MOTHER IN LAW!
Mother in Law! Sounds more like Monster in Law! Or Man-eater in Law!!
When I was asked to write on this topic, it actually got me thinking deeply, so much so that I spent the night mulling over it and even woke up thinking about it. Brushed my teeth in deep thought and showered under the same cloud of thoughts. While it seems like a simple enough topic, there are so many angles, layers and nuances to it when you start to dissect it.
I have lived my entire married life with in laws and I won’t lie and say everything was hunky dory! These are two new worlds altogether! Mine and theirs! If I have come into this home with 25 plus years of experience in life, they have been here with over 60 plus years! So that in itself is a divide, the two of us have to build to stay reasonably sane! And to keep the main man happy!
I don’t want to go back on my experiences and would rather build a roadway for my daughter in law or son in law (these days you have to be mentally prepared for both options!). This is another topic I’d like to talk about, but later! Let’s focus on Mother in Law for now. My lessons as a daughter in law has helped shape this little list of things that I’d like to remind myself when I’m a mother in law:
SPACE – No, I’m not talking about the intergalactic type space…I’m talking about giving each other enough space to be ourselves. Technically, it means that I live away from my son’s home… even the next door is good enough. But space is important. When a girl gets married and steps into the new role of a wife, a lot of things change for her. Given the new role she has to adapt to, it’s important to let her explore her new world with just her husband and their relationship. It doesn’t help matters if I, as the mother in law, define that role to her. Marriage is as individual as each of us. None of us can define and expect that this relationship is a “one-size-fits-all” kind of thing. Give the couple space. Physically and emotionally. And ladies, a stern word of advice here, your daughter in law is not here to usurp your son! Gosh! Can you please stop watching those horrendous TV soaps? You must understand that your daughter in law has left her family home to live with your dimwit son! And that by itself is worth honouring her with a Bharat Ratna! But no, we think she is supposed to fight the India Pakistan war to prove her point!
Anyway, my point is simple, keep away. Let the couple first figure each other out, and if they reach out for help, just advice and leave it! Don’t expect them to follow every word you say! Come on now! Who are we kidding here? How often did the same dimwit son listen to us when he was a pre-teen or a teen? And now, in his late twenties and her early twenties, you want both of them to listen to you? What are you? The Prime Minister? Or Donald Trump? Actually wrong examples, but you get the drift?
CHOICES – The second point is choices. Right from their clothes, to their finances to the choice of whether they want children or not, must not come from you. It is their choice and theirs alone. You might feel like that is the dumbest choice they are making but let them learn! When your daughter coloured her hair blue, did you not let her? Then why interfere now? And especially when it comes to having children. This has been a point I’ve watched all in laws feel entitled to. Not Just Indian! Mind you, a lot of American in laws too have these ridiculous beliefs that they know best when their children must have children! Come on guys! Give them a break! Let them take that decision and let us stick by that decision no matter what!
COMMUNICATION – I can never overemphasise the importance of this. Having open conversations, allowing kids to talk openly on all topics, not judging them will create an open door for them to feel like they belong there. Most often, as we grow, we realise that we need to be the ones instructing and the kids are supposed to be the ones who listen and follow our instructions. That is the sure shot way to kill whatever love was there and bring in lots of resentment. When you have open conversations, it will also open up your mind to various possibilities and to a world that is beyond your imagination. This communication will also serve to bring the daughter in law closer to you as a friend, a confidante and a gateway to a long term relationship with another beautiful human.
Every generation has learnt these by watching the previous ones and have evolved over time to change into mutually satisfying and benevolent relationships. The evil in laws of the 70s and 80s have cleared the way and created humanly possible in laws of the 90s and I’m hoping that by the time I’m an in law, I’d have become a gentle old lady, who bakes cakes and cookies for fun and drinks with her friends over the weekends, stays up all night watching movies and rolls in bed during the day reading books, plays music all day long and lounges around in her PJs till the evening! Drives around town with her bunch of crazy friends and passes lewd comments about men, other bitchy women and politicians! I’ll have a dog or maybe a few and be called the crazy dog lady or maybe I’ll be the one who runs a shelter for old people and dogs! I don’t know what I’ll be like in my old age and I kind of dread being a pain in the wrong regions for my kids. But with this list handy, I guess I’ll be a tolerable in law and a pathetic parent! Either ways, I don’t care! As, I am sure I’ll be the noisy aunty you hear about in the building association meetings who is an annoyance and yet totally loved by all!
The author Meenakshi Giridhar, is a mother of two, running a venture called Ishtar Weaves (handloom and handcrafted sarees and accessories). She has 12 years of experience in recruitment, more than 3 years as the Delivery Lead for a NGO called Durga and over the last two years has also been a volunteer at the Spastics Society of Karnataka.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wonder Women World.