Friday, March 23, 2007

Saas_bahu - my take

I read with interest Usha Vaidyanathan’s “Saas_bahu-my take” and wanted to do a sequel from my point of view. I have referred to the relationship between a daughter in law and the members of her newly acquired family in earlier posts in a light and not so light vein. This time I wish to deal with it as my thirty four years of experience allows me to view it. Please try to analyze the issue with the patience it deserves.

Times have changed or so they say. However, the tussle between mothers in law and daughters in law remains the same. We rarely hear of problems between a daughter in law and the male members of the family. It is always a sister in law, a co – sister and a mother in law who are declared as trouble makers. Is this perhaps because women are emotionally vulnerable? I wouldn’t know for sure.

Fellow blogger Balaji once mentioned in a comment to one of my posts that his mother and paternal grand mother got on well with each other and though his mother belonged to a well to do family she had no adjustment problems and even supplemented the family income by preparing pappadams for sale. The two women would attend community celebrations of Navarathri happily contributing in their own way by arranging for the puja and helping out in the decorations. Another blogger Ardra had a similar story to share and had a kind word for her mother in law whom she calls valliamma which is a Malayalam word that, if I am not wrong translates as ‘big mother’. I often wonder if I would get a daughter in law who’d be willing to bond with me the way I myself bonded with my husband’s family. I am willing to walk the extra mile in making sure that she is at home with me. In these days of ‘hi and bye’ am I asking for too much?

There is an opinion that joint families are the cause of tension between MIL/DIl. Financial insecurity is another reason. Financial insecurity in a joint family is like adding fuel to fire. My own experience is different. I took time to bond – a couple of years perhaps. But it was possible mainly because my in laws were staying with us. Children came along and the love and affection they showered on them and the liberty they took to correct them when they were wrong, will remain as pleasant memories all my life. Artnavy had mentioned that her mother and grandmother would gang up against her father. Such was the bond they enjoyed. Her comments took me back in time and I recalled instances when my mother in law stood up for me. When I think of those early years in a strange environment with people diametrically opposite to me, I seem to have forgotten the emotional and financial tensions I faced and remember only the nice things.

Joint families have almost disappeared. Most parents have enough financial resources to see them through their old age. All they require is a little care and concern. It is the responsibility of a son/daughter to help their spouse to bond with their family. Long distance relationships take a while to develop. Let it happen naturally. I was surprised that many young women staying abroad leading a fairly independent existence bearing a grudge against their in laws for non existent reasons. This is only because they have not spent time with them. Men are less emotional. My husband hardly calls up anyone unless he has something to say. I am the one who talks to his sister and sister in law. So is it with many other men including my son. It is not as if they lack affection. It is just that they do not have that many topics to talk about. That does not mean that the daughter in law also has to maintain a distance. In an alien environment I found myself talking in sign language to Chinese and Japanese grandmothers. We were all grandmothers exchanging notes on the progress of our grandkids. Is it not possible to extend the same courtesy to the couple who happen to be your husband’s parents? They wait for those weekly phone calls just to hear about your children and you. A mother in law may not be the same as your mother. She can at least be the next best. Minor irritations are best ignored and whether mother or daughter in law they need to be accepted with their shortcomings. A little effort and lots of patience will make it so much easier for all. Good luck!!

30 comments:

Altoid said...

Hey HHG

I dont mean to be contradicting, but isnt it also true that there are some mil's out there that feel out of control the minute they determine that their son(s) has another woman in his life? At that point, they are constantly deride their dil's to prove to their sons how useless/ineffective their dil's are? How is it possible for these DIL's then to accept their mil as their own mother? Also MIL's seem to have a problem helping their DIL with household chores while mothers are always ready to lend a helping hand.

This has also been my observation in the fewer years that I have been around and have observed these relationships.

At that point, isnt the onus also on the MIL's to accept their DIL's as family and not as an intrusion, make impartial moves to help in the household chores because in the end its after all their son's family isnt it?

Hope I didnt sound presumptuous and/or contemptuous.

Have a great weekend

--altoid

Hip Grandma said...

altoid:You are right.There are many MILs who feel insecure and take time to accept the presence of a DIL in their son's life.I can understand if these MIls are financially insecure.This seems to be less a problem where money is less.the MIL cannot annoy the son and therefore adjusts.this problem is more among those who don't need to compromise.I've also known DILs who won't let their MIL go near the kitchen sink saying that she wastes water and grumble when sheuses the rest room more than once.This is exactly what I wish to emphasize.If you read one of my earliest posts 'what went wrong' you will get my point.money or the lack of it to be precise need not be a reason for conflict.Both groups need to have an open mind and give each other room.they both are emotionally dependent on the same man but at different levels.why not play a complimentary role?

Usha said...

Hipgran:I hope more MIL bloggers will present their side of the story too!
Even when they are financially secure, most moms have a problem letting go of their sons. They tend to act like they know his needs better than the DIL who is young and new. Little do they realise that the sons needs have changed now. But DILs can easily humour the MILs and slowly win their confidence as it is a bond of many years and will take a while to get used to the changes. But they do not want to let go either and want to prove that they are the closest realtive to the husband. This is one of the main causes of the problems.
And then everything begins to go wrong - from using water to using restrooms! And the best part is the same daughters in law go that extra mile in official relationships in the name of human relations and team spirit!

Big Zed said...

Hip Grandma: First time on your site and loving it. I wish there were more of you writing their point of view. Do you feel like you are being asked for advice all the time? I agree with most of what you're talking about in the post but as someone who live with in-laws in the U.S. Let me tell you, its really hard to live with expectations. And talking about grandparents and grandchild relationships ... in our household, my in-laws hesitate to babysit our baby on the days our babysitter is out. Often my hubby or I have to take a day off from work. While I don't mind her constant nagging and free advice on just about everything ... this issue really pinches. Is it too much to ask for to look after my child and her grandaughter for 10 or 11 DAYS a year willingly and without any complaints or expectation? Why am I made to feel guilty of leaving the baby with her?
I wish my MIL had a blog to express her views on the matter.

Hip Grandma said...

bigzed:welcome here.there mat be many reasons for your MIL's hesitation to baby sit.She may be getting on in age and may lack the energy to do so.You may be a littie rigid on the rules and she may not be confident enough.What would you do if it were your own mother?Wouldnt you have a frank conversation?Do the same here it will help you bond with her too.

Hip Grandma said...

usha:I've made an observation over the years.Where the MIL is mild mannered the DIL is over smart and vice versa.Rarely is there a balanced relationship between the two.often girls enter matrimony with a preconceived notion that a MIL needs to be put in place from day one.As for the MIL she is inundated with unsolicited advice.If others stop interfering the bonding would be easier.

artnavy said...

You gotto shake a little
Dance a little
Romance a little
And that's the story, the glory of love
..........goes a song by bette midler

all that and

you gotta give a little ( patience and allowance)
take a little ( crap from your perspective)
and THAT IS STORY OF LOVE!!( whether it be MIL/ DIL or SIL or anyone else)

Monika said...

as i mentioned on usha's post the adjusments have to be on both the sides. one can't expect a dil to call and talk to u if all that u do when she does is complain, in this fast world people are really running out of patience. I agree they are not to be blamed for this but this is how are lifestyles are these days

I am not trying to blame mil, but in my exp i have seen more of them who are exteremly possisive and insecure about their sons then the ones who really want to bond. I agree that is also something which comes naturally to one as feeling too. But that has to be dealt in a delicate manner by all three - the son, mil and dil...

One side putting in effort can never lead to a loving relationship. I have been married for the past 3 yrs now and if u look at my relation with mil people at a distance level would say that its great but i sometimes wonder have we really bonded. More often than not i hear her saying this would happen in ur side and this in ours... and then something in my heart breaks...

karmickids said...

Amen, its give and take on both sides, and as you mentioned, the grandkids normally smooth out all the rough edges. Where else would I find someone I can blindly trust with my son, and whom I know will take care of him much better than I could ever hope to. And yes, my MIL might be a sharp tongued, but she;s got a heart of gold. I can see that everytime she rushes to my defence when I and hubby have a spat....

Hip Grandma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hip Grandma said...

artnavy:a very cute song you must sing it for me when we meet next.i'll add my two lines to yours
'you gotto fight a little
sulk a little, and then laugh away your woes!!'

Monika:'More often than not i hear her saying this would happen in ur side and this in ours... and then something in my heart breaks...'

This is the story in every house hold.please don't take it to heart.She may not even realize that she is hurting you.a frank discussion would really help.bonding takes time and if both parties make an effort it is not impossible.Neither can wish the other away.Make a list of the positive aspects of your relationship and you'd be surprised at the length of the list.Isn't bonding with the husband as difficult?

karmickids:Your comment took me back to the early days of my marriage and believe me when I say that the going was tough.But I noticed a few things.She was sharp tongued but was the same to me and her only daughter.she scolded the daughter for no reason and I soon realized that the tirade was actually meant for me.I was in awe of the smartness displayed by a woman with no formal schooling.It is always more challenging to have an intelligent mother in law sharp tongued or otherwise.And oh yes she defended me too and would not let my husband or father in law say anything about my cooking or house keeping.More about it in a later post.BTW welcome here.

Veena said...

Hi Hip Granma,

Read your views on the subject, and glad to know that people discuss their opinions on these issues.

I believe the bonding would be much better if the DIL is not taken as a stranger in the house. Also if the MIL is not patronising. No matter what I do to be nice to my MIL, its usually sidestepped, with the "what-you-say-or-do-doesnt-matter-much-in-our-family" look.

The way she even normally speaks or responds to me is as though its "her family" against me. I actually belong to a different caste and language, but I learnt my inlaws language because my MIL cannot speak any other language. It just seems that any daily efforts to be nice or adjusting are belittled.

Altoid, I dont think the problem is less where the money is less. My inlaws are mostly dependent on my husband, though not totally. My husband is secure financially and so my MIL feels that he should pay for all their needs! (My husband has a younger bro who is also earning pretty well, though not as well).

Elder DILs (which I am currently), I think, face much of the music. when another DIL enters the family, some things are taken for granted, and she wouldnt face that much opposition and hostility!

Hope I dont sound too bad.

Cheers

Deepthi said...

Gran,

thns for this article,I must say it did really makeme think and I am sure that one hand will join the other only when we stretch and ask for anything.The same way I think we gotta ask in mycase the future MIL to repond to out needs and emotions just the way they expect us...My mom and my gran had tiffs,however today she is the fav mil and mom the fav dil.They read novels and exchange the passion by goign together for read meets...may u get a wonderful dil and godbless

nz said...

Hi HHG, your post reminded me of my days as a new bride 10 yrs back. My SIL left no stone unturned to make me feel most unwelcome and an outsider even though ours was a arranged marriage.I could never understand her problem and my husband broke all ties with her as he has had guts full of hearing negative things from her about me constantly. In the end she lost a good brother, but instead of feeling sorry about her loss she instigated the rest of the family against her brother cos he defended me.

I went out of my way so many times to make things better thinking that wouldnt I do that if it was my own sister or mother but nothing would please my in-laws.What i have learnt is, it cant be a oneway street - the effort has to be from both the sides. If a DIL should ignore a few things thinking that it could be her mother , MIL should do the same too.

I hope you and your DIL get along much better :-)

( sorry for a mini post here )

Hip Grandma said...

veena:you don't sound bad at all.And you can only extend your hand.It is for the other person to hold/accept it.The view abt less money means less problem was mine.I felt that when parents have enough money to see them through they adopt a high handed attitude.Again this is highly personal and varies from person to person.there are cases where the parents have money for their needs and more to spare and yet they want to be in full control of their son's finances.There are DIL's who say 'I don't mind my husband giving money as long as they stay out of our lives.'I suggest that you read my earlier post 'Can't we bond' and the the comments it drew from my readers.

deepti:After the initial hiccups normally a period of adjustment follows.This is easier if both groups make an effort.good luck to you.

nz:I am sorry to hear abt your SIL's attitude.as you say the loss is her's.As for your wish regarding my DIL i don't expect to have adjustment problems with her So 50% is okay.The other 50% would be her responsibility.If she's okay, fine.If not I have my blogging to turn to.

Sunita said...

HHG, You & Usha are probably a different league of MILs. I say so because you both have the exposure to the big world & own a blog(this means a lot). The world many moms belong to are very small compared to yours. They are bound by the 50-100 people in their religious community. Watching a movie is looked like a thing best avoided. With my mom, I can shout, argue and go watch the movie. with my in-laws, I can't take that chance. Going alone with my friends, guys too, they might just faint :). Driving long distance is an absolute no. Eating out is met with how unhealthy or lazy we are, should not allow the maid to pick the kid, any remarks about the health of the child needs to be undone with salt over the child. These are miniscule things, maybe should ignore, but how long and specially when you are not absolutely convinced with the reasoning. My MIL is very understanding & helpful, truly, but frustration keeps building on for differences over many such things. It is the difference in family orientations, generation gap and the inability of the older generation to understand and trust us & our decisions which hinder bonding.

Hip Grandma said...

sunita:'It is the difference in family orientations, generation gap and the inability of the older generation to understand and trust us & our decisions which hinder bonding'

Don't these exist with one's parents too?yes,you have rightly said that with one's parents one can argue and defy but with one's in laws we cannot take the risk.Isn't it also true that when it is my mom i laugh it off and with my MIL I fret and fume?Are we not more tolerant of our parent's whimsical behaviour saying that it is difficult for them to change but want to absolutely intolerant if it is the in laws in question.I don't mean to criticize your stand and in your place I'd perhaps be the same.Just think over these points.

Monika said...

i am not denying that there are positives also to our relation, there are many but still it feels that the adjusment part is left to me with a simple excuse that i came in their family and have to adjust to their ways and she at this age cant change herself... and this i have seen with quite a lot of mil's ,though i don't disagree to the second point changing in later part of ur life is surely much more difficult but most of the times all that a person requires is the effort and then the other one gives in... atleast i am ready too...

Hip Grandma said...

monika: Iam glad to hear you say that you are ready to give in if you MIL also makes an effort.you also agree that it is indeed difficult for her to change at this age. that should be the spirit.i am sure your MIL will understand you sooner rather than later.Extremely good or mean people are almost non existent.most of us normal humans are an average of the two extremes.With time and patience everything should fall in place.

Kowsalya Subramanian said...

Hi HHG,

I have been a regular reader but commenting here first time.

This is not "SAAS-BAHU" but "MAA-BETI"
My sister became a widow 3 years back and came to live with my parents. She came back to my mom's house after having lived with her husband for 15 years. Her MIL and FIL were not alive even at the time of her marriage, so it was she who was running the show. Now back here in mother's house, the quarrels/cribs that she has with Mom are almost same as any DIL would have with her MIL. It was a total shock for all of us, other sisters and my mom. Now after 3 years of staying in a joint family with my parents, she says she has had enough and wants to live in a separate house and have her piece of space. So bottomline, does it mean these days people want their own space and that family stops with wife, husband and their own (un-married) children. I also feel, given a choice, people take the easier one and "thani-kudithanam" is a comfortable zone and that holds good for divorces too. The attitude among most people is - The moment you cannot adjust, you quit from that relationship.

Kowsalya
ps - sorry for a minipost here.

Survivor said...

My two cents....
As many have pointed out,I think its the insecurity, be it financial or emotional , that is expressed in different ways by an MIL.
It it tough for a very young girl,one who has been pampered in her house , to get adjusted immediately , to understand all the emotional conflicts involved in that relationship.And if it is a love marriage,ego plays a major part too(for both MIL & DIL).
I think putting oneself in the other's shoes and viewing things differently will certainly help building the relationship.But,it is tough for everyone to have that maturity in life and we learn as we grow....

Hip Grandma said...

kawsalya:That is a very sad situation and confirms my belief that adjustment between two human beings has never been more difficult than in the present times.Your sister is not the only one who does this to her parents.there are other examples too where it is one's own daughter/son who fail to appreciate what their parents have done for them.But parents who find excuses for their daughter's/son's behaviour will not take it from their DIL/SIL.May be she should be left alone to deal with the situation for sometime.She may soon come to terms with her loss.After all she is young and the loss of her husband must be difficult on her too.welcome here.

survivor:'But,it is tough for everyone to have that maturity in life and we learn as we grow.... '

Well said.The relationship has to grow.If others stopped interfering it may even grow fast.but sadly I've seen cases where the MIL?DIL get on well for 15/20 years. The FIL dies and despite the money and the property she possesses and the non interfering apprpach, the DIL make life hell for her and the son is a silent spectator.At a time when the lady needs emotional support the MIL's life is reduced to lonely evenings and silent tears.'who wants her money, is the usual refrain.welcome here.

The Mad Momma said...

to repeat what others have said.. you and Usha are modern and have a lot of exposure to the rest of the world.. i am 28...old enough to be your daughter? my mother is a corporate hotshot with plenty of exposure to the rest of the world. i am a SAHM ... my MIL has just gone to school.. not even college... she can barely dial.. let alone send an SMS.. i dont mean to be dismissive.. i mean to point out.. that the modern ones will be very different to the MILs who end up having probs with DILS.. you will not have probs. mine has a prob if i serve before my husband is served.. if he makes tea while i am in bed.. if he changes a diaper when i am sick... these women are a different class and not like u.... to them we will always be DILs... not daughters.. how can we then think of them as mothers and not MILs?

here's a post i wrote long ago.. it might seem harsh.. but thats only because i am blogging.. i would not have the heart or the guts to be rude to her personally!! http://themadmomma.blogspot.com/2007/02/letter-to-mother-in-law.html

Hip Grandma said...

the mad momma:It can be annoying to have the mother in law objecting to every affrctionate gesture from one's husband.and as you have rightly pointed out lack of exposure as pointed out by you and Sunita earlier is the cause.But again as you have pointed out those of us who cannot be mean have no option but to grin and bear it.Get it out of your system even it means blogging your heart out.I am with you.

Lara said...

I have a similar view point that misunderstandings between DIL and MIL are quite easy. Also, they don't forgive each other so easily where as they are willing to very easily forgive their OTHER close family members (parents, children or husband) or friends.

Puneet said...

Hi Grandmom
Echo the sentiments.."A little effort and lots of patience will make it so much easier for all.."
Patience from all the parties involved..
I am a son and one year old married ..I have seen, known and understood my mom to be the perfect mom, I argue with her she listens to me and sometimes agrees sometimes disagree.
Now I am a husband as well..we brought one new person to family ..new person means new ..she has been born and brought up differently , her views , emotional feelings, perspective is quite a diffrent...At times I become impatient that would she and my mom be in same page, would compliment each other some day...would she ever understand that my mom would be as u said next best to her(I know that)...I probably expect from her too soon....then my mom says "Beta she has come to new place how will she feel attached so soon, first our duty is to give her alll support, love and care for some years then only she will realise , will feel attached...." I wish her hope come true...

Hip Grandma said...

lara:The problem in the Saas/bahu equation is that they both want monopoly over everything.The fine balance is therefore easily disturbed.

puneet:With the maturity your mom shows the day when the two ladies would compliment each other is not far off.good luck to you.They may even gang up against you.Be careful!

Hip Grandma said...

Lara,puneet:welcome here.Hope to hear from you in future too.

Anonymous said...

I just read your blog and this post for the very first time...
What would you do if you were in my predictment?
here is the story - Ours is a "love" marriage and my in-laws are down right mean...
My MIL has spread rude and false rumours about me which my mom has to face each time she visits the temple.
My FIL almost hit me one day...
My BIL tries to grope me whenever he can - he has a wife and a son.
My husband is the only saving grace and I have no idea how he turned out so different. He has made me stop visiting them whenever we visit home and I haven't been there for alomost 6 months now...
My self-respect, dignity have been bruised and they have treated my parents badly, spit on my dad...
I am grateful for God for giving me such fantastic and supportive parents and a husband who trusts me...
--- S

Hip Grandma said...

anon:Iam sorry your in laws treat your parents badly and are outright mean to you.I don't think you should put up with their nonsense if it hurts your dignity and self respect.May be you should be firm in your dealings while you continue to do your duty towards them.This may bring a change in their attitude.