A married woman does not have the freedom to spend on her parents and will have to request and hope for her husband’s permission to do so.

“Why shouldn’t we be allowed to continue to love and take care of our parents after marriage?”

Legally, all Indian children – sons and daughters, are required to take care of their elderly parents.

This comment by Sara gives an idea of what actually happens in traditional patriarchal families.

Story of a daughter trying to take care of her parents.

No. Daughters VERY much WANT & LOVE to take care of their parents, since they are more emotionally attached to their parents than their brothers are. But  the husband & in-laws oppose this – they want all of their DIL’s resources (money, work) solely for themselves. A married woman does not have the freedom to spend on her parents & will have to request & hope for her husband’s permission to do so. Sad part is that parents themselves teach this to daughters saying “take care of your marriage – don’t ever cross your husband or inlaws, staying married is the most important” blah blah.

My mother is a widow & I am the only daughter. Inspite of this my mother tried to instill the above said “values” (yikes!!) into me. Somehow thank God my brain completely repelled it – she was such a loving, caring, sacrificing mom, and I simply couldn’t stand the thought of orphaning her because of some stupid “cultural” “values” or any other BS. When I finished my education & started working, she was even suggesting that she can join an old age home (it was under construction then) which was being built by a missionary after getting me married since it was “inappropriate” to “interfere” in a daughter’s husband’s wish (Daughter’s wish is to take care, but that doesn’t figure anywhere). It was APPALLING to say the very very least.

When proposals came, I was frank that I would like to keep my physically fragile (and very docile and soft) mom staying with me. But this sounded like asking for the moon for almost all the suitors. Only 2 families had agreed – I rejected the first one as they kept changing their talks suspiciously and also because I would have to resign my job & relocate. I got married to the second one who was in the same city. Later that turned to be a nightmarish marriage that lasted 5 months, during which he wanted my mom to turn over ALL her saving to him, and also wanted me to give him all my salary, since that is the “norm” and I’m even more obliged because he has “so very graciously consented to allow a wife’s mother to stay under his roof – something which, according to him, even the biggest fool on earth wouldn’t have allowed.”

To cut a long story short, after five months of violence (I mean hitting, punching, slapping & death threats, not just verbal/emotional violence), one sudden morning it took a radical turn, and I had to either slip out & run away from that house or get killed. During the few precious moments I got, I whispered to my mom that he is going to kill me & I’m running away & “stand in the hall near the exit door, and keep the door unlatched, run away if he tries to hurt you or if he is moving towards the door”, and ran for my life with my office badge & bag hoping he won’t kill my mom. By God’s grace a lot of friends helped me & God Himself helped my mom. We are alive now.

Now, that’s the story of a daughter trying to take care of her parents.

Another colleague is an only daughter. Her husband was acting ok for a few years – till she helped him pay off all his educational loans. After all his loans were done, he showed his real colors. Her husband’s words were not much different – he hit her & when her father questioned it, he said “I should have put you folks in your places right from the start. It is my biggest mistake letting you guys in my house. You don’t deserve to stay here.” (If this is how a wife’s father is treated, don’t even imagine how her mother would have been treated if he was not around.)

Not just that, as school kids, me & my friends would occasionally talk about this injustice – Why shouldn’t we be allowed to continue to love and take care of our parents after marriage? Of course, we were kids & we never got any solution for this. We just felt it as grievous injustice against women. (But even our moms shut us up if we asked them about this.. that left us confused & clueless).

Only one of my friends had her mom’s mom staying with them (and that too it was only after her mom’s dad passed away), and her dad used to taunt her mom & grandmom over it. Her mom was a lecturer & was earning more than her dad (who kept switching between jobs & miscellaneous businesses) – 20 years back!

It was a “good family” as per the standards then – which means parents never fight in front of kids (no matter what bruising/bleeding/war-of-words goes on behind the kids backs). Inspite of this, the taunts were noticeable by the child. Imagine what would have gone in between her mom & dad which she did not know then!

Of ALL the friends I ever made since the age of five till I completed schooling (not many close friends in college.. and not much time to chat about this stuff.. but I believe my college-mates would be the same too), only one girl had the view that girls are meant to completely detach from parents & bind with their marital families. ALL the rest were typical loving girls, lovingly bonded to their parents and wanted to take care of them post-marriage too. This includes only-daughter girls, girls who had only sisters, and girls who had brothers too (a few in this category didn’t feel so fiercely like the others.. that probably would have been because of “cultural value” drilling done by the parents.. but still, they sure wouldn’t turn their backs on their parents when they needed them..).

Note: Posting from my mobile. Will add Related Posts and links as soon as possible.

26 thoughts on “A married woman does not have the freedom to spend on her parents and will have to request and hope for her husband’s permission to do so.

  1. Well it’s funny because just a few weeks ago I got into a low heated argument with my mom who pathetically tried mold me to what seems like I have to blindly follow all these outdated beliefs that relate to patriarchy. Let me begin:

    First off, she claimed I need to keep with my dad’s side of the family and the cousins because my dad’s a male obviously and that I shouldn’t be close to my maternal cousins as they are a “side dish”. (I am glad I am close to them as we are all struggling and getting each other’s back to fight off my mom’s side of the family who insane and neurotic at times), while gloating how “cultured” and perfect they are as they follow Indian culture exactly (which is bullshit) and obviously I get flamed for not matching up.. My “home” is my dad’s home in Kerala and that I have no “rights” in my mom’s hometown in Kerala as girls only have rights to their husband’s and in laws home, and no longer belong in their native place. She told me that once she marries me off, I no longer have rights to my dad’s home and now only belong to my husband’s home and that I should no longer contact her or my dad again (?!). Thing is I was planning to actually provide support and help with their financing for old age, but sometimes her uncalled behavior does make you think of taking her advice (if you know what I mean). Not that I would actually do it cuz I know better and that this is foolish and rubbish to a tee. I wished one of my grandmothers from heaven actually came down smacked some sense into her.

    I’m glad India is changing but it’s very hard to make it better to as there are still very regressive people there, making it harder as they are still adamant of following all of “culture and tradition”.

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    • I understand perfectly:) It’s maddening.
      I could never figure out the reason why they talk absolute non-logic like this.. actually I never cared to figure out, because it sounded like total rubbish which didn’t deserve any research.. (I’m sure you understand).
      But after our experience, my mom slowly changed. Now that she is not talking that kind of gibberish any longer, and is opening up a bit, I too automatically dropped my defense & I think I began to understand what really went on in that mind then…
      I think they (moms) may not have exactly meant the words they used. They were simply trying to program us to behave like the perfect Sati-Savitris so that (they hope) the society will hold us in highest regard, and our husbands will “keep us happy” (again, their own imaginary hope – and this hope/theory is NOT backed by their experience or their sisters’/friends’ experience. Somehow they got this planted in their mind). As loving mothers, they wanted us always on top of the world and be highly regarded & all that, and are willing to, and in fact expecting to, make the maximum sacrifice to make it happen (again, Sati-Savitri attitude towards their child?). The problem is that they simply don’t know a bit about real world, and hence don’t understand that this is not going to get their daughter anything. And even if they see their sisters & friends facing varying levels of problems, somehow their confirmation bias or something effectively stops them from learning from it.
      Even if you yell at your mom it won’t work (you might have already experienced). She will appear to be very angry and appear to flame you, but a few days later things will be back to normal again. And her mission will start again.

      One thing.. Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to intrude or advise or anything.. I just got a flash – her advise asking you to keep distance with your maternal cousins – could it be because she is hopelessly trying to please your dad’s side relatives? I’m not judging or tying to probe.. but just giving a possible angle to look at.. probably that insecurity needs to be addressed, and then this might stop.. I’m not judging anything, I just got a sudden thought..

      Yeah, as you said, India is changing slowly. People are (very) slowly beginning to give 2nd priority to “tradition” and first priority to common-sense & to being humane (in public atleast). Earlier people used to openly say in your face that parents who don’t have a boy have only one choice – which is something like crawl-into-a-hole-and-die. Now at least there are people who would hesitate to say that kind of stuff IN PUBLIC. Some small change… Hopefully it will keep progressing forward for the better.

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      • Hey Sara,

        I agree with you on this. Part of it IS they grew up that way, but I don’t think how one is raised is 100% responsible for having that mindset, especially if they have been living abroad, you would think they would have some idea..no? I mean if it was the case, why are feminists in India existing and men supporting women’s rights? Lol, we should be blindly following what society says, no?

        Parents have good intentions when it comes to being a good well rounded person, but putting pressure in order to maintain their “status”, pleasing society and lambasting on you for not “maintaining society’s standards” really does more harm. My mom is super sensitive to ppl’s comments and freaks out on the slightest bit when I keep telling her not to really care of “log kya kahenge”. It’s not the worth it and you’ll be making yourself miserable at the end.

        And about the cousinly relationship:

        Don’t worry about intruding or advising..etc etc. I don’t see it as an intrusion and am happy to talk about it🙂.

        My mom is not saying to keep distance from my maternal cousins persay, but they are “less” of a priority and I have to give more importance to my paternal cousins as they are from my dad’s side of the family. Plus it may be due the fact that some of my cousins who are very wise (one is called the “black sheep” of the family haha) are helping us instill a sense of independence and realize what’s considered wrong and what’s not in terms of Indian culture, way of life etc etc. Their advice and suggestions, and outlook of life has been confirmed by my outside experiences, from friends, various blogs like this one and the common posters and their blog writings (Priya, Shail, Roshni), the Asian American community and so forth, indicating they are more experienced and know the real world better than my parents or other family members who are somewhat still regressive in their thinking. Perhaps she’s worried she’ll lose the ability to control us when we are successful and well established and wants us to be close to our paternal cousins where most of them just did what the “parents say” and follow “Indian culture” properly, which some is such bullshit as my cousins don’t agree with a lot of things but cannot fight off society’s attitude (perhaps that’s why they were desperate to leave India?). Also funnily enough my mom is not trying to please my dad’s side of the family. Rather she is not too fond of them as she believes they are not appreciative nor care about my immediate family (in some ways it is true). Long story short, my parents have supported my family in India, paid for my paternal cousins’ wedding and did everything for them. However it seems as if they are sweeping up all the rewards and living a luxurious life w/o realizing how hard my parents had to work to make that happen, while my parents, brother and I had to go through several hardships, which in a way I’m thankful for. And yet, we get criticized for our flaws and misfortunes, and that does upset my mom sometimes. I can understand why though. It’s kind of wrong.

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  2. Wow to all the blind believers of traditions and customs. When will they grow up?! India sure is a far cry from sensibility. If nothing else, education must atleast teach the generations to come to think rationally and question every belief and action prior to practising them.

    In my opinion the couple needn’t stay at the groom’s place at all. Preferably in neither of their parents’ place, but then again it depends on the convenience of their career locations. As long as women stand up on their own shoes we can fight our way to change the mindsets of the age old patriarchal society.

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  3. First of all, I must really appreciate that you care about your mother! I’m a 21 year old girl, living with my parents – taking care of them. I’ve an elder sister who is about to be married.

    I come across many ‘women’ today who think they are NOT responsible when it comes to taking care of their elderly parents. I agree that girls are more attached/loving to their parents than the guys. But how many are really willing to provide financial/emotional support? Who’s willing to keep their parents with them? Why do you agree to stay with your in laws selfishly leaving your parents behind then? Daughters love their parents! I agree. But as far as my views are concerned, I’ve seen only so much people like you! I respect you for this.

    Indian laws are really stupid for the parents from the girl’s side! When people mean taking care of one’s parents, it only means ‘the guy’s parents’. I don’t understand what makes the girl’s parents any less! All elders in my family think it’s not ‘dignity’ to be dependent on their daughter! Let alone have a meal at her home. My parents, though liberal have this mentality too which is saddening! I’m someone who does not follow the customs/traditions for the very same reason, even if my mom is against me being a rebel. As per my view, YOU should take the responsibly no matter if you’re a son or a daughter. Both set of parents should be treated equally!

    It’s bad that some toxic men out there think they’re doing a ‘favor’ by letting the wife take care of her parents. This is plain stupid! This mentality can only be stopped if you, as a girl refuse to live with your husband’s family post marriage – because you really CAN’T bring in your parents there! Even if it all goes well in the beginning, they insult the girl’s side! So it’s best if you have a house for yourself – so that your parents and inlaws can visit/move in as per your situation. You SHOULD not move in to someone else’s place and then worry about leaving your parent(s) behind

    When I get married in future, we (me and my husband) will have our separate house! And I won’t budge to stay with my in laws, since it’s unfair to leave a set of parents and stay with one! (My in laws are no special/ no less than my parents!)

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  4. Sad but true. I often thought it was because women were seldom financially independent. But even today with women working and many women earning their own finances, it isn’t easy to provide for their parents. This inspite of her parents paying a hefty dowry and spending lavishly on her wedding.

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  5. Well, not just married women but unmarried girls who insist on supporting their parents after getting married also have to face hostile society. My husband has a cousin (let’s call her X) who teaches in a college and is now in her late-thirties. X is unable to get married because she insists on taking care of her parents in their old age. Most suitors (or their parents) refuse to agree to this DEMAND of a mere girl! X is very clear: “my parents are aging and my elder sis cannot support them and so I’ll marry a guy who is ready to accept my parents.” The interesting twist over here is that [this is my thought] she does get marriage proposals because she is earning well and will get half of her parents’ property and assets. But nothing takes off because most prospective grooms (or their parents) are not ready to give in to her demand of taking care of her parents. I use the word “demand” because that’s how her wish is described in our circle. My husband’s sis says, “Look, who will agree to marry her! Her demand is too much. She must not put this demand before getting married. Once she gets married she can slowly and over a period of time ask (and mould) her husband regarding this. He will understand.” I replied, “But that’s how it should be (putting your expectations clearly before marriage) and above all what is wrong in this?”

    What kind of imbalanced society we live in?

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    • widen the search do not look at only your community, there’s a whole world full of men – all kinds of interesting men 🙂

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      • Radha🙂, we did tell her this. But it is her call. Right now she is happy being single. Her parents also do not seem overly worried about this. They do want her to get married but are not pressurizing her. So, that’s cool!

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  6. The imbalances of our society really pisses me off…The norms are just biased towards males…really sucks!!! many social activists keeps yelling about skewing sex ratio and government keeps on passing anti sex selection laws, but most of them fail to get to the root of the problem…Most of them just dont realise or are just patriarchally brainwashed cowards to speak up, against this patriarchal, male biased norms that fuel son preference over daughters…Most feminist (I am a feminist by the way) fight superficially rather then going deep into the issues…like this…because equality starts from the family level, not just in sharing house work, but also in structure, power dynamics, norms, and mindsets…IHM is basically doing a pretty good job in this…This blog needs more publicity…It can solve a lot of our social problems and truly bring gender equality…Barkha Dutt, Arnab Gowsami, Nidhi Razdan, Meneka Gandhi, Narendra Modi should read this blog, instead of simply beating around bush with superficial policies…

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    • Most people are aware of the dysfunction, it’s just that most people are inherently self-serving, and are loath to give up unearned privileges.

      Men have it relatively easy in India, and are fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their privilege.

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      • Spot on! Willfully ignorant. There is a proverb that goes like “You can wake up a person who is asleep, but can never ever wake up one who is pretending to be asleep” – fits here perfectly.

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  7. When a woman says my mom/dad/parents will move in with us post marriage, she is doing the following :
    *questioning the status quo
    *telling him that the probability of his parents living with him is reduced
    *he will have to live with someone else’s parents.

    As someone who put my foot down and said, I will not live with your mother, I completely understand why someone may not want to live with their in laws.

    As someone whose boyfriend took a while to get his head around the fact and then relay that to his mother when needed, I can also see how for a man conditioned to live with / look after their parents, this would be a difficult thing. They at least want you to say, yes yes when needed they will live with us.

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  8. This INFURIATES me. It is a very natural feeling for a child to bond with parents and to want to take care of them, sometimes even more so than the inlaws.
    I have tried to explain my parents over and again that their care in old age is NOT a burden. My brother is NOT solely responsible for them. I share that responsibility even though I am a “just” a daughter. My brother got married to a wonderful woman who is the only child to her parents. I have been brainwashing my parents to make them realize that she needs to take care of her parents….and its a very human and natural thing to do so.
    Each time I begin to make some sense to them, the relatives around (mostly with sons!) mock them and we are then back to square one. IT MAKES MY BLOOD BOIL!
    I cannot tell you how many times I have financially supported my parents in the name of my brother…because they wont take ANYTHING from me. I am reduced to tears when they refill the groceries at my place after I give them lunch-dinner. More than my dad its my mom who is stubborn as hell! She prefers to be homeless than come and live with me….her married daughter.
    I am SO ashamed of their attitude that I cannot disclose this to my husband. My husband is a sweetheart and keeps reminding me that my parents are more than welcome to spend their old age here with us. Now, I dont really know how will things turn out for real when that actually happens. My husband’s sister is the prime caregiver of her parents.
    I feel so helpless as a daughter. There is not a thing that I can do for my parents. Ofcourse I am always there for them. Whether they or the world yells and cries as I go against tradition, I dont care. I will do what it takes to keep my parents well….even against their wishes. My brother and I have sworn that this nonsense ends with our parents generation.
    I have a daughter and a new baby niece (from my brother). Hopefully we can bring about this permanent change for them.

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  9. I have my own story to share. I am not really sure what is it that I am looking for….reassurance or solutions!
    I am a married woman. My father has been unemployed for as long as I remember. Because of this I, my brother, and mother suffered a lot.
    Even though he had been unemployed for so long and never shouldered his responsibilities…by God’s grace and luck…i was able to complete my studies and find a decent job. My brother on the other hand went astray…but is now back with a decent job and I am supporting and encouraging him to complete his studies.
    Because of my father, I started working really early…at the age of about 18…tuitions,then receptionist, then Tele caller, and finally today I work for a consulting firm. I earn good income and considering my own background …sometimes I feel proud of myself that I came so far.
    Anyway…coming back to the point…i never wanted to marry. Reason being I knew that no one would marry a girl whose father doesn’t have a penny to spend and is dependent on her daughter. But as it so happened, I met a guy…fell in love with him and inspire of my background and condition that I will always support my parents and brother agreed to marry me.
    I have been married for almost 6 years now and truly never had a fight with my husband because of issues between us. We have always been able to discuss and sort things out. But when it comes to his parents….everything goes haywire. Some of the issues I face with them:
    1. My parents are not allowed to visit me at my place. None of my relatives are welcome either. Per my in laws its bad!
    2. I cannot talk to any of my relatives ot parents for long. It has to be short, crisp, and to the point.
    3. I cannot visit my parents or relatives when I want to..i need permission from my in laws.

    I have a two year old daughter.. My parents have hardly ever spent any time with her because of these reasons! I feel I am cheating them out of something that’s their right.
    While i was pregnant, I called my mother and dadi to stay with me for a few weeks. My in-laws didn’t want to stay or support me at that time for reasons of their own. My FIL called my father saying i don’t like you or anybody from your family residing with my son at their house. This is just one of instance..this has happened many times over the course of my marriage. When my father asked y don’t u like it..he had no answers.
    Last year I called my parents to be with me for a month..so they can spend sometime with their grand daughter. My in laws threw a lot of tantrum on that as well…and today when i asked my husband if I can call my parents for a few weeks..he declined.
    Everytime this issue comes up…my husband has just one ground…i can’t change my parents…i don’t agree to their behaviour..but they make my life hell. Please cooperate and manage.. “shanti rakho”!
    He just does not want to stand up to them even if they are wrong..because he hates fighting (verbal or physical). But this had started to affect me badly now. I can see the hypocrisy and can’t digest it. Same things are right for him..wrong for me.
    He makes plan yo visit his parents as and when they call and hw likes…but this is not applied for me. His parents can come and go as they please..mine cannot.
    I have tried over and over to make my husband understand my plight…but it does not make any difference. I don’t want to end our relationship on these grounds..because we truly share a beautiful bond. But these are a few issues that just doesn’t resolve and I feel abused, deteriorated and lost.

    Please advise..i really need third person’s insight on this situation.

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    • Well. You earn as much as he does. I would suggest that you insist on calling your parents over, all else be damned.

      If you allow others to disrespect you, they will.

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    • Dear LW,

      I have the following questions for you:

      1. You write that”… we truly share a beautiful bond”
      Is that really TRUE as you claim? When one of the people in a relationship feels “abused, deteriorated and lost” and these feelings stem from being controlled by the other person, how can you term that bond “beautiful”
      There maybe aspects of the relationship that are beautiful (I do not know exactly. I am assuming) but the fact that you are not free to do what is no way wrong (eg: illegal or harmful) makes me think that there is emotional abuse involved. More dangerous is the fact that your acceptance of this abuse might have desensitized you to the extent that you no longer consider this terribly wrong.

      2. What is your daughter learning from this? Many of us women consciously or unconsciously want to follow in our mother’s footsteps – be it for everyday habits like housekeeping or other behaviours such as parenting. From your daughter’s observation of this scenario at home, she might learn that she should accept decisions that others make for her even if she is unhappy with them. She might then behave in the same manner when faced with similar situations at school/college/workplace or in personal relationships.

      3. We accept such situations when dealing with difficult people to “maintain peace” at home. But why is this responsibility of maintaining peace only yours?

      Like

    • @Rtag, @Neha,
      Neha has a point, but some preparation is needed before following it.
      You need to plan – what do you expect him to do when you invite your parents without getting “clearance” from him & all his folks? Will he throw tantrums at them when they visit? If not, he will definitely rave at you – you will need to prepare some answers/sentences to tell him – for ex., since he says that the current situation is only because of his parents, and since his parents are anyways not staying with you and won’t be able to see your parents visiting, you can probably point out that there won’t be any trouble from his parents as long as he doesn’t go and inform them about your parents’ visit (though they have absolutely no right to dictate whether or not your parents can visit)
      I’m not saying that things will go the way you think it will – most likely the reactions from him may not be what you predicted & prepared for. But still, better do some homework:)

      TOP OF ALL, the standard advice I can give for every girl is – keep your documents safe before you start doing anything you haven’t done so far. In case your husband blows up & shows his other face which you haven’t seen before, good chances are that he will leap at your most valuable possessions – your degree certificates & other important certificates, your documents (passport, PAN card, DL, voter ID, office ID, etc, etc), followed by your gold ornaments (if you have not already handed them over to him!). Secure them unobtrusively – meaning, if you are currently keeping the documents in an open/common place, slowly start moving them to your office cupboard one thing at a time, preparing for an excuse to tell him in case he notices. It is little more difficult to make excuses for sneaking out jewellery, but try whatever is possible (“my sister/cousin wanted to loan my necklaces to wear for some function” will work?). It is sad that we need to make such planning & groundwork to move our very own personal belongings in & out of our house, but that’s the world we live in.
      My suggestions might have sounded paranoid, but you’ll never know what such a man’s reaction would be when you cross his patriarchal line. He might be calm & let you proceed. Or you might see Jekyl-and-Hyde in front of your eyes. Or it might be something in between. But better be prepared for the worst (sad, we wouldn’t have prepared so much even for our final year viva:), but reality is like that..). Take care dear. Best wishes!

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  10. ‘Larke wale’ s must give up their sense of unjust patriarchal entitelments… And threaten divorce if required…stay away from your in laws…people really need to change and reform their mindsets a lot…And by the way, just understand the fact that, you dont need your ‘husband’s permission’ for anything in your and your daughter’s life.. start being assertive and determined for your rights..

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  11. I couldn’t agree more. If I ever face a situation where my parents would need to stay with me and husband doesn’t like it, I would leave him instead of leaving my aged parents to suffer!
    I get sick of the hypocrites who enjoy all the dowry but taunt the families where wife’s parents(even widowed mom) stay with them!

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  12. Pingback: “She stayed with her parents for thirty years, now she is married so it’s an end to her relationship with her parents.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  13. Pingback: “My parents are not allowed to visit me at my place. None of my relatives are welcome either.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  14. Pingback: Married daughters having sufficient means, are under an obligation to maintain their parents: Bombay High Court | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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