Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Can't we bond?

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?


di.di said...

I dont know about MIL, bcoz I dont have one but I think it's hard to please everyone. If you accommodate the wishes of others at every turn, you tend to lose sight of your own image.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Yes I understand what you say from experience. It is so very true. A MIL/DIL relationship should be easy, but the problem is not because either MIL or DIL is not making an effort.
The mother finds it tough to digest the fact her son has another woman in his life to take care of.. while the wife is worried that her husband would not share his love equally or rather proportionately.. Perhaps I am blabbering here, Hip Grandma i really dont know.. I am sorry.
It`s just that one thing I can tell there are more chances of a marriage becoming a success, when the MIL-DIL relationship is better and stronger.

With Best Regards,

The Kid said...

I am not married yet... but would like to comment a lot on this subject. I have infact noted lot of different kinds levels of MIL/DIL relationship.

Not many people realize that being a guy, it hits the hardest. He is hit both ways. Sometimes, nobody even thinks about the poor fella who is going to be affected whatever the outcome of a showdown is, for which he is not even the cause.

But even if he is not the cause of problems, these days the guy could change things drastically... For example, since every responsibility in the house is split between the couple, it is easy to see that the DIL cannot be blamed for every thing.

and thus I hope things change in my time.

Artnavy said...

You learn by example- I see my mother and her MIL- they belong to very diff wavellengths but get along so well- they gang up agsinst my father even- both have learnt to live and let live- u retain your identity but respect the other's point of view- prob helped that the man they share is very neutral.

Balaji said...

An interesting post. I am not married but I could emphatise with what is mentioned out here. My grand mother was very much supportive of my mom and likewise.

My mother had come from a pretty well off family. There were quite a lot financial troubles (I reckon I should write stuff that i know in my blog) in my family when she got married and she had to adjust. My father and my grand mother helped in adjusting, made her feel part of the family. My mother started taking enourmous responsibilities on her young shoulders.

I remember(as a child you don't realise though) those were hard times. My grand mother and my mother used to make kappa pappadams (tapioca pappadams) and whole load of other stuff....That courage shown my mom and grand mother for so many years helped keep the family going and going well inspite of so many hard ships....I can definitely say what I have become is an end result of those hardships and I am mighty proud of them.

I have never seen an open argument between my mother and grand mother. If she doesn't like something my mother has the habit of just keeping quiet and that definitely ensures that there is no row and at the same time when the time is right, she will convey what needs to be told with utmost respect.

It is a huge ask for any women to accept and appreciate her new family, her new world. But once she does it, I think it is better than her own home...

Nee said...

I agree with a lot of what you said. A MIL's role in welcoming the new DIL into the family cannot be underestimated. If a MIL does this part well, she will lay a solid foundation for the relationship.

The fact of the matter is that when there are two human beings, there will be some disagreement or the other. We have disagreements with the parents who raised us and gave us most of our values, so disagreements with a totally new person are to be expected. Once we accept that, and realize that just because we don't always see eye to eye on everything, doesn't mean that we can't be friends, things should be smooth sailing for the most part.

Kalpana said...

Everything is just in the mindset. Understanding from both the sides is quite important.

Usha said...

It is all about having an open mind and not typecasting. In the initial days it is important for the older person to make the younger one feel wanted and accepted. And I think with love and sincerity of effort it isnt difficult for 2 women to bond.

Sree said...

This is truly a nice post. I am getting ready to get into a new family pretty soon and I felt as if my amma, my materanal grandmom, was telling me this through you... Will sure keep this advice in mind. Thank you.

When I feel I am compromising I would be feeling bogged down.. but instead if I just do what is right and tread with a little caution and care, it would be a happy life.. we do lot of things to make even stranger's feel at ease, it is after all my better half's mom who might feel a little insecure at a new arrival.. I should be putting myself in her shoes and see, makes my life easier I guess.

Thanks again

Has to be me said...

Good post! The best wld be not to argue & create a scene. As its such a delicate relation.....if u've a hubby/son u r bound to have a mil/ might as well accept them the way they are & try to be @ peace.

Hip Grandma said...

drama diva:I don't think it is the question of accomodating the wishes of every other person at every turn.Your own point may be put across without aggression.Soon you will see the other persons view.

srijith:It is here where the role of a son/husband becomes imp.He should be able to impress upon the two ladies that they both are him but in different ways.

the kid:I agree that it is the man who bears the reply to srijith's post is applicable here too.don't worry things are changing.

artnavy:you are right.You have a fine example right in front of you.

balaji:Hats off to your mom!i can see what she went thro' to make her life a success story.We all need to know more abt. her and your g'mom too.were they like the people mentioned in my earlier post 'The cat's curse'?I'm interested to know.

nee:a relationship thrives when one agrees to disagree.An open argument is better than a cold war.

Kalpana:you've summed it up well.

Usha:An earnest desire to make a relationship work and a sincere effort in the direction should sort out differences that are bound to arise.nothing in life comes easy.I've seen people who thought that they were smart enough to shirk their responsibility.Their smartness hasn't been able to give them any satisfaction.

sush:Good luck for your married life.From what I understand abt your g'mom from your post you have a fine example to follow.

has to be me:if all people realised this the world wud be a better place.

The Inquisitive Akka said...

You are so right- as usual :)

Archana Bahuguna said...

I completely agree with you. Fortunately (crossing my fingers) I have a wonderful relationship with both my MIL and SIL and I would say it is both ways. They make sure nothing is an issue and I also work hard the same way. And of course there are some points at which some expectations are not met because of prior conditioning and individual ideologies.

And then it depends on the maturity of people involved in these relationships. If they are loving, caring people, who value relationships and strive first to understand than to misunderstand, I don't think it is a big deal whether it is a relationship with MIL/SIl or any one else. But yes, it is a two way channel. Just one cannot handle it totally.

Itchingtowrite said...

i would like to draw an analogy. when you get into a train compartment first, the immediate reaction is hostility towards the other passanger seated there. that's my seat, since lower berth is mine, the window seat is mine, push your luggage aside etc. slowly people start sharing their food, exchanging stories, views & by the end of the journey, they are exchanging addresses, phone nos.. may be the MIL DIL relationship starts like that and as time goes on the bond strengthens - ofcourse all depends on how both parties treat the other

Hip Grandma said...

archana:The bonding of a MIL and Dil cannot be properly dealt with in a single page.You go to the market to buy a matching blouse piece.With man made fabric one is unable to find the exact shade.A relationship involving the human mind is much more intricate and an exact match is next to impossible.Give and take in a relationship is the only way out.

ITW:Your analogy is partly correct.Co passengers get down and go their way and despite their intention to remain in touch, hardly ever do so.However I do agree that with one's in laws one is wary in the beginning and opens up with time.

passerby55 said...


We become DIL because we were born as daughters. AS a daughter we dream and then hope those dreams come true when DIL.

We become MIL because we are a Mother ..... As a mother she holds then as a MIL she learns to let go.

but the most important is to know that each of us is a Special WOMAN in every role .....who wants to gain her respect and also love.

That i think is the essential essence.


Hip Grandma said...

prachi:You cannot escape this dilemma if and when you get married.So start thinking.By the way Thanks for dropping in.

passerby55:Beautifully said!very well put.we need more like you-

"We become MIL because we are a Mother ..... As a mother she holds then as a MIL she learns to let go."

Your son/DIL would be lucky people to have such a mature mom/MIL.

starry said...

This is such a beautiful post , I think every to be bride should read. I think I am going tosave a copy for my daughter.I especially think this is so important"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"

Thanks for sharing these views and tips.

Hip Grandma said...

Lalitha:Thanks Lalitha.thosewere kind words.I am glad you understood.

The Visitor said...

Reading last I've had the benefit of seeing all the other comments. My own opinion is that despite we all understanding the problem, agreeing on what is to be done etc. when it comes to our own situation, we tend to think, "my case is different; its unique".

Even with understanding MIL/DIL this can take time. For example, an accomodative MIL may think, "I am very accomodative of my DIL, but she is still very stand offish", whereas the DIL may think, "who is she to 'accomodate', it is my right"

I guess that there are no right solutions - its a matter of acceptance of each other, which would probably take its own time, depending on the maturity of the persons involved.

Neer said...

i agree and disagree! i mean, agree because its so true and disagree on account that, a few of us, who do not care either ways... in the terms of dealing with either mom or mom in laws... and then there are those, who would not even care a bit about their own family but would be all sweet sachharine with in laws! ah the human insecurities!

Ardra said...

very interesting...if inclined do visit:

Movie Mazaa said...

I have often felt awed by this notion of insecurity that creeps into a girl's mind the moment the marraige is fixed. The snide whispers and the sob stories that have filtered over from freinds and relatives perhaps only add fuel to the fire. So much so, that by the time she steps on to the new household she has this grotesque image all framed in her mind which often smells of kerosene, leaking gas cylinders and what not.

The picture is complete when the MIL has a similar version all ready within herself.

Hip Grandma said...

ardra:You've summed up an otherwise complicated relationship in a rather simple way in yourpost for sulekha.Intentions should be good everything else will fall in place.It is my experience speaking.My mom in law was not like your valliamma my husband made it clear that he was on his mom's side.But I knew where I stood and believe me it was not long before we became supportive of each other.Keep an open mind and be willing to try.This is what I'd advice young brides of today.Hats off to your valliamma and you.

velu:Very often one's own mother rubs off her own insecurities on to their daughters.normally girls who've seen their moms adjust with her in laws automaticaly bond with their own.

Hip Grandma said...

neers:you've touched an entirely new aspect.Yes there are people who don't care for their families but are honey and sugar with in laws.But don't males do this more frequently?

Hip Grandma said...

the visitor:You have summed it up rather well.yes,it is all anout attitudes.

The Visitor said...

G'ma with respect to your comment:
Very often one's own mother rubs off her own insecurities on to their daughters.normally girls who've seen their moms adjust with her in laws automaticaly bond with their own.

have a look at this link, not exactly the same context but on similar lines.

Hip Grandma said...

the visitor:i visited the site and it did make an interesting reading.

Hip Grandma said...

mahadevan:a good rapport between the two ladies will make life easy for all others.Both need to make an effort.many are able to do it.BUT THE EXAMPLE OF THOSE WHO DON'T gets highlighted but those who go out of the way to adjust is ignored.It's time TV channels showed the positive side too.

hillgrandmom said...

I agree with you totally hip g'ma. DILs need to remember that after all the MIL only wants what's best for her child. But I do know that there are some women who try to make it exceptionally difficult for their DILs/MILs.

Hip Grandma said...

hillg'mom:These days a good many agree to disagree and let go a few habits in the larger interest of the family.financiall security plays a part.But as you say there are still some who make life miserable for their MIL/DIL andd it is the husband/son who suffers.

the mad momma said...

i am going to go out on a limb and say, I agree that a lot of MILs are only looking out for the best for their child (ref: hillgrandmom's comment) this is where the prob begins. not generalising. But it happens often. so they are not willing to accept things that might be better for DIL. eg. DIL sleeping later than son because she has later working hours, so doesn't give him breakfast but leaves it to maid. it may not bother the son, but it bothers the MIL.

Of course whether you live with in-laws or nuclear makes a world of difference in the way the relationship grows.

Monika said...

intersting post again....

hill grandmom... i agree that mil always wants best for their children... but isn't it true that they have grown to a level that they can thunk good of them... i mean what she thinks as best could not be acceptable to the children as couple... isn't it best to leave them alone at those times... having said that i agree that there are lot os dil's who make uncessary issues out of every word said...

i think a mil-sil relationship is one of the most delicate and one of the most important relationships too... its said that children learn the most by seeing around and in the ages of 3-7 and this is the relation they see the most during that time

Dotm said...

I have always felt I missed a lot by never knowing my MIL. Both in-law parents died long before I ever met my late husband. Meeting his mom`s relation was great, and getting to know husbands sister and brothers, just made me wish to have known their mom all the more. Not so sure about the FIL, as people didn`t praise him like they did the MIL. I heard he was abusive to his kids and wife which is something I could never believe in. Heard this from relations and also from the s-i-law and b-i-laws. If all I heard was true, I know I would have protected my kids when around him.
Nice post. I came here from hillgrandmom`s blog.

Hip Grandma said...

The mad momma:I know of a 35yr old who was diabetic and the mother complained that the DIL was starving him by restricting his diet.She certainly had his interest in mind but was totally unaware of the need to deal with his physical condition.I agree that such undeserved criticism does put one off.but even these can be dealt with in a firm but amicable way.

monika:I understand your can always agree to disagree and not have your disagreement interfere with your natural bonding with each other.After all don't we have differences with our own parents and siblings?This applies not only to MIL/DIL.It holds true for all groups.

dotm:welcome here.In these days when no one wants the older generation to interfere in their lives you stand out.Having dealt with a joint family I can safely say that I benefitted a lot by the guidance of my parents in law despite some difficult moments.