For centuries, the relationship between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law has been a tricky one. It’s literally the tangible form of the phrase “kabhi khushi kabhi gham” – with Gham dominating more often than not.
In our sub-continent culture, this relationship gets even trickier due to the Rukhsati of the daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law’s home which means her every habit, every move, every casual remark is scrutinised as a potential threat to the very routine, the very rules, the very authority which the Queen of the house, the Mother in Law, has set after years of hard work. The daughter-in-law who comes from a totally different house, which may have had a completely different style of living, may or may not subscribe to these new rules and principles and spends most of her initial days experimenting and flexing those power muscles.
Even in newer scenarios, where the parents end up living in their son’s and hence the daughter-in-law’s home due to children migrating to other cities and countries, the situation is exactly the same but the roles are reversed. Now the mother-in-law feels unease at having to adapt herself to the daughter-in-law’s style of running the house and this, in my opinion, is even harder as there are some seriously old habits to change and if not changed then there is a lot of unnecessary and unseen friction without both parties actually wanting it. All of this, many a time, create disharmony in this relationship – a crack which could have been avoided if it wasn’t for patriarchy. You want to know how? Keep reading…
So, let’s go to the very basics. If one sees a house that is messy or not well kept, what do people say? The woman of the house has no saleeqa. If one sees kids that are not well behaved, what do people say? The mother doesn’t know how to raise kids. What I am trying to say here is, even if both husband and wife work, even if they share their house chores and responsibilities, if anything is not as it should be when it comes to the house, the woman is the one to get blamed. And, it’s not due to sexism but rather a very real and valid reason for it. Over the years, women have evolved with this natural instinct to make homes, not houses – homes. Be it decorating them or running them, they put a lot of thought in it. When it comes to men, they can’t be much bothered. It’s coded in their nature by nature. They don’t care much about the nitty gritty like decor, house rules, kitchen cleanliness etc. All they want is food to eat and a place to sleep (mostly). In short, most men don’t care about any of the things that can form the basis of contention between two people trying to run a house.
Now coming back to the mother-in-law daughter-in-law thing. Imagine if instead of the daughter-in-law, it was the daughter. The issues like “humaray ghar k ye tareeqay nahin”, “pata nahin kese bachay paal rahi hain, hum ne to aisay nahin dekha”, “khana hum se mukhtalif banta hai in k yahan”, “Humaray ghar k yehi rules hain, adjust anay walon ko kerna hoga”, “hum apna Purana living style kese chor den” etc etc., all these issues would, in essence, become null and void if the mother was living with her daughter as the rules, the tareeqay, the tarbeyat, the lifestyle of both the females would have been very similar as technically one taught the other that very tareeqay and principles and the other lived and breathed those rules, principles and lifestyle.
So, you see, what am trying to say here, saas bahu ka rishta wouldn’t have been this tarnished in our society if one was not forced on the other the way they are. I am all for not leaving our old parents to live by themselves as the kind of physical, emotional and financial investment the desi parents do for their children, it’s unfair and selfish if they are left to live alone in an age when they need us most. In an ideal world, the best situation would be if they could live in their own house with a child’s house in the same street but due to financial and work/immigration constraints, this is impossible in 90% of the cases. So either the DILs end up living in the MILs home or vice versa.
What am proposing, rather wishing, here is a scenario where parents could live with their daughters without the social stigma and taboo attached to it. This could have meant a significant decrease in ghareloo politics and happier households and not-stuck-in-the-middle husbands. Matlab if a wife doesn’t like what the saas said to her and goes moaning to her husband, he really can’t take sides as it’s his mother after all. However, if a wife has an issue with her own mother she’ll deal it with herself without involving the husband. Win-win.
Also, having observed many people and many households, I can safely say when it comes to men, be it their parents or their wives’ parents coming to stay, men tend to live and do as they want to, on their own terms, so this arrangement won’t result in the kind of issues and friction families face due to the saas-bahu chik chik.
I agree there might be an issue of “becoming a bojh on Damaad” if the daughter is not working but that can be sorted – firstly by making it normal for both men and women to work in our culture, secondly by making the other children support financially if the daughter you are living decides not to work, thirdly by removing the social stigma attached with living with daughters and once that’s done, more solutions will come by themselves.
But afsos, this “beti k ghar ka paani na peena”, “betion k saath kon rehta hai”, “damaad ki nazr mein izzat nahin rahegi”, all these rotten thoughts and believes have done more harm to relationships in our culture than any good.
I just hope and wish, one day we’ll be able to shed this patriarchal mindset and embrace that it is as ok for parents to move in with their daughters as it is to move in with the sons. Parents might choose to live separately if they want to without the society shunning them k bachay chor k chalay gaey, they should be able to live with their sons, they should be able to live with their daughters.
On this note and wishful thinking, adios my readers. Do tell me idea kesa laga..