Although my previous post was not directed at MIL/DIL relationships it seems to have provoked a lot of reactionary opinion in the matter. It is a much debated relationship and has been the theme of many interesting novels, plays as also, unfortunately, the never ending soap operas that dominate the prime time of cable and national TV network.
Times are changing or so they say. The tussle for one upmanship in the household between the MIL/DIL duo still continues albeit in a more subdued manner. I sometimes wonder if this love/ hate equation between the two ladies actually adds spice to an otherwise monotonous existence as one saw in Sachin’s ‘Tu Tu Main Main’. On a more serious note I wonder if, as in some families that I know, it actually suits the men in the house to have the two ladies at loggerheads with one another. I am no expert but I’ll try to put down a few of my observations. I find it safe to use myself as an example but in general I find that it applies to most people around me.
The first reason for any relationship to sour is unrealistic expectations. A mother in law’s role in making her daughter in law feel welcomed cannot be over looked or ignored. The girl comes from an entirely different setup and needs time to adjust to new ways. She needs time to bond with her new family. She may call her mother in law amma but all the time she is making a mental comparison between her mother and mother in law. She needs to understand that this new ‘amma’ acquired by virtue of her marriage may have a different approach but is nevertheless her well-wisher. Little gestures of appreciation go a long way in forging a life long relationship. My mother in law couldn’t care less if I spoke good English or wrote interesting letters. Her expectations from me were very simple. That I would be an efficient home-maker and take charge of the house hold and relieve her of her duties. I had spent my growing years in two different hostels and with elders taking care of the kitchen I enjoyed hostel life even at home. My mother in law expected me to spin like a top and I landed at her place expecting to learn from scratch. I was a willing learner but she was in no mood to teach. I had perhaps disappointed her from the outset.
I’d think ‘ Why can’t she tell me?’
May be she thought ‘Why should I?’
In my less charitable mood I’d think that like Karna in Mahabharat who was born with ear rings and an armor, she was perhaps born with a ladle in one hand and duster in another. She was obsessed about keeping the house clean while I had only learnt to make my bed and arrange my almirah. Likewise she might have had thought of something mean about me.
However, my MIL was also a very clever person. After the initial disappointment she decided to tone down a bit. She saw that it was easier to mould a novice and began by giving me small responsibilities and leaving me to deal with them. I realized that I had to prove a point so within six months I managed to pick up a decent amount of house keeping. I don’t even remember when and how we became friends. Today I realize that she gave in a lot without seeming to do so. Hats off to her administrative capacities.
Emotional dependence on the son/husband also causes a rift in relationships. It is important for a wife to remember that the woman one regards with suspicion is actually the one who gave him life and has played an important role in making him the man whom you ultimately married. Insecurities will definitely haunt her mind. There is no harm in making her feel that she is still the one in control and nothing has changed on account of your arrival. Once mutual trust is built, believe me, you’ll have her taking your side. I say this out of personal experience.
Finally financial control. God forbid if at some point of time I have to trouble my children for money. Nothing would hurt me more than to burden them financially. Parents like to be always able to give but in the twilight of one’s life it is not always possible. Tension builds up when funds are limited and in today’s world it is a question of give and take. There is a popular saying that even a rat runs away from a sinking ship. Should one’s parent turn out to be a sinking ship children should be the plugs that seal the holes and not rats that run away.
All relationships thrive on mutual trust and respect. A mother who has faith in her son will never ill treat her daughter in law. Likewise a daughter in law who respects and loves her husband will automatically love his family. Differences can be addressed amicably. A direct and frank approach is better than dropping hints and reading between lines. Joint families are becoming rare and this is causing adjustment problems. Children look upon grand parents as intruders and parents are unwilling to give up luxuries that they are used to. Advice is neither given nor taken. A kind of indifference, a lack of concern is setting in. This I feel is not good for society as a whole. Let us change this trend while we can. Living together as a joint family is not possible any more. But let us remain in touch and meet as often as possible so that if and when parents move in they may not feel out of place.
I end with a point that often comes to my mind. We adjust in our work place, we adjust with our neighbors but when it comes to one’s MIL/DIL one cannot even be civil. Is it so difficult a task or aren’t we trying hard enough?