Ladies, I know we share a very complicated relationship with each other. For centuries, the relationship has been stressed so much that we have so many stories of pulling each other down, rather than pulling up! I believe our relationship stress stems from the insecurities, patriarchal culture, and the burden of expectations.
Though we may have so much love in our hearts, we failed to give each other any! While we may have so much kindness in our hearts, we fail to each other to give any! But, why?
Before you read any further, here is a disclaimer: If you believe all mothers-in-law are devils or all daughters-in-law are shrewd and shameless, then you better stop reading this post right away. If you believe in the goodness of people and realize that we can change things for the better, then here what I learned in my journey of being a mother-in-law.
Being a 55-year old woman, I just got my son married last year. And, here’s my story of how I uncover the layers of different feelings and made a journey that many mothers struggle i.e. accepting that their sons don’t owe you anything and their wives are their real equal partners in the life journey. But, I wouldn’t have been able to make this journey if my daughter-in-law wouldn’t have been patient and kind enough to accept my new reality!
Being a college graduate, I had dreams to work. But, born in a conservative family, my fate was immediately sealed with the arranged marriage with a man, whom I just met once. And like many women of my generation, I accepted my fate. Hardly I knew what my future had in store.
I was married into a different and difficult family, who never accepted me as a part of their own. My mother-in-law had imposed so many restrictions that sometimes, my marriage felt like a jail and I was its prisoner. They wanted me to change everything about myself in the name of traditions, values, and culture. It felt like my identity was under attack. From wearing a cut sleeves blouse to meeting parents, everything was made to sound like a big deal. For a very long time, I wasn’t even allowed to be financially independent just because that would have reduced their control and would have given me more confidence to stand for myself.
The saddest part was how my husband refused to see the abuse that I was going through every day. He didn’t stand up once for me. He didn’t tell once his mother that she shouldn’t have an issue with him spending time with me. He didn’t stop her from cursing me whenever we went out to meet our friends and got a bit late.
My dreams both as a wife and a woman were crushed and I was really reduced to being a maid, overworked, under-loved, and exhausted. But things changed when I was blessed with my son Rohit. I had someone to call my own. I had someone who would care about my happiness. I had someone who was ready to care about my happiness. I had someone who was there to wipe off my tears and would tell me “Momma, I am always gonna there for you”.
We shared a special bond. But when my son decided to marry, I got scared. I got scared of the bond that he would share with his wife. It made me so scared that it was quite visible to my son. To make things comfortable, his attention swung to me, which made my daughter-in-law uncomfortable.
I hated this fear that was growing on me. Even though I liked my daughter-in-law, I struggled with letting go. I struggled to accept that my son, whose priority was his mother, suddenly didn’t have time for his mother. The feeling of loneliness could get the worse out of any person. And, that’s what happens with many mothers-in-law. We are not able to adjust to the changed reality. We are not ready to accept that our sons don’t owe anything. And like many others, I struggled too.
One day, it struck me how I always yearned my mother-in-law to love me; to accept me. If she would have, I would have loved her back too. Though I served her, I never loved her. My memories about her are just painful and I wouldn’t want that for me – to be remembered as someone’s pain!
While I told myself to show kindness and love to my daughter-in-law, my daughter-in-law did the same. She didn’t jump to conclusions to dislike me. She gave me time to adjust to the changing reality. She understood me and made sure that I don’t feel lonely. She gave me one thing that could make any relationship work; she gave her kindness! She was kind to me for understanding that what I was going through.
Within no time, I had no fear of the new reality. I was in fact happy that my son wasn’t repeating the same mistake as that of my husband. I was happy that I raised him like a real man, who knows how to treat his wife right; who knows how to treat his wife as equal. If there are times when I feel he is being unfair to her, I make it a point to let him know.
As I write this letter, I have one thing to say – Don’t let your heart be burdened with so much of fear and insecurities that you are not able to show kindness to each other. The day we realize that things are neither easy for a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law, we may take a step in the right direction. If we can keep our fears aside and not destroy the love and kindness we have in our hearts, we may find a lifetime friend in each other!