Sharing an email. What would be the traditional advice for Troubled? Do you agree with that advice? Why or why not?
If possible, do put this letter up on your blog so I can know the opinions of your readers.
I’ve been married for three years and I have a one-year-old daughter. My husband and I had a semi-arranged marriage, meaning our parents introduced us but we dated for a while – about six months before getting married. In that time, we really got to know each other and I had no qualms about making the decision. After marriage, too, I was very happy with him as he’s understanding, supportive, and gets me. I adore my FIL but my MIL is a bit of a dicey customer. She works for a women’s rights NGO but is quite patriarchal herself even though these characteristics come out only when my husband and FIL are out of earshot. I was aware of her nature somewhat before marriage but didn’t give too much thought to it – my father paid for the wedding and since he’s financially way better off than my in-laws are and he was very particular about the sort of things he wanted done, I did not object. However, I didn’t like my MIL demanding that he pick a very expensive decor, give gifts to her relatives etc. It’s true that my dad offered to pay for the wedding, but it was with the understanding that he’d do it the way he wanted to. My view was that if she wanted some things done, she should have paid for it. She’s all the time concerned about what all her relatives will say and is constantly trying to impress them. I didn’t make this into an issue because we live in different cities and I wouldn’t have to put up with her for long stretches. Besides, my father wasn’t feeling financially pressurized because of this, so I let it go.
After marriage, my husband and I decided to wait for a year before having kids. The subtle and not-so-subtle questions started then, with my MIL even hinting that I could be infertile even though my husband told her that we weren’t trying. I didn’t make this into an issue either though I was pretty pissed. I began noticing that she’d all the time try to put down my mother as an ignorant person who doesn’t know to cook or follow traditions etc. This was very strange to me because both families have known each other for a while and were supposed to be atheists. I knew only after marriage that my MIL prays, goes to temples etc and likes to follow some traditions – I have no issues with this but then she started acting like my mum and I were people with no ‘culture’ etc etc. It was all very irritating, especially because my mum is an intelligent lady who manages her life pretty well and my MIL is so influenced by her numerous relatives that she hardly thinks for herself.
Things came to a head when I became pregnant and my mum and she ended up in my house at the time of delivery. My MIL was quite angry that I chose to stay with my husband (not in my in-laws place, we live in our own house) and did not go to my parents’ place as is the custom. My husband and I had explained to her our reasons for this. She was angry with my parents that they ‘let’ me do this and thought they were not going to pay for my delivery as is the custom. Actually, my father had already transferred money to my account saying it was his present for his grandchild – I did not object to this as he’d said I could invest it in the child’s name and he was doing this out of his own will. He’s made such gifts to my brother as well earlier. Later, I came to know from my mum that in one of the instances that my in-laws had met my parents, my MIL was very rude and my father slipped in the information that he’d actually transferred this money to cover costs for my delivery and then she became cordial again. I was furious when I learnt about this – with my father as well as my MIL – and I returned the money to him as I didn’t want a price on my self respect. I spoke to my husband about this and he in turn questioned his parents. They gave him the impression that all this was a misunderstanding etc etc and that everything was fine. But my MIL was furious with my mum and me for daring to tell the truth to her son.
The delivery itself was very complicated because of these reasons. My MIL was being really nasty to my mum and I was witness to these unpleasant face-offs. She’d be all sugary when my husband would come home from work. I didn’t want to tell him all this and cause further trouble, so I kept quiet. But my days in the hospital were a nightmare. My MIL insisted that I wasn’t producing milk, even though I was producing colostrum, and created a big drama about how her grandchild was being starved etc. She used to literally yell at my mum in front of me (but not my husband), saying she doesn’t know anything about pregnancy/delivery etc and she was the only one who knew everything and so on – though my mum had two normal deliveries and brought up her kids herself. My MIL had two C-secs and her kids were brought up by her mother for the first five years or so. I put up with all this because I thought my husband would stand by me but I realized that he too was getting influenced by her opinions and acting like my mum was an ignoramus. Apparently (and I came to know this later), she’d been telling him that my mum was rude to her, treated her badly etc while it was the other way round.
My husband has a soft corner for his mother because she’s a heart patient and has suffered major health problems previously. Also, she still babies him a lot. But I never expected that he’d be irrational when it came to dealing with her. My MIL caught a cold when the baby was really small and I didn’t want her to handle the baby and infect it… but she made it seem as if this was my way of ill-treating her whatever. To my shock, my husband sided with her and said I was being ‘inhuman’. We had major fights in this period because of issues like this and after suffering through a long labour and a C-sec, I went to bed almost every night in tears. My MIL wanted to do religious things with the baby when I’d made it clear that I was not cool with this. I really couldn’t put up with a lot of her childcare suggestions which were all based on superstition and nonsense. I could have tolerated it if she’d been nice otherwise but I couldn’t take it in combination with all the ruckus she created. Finally, my husband and I decided that we wouldn’t side with either set of parents and that we’d remain a single unit that’s cordial with both sets.
After the parents left, my husband and I talked to each other sensibly and rationally about all these issues. He has come around and understood that his mother was at fault for many of these episodes. The soft corner remains but he does not behave in an irrational way just because she says something. He has been very supportive in raising our child and he has also taken steps to keep his mum’s influence minimal. However, I find it very hard to forgive him for all that happened at the time of my delivery. He saw me go through so much pain and yet, it was his mother he was concerned about when all hell broke loose. I don’t think I can ever forgive him for it, especially because I put up with all her jibes and comments earlier thinking I shouldn’t bother him with such trivialities when he didn’t show me the same concern. I feel like my relationship with him has changed and I’m not able to regard him with the same respect that I used to have. There is no problem or something between us now, but I just feel a little cold inside. Like something has died out. I’d like to know what your readers feel about this situation and what they think I should do about it.
An email: “…before the child has actually arrived she has already given me a lecture about paternal grandparents’ rights over the child.”
Who should read this email?