When I married 30 years ago, I carried a lot of dreams in my eyes. The dreams of a loving family, a caring husband, and a mother-in-law who would treat me like her own daughter. It only took 6 months to realize that these dreams of mine will never turn into reality.
But as I was financially dependent on my husband, I made a tough choice to suffer the emotional abuse in silence.
Unlike today, when parents encourage their daughters to move out of abusive marriage, 30 years ago, taking a divorce wasn’t a choice. Divorce was treated like an evil that would not only destroy family reputation but also lead to social stigma for the rest of your life.
So when I shared with my mother, how my mother-in-law kept taunting me for wearing sleeveless clothes or kept calling me a prostitute or blamed my parents’ for my upbringing, my mother said –
“Anita, everyone has the same story. This is part of marriage. You should become strong and don’t let her words affect you. Just ignore it. You can’t think about coming back to home, every time she curses you or abuses you! What will people say?”
And, I just mustered the courage to say –
But when my daughter was born, I just hoped that she doesn’t have to bear the same pain that I did. I just hoped that with time, society would change. It would shed off its regressive thought process and would give women the due share of respect even at home or outside. It would stop treating women like a doormat or a punching bag.
But, I was so damn wrong. Nothing has changed!
I pushed my husband to make sure that our daughter isn’t vulnerable like me. I pushed my husband to ensure we raise a financially independent and career-oriented woman. I never asked for even a single gift or a piece of jewelry from my husband. Whenever he suggested that he would buy me something, I used to tell him –
“Save it for Neha’s education. We have to send her to one of the best colleges in India.”
My husband would laugh about how I was on a mission to make sure my daughter will be financially independent.
And, whenever I had a fear of how my daughter may face the same abuse that I did – I used to tell myself time has changed. People have changed. We have examples of Kalpana Chawla, Indra Nooyi and society respects women more now!
But, destiny proved me wrong. My daughter, even after being highly educated and financially stable, couldn’t escape the abusive treatment at home. She was treated like an educated maid by her in-laws. Sadly while her husband wanted to marry a well-educated, strong, and independent woman, he didn’t know how to respect her!
My daughter also yearned for the same respect that I yearned 30 years ago. Her situation makes me wonder – Has anything changed in the last 30 years? And, I am not the only mother asking this question. Many mothers, who struggled with abuse and lack of respect, asked the very same question when they see their daughters going through the same fate.
Though today, women are educated, strong, and independent, they still struggle to get respect and honor at home.
So whenever my daughter shares how she has been abused, I wonder though society may not have changed, we, parents of daughters did!
Unlike my parents, we never told our daughter to suffer in silence. We always told our daughter to come back if the marriage doesn’t treat her right. Additionally, my daughter is way much stronger than I was 30 years old. Whenever I ask her what we can do to help her, she tells me –
“Mummy, you don’t have to do anything. You have raised a strong daughter, who is not going to break that easily. Your daughter doesn’t shy away from standing for herself.”
Whenever my daughter talks like that, it makes me so proud. It makes me feel that society may have failed her by denying the respect she deserves, I haven’t; her parents haven’t!