Life during pandemic has been quite challenging, especially for women. Never-ending household chores, kids who need constant attention, husbands working from home, work calls, Zoom calls…the list goes on. . Mulling over these challenges I hear and read about every day, I was plagued by a million questions. Although the one that lingered was about the eternal ‘daughter in law’ syndrome. In my conversations with friends and extended family, stories of the stifling lives that so many women that we knew in common would come up.
I came across a ton of posts in several women’s groups on Facebook, where daughters-in-law were having a tough time adjusting. In a few cases, it was the opposite. Ill-treatment, neglect, emotional torture, and even physical abuse – there were stories of unhappiness and heartbreak. This could be why Indian daughter in law is labeled as uncultured and rebellious. The pandemic, to an extent, helped families bond and brought parents, grandparents, children, and siblings even closer. Nonetheless, this wasn’t the case in the love hate relationships with the ‘in-law’ tag.
Is she a daughter in law or a daughter?
Noticed how the term ‘in-laws’ doesn’t evoke particularly happy thoughts or feelings? Often, a mere mention of the term is met with a smirk, a raised eyebrow, or a groan. Google it and you’ll be flooded with enough and more advice on how to win over a manipulative mother-in-law, deal with an annoying sister in law or cope with generally exasperating in-laws.
Why have things come to this? Is it because of a certain social pre-conditioning that will not permit the in-law tag to appear positive? Or because of how daughters-in-law have been treated?
So I asked myself: would the nature of the relationship change if we remove the daughter in law tag? How would two sisters-in-law behave with each other if they met not as in-laws but as colleagues?
The nature of the relationship and the accompanying expectations often buries the human element of the bond. It makes otherwise gentle and loving women appear like demons out of a nightmare.
With these feelings and questions in mind, being a daughter in law myself, I spoke to a few women to know their thoughts about the in-law tag.
How does the in-law tag affect one’s relationship?
For many, a warm and friendly relationship changed almost immediately post marriage. Once good friends suddenly transformed into demanding sisters-in-law. Imagine how bewildered a bride entering her new home would have felt! All along thinking that there would be a friend to help, instead, the in-law tag changed that. Rued one such annoyed daughter in law, whose husband’s younger sister happened to be a good friend of hers. But marriage changed it all. Her once sweet little friend would now complain about and instigate fights!
Why can’t we connect at a human level and bond woman to woman?
Idealistic as it may sound, imagine, how wonderful it would be if all mothers-in-law and daughter in laws connected well. All conflicts and differences would be amicably resolved as they would bond, empathize and understand each other. A new bride would be more receptive to her mother in law’s thought process. The mother in law herself would have more empathy for another woman who has entered a new home. She could be reprieved of the terrible things daughter in law has to face. In the process, the husband and or son will not feel torn or sandwiched anymore. More importantly and hopefully, a daughter in law would no longer be seen as the ‘seductress’ who is constantly trying to lure the son away. Nor the mother in law be thought of as the ‘wicked witch’ waiting to torment the new bride.
I’m not shying away. Tag me, but treat me like a human who can get tired too, who also desires to be served a hot cup of tea once in a while at least…Removal of the tag will be the highest level of good treatment.Shuchi Arora’
Start thinking from each other’s perspectives
Vaishali Sudan Sharma of The Champa Tree says, ‘Now, when I look back on my days as a new bride, I feel I wasn’t able to understand my mother-in-law, because of which there was conflict. I felt unloved and less welcome than my sister-in-law. I saw things from own my perspective and not my mother-in-law’s. In my 40s now, I realize where I went wrong. How different things would have been had I tried to see and understand my mother in law’s point of view.’ Bang on.
All the tags of in-laws have been an age-old tradition and due to the generation gap, the magnitude of the weight this tag carried with it is manifold. Having said that, as an aware generation, we can always try to bridge the gap. As a modern age mom or maybe future mom in-law I want to remove the tag, but it’s not quite possible. I would love to have a more friendly and easy-going approach towards my son-in-law or daughter in law. Things will be much clear as it will be with my daughter and son.Nandita Sishodia
A mother-in-law has also been through this!
Let’s put ourselves in each other’s shoes—Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi, a dialogue that’s been quoted to death, is a powerful reminder to all those mothers-in-law who believe in showing their daughters in-law their place in the house. ‘Hello there, can we pause and rewind please. Can’t you see that I am not used to a new home and its ways? Can I get a break from all the duties being dumped on my head just because I married into the family?’ asks Sandhya, who requested that her name be changed.
She continues, ‘I got married in the peak of winter. Every morning at 5 am, my mother-in-law would bang the wall of our bedroom to wake me up. I was never an early riser. But during those first few months of my marriage, I was sleepwalking through the day!’
‘As a daughter in law, why am I supposed to wear a smile on my face all the time? Even if I look ok on the outside, there are times when I too might want a warm smile, an assurance from you, my dear in-laws, that you all are there for me, and that I can take a breather from time to time. Is that too much to ask of you?’ pleads Arefa, the owner of Happybookers. She adds that this situation is prevalent in almost all the households that she knows of. As a daughter in law, at times, she feels like a robot who is trained to do everything, unflinchingly and without stopping.
The superstructure of opinions is a major barrier in the in-laws relationship.Savita Sinha
Can sisters-in-law be friends?
Akta Sehgal Malhotra, founder of Motherhood club weighs in, ‘As a daughter in-law, I would like to look at you beyond the labels of mothers and sisters in-law. How wonderful it would be if this can happen.’ She feels truly blessed as she shares a beautiful bond with her sisters in-law. She never feels the pressure and burden of these labels in the family. The healthy relationship without any tug of war has made her very positive in all her other relationships as well. This was possible because they accepted each other and did not focus on the in-law identity.
Interestingly, as a mother-in-law, Mrs. Reena says, ‘I would like to have a similar relationship with my daughter in law.’ She believes it has to be a two-way street of accepting each other. Mrs. Reena adds, ‘Nowadays, especially in metro cities, I see mothers and daughter in law increasingly share friendlier relationships. Chuck this tag and become friends. See how beautiful life and your home will be.’ Wise words from a veteran mother-in-law, who was once a daughter in law. Think about it…these tags will not disappear overnight, at the same time they should not be the reason to pin you down and cause stress. Time, a positive attitude and a little adjustment are all it really requires.