An email: “My in laws want me to stay here with them while my husband works in another city.”

Sharing an email.

Hello

I have been a lurker at your blog and find the discussions useful. I hope you will also put my case on your blog.
Background
I had an arranged marriage around 4 years ago. Within a year after that I had a daughter. Both myself and my husband are doctors. My husband used to live with his parents. After 3 – 4 months my husband had to move to another place for his super specialization. As a result I had to stay with his parents for this duration of three years as I was also working temporarily in a government university. My father in law dominates his family and his sons are unable to stand against him.
Even though my parents are living in the same town at a distance of 4 km away from my husband’s  house I am unable to meet them. I come to meet my parents in daytime taking time out of work. So its been more than six months that my parents have not seen their grand daughter.
What I find the most frustrating  and painful is that at my work place I  make decisions that could result in the life or death of a patient but in my personal life  has little control over my own self and hence little autonomy of my own. I am psychologically under pressure
My husband is otherwise ok to me but does not respect my family. So far the past 3 years there has been zero interaction between my in laws and my family.
All decisions affecting me and my child are taken by my father in law. My family has not been invited to be the part of any celebration – like my child’s birthday or my husband’s completion of super specialization. My in laws do not want me to go and live with my husband. They want me to stay here with them while my husband works in another city.
Should I continue to compromise hoping things get better in the future or go for some other mode of action? I fear they will take my child away from me if i go for some legal action. His family is financially much more powerful and has political connections also.
Regards
Related Posts:

An email from a Happily Married Indian Daughter in law…

Sharing an email from a Happily Married Indian Daughter in law.

Dear IHM,

Since you have written often about living with parents after marriage, I thought I should tell you about my experience.

Ours was not an arranged marriage, and my husband and I had a good idea of what both of us wanted in our lives.  Though initially I was hesitant about moving with him into his parental home, I agreed after getting to know his parents.  Also, by then I knew that this guy is someone who is going to stay by me no matter what happens.

I had absolutely no problems at my in-laws’ place.  Though they are very traditional, they were open-minded about everything.  No restriction in what I wore, whom I met, where I went… they didn’t even protest when I refused to wear a bindi or a mangalsutra or toe-rings.  They were not comfortable with it, but they didn’t insist that I wear it.   My parents-in-law managed the house… my MIL was in complete charge of the kitchen.  I used to go out to work, and then come back and help MIL cut vegetables, knead the dough, grate coconut… you know, the assistant in the kitchen.  Even if I had not done anything in the kitchen, I doubt they would have said anything to me, but of course, one cannot just sit around when someone else (anyone, not only MIL) is working.

But.  The fact was that whatever it is, I felt like a guest.  It is not that they made me feel like one, I just felt like a guest.  I never felt like it was my own home.  I always had the feeling that I was living in someone else’s home and so couldn’t be totally comfortable.  I knew I was bringing this upon myself, but I guess some people are just that way.  I wasn’t shy, but just uncomfortable.  So my entire stay there, for almost three years, was like that of a guest.

Besides, there were little things like, in summer, I would be itching to wear an itsy-bitsy t-shirt and just lie around, which I couldn’t.  And i am the kind who likes doing work only when the mood gets to me.  So sometimes, during the weekends, when I would rather be lazing around, my MIL would start preparations for lunch, and I would feel terrible if I didn’t go help her.  I would sometimes invite friends over, but we would end up going out for lunch or for a walk, because we couldn’t talk freely inside the house. Little things like that, but when put into a context of living your own life, it was like I was always living an incomplete life.

I would come alive only in my room, behind closed doors – where it was my kingdom.  The sheets I had chosen, the curtains of my choice, the music system that played the music I liked, my books in the bookcase, sprawled on the bed.

We moved out a few months after my daughter turned one.  The move was due to a number of reasons (none of which was friction with the in-laws) and was initiated by my husband.

In a home of my own, it was an entirely new world.  On one hand, I was swamped with work.  Managing a whole house, cooking entire meals all the time (something I’d never done) looking after a small child… it was work, work and more work whereas in my in-laws’ house, it had been a bed of roses.

BUT.  The freedom was unparalleled. I did what I wanted when I liked.  I cooked varieties of food, and sometimes I didn’t cook at all.  I wore what  I liked whenever I felt like. I could bathe in the night if that was what i wanted.  I could sit in the middle of the drawing room with my legs up.  I could and did call lots of friends and their families over, and entertained a lot.  Most of all, I felt like I was living my own life in my own home.

And most of all I discovered that my husband was very very different from what I thought. (some lovely surprises, a few nasty shocks.) It was in a sense, after three years of marriage and one child, that I actually discovered my husband (whom I had fallen in love with and married, remember.)  And it was then, after moving into our own home, that we had terrible adjustment problems, but we worked around them, and we are now much closer and love each other even more.

We now visit my in-laws frequently (they live close to us) and my relationship with my MIL is much better now (not that it was bad in the first place)  We are on an equal footing in my mind, and besides, all the minor irritations and annoyances that are inevitable when we live together with someone – they are not there any longer.  My MIL and I are better friends now than we were when we lived together.

Living by ourselves is the best thing we can do for ourselves, for us to grow and love and live.

I thought you might find that my story validates some of your views about living with parents, so I wanted to share it with you.

I love your blog, and can’t thank you enough for opening my mind about so many things on so many levels.

Regards,

Related posts:

To an Anonymous Daughter in law.
An email from a Newly Wed Wife. “Now they don’t like me.”
Another email. When an Indian daughter-in-law has no brothers.
I could not sing after my marriage and I am really sad about it, but women have to ‘adjust’ to see their family happy…
The interference of parents in the married life of their daughters…
An email: My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do.

Can’t end marriage over a sari.

 

“I am the glue in their marriage. They have come to have a largely perfunctory relationship without me.”

Sharing comment 353 by Sunshine in response to Scaredy Cat’s concerns in ‘An email: My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do.

I agree with Sunshine.

This is the whole point of the entire email, his entire thought process by Scaredy Cat:
“I am the glue in their marriage. ” “They have come to have a largely perfunctory relationship without me.”
Its the same old story
Looks like Dad’s parents (Mom’s in-laws) lived with Mom and Dad
Dad was wrapped up with HIS Mom and Dad, probably had no emotional relationship or connection with his wife (Scaredy Cat’s Mom)
Scaredy Cats Mom probably poured all her love and affection into the son(she needed love and emotional connection from her hubby, didn’t get it from him, connected emotionally with the son Scaredy Cat)
Now Scaredy Cat knows his mum will be devastated emotionally if he moves away – either physically or emotionally – after marriage
Hence all his outpouring of not even moving upstairs/downstairs after marriage
Hence no mention of an emotional connection with the wife
And so the cycle perpetuates – Scaredy Cat will get married, his wife will have an unfilled marriage with her husband, give birth in due course, get emotionally over attached with her kid, and so the sad sad sad cycle continues into the next generation.

I’ve seen so many cases like this in Indian society, and some Indians have the gall to say oh the Americans and American culture – all of these Americans are psycho and crazy.
And we think cases like this are normal.
But the human psyche needs emotional independence to a degree
the human psyche needs romantic/sexual connections too
not just parental connections
and when this doesn’t happen the human psyche is irreparably damaged
I am not angry at Scaredy Cat, I am immensely sad for him, his mom (who never knew a happy fulfilling marriage), his to be wife (who will probably never know a happy emotionally and sexually fulfilling marriage/relationship, similarly his dad)…. and so the sad cycle continues
Cant see Scaredy Cat changing – to him this is normal, this is what he has known as normal as he grew up
Such a loss of human potential
Am sad all the best to Scaredy cats wife she will need it, hope Scaredy cat one day you realize this, but u will probably be too old too late by then(I think his dad realizes this now hence they r gently trying to get him to lead his own life take his own decisions)
Am sad at all this loss of human potential for happiness.

Related posts :

Why exactly are marriages in India disintegrating?
Don’t treat the cause, the problem will never go.
This is the root of the problem. Do you agree?
An email: My brother leaves it to my mother to decide if the families’ minds will match.

An email from a DIL living in a Joint Family: Should I adjust or should I leave?

Sharing another email.
Subject: Is it worth to change a Patriarchal mindset?

Hi IHM,
I am a twenty five year old Software Engineer working for a reputed company and earning well enough.

I got married about two years ago and I am lucky to have found the right partner (software engineer working for a reputed company as well), who complements me in every way. I rejected many proposals earlier. Even though all these guys were successful , I looked for features like compatibility, dynamism, boldness etc in my partner.

I am from a family of four daughters me being the youngest. My dad and mom are extremely progressive in their thoughts and made sure each of us sisters are independent, self reliant and opinionated  before being married off. Their major objective in finding a groom was someone who respected us and our identities.

Despite societal pressure they helped me forgo many tempting matches until the perfect guy well suited for me came along. I come from a family which is open, liberal and encourages every family member to pursue his/her own dreams and aspirations.

Now when this perfect guy came along we had a free and frank discussion in the family. This guy looked tailor made for my criteria. The only hitch was he is from a joint family living with his mom, dad, brother, bhabi, nephew, and, a sister brother in-law and niece who are frequent visitors. My parents clearly stated that being a part of the joint family may not be ‘my’ thing. But we decided to go ahead anyway. It was a compromise we agreed upon. We were very disappointed earlier not to find the right guy earlier, so this alliance seemed god send.

Initially the guy’s parents seemed very modern, approving the idea of me being the only working woman in the family and how happy and proud they are. This encouraged my decision further.  My would-be husband and me went out a couple of times before committing and he made it clear that he preferred a working woman not for the money but for a partner who is self reliant. I am free to look after my parents etc and marriage shall not impede me in any which way. Till now he has stuck to his word and am proud of him.

Later started the demands for dowry, demand by his parents.  They asked quantities of gold and jewelry all for me. It was asked rather genially. I vehemently denied the match itself. But my parents somehow sidelined me and agreed to shell out the money as a wedding gift to me. The engagement was done by then and I was deep in the throes of love with my hubby.  From my parents perspective, it was like a payment seat in a good college. Getting a worthy match for their daughter by satisfying the in-laws.  My family somehow convinced me into it.

I know it was my fault not to break off and put a strong opposition to the deal. Later when I confronted my husband after marriage, I was shocked to know that he didn’t even know about it.  I also didn’t speak to him earlier because I didn’t want to get into the ‘Me and My Family vs U and Ur Family’ debate into the equation even before we knew each other well. I wanted to know him as an individual first. Now I am terribly guilty about the whole episode. I feel bad for going against my principles of anti dowry.

My husband wants me to return everything to my parents if it relieves me. He also is very guilty of taking dowry unknowingly. But I am in a huge dilemma, my parents will never accept it back. My parents have meticulously planned their future and don’t need my support. But I am saving some amount for them every month.

My in laws meanwhile have insulted my parents many times which has hurt me a lot. After one and a half years of all this, finally, once, I put my foot down and revolted rebelliously.  My husband also had a long aggressive debate with them about my rights, my parents rights etc. After that they have given up on any attempts to insult me and my family. Now they are good to me and my parents for the fear of losing their son.  But the bad memories continue to haunt.

Tell me IHM…

1.     How should I heal myself from the guilt, memories of ‘tamasha’ created before/on my wedding day? They are getting stronger and creating nightmares for me.

2.       My MIL still practices gender bias in very obvious ways. She gives the best food to her sons and the leftovers to us bahus (including herself!).  They firmly believe serving men is the only path of salvation for women. I sometimes negate this by shifting all good items from my husband’s plate onto my plate right in front of her. She says nothing, blankly stares at me for my audacity.  But is this battle worth fighting? I have access to all the dishes I aspire for outside home. I can also cook in my floor. Its only dinner that we take on my parent’s in law’s kitchen (we stay in separate floors). Should I continue the battle and create turmoil? I also end up spending a lot of energy mulling over the episodes and feel is it worth my time and energy?  These people believe being unfair (to women) is the fair way.

3.       I am shocked at the gender biases.  Should I shift base elsewhere? I know my husband respects my need for privacy etc and will agree to move out. We will continue to support his parents as well.  But should I do it, since my in-laws are behaving well and non interfering except some  areas which are hard engrained in them. I know they are making efforts but that is not from their heart, only for the fear that the son may leave them and go away.

4.       Meanwhile my BIL feels that since me and my hubby both are earning its entirely on us to provide the finances.  He is a freeloader. He never gives his share of money. His wife cooks (on weekdays) and I don’t, so he feels from his side he is contributed enough. We discussed this with him, he agrees but never gives his share. How do we fix this without straining relationships?

5.       Despite all these the joint family is demanding, and I am stuck between a choice, of sticking or moving away. On week days I don’t contribute anything but on weekends I have to contribute to kitchen chores and compensate for my absence on week days. I contribute my share financially but that is not counted. I have to compromise on my rest.  Hubby helps but other men laze around while me and my hubby slog it out.  Meanwhile MIL and SIL take a weekend break. Even though my husband is a gem, other males are chauvinists and that irritates the hell out of me.  My husband does enjoy the everyday company of his mom/dad but is okay to move out respecting my difficulties. Should I adjust or should I leave?

Publish this and any comments from readers would help me.

Confused DIL

 

Related Posts:

To an Anonymous daughter in law.

It’s not about hot hot chappaties.

Because of my initial submissiveness, my husband and his family volunteer to take care of my chores, to let me resume my career.

This is a comment by Ananya in response to the discussion on the previous post – “Just earning a degree does not mean she is superior to my mom who does not have a degree and does not work in some software company serving yankee clients.

THE PREVIOUS POST HAS BEEN REMOVED ON REQUEST FROM MR SRAVAN KUMAR (not his real name).

I am aware that Ananya (and many others) genuinely believe what is stated in the previous post, this was her comment.

My response is red.

So far I wrote as a sister in Iaw in a similar situation (to the Brother in law in the last post). I am revealing another side of me – a DIL and a young assistant professor of Chemistry, married to another professor of Chemistry.
I tell you what, this guy has had the guts to take on 4000+ people like you on some public forum, so he cannot be prejudiced,* IMHO. It’s possible he’d have had such bitter experiences with his SIL in his family that someone can write so much publicly.
Somehow, I really admire his courage. And despite the thrashings he has received, I admire him, but somehow, he is a little boyish to say all that in public :) … bravo, little boy :)
You see, cleaning baby’s bums by dad is ok if it’s an one time thing, but I can never dump a mother’s role on my husband that too in front of his brother.

(Why not? Why shouldn’t the father care for his own child because an outsider feels it’s not right? In a healthy society, everybody should be able to do what they find fulfilling, so long as they are not hurting anybody. Here the brother in law’s interference might pressurize this happy family to move out to a Nuclear set up.)

And yes, I will not hang up my thalli in the name of modernity, if the family customs demand I do not do it. Doing so is imposing my will on others and hurting an entire family.

(Such restrictions are damaging ‘Indian family values’.DILs are are finding it more peaceful to live in Nuclear Family, even if there is more work and less money, because they seem to prefer peace of mind. Some DILs find they have no choice but to take off the thaali the moment they are out of their (in laws’) homes. Customs are created for us, we are not created for customs. A symbol is of no use unless it is worn out of choice.)

I would rather play by the new rules and EARN the respect rather than DEMAND/BEG for respect.

(What about your respect for them? Don’t they care if YOU respect them or not?  Do they demand or beg you for your respect? Or is your respect not worth having?

Also, if somebody gives you respect only because you do what they want you to do, that is not respect, that’s control.Can you respect someone who threatens to withhold respect unless you do as you are told? )

I am a new DIL and I have a great rapport with my MIL and co., because I was willing to LISTEN and make the necessary changes in the beginning. I showed IN ACTIONS that I respected them. I reap the rewards now.
I Understand and acknowledge the fact that their home is radically different from mine. They are way way wayyyyy too orthodox than my own home. So what? I made it clear that I am learning. When they scold me, I took it as if my parents were chiding me.

(Thousands of women before you have tried this for centuries. Why has obedience and servility not made it easier for women to live with their spouse’s families?

Until recently it was taken for granted that a woman would leave her home and move in with her spouse’s family and then do as she is told, in the name of adjustment. It is not possible to be truly at peace or happy, when you are constantly trying to be what someone else thinks you should be. Indian women today are the most stressed in the world. What’s worst is, these efforts are not appreciated, they are taken for granted as can be seen from this post.

It’s common for in laws to expect a young bride to love them more than her own parents, in return they would respect/care/love her if she does as she is told. Like in this case, many families see not taking dowry a a favor to the SIL.

And yet there are families where women can be like other family members, joke with their in laws, wear whatever they are comfortable wearing, nobody is superior or inferior and everybody’s  personal space is respected.

Many women find that they are  happier if they can live in a Nuclear family, this is sometimes not respected. In the past women had no choice, they were kept in dependence so that they could be forced to stay with the in laws (this BIL suggested the same thing) Now that DILs have a choice, they do move out. What makes the in laws want daughters in law to stay with them when they are not able to accept her ways? Why do you think does this BIL want the SIL to stay with them?

In a family, we are interdependent. There will be no autonomy in a family setup.

Interdependence should not be forced. The general attempt is to keep the DIL in dependence and she is the lowest in the hierarchy. Sometimes if she is not dependent and has the option of walking out, say she has supportive husband or parents or if she has an income of her own, then we see reactions like the BIL’s in this post.

My husband is elder to me, and I respect that. I value my duties as a mother and a wife more than my career.

What if a woman realises that she and her husband can both have fulfilling careers and happy families if they both contribute an support each other? If they become more like partners less like a ward and a guardian?

Because of that smooth and initially submissive relationship, My husband and his family volunteer to take care of my chores, to let me resume my career as an assistant professor.

Why such deviousness to make someone do your share of work? Why won’t you do your chores yourself, or hire help, or request them honestly to help you?

Also consider, what chores are your chores? Making coffee for them is your chore? Washing their clothes is your chore?  Coking for the entire family is your chore? Changing baby’s nappy is your chore alone? Why?

My co-sister who also happens to be in the teaching field does not have their support, as she has not tried to understand their side. I have tried to talk to her, but she does not listen, so I stopped!
This should not be an ego clash.

So she does not receive any support from the family? How does living with the family benefit her? How does it benefit the family?

And a husband is entitled to be my leader (not dictator) and there is nothing wrong in me being the obedient and submissive wife. he respects my views and implements them when they are good.

Do you mean all husbands should be leaders? That is not a very realistic expectation. Many men would like to be life-partners and friends, to be able to enjoy their partner’s company without constantly needing to prove they always know better (as leaders).

In fact, most men who would demand to be leaders would be like this BIL, whiny,  petulant and very immature. Demanding leadership is in itself a sign of insecurity. And what kind of life would an intelligent woman live trying to convince an immature man that he is her ‘leader’? What if she starts earning more than him? Or if she is not afraid of the dark while he is? Or if she drives, negotiates, packs etc more efficiently than he does?

I respect his masculinity and he respects my femininity.

Respecting each other the way you are is a healthier thing to do. Would you disrespect him if he makes excellent coffee? Or if he is afraid of cockroaches, if he shows his emotions, say, is nervous or afraid, or cries when he is upset? Or would be stop respecting you if you can drive a car?

My co-sister does all that this SIL of Shree. Srawan Kumar does and more. now, who is at loss?
She or me? I am happy, I am content, I am respected, I am valued and I am cherished – I have not lost my life. Same family, same MIL, my co-sister does not get all I have. And her husband is a perfect gentleman, like my husband (they were twins). But she treats him much the same way Mr. Srawan Kumar describes.

Are you suggesting she should start wearing her mangal sutra, breastfeeding her baby, changing baby’s diaper, standing up when her father in law passes by – and start treating her husband as her ‘leader’? But why would she do that? Who does that benefit?

There is nothing wrong whatsoever in being quiet initially, learning the ways of a new home – 10 people to change completely for me is unreasonable. They have made subtle accommodations, that’s the best they can do.

I think the only thing they need to do is to consider seriously if they have the maturity and tolerance to live with a new member joining their family, if yes, then they must welcome her and make an effort to get to know her. Her personal habits should never become their business. They must respect the fact that she has agreed chosen to live with them, although she has the choice of living in a nuclear family. It’s unethical, inhuman and criminal to attempt to create circumstances that take that choice away from her. Insecurities do not build healthy relationships.

I do remember, we will be MILs tomorrow!

Wasn’t this post about a Brother in law wanting to be a leader to his wife?

Of caring in laws and uncaring husbands.

This morning I was in conversation with a friend who mentioned an ideal family, a good example to the society, of in laws who cared for their daughter in law more than their irresponsible son. So much so that they let her, instead of their son, take over their  business. She worked hard and now the business is thriving. The husband (and son) is irresponsible, he doesn’t work, and only comes and goes as he pleases.

Reminded me of another case of a driver who worked in the NCR. His parents persuaded him to marry a girl they liked, although he was in love with a girl he went to school with. The wife had a child, a girl child, and they all lived in their village. This driver avoided going home and continued to meet the girl he loved, and finally married her and started living with her in the NCR, now they have two sons. His parents have refused to accept the woman he chose as their daughter in law. He doesn’t visit his home much and they have enough ‘kheti’ (income through farming) to survive without his support. The daughter in law the parents chose, lives with them.

In a third case, a close relative of her husband helped the daughter in law, living in a joint family, divorce an alcoholic husband, much to the displeasure of the in laws.  After the divorce, this woman trained to be a teacher, got married and had two children. She is still seen, by some, as irresponsible for not standing by her husband.

Would you say the in laws in these stories are being selfless? How much say in these situations do you think did the daughters in law have? And if they could take independent decisions, what do you think would each of them have chosen to do? What would have been the general response if the daughters in law had chosen to walk out of these marriages (to marry again or to live independently) despite the kindness of their in laws? Why?

Why do Nuclear Families face so much criticism?

Back in the day, living in joint families, having children early on in the marriage, etc buffered any minor discord in married life and personalities.

“In today’s nuclear setup (which I prefer for myself), there are no buffers….it’s one-on-one 24/7.” (Sabbatical Blogger’s comment)

How did the nuclear set up affect the Indian society?

1. The nuclear family gave the couple more time to interact with each other.

2. Women were able to cook, raise children, run their homes, decorate, pray, dress, read, talk, walk, travel and socialize in ways that  were often seen as nontraditional and hence unacceptable in Joint Families.

3. Young parents were also able to spend more time with their children.

For women less people to cook, serve, interact etc with, less socializing with spouse’s relatives, more time for husband and children.

For men more time with wife and children.

4. For many couples it became easier to have fewer children, and to not ‘try for’ sons.

For some, it slowly changed the way they treated their children. With more time and communication, and just one or two kids at home, many parents started understanding their children (including daughters) better. Many started seeing their children as little humans, deserving the same respect everybody else did. (Although some still want to raise Shravan Kumars)

5. Nuclear families made it easier for young couples to stop following customs they had always found regressive. This was difficult in a joint family.

6. The modern (or western?) ideas of mutual respect and equality for all family members became easier to demand, and to apply.

7. Daughters could be educated more than the elders permitted in Joint families, their marriages could be delayed, they could wear jeans and bring their male class mates home.

8. Rigid gender roles became difficult to follow. With no other female and male members available, it became easier for women to get out of the house for tasks which otherwise other male members would have done (e.g. school fees or bill payment). Men could contribute in housework and child care without being labeled Joru Ka Gulaam.

Nuclear families in general empower women.  And young men.

Then why do Nuclear Families face so much criticism?

Perhaps because it makes it easier for young couples to give up old customs? Living with a spouse from another caste or religion is easier in a nuclear set up, so is a refusal to see women as impure during their period.

Also because many parents of sons see this as a loss of their higher social position.

Some of the advertisements that we see as regressive today depict a life unimaginable for most women living in Joint Families, where the capability to decide which cooking oil to use could be seen as reserved for the elders in the family. Nuclear Families could question the ‘age+experience= always right’ rule. 

Women still needed to know that they were needed. Sexists advertisements fuel this need and these ads also stereotype men as generally helpless and incompetent.

Expert kaun? (Who is the expert?)

9. Apart from the above, the Nuclear set up also makes it easier for the parents of both the partners to visit them, and if need be, live with their children.

Being able to see their daughters as support in their old age will allow Indian parents to welcome girl babies. Families valuing daughters as much as sons is the only way to stop female feticide.

To an Anonymous DIL

DIL = Daughter in Law, MIL = Mother in Law

Dear Anonymous DIL,

Your comment in response to this post was heart breaking. There’s no telepathy needed, you get close to ANY Indian DIL living in a Joint Family, and she is dying to confide in someone about how unhappy she is, how she is frustrated with the way her husband behaves, how oppressive it is to be totally dominated by her in laws and her husband. It makes me both, angry and sad.

Many women say he changes when his parents are around. He becomes stiff, as if he feels guilty he is close to his wife! He can go out alone, no problem, but if he has to go with his wife, he must take permission.

It can be a stressful life for an average girl who wants an ordinary life – and things so many of us – and all Indian men, take for granted – some free time, a satisfying job, some friends, some recreation and most of all, some FREEDOM. Instead a lot the time and energy is spent in fuming over real and imagined insults, there are misunderstandings and resentments, competition, rivalry, jealousy, backbiting…and terrible frustration. All avoidable! Men cannot even imagine it because they never have to go through it. And their wives need not either, if they understand and support them.

What aggravates the trauma is that the girl has no scope to grow, to be creative or original because newer and better ways are totally condemned, anything can only be good if the elders have been doing it. Not a very healthy atmosphere, but we try to pass all this off as ‘inculcating of family values’ and ‘samskars’.

Many daughters in this country are raised to be just good daughters in law, they grow up prepared for a tough life in a joint family, still it is unbearable for them!

When my daughter was born I was advised to drink FIFTEEN Kg of DESI GHEE! Thankfully I had the common sense (and good luck) to smile the advice away. I was also advised not to drink water to avoid gaining weight. I had faith in PREGNANCY by GORDON BOURNE which protected me from all such advice. Just a normal healthy diet was what I followed. In a joint family, this, which affected no one as much as me, would have offended many!

What does one do if one is trapped in such a situation?
Why not create an id and/or start a blog your husband does not know of? Yes, I am suggesting traditional Indian style deception, you know Krishna, Drona and Yudhishthir have used it. You DEFINITELY need a space of your own, if nothing else then just to rant. If you had an email address I could have emailed this reply! No body’s family name and honor will come to any harm if you don’t use you own name. And you will get to speak to like minded people! And frankly if a DIL speaks about her in laws, in India, it is nothing new or scandalous, I am yet to meet a girl who lives with her in laws and does not complain about it. WHY don’t we see girls more than willing to live in joint families? Don’t we care how they feel at all? Why are so many of them complaining? There has to be something wrong with this system? When I was younger I thought they were being unaccommodating, selfish etc but over the years I realised that this system is totally wrong and it gives too much power to some humans over the lives of some other humans. And what kind of power! It is so outrageously unjust and the worst part is, this control is couched in ‘sanskar’.

For those who disagree with me, try and imagine a boy doing what a girl is expected to do…obedience, sacrifice, going nowhere without permission, living under supervision and control, expected to forget your own parents, no independence – everything. Boys, can you live like that? I know I won’t wish it on an enemy.

Imagine, an adult is required to take permission to go and shop, to watch a movie, to cook a favourite dish, and WORST to meet her own parents/friends! A friend of mine, who is a doctor lived in a joint family for a while. She said everybody was nice, there was no criticism or nitpicking, “but when I go home after a tiring day, sometimes I just want to pick a Pizza on my way home, take a shower, wear a long, loose T shirt and flop on my bedroom floor, watching TV and eating Pizza.” But this LUXURY she could not afford. Her husband who came back home with her everyday could though. She had to politely supervise the dinner, when he could say he did not want to be disturbed because he was tired. Doesn’t it sound more a case of if it’s MY child he is tired, if it’s SOMEBODY ELSE’S child she is cranky! Her husband sometimes went out alone with friends, when she wanted to do that there was the same taking permission protocol. When she was offered a job in another city it was understood that she would refuse. She was needed at home, why else did the guy get married? But let’s ask, WHY did this girl get married?

Why shouldn’t all young couples live in their own houses? I know many couples who are taking good care of the parents on both the sides, but they live in their own house with their young children.

Anonymous DIL, it is not right that he supervises your blogging. If he was fair about it, you could let him read it, maybe advice (not command) like an equal or a friend, but no more. This is just not right because you are not a child, you are an adult, and you have a need and a right to interact with the world. This supervision is control of the worst kind, because it is done so self righteously, using excuses like family honor, values and tradition. In India family values value everybody except the DIL. I am rambling because I feel so helpless! Why can’t the rest of us see how wrong it is!

Anonymous DIL, have you tried talking about this to your husband? Your in laws are not alone, so actually whether you stay with them or not, will not really affect them, unless it becomes an ego issue. (Don’t let it become that!). And it will mean so much to you! After enjoying living alone here with you, is it not possible that your husband will realise that it’s nice to have a home of your own? Do you show him how much you love living life like this? Maybe seeing how happy you are will make him see it isn’t such a bad idea to live on your own? Convey this to him; let him know you do not want to live in a joint family again. Do you fear his reaction? Still do it.

If nothing else works TAKE UP A JOB. Getting out of the house for a few hours every day can be a huge break. You are qualified; don’t waste your education over so called ‘petty issues‘ which can actually cause a lot of pain. But what if the family does not allow you to work? I think this is one thing you will have to fight for. Put your foot down, find a job. And keep what you earn. Buy gifts, smile, be pleasant BUT keep your job and your money. I believe they will get used to it.

I hope you wipe your tears and realise that there is nothing wrong with your wanting some space, And decide to fight, I feel you can and will find positive solutions.

Hugz.

Also read No Jeans for an Indian Daughter in Law.

Joint Family and Indian Daughters

This politically incorrect post is in response to Jottings and Musings‘s question (in response to my post on Uttam Dave’s article).

“I find the entire concept of a joint family strange and artificial and would never like to live in one. I think of marriage as two adults coming together to form a new home and family of their own, rather than a convenient arrangement for guys where the girl moves in and marries his entire family, so to speak!

As an older and wiser woman, I want to know your opinion IHM, is it strange or wrong to think like this?”

This will require a lot of tact jottingsnmusings… Let me take a deep breath.

Okay, in it’s traditional form???

I think the Joint Family System, in its traditional form, is extremely convenient for parents and grand parents of sons. In India when we talk about taking care of aging parents it is assumed that we are talking about parents of men.

Most young wives do not like it, because they are the ones with a lot of thankless (or conditional deification) responsibilities (including family honor) and not much authority.

For a young bride, a Joint Family means many eyes scrutinizing how she cooks her dal, is it time for her to provide the family with a grand son, her in-laws decide if they should find out whether the unborn is a girl or a much valued son and what to do with it. And so on.

What she eats, how she dresses, what time she wakes up (staying late in bed is frowned upon). Her children’s diet, education, values are all discussed by the elders in the in-laws family. They also decide whether or not she works. And even if she is ‘allowed’ to work she must come home and help her mother in law in the kitchen. Do they need a domestic help? Ask the Parents in law. A new dish washer? Parents in law decide. It does mean a loss of personal space and nearly no freedom for the DIL.

What about the Daughter in law’s husband? This system gets him the comfort of living with his birth parents all his life. He can sleep till late, he never needs to enter the kitchen, he can come home and sprawl in front of the TV after a hard day’s work, and be served hot tea and snacks by her. A daughter in law generally cannot watch TV if the mother in law is working in the kitchen. The days menu is nearly always the In-laws’ decision.

For a man, his aging parents are cared for by the daughter in law, he has no worries. Her parents??? What about this woman’s parents? Do our Indian family values include the care of a woman’s parents in their old age?

No they don’t. To the limit that even today, many DILs’ parents do not even drink a glass of water at their daughter’s married home (or her in laws’ home). Or if they do eat there, they pay for it. Unbelievable but true.

Most Indian parents can rightfully demand that their son looks after them, but if a daughter volunteers to do the same typical, traditional parents have inhibitions even today. But where does the girl even dream of volunteering for something so selfish. Her duties lie with her in-laws. I have heard women say, “I am good to my in laws, I am sure God will make my brother’s wife nice to my parents.” (It’s not the brother as much as his wife who is supposed to provide care giving)

They cannot even imagine that they can demand that they be ‘allowed’ to care for their own parents also. (Unless they live in a Nuclear Family).

It is not appreciated if she wants to think of, talk and or wish to maintain too much contact with her biological family. The biggest disadvantage of this is that she is not able to draw support from them in case of abuse. And there is a lot of abuse. Often leading to bride burning. Why is it accepted by the girl’s parents? It is accepted because they believe their daughter’s marriage is more important than her life. Most Indian parents do believe that a girl’s honor and her marital status are very important. Divorce in such families is a dirty word, a dead or unhappy daughter is more acceptable.

Who made such a system?
Why aren’t we changing it fast?
Aren’t our skewed family values pushing us towards killing unborn baby girls?

Does it sound fair and good to you? Yes? Then why do so many young wives take their own lives? (Many times they are not living with the in laws but the pressure is there all the same.)

The son faces no such harsh realities. He has a wife to take care of his parents, and his home and his children. He does not have to move in with strangers, and love them and obey them and be devoted to them. The best wayto see if it is fair or not is to ask a boy’s mother if she would be prepared to send her son to a girl’s house and train him to live with the same honor and dignity as a girl does, will she teach him to consider them his own family, and put them before his biological parents. Will she teach him that he must take their permission before visiting her.

Now for some good, practical, Counsel for IN LAWS in joint families. Read it, it makes great sense.
Added on Oct 23 2008 : Here’s some more counsel for Mothers in law, by a Mother in law.

Related posts:

An email: My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do.

“I am the glue in their marriage. They have come to have a largely perfunctory relationship without me.”