An email: The last straw was her expecting me to practise 4 day period sit-out thingy.

Sharing an email.

I wonder if this daughter in law would be seen as ‘playing a bad girl’ because she doesn’t seem to be succeeding in becoming a ‘ideal bahu’.

Hi IHM

Here’s another story of a DIL who understands her angry MIL but not vice versa.

I married the man I was seeing for five years last year without objection from either families and since then my relationship with my widowed MIL has been going downhill. He is her only child & is 28 yrs of age. I am 26 and she is 76 yrs old. After I married, my husband got a job in his hometown & we decided to move back.

It was then that I realized my MIL throws tantrums like a child. I understand her age but imagine living with constant complaints about my hair/bindi free forehead/no bangles etc. Just to keep peace at home I decided to wear bindi/bangles knowing fully well why I was doing it. You can imagine when a rich household like her’s with zilch financial problem invests all of their time performing pooja at any given time of the day. So it was quite a shock for an Athiest me to visit their pooja room once before marriage to witness gold & silver pooja items & millions of God photos.

Although I had prepared myself for what lay ahead, I hope one understands that it takes time to understand what is expected (of me) in the pooja room when I have absolutely no exposure to ultra orthodox lifestyle. Out of genuine respect for their beliefs I took extra care to finish my chores before time to witness what happens in the pooja room and to my own surprise/first-time-fear I helped around with whatever was needed of me even though I was absolutely clueless. Then started harassed cry from my MIL about how wrong I was doing it all. It seems I have no respect towards her pandit/pujari visiting home-how I was bound to bring shame to the respect the home had earned by what I wore (while her son wore shorts & I was in kurta) etc. At that time, I gave her the benefit of doubt that she must have also been shocked/scared by how the other part of population lives. I kept quiet thinking this could be sorted once we could have a dialogue after she calms down. But alas, it was not meant to be. She seems to be extremely disappointed by the DIL she has been given.
The last straw was her expecting me to practise 4 day period sit-out thingy [More about period-sit-out]. Horrified I was and so was my husband. He told her bluntly that he would not allow it and we moved out after much drama.

All this happened within a month of us coming back. I got myself a job & things got hectic. Regardless, I told myself that my orthodox MIL must have been in shock that a woman in her household dared defy traditions just like how I was shocked at the repressiveness at her household.

Each time we visited her home, she would fawn over her son and pointedly ignore me or make small talk if I initiated it. At times when I ponder over why she’s doing this I feel bad for her. At an age when family matters, she seems to be rejecting us over issues like period sit-out or pooja. Some months ago, my hubby office timings changed due to a new project and he was asked to come at three different time schedules each month. This threw our routine into a mess, he’s putting on weight, no time to cook lunch and dinner because by then both are at work. We were completely stressed out and sleeping all the time. Our energy level dipped and my period skipped.

On check up, I was told I would not be able to conceive and something had to be done. Unfortunately, two income are necessary but I had decided to quit my job for our health. Its been a month. In all this I am trying to think positive and have brought about many changes in every day chores. I have already noticed a huge improvement in my hubby and the Doctor is very happy with my progress.

We decided not to confide in my MIL not knowing how she would react.

I have not included how my hubby is because I write this as a part of a team. We are on the same side and he is a feminist by definition. By that I also mean the one to never raise his voice against his mother but trying to sort this mess in a polite manner.

Unfortunately, MIL has started getting joint knee problem and is dependent on someone to cook her lunch or dinner and buy medicines or stuff for home. Each time we are there we stock up that might last for two months and the process repeats. Her SIL stays on the first floor and at 65 is super active. It has fallen upon her to take care of MIL’s food needs although it bothers us that we are unable to do it. We have offered her many times but she is adamant that for us to move back I *have* to practice this period thingy. It is frustrating because she is unwilling to come to our home for a couple of days. In the past one year, she been here only once. I have never had a decent conversation without her criticizing me for more than 10 min. I try not to let my ego break the stance of ‘words through action’ that I have maintained since the day it became clear where I stand in her books. I am also not the one to give back when she is criticizing me because I know where her words are coming from. In all this her SIL is now treating me as if I am her DIL and she owns that house. I normally ignore her but my hubby is scared that she might be putting in ideas into MIL’s head. I don’t know what to make of it bcz MIL has also started criticizing me in front of her. I think it was this that I have seen my husband angry. He told her to stop & we left. It stands there today and I haven’t spoken to her since then. Next week, is my FIL’s death anniversary and we are going there. I am dreading it.

I am writing this letter to you just to tell that there are DILs’ who are trying to understand the place bitter MILs’ come from but it seems like a tiring process. I am losing interest in that part of my life as days progress because there seems to be no improvement regardless of our attempts. Now my hubby is seen as Joru ka Ghulam and is constantly pressurized not only by her but now the SIL above as well. I am obviously concerned of our mental & physical health. This situation is doing nothing to help us.

When I hear of things like independent woman-career oriented-living alone etc, what do they mean in the context of a DIL?

I gave up my job for health reasons/family/out of choice – does this make me dependent? What about the health improvement I am seeing in my hubby that I have taken responsibility over?

I am also young and sometimes wistfully think of life single ‘independent’ women lead.

The funny thing is I have all the support from my husband but my MIL’s tantrums and age is stopping us from being impulsive. I do not type this with regret but merely commenting on situation.

Love,

Yet another exploited-for-being-an-Indian-DIL.

Related post – recommended by the email writer.

The way things are done – Usha, Ageless Bonding

88 thoughts on “An email: The last straw was her expecting me to practise 4 day period sit-out thingy.

  1. First of all YOU ARE NOT EXPLOITED DIL , you are just being expected to be a dutiful dil .
    MIL is conditioned by the society and she wont be able to break that conditioning at the age she is in because INSTILLED fear of society .
    Is your husband a rebellion ???

    how come being the only child he is not dependent on his mother and how come he does not take her view into accounts on how to HANDLE you ??

    if he is a rebellion then its ok , then he has broken the conditioning much earlier in life ,

    or was it that during court ship you made it clear to him that you are not a typical indian woman following norms because THEY NEED TO BE FOLLOWED and he accepted you as he wanted u in his life

    but if YOUR HUSBAND IS NOT A REBELLION and has been groomed by his mother and father to be what he his then YOUR MIL IS NOT A CONSERVATIVE MOTHER IN LAW , she has groomed her son into a fine young liberal minded person , caring about woman .

    at her age she is wont change its you who needs to change not because you are a daughter in law but because you are a good human being

    during periods in many households the food is not still cooked by the house lady in the kitchen but in modern times with microwave etc you can still have a independent kitchenet of your own

    dont cook for her
    keep away from her and dont go in her room ,

    its fine if some old person is active and some inactive , each body has its own metabolic system
    take your husband and your self , your life style made you realise its not right , and you woke up , think how much she must have undergone in her days

    every woman needs to be compasionate for a older woman because these older woman have gone thru a very conditioned life and they dont understand the need and desire to be different

    for them its norm of life

    i feel they need more moral support and i really feel you and your husband need to be more patient

    dont take me to be judgemental , just put your self in her shoes and imagine your self at your age and have a daughter in law who wants to have her male friends for night party in absence of her husband { those teenagers who go to pub . have late night parties etc will find it very weird if as a mil will feel it should not be done at home !!!!}

    i always feel that woman over the age of 65 years need compassion and care from their daughters and dil , they need time to talk to us and share their experiences , what they went thru in early life , how society CONDITIONED them to became a WOMAN .

    woman are not born they are made

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    • woman are not born they are made

      Don’t agree at all. I am not rejecting the fact that they have been brain-washed and this and that. But women having daughters don’t act like this, do they?
      Its the women having a male child who get hyper about things like these, because they EXPECT. The problem is right there. All women are born the same.. what makes them is whether they have a daughter or a son.

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      • Indian society makes a woman
        a child is born and the child is totally unaware of the sex , its we who tell them you are a boy , you are a girl and slowly the girls are conditioned to become woman . mark the word conditioned ,

        both children get a different conditioning
        and its very popular saying in hindi

        aurat paedaa nahin hotii aurat banayii jaatii haen

        woman with daughters are also same as woman with sons , there is no difference except that the ones with sons are conditioned to think that they will soon have to share their son with another woman so THEY SHOULD BE STRONG WITH HER
        the daughters mother is conditioned because she has been drilled that her status is lower because she gave birth to a daughter

        a daughters mother is always insecure and as soon the married daughter is home the first question is ” how mil behaves ” the second “keep a hold on your husband ”

        please read in depth and please see behaviour pattern , you will not find any
        change

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    • “at her age she is wont change its you who needs to change not because you are a daughter in law but because you are a good human being”

      You say the MIL has become “conditioned” by society. By asking the DIL to change, you want the DIL to also become the same “conditioned” person that the MIL is!

      “every woman needs to be compasionate for a older woman because these older woman have gone thru a very conditioned life and they dont understand the need and desire to be different”

      Why only women need to be compassionate to older folks. Everyone needs to be compassionate to fellow human beings as long as they are being respectful, polite and kind to others.

      “they need time to talk to us and share their experiences , what they went thru in early life , how society CONDITIONED them to became a WOMAN”

      The MIL is having an opportunity to speak and talk and share her experiences, instead she is behaving like a school teacher sending the DIL out for a sit-out. If her experiences made her the “conditioned” woman she is, she need not inflict that on her DIL.

      The fact is no matter who or how the DIL is, MIL’s become extra possesive over their sons the moment they get married. This has been debated time and again on this blog.

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      • Why only women need to be compassionate to older folks. Everyone needs to be compassionate to fellow human beings as long as they are being respectful, polite and kind to others.

        THIS POST IS FROM A WOMAN HENCE THE REPLY
        The MIL is having an opportunity to speak and talk and share her experiences, instead she is behaving like a school teacher sending the DIL out for a sit-out. If her experiences made her the “conditioned” woman she is, she need not inflict
        that on her DIL.

        ASKING SOME ONE ABOVE 70 TO CHANGE , IS NOT GOING TO WORK
        YES ONE CAN ABANDON THEIR PARENTS / INLAWS IF THEY SO WISH

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    • My my Rachna, hold your horses!

      “You aren’t an EXPLOITED DIL, you are expected to be a dutiful DIL”.
      So, ‘dutiful’ means you don’t mind being treated as an untouchable for something that isn’t your fault, and isn’t a fault in the first place?

      You are saying, if the husband isn’t sexist, hyper-religious, conservative and if he cares about his wife, he was groomed into the fine, young man he is by his mother? Well, I know someone who could be the identical twin of the MIL mentioned here. Her son is a feminist and the most respectful man towards woman I have ever known. He is the way he is because of his father, and he disapproves of his mothers’ sexist ways.

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      • you are just being expected to be a dutiful dil

        i hv said YOU ARE BEING EXPECTED
        why do you imply that rachna is expecting

        i am talking about the attitude of society
        please read the comment carefully

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    • One of the reasons for the DIL-MIL friction is the generation gap. Secondly, the fact that it is very difficult for 2 women to control and manage a common household harmoniously, unless they share a genuine liking and empathy for each other or unless one of them is very submissive by nature. Every woman will have her own style of doing things. Whether it is a 76 year old MIL or a 25 year old DIL. And to expect either of them to change their way of living drastically is not fair on any one of them.

      Also the way the older generation was conditioned – they expected to become old and helpless and be served by their son and daughter in law. They did not take into account that today’s sons AND DILs would have a demanding career, a modern lifestyle, non-traditional ways of practicing or not practicing religion and generally a strong individuality of their own. Had they taken this into account very early in life, they would have prepared themselves to expect this and taken whatever action was needed to correct any friction in the future. They would have looked at life beyond their own household, started pursuing hobbies, built their own circle of friends, started attending/hosting social events, started getting themselves fitter and healthier, kept their minds busy with creative and productive thoughts, worked with determination to not be dependent on ANY ONE (yes, not even their own sons and daughters) for as as long as they could and generally opening up their mind to the changes taking place in the world around them. Their own life would have been richer for this and the contentment it would bring would leave little to no room for harboring old fashioned expectations and grudges from/about others around them.

      I think this is something all future MILS and FILS should realize at an early age. I have seen my mom doing this while she was working and even more now after retirement – of course it helps that she has been a career woman herself. A son and his wife do not have to physically stay in the same house – and parents should prepare themselves to not expect this. I have seen households that are happier when the son and DIL live separately and come together to celebrate occasions or when someone falls sick or needs any help.

      That way the MIL and the DIL get to live their life they want to lead in their own separate households, without imposing their views and lifestyle on each other, give vent to their creativity in managing their own household, and yet maintain a respectful relationship with each other.

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    • I wish I could give you multiple thumbs down. There is so much I disagree with. First off, I find it sick that you think a man who cares about women is a ‘fine young liberal minded’ boy – so according to you men who care about women are liberal minded.

      Second, kindly explain this statement : “take your husband and your self , your life style made you realise its not right , and you woke up”. What lifestyle is the writer supposed to realise is ‘not right’, pray tell, according to your exacting, and of course accurate standards?

      “every woman needs to be compasionate for a older woman because these older woman have gone thru a very conditioned life and they dont understand the need and desire to be different ” – so asking her to treat a person like a human being = need and desire to be different? OK, didn’t know. Also, in asking thee writer to behave like the MIL, aren’t you asking her to behave in the manner that the MIL has been conditioned ?

      Your language per se pisses me off ‘during periods food is not cooked by the house lady’. I love how you assume all women in households MUST cook and they are ‘house ladies’. This terminology is regressive, though you may claim otherwise. Wanting to be a functioning member of society that respects people irrespectie of sex is not ‘the need and desire to be different’. It’s being a NORMAL human being.

      “dont take me to be judgemental , just put your self in her shoes and imagine your self at your age and have a daughter in law who wants to have her male friends for night party in absence of her husband ” – The moment you need to write ‘don’t take me to be judgemental,’ you’re being exactly that. Just fyi, my friends are my friends. I don’t think of friends as ‘male friends’ and ‘female friends’, and just because they are male, it doesn’t mean a woman wants to fuck them.

      The OP’s husband, in spite of his mum, is a normal human being, without being stuck in the regressive rut his mother (and you) seem to be languishing in. Just goes to show you can be from a certain lot, privy to certain sorts of conditioning, blah blah blah, but you can USE your brains and break out of it. That is true of all human beings, male or female. It may be a bit more difficult for women in India , but as far as all human beings go, you can use your own intellect to better your lot instead of being stuck in a rut.

      P.S- the words ‘rebellious’ and ‘rebellion’ are not the same.
      P.P.S (in ref. to your opening line) – what is a ‘dutiful daughter in law’, please do tell?
      BTW, this comments shows you to be exactly the kind of judgemental person you claim not to be.

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      • you are just being expected to be a dutiful dil

        i hv said YOU ARE BEING EXPECTED

        why do you imply that rachna is expecting

        i am talking about the attitude of society
        please read the comment carefully
        please don’t consider analysis of a problem as judgement

        today we are young tommorrow we will grow old

        we need to learn to stand with any / every woman and problems will ease
        else precondition to all marriages should be NO MIL

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        • Expectations do not come out of a vacuum. HUMAN BEINGS have to be doing the expectation.

          And you don’t speak for other human beings, you Rachna, can only speak for yourself. Therefore, when you say “you are being expected”, you are only projecting your own expectations on to the letter writer.

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        • “I am talking about the attitude of society” – society isn’t some floating blob of goo, it’s made of, guess what, PEOPLE. All sorts of them. It is in challenging these retrograde ideals that we change it. If we just ‘go with the flow’ nothing will ever change, we’ll just be stuck in the whole past rut. For progress to happen, someone has to raise their voice. Your ‘analysis’, as you claim, was not analysis at all.

          “Today we are young tomorrow we’ll grow old”- tautology, and irrelevant to this issue . Completely so. ‘We need to learn to stand with any …bla bla ‘ Putting up with a person does not mean having to agree or fall in line with their ideals, and MIL or no MIL I don’t think such attitudes should be put up with, whomsoever they may come from. And if every man/woman’s problems should be ‘put up with’, why not go ahead and tell the MIL that. She’s a sentient, able human being right?

          That in itself (putting up with people) is unrelated to ‘precondition to all marriages should be no MIL’ – but really, I DO think that should be a precondition to all marriages. Firstly I think arranged marriage is disgusting and a retarded concept that has no place in this day and age, and second, in India, it’s a marriage between TWO PEOPLE. Husband and wife. Not Husband/MIL+ wife or any such combination.

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    • “Women are not born, they are made.”
      Rachnaji, you’re quoting Germaine Greer. This proves to me that feminist thought is universally relevant. This was written by an Australian feminist in the 60s and is being read on an Indian blog.

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  2. This mess and attitude is driving people out of the Great INdian family system . we do not know how to c0-exist and we do not want people to live independently . we have control freaks every where .

    Having said that , IT lifestyle does have its down sides along with big paycheck .. stress , odd timings that leads to bad sleeping and eating patterns .. i have done that for 3 years ,… and then one day I realized I had to set it right . If you two are living away from her , small planning can help you organize household work and you can continue your job . With additional income you can keep a household help for your MIL ( who observes 4 days period thingy ) and pay for up keep . This will make you stay guilt free and also you will not be constantly worried about MILs upkeep .

    Re-Organize your life , cook on weekends , work in the kitchen together , spend some time on walking / gym / dancing . Eat healthy and sleep on time . Cut down on Internet time , practice Yoga or outdoor workout and get deficiencies etc checked . It sounds difficult , but I have done it and I have managed it alone , because taking off from job was not an option. And your husbands health is not your responsibility , Its his own responsibility as much as your own health is yours .
    When you and your husband will feel better and are healthy and happy , you can deal with MIL and her SIL or whatever as a unit firmly and politely . Make your own lives a priority here .

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    • If you have really followed whatever you have mentioned here,hats off to you! (from somebody who left IT coz of erratic working hours and no work-life-balance!)

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  3. The term ‘Joru ka ghulam’ actually signifies that those men are refusing to be Ma ka ghulam, so they get branded as joru ka ghulam. There should be telling name for such mothers who keep (or try to keep) the sons as ghulams. I wonder why there is no name for such as THEM?
    Call me heartless or whatever, but I have absolutely NO patience or sympathy for such MILs. There are many women from the same generation who have adjusted and understood the changes around them admirably well, with wonderful relationship with daughters in law who are totally different from them. So if some of these mothers want to make their own lives miserable, one should just step aside and let them, I would say.

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    • I so agree shail …people should first behave themselves to get care and respect from DILs ..let them live with their dramas . you cannot demand care and respect and continue to be rude and ridiculous

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    • @shail: “There are many women from the same generation who have adjusted and understood the changes around them admirably well.” Those who haven’t, are never told they need to evolve. When the MIL is on the wrong side of 60, nobody has any dil (heart) for the DIL, however oppressed she may be. In a country where age is venerated, youth becomes a disadvantage.

      2 thumbs up for your comment. (I actually added 2 thumbs up by changing my IP address.😀 )

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      • Has their been an outbreak of trolls on this blog recently? I am noticing all the good comments being downvoted and all the misogynistic comments being upvoted.😦

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        • I guess our comments are being downvoted because this matter involves someone ‘old and helpless’. A daughter-in-law who refuses to confirm to the ways of the new family and “become one of us” faces unending vitriol, but when the “adjustment” needs to be done with someone aged, there are no two ways about it. The younger of the two is expected to simply flush her personality down the toilet for the sake of her husband, marriage, happiness (?), in-laws, and yada-yada.

          I am loving the thumbs-down party. It possibly means we have punched the buttons of those who with believe old age is like a video game cheat code. You don’t have to play by the rules, you get away with everything you do wrong, you are never penalised no matter how many mistakes you make.

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    • I absolutely agree with you!! Have no idea why 55 idiots have thumbed you down. I wish I could give you multiple thumbs up. No patience or sympathy from me either – everybody has an opportunity to better their lot instead of whine about it and make themselves and others miserable. If they want to, let them do it and leave them. You put it in a much less rude way than I would have.🙂

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    • There is something weird going on here (No shit, Sherlock…). 84 down votes to this comment, yet not one of those 84 bothered posting a rebuttal comment. I don’t see anything wrong with your views regarding the MIL. Anyone who tries to control other people or impose their beliefs on other people or subjects other people to mental and emotional distress with their judgemental diatribes is suffering from a huge sense of entitlement. Such a delusional person does not deserve much patience or sympathy.

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    • Lol, to all those who ‘down voted’ the comment:
      I am still very popular (trying to be modest here) among youngsters (girls) and many older women have directly told me that they wished their daughters would end up in a home like mine with a MIL like me. So WHAT exactly does that say of your down votes, huh?!!! I am having the last laugh after all!😉 Lol.

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  4. This is the story of 99% DILs. Trust me, even if you ‘adjust’ and follow all the rules and even start reciting the Rig Veda – there will still be something to criticise. When someone hates you (yes, it is hatred), everything you do and say will be deemed as wrong. This is a no-end zone, and things will not improve. Today it is pooja-pat, tomorrow it is ‘my son gained weight because of DIL; he lost weight because of DIL..’ and once you have a kid then you will be criticised for being inept at motherly duties – your are not breast feeding properly, you don’t know how to hold a baby…basically you are a terrible mother. And this would have been the case EVEN IF this were an arranged match.

    Constant humiliation is debiliating and it really has a crippling effect on the mind. You are constantly thinking ‘If I do this, she will say this, then I will react in this manner’ and so on and so forth. It is this stress that is always underestimated. Physical stress has a recovery period when you sleep – but mental stress has none. When you are mentally stressed, esp. when you are at the receiving end of humiliation, you slip into chronic depression. Your self worth is eroded, your self respect is diminished. Your eyes constantly well up. When you look around you and you see other people – you start thinking ‘I wish I were as happy as them.’ You automatically start thinking ‘why did this happen to me?’ That zone is a dangerous one.

    Any relationship – be it husband-wife or parent-child should be based on mutual respect and understanding. The operative word is mutual. I don’t think you should invest any more time and energy in trying to ‘understand’ your MIL – each and every minute spent in thinking of ‘how to please her, how to modify my behaviour’ will only harm you more and more. I understand you say your husband is very supportive and you are a team. I am sure he is going through quite a turmoil too. The emotional blackmail of being labelled as ‘abandoning a widowed mother’ is quite crippling.

    I would strongly recommend taking up a job. Not for the finances part of it – but for your mental well being. At the risk of repeating myself – ‘good health’ is not just about eating healthy and sleeping healthy. It is also about having a healthy frame of mind. From what I gather, both you and your husband are under great mental pressure constantly. This issue has become the epicentre of your lives. Taking up a job will help you focus on something else, put this whole farce in the background – because that is the place for it. It will also help you have your own social circle – even just talking about this with other women who are under similar situations (believe me there are many) will help relieve the stress. As you have pointed out – you are young – you deserve to do much more with your life, than listen to bullshit day in and day out.

    I don’t know if the lady realizes it or not but she has effectively ruined the happiness of her young son. If she chooses to – she could be a part of a very loving family and be a real pillar of strength. But for some reason, many like her choose to be a slow-dripping poison, and they too get burnt in the process.

    I know some people try and psychoanalyse and call it conditioning etc. etc. But nothing – no relationship, no status, no age gives ones the right to humiliate and hurt another person needlessly. If at 65 a man/woman does not have enough maturity and compassion in the heart to foster and respect a relationship – then they have no right to demand attention.

    It is a toxic environment – for her as well as for you both. Seriously, consider moving cities. She will be fine dont worry – she is a strong woman. In Kannada we have a saying – one gets pain in the leg only when one sees a horse. As long as you guys are near, at her beck and call, she will continue with her tantrums. Left to her own devices she will do admirably well. It is good for her too – she can take her mind off from ‘how to play victim’ to other things that are healthy for her body and spirit. If moving out is not possible, your husband must take a stand and leave you out of all interactions with her.

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  5. 76 year old woman with a 28 year old son! So she had him when she was 48? Huh! While not impossible, this story sounds fishy to me. IHM, you are getting a little over-zealous in publishing anything that comes your way. Also in my opinion, the general variety in your blog content is going down. You are focusing and re-posting on topics covered several times in the past. As someone who enjoys reading your blog, I hope you’ll delve out in other social issues, including other women’s issues .

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  6. I disagree. What does rebelious mean? I think from the letter we can conclude that the husband regardless of rejecting orthodox practise he is willing to have a dialouge with his mother (trying to sort it polite manner says letter). I consider this maturity not rebel. The pt i would like to highlite is they were married without opposition. I guess the guy did nt expect ths sudden turn in his mother. Elder care is in itself tremoundously stressful, imagine when youngsters like these at an age where career n job matter are forced to put up with such behaviour. Wouldnt it be easier to provide care if mil did not humiliate dil every min? This is emotional blackmail at its worst. The whole world wil obviously sympathise with the ‘widowed abndonded aged mil’ and blame the dil for ‘brainwashing’ her son.

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  7. I resent the misogynistic implications of Gayatri’s comment. Toxic control freak mothers/in-laws, like the case with a lot of South Asian cultures, is a symptomatic reaction to the kind of psychological malaise Indian mothers develop, after their son becomes their primary ‘achievement’ in life. Middle class Indian women have to give up a lot of their human needs, desires and wants (such as having an active social life, hobbies, etc.) to fit into the kind of ‘family life’ that the culture demands. They are taught that having and rearing children (preferably sons) is supposed to be the alpha and the omega of their lives.
     
    When they internalise that their son is an ‘investment’, they stop considering him an independant human being and start to believe that their son owes them a ‘return of investment’ for all their efforts (“sacrifices”) to bring him up.
     
    Also, in my personal observation(s), hyper-religiousity among women is usually a sign of sexual or emotional repression.

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    • True , true true! This pattern is so prevalent in Indian society- mothers who have sons have a HUGE sense of entitlement- especially those who have two.

      Of course, the sons sometimes ‘betray’ them- by moving away/marrying for love/ taking their own decisions- and this threatens their feeling of entitlement. To regain a modicum of their self esteem- they begin to take their frustration out on the DIL .

      On a related note, I have one aunt who used to make me and the other girl cousins sit practically at the entrance of her house when we had our periods so that her precious home wouldn’t get contaminated. (She had no daughters). She was also melodramatic and overly religious- the monster-in-law from hell basically.
      Her DIL ended up divorcing the son- he wouldn’t agree to move out and she really couldn’t stand the MIL (my aunt).
      Needless to say, she made sure the guy remarried- but with one important difference. The new DIL is treated like her ‘daughter’- no criticism, no customs and tradition, no expectations, no ‘sitting out’ during periods!
      She’s learnt her lesson- no girls are willing to take her brand of c**p these days!

      Like

        • As the ex-wife and ex-DIL of a similarly over-religious, hypercritical mother-son duo, I much prefer the stigma of a divorce compared to a life of daily criticism, humiliation and mental stress.

          Some relationships can only be salvaged if you give up your own personhood and your own desires. There are families who think a DIL is a voiceless, mindless automaton existing only to serve them and please them.

          If social pressure is the only reason one is still in a marriage, then it is time to leave, IMO.

          Like

  8. Also, in this case, the son is 28 years old and the MIL is 76 years old. She must have had him while she was 48 (yeah, I took math in school…why do you ask?). In addition, he is her only child. So perhaps the MIL is a lot more invested in her son than other mothers.

    None of this, of course, excuses the MIL for imposing her views on her DIL, expecting the DIL to toe her line or criticizing the DIL at all opportunities. At the age of 76, I don’t think the MIL is going to have a change of heart or a change of attitude. Given this situation, I feel that the only way DIL is going to get any peace of mind is by reducing her interaction with the MIL/SIL as much as possible. The DIL needs to stay apart from her MIL and meet her only when absolutely unavoidable. Reg MIL’s care, the son might need to be involved in it, but the DIL doesn’t. In addition, the son can communicate to the MIL clearly what the red lines are which she should not cross when talking to (or about) the DIL. This may or may not help, but at least the boundaries will be clearly defined.

    If she doesn’t already have it, it could help if the DIL has her own support group either in the form of friends/family members or as a part of counseling. It will give the DIL an outlet to vent her frustrations, deflect her depression and understand how other people who faced similar situations dealt with it.

    Like

  9. I was really touched by your letter and empathize with how helpless you feel. I have a big problem with this concept of deference to a particular age and its ingrained in each one of us as Indians since when we were little . Old/Older people can also act immaturely and tolerating the behavior just encourages it.If a person is being insulting call them out on it. Deference begets disrespect in these situations.

    When you visit your MIL try being a quiet spectator and see if it helps.If she still insults you then its better not to let it slide.You should talk to your husband about not visiting her unless she behaves in a civil fashion. Maybe she’ll be happy to have him all to herself for a few hours?

    Also just a note I think trying to get involved with the pooja activities was a mistake. If you are an atheist you are disrespecting a religious person by trying to mimic their activities. At some point you are going to be uncomfortable with the system -because you are an atheist- and it will show. Stay away from this area completely unless you decide you believe.

    Like

  10. Just keep away from your MIL. Can you move to another city? Why do you have to go visit your MIL. If you husband wants let him. WHy should anyone put up with being treated badly? I would just say, you love your mom, then go visit her but I love myself and do not feel I will tolerate treating me disrespectfully because lumping it means I do not respect myself. Oh, why does all this exist only in the east?

    Like

  11. Move far, far way from your MIL. Get away from stress caused by her and live your life to the fullest. Pretty much every one and every institution is going to absolve her from what she has done, is doing, and will do. All because of a) her age, b) her ‘stature’ as the MIL. At most, you will find some sympathy — “I can understand what you are going through BUT…”

    It’s the battle weary DILs who are expected to “just ignore her”, “put up with her, it’s only a week”,”humour her, she’s old”, “forgive her, she’s had a hard life”. It isn’t likely that you will hear similar excuses made for yourself. Nobody will tell her, “Try to understand her, she is from a different cultural background”, “She has had a different upbringing”, “differences aren’t faults”, “being different doesn’t equal being bad”. She wont celebrate the diversity in her family; she’ll just spend all her energies trying to make you align with her, and make you confirm.

    Her double standards are so apparent — the son can wear shorts in the puja room, the DIL can’t wear even a kurta. So, the problem isn’t with the amount of skin visible. It lies in sexist expectations from the DIL.

    Like

  12. I cannot understand Rachna’s comment. It seems that the comment is condoning and promoting exactly the kind of ‘conditioning’ that it repeatedly talks about. I seriously wonder what being a ‘dutiful DIL’ means there? I’m guessing someone who cooks and cleans for everyone in the house (house ladies), mutely puts up with constant insults and accepts inhuman treatment every month because they have a period ( a completely NATURAL event). On the other hand, the son is just expected to go work.. which the DIL also does in this case, so all the other ‘dutiful’ stuff is just a happy bonus for her. How lucky she is! I think this DIL was being perfectly dutiful by trying to understand the MIL and respecting her. Besides, how is wanting to be treated humanely anything at all like partying late into the night with men in your house in the absence of husband? There is nothing necessarily wrong with that either. Have you never hosted a party/ function/ pooja where your husband was not around for a while? ‘Parties’ does not mean ‘orgies’. I don’t know why so many indians are scared of ‘parties’!

    People need to realise that it’s perfectly fine to have your own religious beliefs and ostracise yourself for 4 days a month if you like, but you cannot impose that on others.

    By the way, what’s up with all the thumbs down for perfectly sensible comments and all the thumbs up for the one misogynistic regressive comment on this page? I really hope these are trolls because otherwise that’s a lot of people who are going to have some pretty difficult marriages (or ruin their kids’ marriages)!

    Like

    • The high number of thumbs downs don’t have to be because of trolls. It can be even regular people disagreeing with the viewpoints expressed. It would help, of course, if some of them express their viewpoints too. In any case, as long as the thumbs up/down are legitimate (and not just someone who has found a web proxy to hide their IPs), it’s all part of the debating process.

      Like

    • As the beautiful Nancy Sinatra sang, “You only live twice, one life for yourself and one for your dreams…”

      I wish more people would understand the beauty and wisdom of self-awareness. Why foist your beliefs and habits on others when you wouldn’t want the same done to you?

      I’d like to ask this 76-year old MIL if she’d like it if her DIL forced her to watch Sex And The City or watch Justin Bieber sing. If her answer is no, then she’s got no right to expect similar things out of the DIL.

      Like

  13. What is with all the thumbs downs on all the sensible comments?! Does one thumbs down count as 5 when you click the down button or what… Or if there are actually that many people who disagree please comment and let us know what your thoughts are!

    My advice to the dil is to try and keep away from your mil as much as possible. That sort of toxicity…when someone HATES you and belittles you for not doing things their way… is not good for your health. She is 76, she is not going to change, and unfortunately religion is on her side with this whole menstruation business so she is not going to compromise one bit. I am glad that you have a husband who supports you at least.

    Also, this won’t work for you since your mil wants to enforce a menstrual sit-out (sick) but for other ladies out there who have restrictions in place during menstruation…not a great long-term solution but … don’t let anyone know when you are having periods? That is how I circumvent the menstruation taboo in my household which is limited to not doing pujas or going to temple. I just don’t let anyone know (like it is anyone’s business but my own!). Menstrual cups are amazing for this.

    Like

  14. Respect begets respect and when that elementary thing missing it doesn’t make sense for you to feel bad about the state of affairs. You have put in your efforts and you have also shown your inclination to keep the relationship from freezing and that is more than enough. Your M.I.L’s inability to get accustomed to another woman in her son’s life is her problem especially after all your efforts. As for the period thingy, since she is so fussy , you can stay away from her for that time . It is heartening that your hubby gives you all the moral strength at the same time you must understand that he must be going through an emotional havoc . Let your hubby handle his mom and take care of her needs and in the meanwhile you enjoy your life the way you want to and don’t let this dampen your spirits

    Like

    • //Let your hubby handle his mom and take care of her needs and in the meanwhile you enjoy your life the way you want to and don’t let this dampen your spirits//
      This sounds like a good idea to me. I think this is most Indian daughters manage to have healthy relationships with their elderly parents, they do the care giving, and provide emotional themselves.

      Like

  15. Humans can change at any age. I know a 70 something grand-mother in India who accepted the homesexuality of her grand-son. The parents of the boy were unwilling to accept his sexual orientation. Age is not a reason for non acceptance of change.

    The DIL has stepped out of her belief zone. Despite being an atheist, she attempted to help the MIL with her pooja-paat. For whatever reason, the MIL may not come out of her belief zone. It is best for the DIL to keep away from the MIL. No one will be stepping on the other person’s foot.

    Like

  16. IHM, after seeing all the thumb downs, I can only refer that someone now knows how to send multiple thumbdowns in one go.
    If you see the format of WordPress, after you thumb up or down a comment, it does not allow you to do it again. There are workarounds for this and you can disable this. Hence, if a person is techsavvy in any way, he can send multiple thumbdowns.
    I would suggest that you disable this property.
    I tried this on one of Shail’s comment. I liked her comment, then I went and deleted the cookies for your blog in my system and tried liking the same comment again. I was able to like it again. I can do this all day and like it a 1000 times.🙂
    I have an inkling that all those dislikes are actually a single person.
    It will be ok if you do not want to publish this comment. I just wanted to let you know. This is the first good thing I have done after becoming a Software Engineer.🙂

    Like

  17. Yet another exploited-for-being-an-Indian-DIL,

    First of all, I do not think you are being exploited. yes you have a MIL who seems to be out of a different century, but there are a lot of solutions to this. I found mine.

    I am 29, married to my husband after seeing him for 7 years before that. And like yours, my MIL is a widow and can be very difficult and throw child like tantrums. And again, like yours my husband is very supportive of me and stands by me in everything we have decided together. We cook together, clean together and are both very busy techies. And I had similar problems with my MIL – She expected me to act like the good bahu in saas bahu serials.. I am not even going into it now, but lets say it was worse than yours..

    We initially did a lot of things wrong – he yelled at her when all demands were placed on me and that made things worse. We thought we were doing it all right and she was being a child. We cooked all meals (she hated this) and left for work early and came back very late just to avoid her tantrums. After a while, I wasnt even talking to her and my husband was bearing all the brunt to protect me. She is very sick and we agreed that we did want her to live alone at any cost (she also recently lost her husband and even then we realized that was the reason behind her behavior).. My parents are old and I did not take these problems to my parents and that added to my stress.. It felt it like it was me and my hubby against my MIL and huge set of her relatives who simply blamed it on my being from a modern family.. Even though my husband was protecting me by not letting me face her, I feel we were both stressed out and at one point it all went to a breaking point. A kind relative suggested it and after months of convincing my MIL we finally we went to a counsellor (therapist) and things slowly changed.

    All 3 of us are going to therapy now and things have miraculously improved. The counsellor pointed out a lot of things we (hubby and I) were doing wrong while agreeing that my MIL was difficult and immature. She pointed out a lot of our immature reactions and worked with us separately.. She told us were not drawing our boundaries right and not compartmentalizing relationships. She even taught me how to handle my MIL’s relatives. We always knew that my hubby helping me in kitchen was a problem so we got a cook… Ofcourse the most painful part was to not hang on to every rude things MIL had told me in the past.. once that was crossed I am amazed at how my MIL was coping with me.. I do not know how the counsellor worked with her but it is a miracle and I know that my MIL’s change must have been painful and she probably worked hardest to accept things.. Now I am able to talk to her cordially and say ‘no’ when I mean it. She is able to take my ‘no’ although not happily. I might never become emotionally close to her but its been a while now and I havent seen her crying (and I finally see her rare beautiful smile) and I finally am able to be myself in front of her. We are even able to have some small talk sometimes! And best of all, my hubby and I are happy going home these days🙂

    So dear email writer, I can understand your pain but she is probably more miserable than you are at the moment living alone and everything, and if you want to fix things and live with her, talk to your hubby and see how you can try and fix things. Maybe seeing a therapist may work for you too.

    Ofcouse you dont have to do this all but since you are not happy having her live alone, you could consider it.

    Sorry for the biiiigggg comment!

    Like

  18. ** too many typos in my prev post attempt – fixed here

    Yet another exploited-for-being-an-Indian-DIL,

    First of all, I do not think you are being exploited. yes you have a MIL who seems to be out of a different century, but there are a lot of solutions to this. I found mine.

    I am 29, married to my husband after seeing him for 7 years before that. And like yours, my MIL is a widow and can be very difficult and throw child like tantrums. And again, like yours my husband is very supportive of me and stands by me in everything we have decided together. We cook together, clean together and are both very busy techies. And I had similar problems with my MIL – She expected me to act like the good bahu in saas bahu serials.. I am not even going into it now, but lets say it was worse than yours..

    We initially did a lot of things wrong – he yelled at her when all demands were placed on me and that made things worse. We thought we were doing it all right and she was being a child. We cooked all meals together (she hated this) and left for work early and came back very late just to avoid her tantrums. After a while, I wasnt even talking to her and my husband was bearing all the brunt to protect me. She is very sick and we agreed that we did not want her to live alone at any cost (she also recently lost her husband and even then we realized that was the reason behind her behavior).. My parents are old and I did not take these problems to my parents and that added to my stress.. It felt it like it was me and my hubby against my MIL and huge set of her relatives who simply blamed it on my being from a modern family.. Even though my husband was protecting me by not letting me face her, I feel we were both stressed out and at one point it all went to a breaking point. A kind relative suggested it and after months of convincing my MIL we finally we went to a counsellor (therapist) and things slowly changed.

    All 3 of us are going to therapy now and things have miraculously improved. The counsellor pointed out a lot of things we (hubby and I) were doing wrong while agreeing that my MIL was difficult and immature. She pointed out a lot of our immature reactions and worked with us separately.. She told us were not drawing our boundaries right and not compartmentalizing relationships. She even taught me how to handle my MIL’s relatives. We always knew that my hubby helping me in kitchen was a problem so we got a cook… Ofcourse the most painful part was to not hang on to every rude things MIL had told me in the past.. once that was crossed I am amazed at how my MIL was coping with me.. I do not know how the counsellor worked with her but it is a miracle and I know that my MIL’s change must have been painful and she probably worked hardest to accept things.. Now I am able to talk to her cordially and say ‘no’ when I mean it. She is able to take my ‘no’ although not happily. I might never become emotionally close to her but its been a while now and I havent seen her crying (and I finally see her rare beautiful smile) and I finally am able to be myself in front of her. We are even able to have some small talk sometimes! And best of all, my hubby and I are happy going home these days🙂

    So dear email writer, I can understand your pain but she is probably more miserable than you are at the moment living alone and everything, and if you want to fix things and live with her, talk to your hubby and see how you can try and fix things. Maybe seeing a therapist may work for you too.

    Ofcouse you dont have to do this all but since you are not happy having her live alone, you could consider it.

    Sorry for the biiiigggg comment!

    Like

    • Forgot to mention, I claimed to the counsellor I did not care for a good DIL tag and did not seek acceptance, but she pointed out to me that while I was not hoping for a good bahu tag, I surely was expecting not to be disliked. She worked with me on how I could ignore stuff without stopping to care. She also taught my hubby how he could support me without shouting back at his mom. Well these are specific to our family, but thought its worthy to mention.

      Like

      • yes that is what is needed , first try to analyze the problem , dumping parents is not going to work , our state is not going to take care of them like other countries where senior citizens have state to care for
        adjustment is the key word and change can occur more easily in younger lot
        u have said every thing that i said in my comment but since you took professional help its more systematic
        older woman have suffered a lot in our system / society and they need to be “heard” to understand what they went thru when they were young
        no one has ever heard them , they have never voiced their sufferings
        we have net to discuss our problems but what about them ?????
        and insecurities are at both ends

        keerthanasethu i applaud you for such a good explanation cheers , i am sure her blessings will take you a long way , i have seen my mother taking care of my grandmother . my dadi expired when she was 90 and i was 10 years then , and they way my mom used to take care of her was exceptional , none will believe that my dadi would allow cooking on gas burner only after washing it and she had to be told again and again it was not possible and when she did not accept ,
        tthen my mother got a kerosin stove for her which was washed every day
        before meals for her were prepared .

        Like

        • IHM
          I am repeating what I have said in both my comments
          “Older woman have suffered a lot and they need to be heard ” Why do you think this suffering happened , Because they were at the Merci of their father , brother , husband and son . She was merely a slave and was brain washed to think that she is “made for it ” . Neither of the four man around her ever thought that she needed love care and affection . It happened down the years and it was so deep that she her self started believing that woman are made for this . With a new woman in household the situation should have changed but no it got segmented into further mil and dil .Mil the senior slave , dil the junior slave pitted against each other as rivals . Who gained , please work for yourself .
          As time changed younger girls started understanding woman empowerment they wanted a better life but the older woman specially those above 65 {today } were still left out because they could not understand the meaning of freedom , love , care , equality etc for woman . They also could not understand that man also need to work in home , take care of woman , parents . This is because of complete conditioning .
          Why do we never hear a spat between sil and fil because man sort it out with a man to man chat but it rarely happens between woman
          If each woman irrespective of the fact in what relationship she is with the other woman learns to stand with her irrespective of all the differences then most problems of the woman will get sorted out .
          If we can forgive / forget 10 mistakes of our man folk we should forgive forget 100 mistakes of our woman folk and just stand with each other .
          Why dont we do that IHM ??

          Like

        • Rachna, let me write a post on what I think of this, but I basically, I believe, it’s because it’s not man versus woman. It’s senior slave versus junior slave and also equally frequently, pati parmeshwar versus charnon ki daasi.

          Like

        • It’s senior slave versus junior slave and also equally frequently, pati parmeshwar versus charnon ki daasi.

          Yes IHM that is it and the senior slave was groomed so methodically that she could groom the new slave . Its important that both understand they are being used against each other . the problems of both woman are lost , the problems like equality with man folk in the house , the problems like taking care of both set of parents by man folk as well are never discussed among dil / mil . I so much wish if the young girls make it mission to free the old slave { mil} from her bondage , sit with her and discuss what she faced . it would be compassion
          towards your fellow woman , a movement to bring a new new generation 10-15
          years from now where mil/dil will stand together for each other

          Like

        • How would you suggest do they do that? The elder woman has been told her dil would look after her in her old age, and her son would ensure that she does. She feels if she loses control (of son and dil) there would be no one to take care of her in her old age.

          Like

        • I have no idea which reply button to click, but anyway here goes:

          I agree with Rachna. I read about it somewhere, that our parents generation are the ‘midnights children’ and that they were a ‘bridge’ generation. Thinking about it and looking at my parents and my friends parents, I think that generation raised educated girls (us) but still expected their children to follow the traditional norms (only those that they believed in). They could send their daughter to a college in a different city, they could allow her to work but they could not tolerate her choosing her own husband and expected her to marry and have babies at their parents/inlaws will. And they spent all their savings on their childrens education (which their parents did not do) and did not plan for their retirement – their sons were going to be their retirement plan. And probably for the same reason, our country still does not have a support system

          My MIL for example. She wanted her daughter to study engineering, then get married and have a child (son specifically) within a year of the wedding. She does not realise that by sending her daughter to engineering, she is making her learn to ‘challenge everything that exists and create new things’ (atleast thats the only thing valuable i picked up at engg college). And then she expects her daughter to live her life they way her mother has planned it. I think these midnights children are quite confused (not being rude) about modernity. I have always felt my MIL grew up in a time and setup where getting so confused was easy..

          Like

  19. letter writer sounds like a kind, sensible person looking for some helpful advice. She should not be greeted with harsh comments and judgements. Going for group counseling and therapy seems to be a good alternative to try for her. Good luck and prayers for peace to the family.

    Like

  20. @Biwo and @AtheistIndian: True, true! I was just referring to my observation about how the society ensures life is hard for divorced people of both genders. I have observed a few men feeling ashamed of the divorced tag, even though divorce seems to be gaining social acceptance very, very slowly.

    Like

  21. Pingback: Daughter-in-law should not be treated as domestic help, says Supreme Court | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  22. Pingback: “When there are guests I don’t get to talk to them because I am in the kitchen all the time …even wearing a Nighty is considered indecent.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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