I was having a long conversation with Smita – the age old conversation about living with the in-laws. We began with comparing notes and moved on to questions. How to deal with this situation? How should one ideally react? Why can’t things be different? What is the point of having to deal with this every day?
Of course, we didn’t have any answers, or perhaps we did, but none of them were satisfactory enough. The niggling doubts remained.
I didn’t live with my in-laws. Within two years of my marriage we had moved out. My husband got a lucrative posting in another city and since then we’ve been away. I’d almost forgotten how it felt like to spend every waking hour with in-laws. Talking to Smita brought back memories.
But was it really that bad? No, there were many things that worked for me while I was still living with them. I didn’t have to take care of the house, didn’t worry about food as all meals were taken care of, didn’t need to shop for grocery, didn’t need to instruct the maid what to cook, and didn’t need to pay utility bills, never worried about emptying gas cylinders nor did I worry about the extended family. Festivals and following rituals simply meant do as mother-in-law did. Birthdays, anniversaries were never forgotten while updates on relatives were dinner table conversations.
But then, why was I still unhappy about the situation? What made me want to revolt? Was it because it didn’t feel like my ‘own’ home? I was living with other people and therefore had to abide by their rules. Did that make me feel, morally responsible to behave in a certain way?
They were my husband’s parents, then, why did accepting them not come naturally to me? Was it because of societal pressures and expectations drawn around this relationship? Were their expectations of me, equally holding them back from treating me like a daughter instead of a daughter-in-law? Sometimes, I felt like my husband was more open and accommodating of my parents then I was about his. But was that because he wasn’t living with them 24×7?
What was it, that we were doing now that we didn’t do then? Wake up when we pleased, dress up just the way we liked, no dealing with extended family, we went where & whenever we pleased, ate outside when we didn’t want to cook at home or didn’t like what was cooked, went on vacations at the spur of the moment, had friends over whenever we pleased, did our own thing like watch television or work on the computer, read a book, play a game of sudoku, didn’t have to make unnecessary conversation or entertain those who didn’t matter!
Me thinks, we could have done all this and more even if we lived with the in-laws. Yes, it would have required loads of adjustments and compromises on both ends. In-laws would have to accept that after marriage we would want to have a different life to begin with – would need a certain amount of freedom to do as we pleased and just by ourselves. Alternatively, we would need to give them time and space to accept that this was our home too. We could do separate things, yet be a family.
Yes, I know, interesting view but pure utopia. One that requires a heart of gold, strict self discipline and full control over conflicting egos. Hmmm, way too much to handle! So, guess I’ll just stop wasting time, wanting the best of both worlds and trying to fit them in 🙂
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