I’m a woman in my early 50s. My life has always been very difficult, but I want to tell you about a miracle that happened to me five years ago.
I grew up in an orphanage, so I always envied people with families. It was my dream to meet a good person and have a family of my own. After graduating from high school, I left the orphanage and got a job at a small company. It had a company dorm right next to the factory where I could stay. I worked hard to save my money, dreaming of the day I could get a place of my own. I wanted to have my own space.
One day, when my mind was all about saving money, I met my husband. He was an office worker who came to the factory to deliver a sample and met me. At that time, I was working in the factory office as a bookkeeper. From the start, my husband was friendly toward me, as if he was interested in me. I also liked him because no one had treated me in a friendly or warm way. I think I fell for his treating me so nicely.
For the first time in my life, he and I dated for about six months before we got married. I was so overwhelmed that I was finally getting a family that I had dreamed about ever since I was young. I worked throughout the wedding ceremony. My husband teased me, saying if the bride cries on the wedding day, she’ll give birth to an ugly-looking daughter. He made me cry even more. His mother was quiet and unfriendly, but I was thankful for accepting an orphan as her daughter-in-law. I hugged her warmly when I first met her. I promised that I would make a happy home.
After getting married, we had no problems for a few years. I gave birth to two children, and I was busy taking care of my husband and raising our two kids that I didn’t know how the days passed by. I even bottled all kinds of condiments and fruits for my mother-in-law. Looking back now, I don’t know how I could do so much work during that time.
However, my husband started to change bit by bit. I think it is more accurate to say that his true personality started to reveal. He started not bringing home his pay, and I found out that my mother-in-law had asked him to give her his pay. I told my husband, “I heard that your mom had asked you to give her your pay, right? Still, you need to leave some money for our expenses and give her the rest. What about our kids? When you give her the whole pay, what about our household bills? I have no money to even go buy groceries tomorrow.
You should have told me in advance.” But my husband suddenly yelled at me in anger, “What about all the money I gave you before? Why don’t you have any money left, even for groceries? It’s because you spend money like water that my mom asked me to give her my pay. How are you managing money so poorly like that?” I was stunned.
“How could you say that when your pay is not enough? After our household bills and monthly savings, there’s no extra money left. You know better than anyone else what kind of wasting money have I done? We don’t have any money to waste, and I haven’t even bought any clothes for myself for several years. If you say it like that, you’re being very unfair,” but my husband still yelled, “Shut up! My mom will give us a monthly allowance to live on. It is so embarrassing in front of my mom!” He just stomped out of the house.
Even though his mother put me to work and called me at the last minute to come over to make dinner or prepare food for a party for a friend, I had put up with all that without any complaint. I felt that was the only way to not cause any conflicts in the family. I believed that even if she didn’t like me, at least our children would receive her affection. However, I couldn’t understand why she was taking my husband’s pay.
“Mother, Henry’s dad told me that you asked for his pay, but that money is to pay monthly savings in the bank, and we need to pay for the living expenses with our kids. Didn’t Stephen tell you that? I’ll give you money for that.”
“I have been observing you, and you are spending too much money. You waste too much, like buying too many vegetables when there are only four in the family. So why do you need to buy so much?”
“So I told my son that I’ll keep the money and give you as you need.”
“Mother, the reason for buying more groceries is because I was making food for you.”
“Shut your mouth! The way you are talking back, it’s telling. Are you saying that you spent a lot of money because of me?”
Since she put it that way, I couldn’t say anymore. Starting from then, I had to get a weekly allowance, a very small amount of money. But it wasn’t enough to pay for the expenses—barely enough to cover just our children. I told my husband about the situation and asked him for the money, but he only snickered at me.
“Must I pinch pennies? When I go out and meet people, I need extra money. Since I need to socialize for business, who knows what will come up if I suddenly meet a friend? Do I need to have him pay because I am broke? Other wives try to upkeep their husband’s pride. But is it because you grew up without seeing such examples?” He was indirectly putting me down for being an orphan. I felt injustice, but I did not say anything. I knew from experience that I couldn’t get through by just talking.
I began looking for things I could do. I started to bring piecework home, such as gluing eyes onto dolls or minor packing work, in exchange for a small amount of money. Even though the money was meager, at least it was work I could do at home while caring for our children. Even with that, my mother-in-law reduced the allowance even more.
“I heard that you’re earning money. Then I don’t have to give you more, right?” She eventually even cut it off altogether. After reducing the money steadily, my mother-in-law said, “When are you going to send us the money you used to give us by yesterday’s date? With the money you earn, you can live on it enough. Do you need to spend the money that your husband earned? You should have some conscience.”
“Otherwise, people work at good jobs that they even have housekeepers and spend money on their in-laws. But why is it that you only think about taking money?” She criticized me instead. “I don’t even have any animals that I could brag about, nor do I have a daughter-in-law who has a good job so I could get some benefit. Oh, what a terrible life,” she complained to me to hear. So I had to give up getting any money from her.
I began looking for a job where I could send my kids to a nursery school. I found a job as an insurance agent. My husband started not coming home, and when he did come home late, he was often drunk. I later found out that he had been addicted to gambling from the beginning. He was married once and got divorced after less than a month. I heard it from former employees who used to work at the factory.
But I already had two children with him, so I couldn’t quit our marriage. I didn’t want to raise my children without a family like me. I told myself that if I endured it myself, then everything would be okay. And I worked hard in the insurance business while raising our children. Fortunately, our children were so obedient that they would listen to me immediately, even if I woke them up from their sleep. They also got good grades in elementary school.
One day, however, a sad thing happened to me. I was making some food for my oldest son, Henry, since it was his birthday on the same date as mine. I wanted to make my son’s favorite food, which was chicken, and left it seasoned in the refrigerator. But when I came home from work, it wasn’t there.
My daughter said that her grandma came over in the afternoon and just took it. It was so disheartening. What grandma would take the birthday food of her grandsons, let alone not giving him a birthday gift? I was so angry that I ran over to her house.
“Mother, that food you took is for the birthday dinner. Since it is Henry’s and my birthday, why did you take it without even telling me? Even if you ignore my birthday, it’s Henry’s birthday. How could you do that? Did you even remember his birthday?”
“Hey, you’re so ignorant and uneducated. How could you be so selfish and have no manners? What’s your attitude towards your mother-in-law? Birthday, okay. It’s good that you brought it up. Did you do anything special for my birthday? Do you feel hurt that I didn’t remember your son’s birthday? Since you bring up my grandson’s birthday, let me bring up something too.”
“I happened to get an orphan as my daughter-in-law that I am too ashamed to say to anyone. Now that you put me to shame and came into this household empty-handed and gave birth to children, shouldn’t you try to give me some more by being grateful to me? If it weren’t for my son Stephen, you would have been stuck in the factory as an old maid. If we gave you a better life, it is not even enough for you to thank us every day.”
“When you first met me, you fussed over and hugged me. But just because I am managing your household money and you brought over some food to my house, how dare you rush over and cause all this noise? Get out! I can’t stand you any longer. If you’re going to behave this way, you should get out all by yourself.”
When she told me to get out, leaving my kids behind, I just listened to all her verbal abuses behind me and rushed back home. My husband again did not come home, and as I was getting ready to go to work, he came home at dawn, drunk, and fell asleep without even washing up. I felt like dropping everything and just running away. However, I couldn’t have my kids inherit a life without parents, so I swallowed it to put up with it again.
One day, I was talking to my client who was signing up for insurance and heard that there was a police program to look for lost families by registering one’s DNA. So I went to the police station to register my DNA. Also, I had a sliver of hope that one of my family members may be looking for me. That’s how badly my husband and his mother had abused me unfairly. However, time passed, but there was no news. At first, I was curious, so I dropped by the police station several times and made calls, but there was no news, so I just gave up.
A few years later, my husband got fired from his work. My daughter called me that her father was at home. After getting fired, I rushed home to find my mother-in-law at our house. I rushed my kids to leave for their tutoring lessons. The looks of my husband and his mother seemed serious. As expected, my mother-in-law said, “The pay that Stephen used to give me, you should now give it to me. I heard that you now earn more money than your husband, so you can give me what he used to give me,” she demanded as if we owed it to her.
“Mother, I can’t give you that money. I have to pay for a kid’s schooling and have to save money for their college, where I need more money than now. These days, people who sign up for insurance are fewer, so I am having a hard time and I am not earning that much.” Then my husband, who was beside me, said, “You have come to me without anything and lived all this time. Yet, are you trying to keep money for yourself? How dare you talk back to my mom like that! Did you always treat my mom this way? You are really crazy. Don’t say it like that. I did my best too.
This isn’t about taking care of me only. For children and your mom, has all that money that she has taken from you and said that she wouldn’t spend it but save it? Didn’t she say that she will give it to you? Then spend that money now when you said that I spent that money. How could you say that I have never touched a penny of your pay? Still, I didn’t give you money that I earned to take care of our kids.
How could you kick me out of the house for not giving you that money?” At that, someone who came back from work, “I am going to file for a divorce, so wait. I went to pick up my kids from school, and they seemed startled to suddenly have a maternal grandpa and two uncles. But quickly, they became happy and welcomed them.”
“After that, my husband and his mother called me several times and even came to see me, but I didn’t meet with them. One time, I went to a department store with my older brother and his wife, and somehow my mother-in-law saw me and ran after us. My older brother said he wanted to hear what she had to say and went into a coffee shop in the department store.
Then she said, ‘We got along with your sister, but as my son quit his work, a problem started because she wouldn’t give him his spending money, so there were some conflicts. I got a daughter-in-law empty-handed when other people received wedding gifts like jewelry and so forth. So I feel it’s unfair to look upon us without thinking from my standpoint.’ She dabbed her eyes, squeezing tears out of them.”
“My brother then replied, ‘That’s okay. I’ll pay, not only that spending money and wedding gifts too. However, we will formally file a complaint for violence and threats on my sister against you and your son.’ My mother-in-law replied, ‘This is a different story if you do that.’ Just as she started to shout, my older brother raised his voice even louder for everyone to hear, ‘I am meeting my sister’s attorney, and he said that the eyewitness account from the children was incredible. The father who came home drunk after gambling practically every day, who wouldn’t even come home, and the grandma who would take all the snacks for the grandchildren and who slaved away her daughter-in-law without giving a penny to help out in the household.
Those were more than enough as grounds for divorce. Moreover, you locked her out by changing her door pass key and made her live outside, forcing a separation from her children, are crimes that would be compensated for all the damages, including mental suffering. So we will proceed with all of them, so wait and see.'”
“When my mother-in-law said that it was injustice, I said one thing to her, ‘In your house, there was the latest model of an air conditioner and the largest refrigerator, and you remodeled your kitchen, all new. In our house, where children suffered with heat because of a worn air conditioner, have you ever looked into them with any worries? How could you be so selfish? Now that I have my family, how could you change your face like that? It’s so ridiculous that it is funny. I can’t believe it when you say you are sorry. So let’s meet in court.'”
“As I shouted, my mother-in-law got embarrassed that everyone was watching her, so she lowered her head and rushed out. My dad introduced me to a good attorney he knew well, and we won the judgment in my favor. I got my legal and physical custody of my children, as well as alimony and compensation for all my damages, including for mental suffering. Now, all my kids have gone on to college, and for the first time in my life, I am spending a very comfortable and happy life every day.
I had never known how helpful it is to have a solid family. People won’t realize when they do have such a family. To many, having a family is just taken for granted, and they do not realize their preciousness. As I feel today, why not think about your family with a warm heart once more? Even for a person like me, I get happy days to laugh, so I wish that all the people who are listening to my story would also get good fortune. And that’s why I’m telling you my story. Everyone, please be happy.
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