lots of patience and compassion to become fully integrated into our spouse’s family. Learning their family politics, customs, dramas, skeletons, and learning how to integrate oneself within the family without barging our way in, demanding they accept us or else. Patience to listen, to see things their way, to use our broader imagination in envisioning our new, evolving roles within the family are just some of the ways integration occurs.
The integration process is truly a two-way street. They learn to accept our customs and individuality as we accept theirs. With effort and gentle communication on both sides, it’s possible and enjoyable. There’s something special about growing our families with mutual respect and admiration despite all the differences. In time, I was able to learn more about my French family as a unit of individuals who shared a similar vision for family harmony and I learned how to grow closer to them in my sincerity to become an integral part of the family. I’m very fortunate to feel loved and included and it’s my goal help people realize that this feeling is possible others as well.
Did you ever have an integration nightmare or a terrible in-law who made you feel like an outsider? Are you guilty of putting an in-law out? What’s your advice on familial integration?