Sunday, May 13, 2012

Reflections Part 3 - What Have the In-Laws Done for Me?

While this post is harder to write because I can't possibly know what other people are thinking, it wouldn't be fair not to include it. It's not fair to me, it's not fair to my readers who won't get the bigger picture. I'm going to list everything I can think of, even the small stuff but I'm certain it's not everything. I'm not including anything that is normal to the culture. For example, even if I was Indian the family would still have had to pay off the hijras and all the beggars coming to our door after the marriage.

  • Faced the challenge of answering to neighbors who don't understand western culture about why they let their son marry a foreigner (as a follow up, things have went well for them and people complement them all the time for finding such a good DIL and how well I've done here)
  • I imagine my MIL has given up on the dream of nurturing a DIL and teaching her all the ways of the house. I came pre-programmed on how to  cook, clean, etc. Not that they let me do most housework.
  • MIL and Chachi have stood up on my behalf once or twice when hubby and I were having a disagreement. 
  • FIL has had to learn how to pick out fruits since those were rare in the home before I came and now I eat them daily. Which means he's also increased the time he spends grocery shopping. 
  • MIL didn't get the choti bahu that comes into the house and takes over all her work. (In my defense, she doesn't let me do it. I would have absolutely no problem doing laundry or cleaning our areas of the house. Dishes I may fuss about because I hate them but I think you get the point.)
  • MIL has found joy in seeing her son learn to cook and in watching him do things for me. She tells me and him both so. She often requests me to teach him more. 
  • Chachi and Uncle have had to deal with a child who wants to be like me and only wears western clothes and decided to grow her hair out when they wanted it kept short. 
  • The whole family has had to adapt to how often I go out with hubby and to the prospect of me going out with friends or on my own when neither MIL nor Chachi were ever afforded that right and still aren't. 
  • They've had to adjust to being locked out of my stuff. I know that sounds simple but before I started locking up everything they acted like it was community property and I fussed at hubby and then he fussed at them. 
Those are the only things I can think of that they've had to adjust to. What are some things I may have missed? How did your in-laws adjust to you?


1 comment:

  1. The issue of adaptation, and adjusting by your in laws (I won't even bother to count Chachu and Chachi as I don't believe in the madness of an extended joint family) is very complex.
    The thinking, mentality, dreams and attitudes of Punjabi housewives are typically centred around giving in the peak of their life and receiving in the latter years.
    If I try and put myself in your MIL's place (FILs are usually well trained to be indifferent to drama so long as they get their hot meal) then there are a number of aspects that may be a disappointment to me.
    1. Not having grandbabies to have and to hold and to be able to keep busy with new life. As you know their ideal is no babies before the first anniversary but they should follow shortly after.
    2. Not being able to enjoy the experience of 'having a daughter'. As far as I know your hubby is one of two brothers, and it could be the case that your MIL has been waiting all these years for her very own daughter (she has probably been envious of chachi and kitty). Maybe she wants to go to temple with you, run errands with you or just have someone to gossip with - yet for whatever reason that is not possible right now. Maybe because of illness, or because of language barrier - only you can say but definitely miscommunication, or not being able to talk things out directly makes it harder for both sides. Another aspect is that of food, though your MIL can understand you are sick - I really doubt it is possible or easy for her to understand that the food she cooks so lovingly could bring you any harm. I know that it is a whole new level of heartbreak for my MIL when I don't eat the food she cooks.
    3. A whole new level of fear, I know this is the same for my in laws. The fear they have for us is nothing like what they could ever have for their own children - even their Punjabi daughters. They believe that being western women we are constantly being targeted, harassed and that something bad may happen and they know that, in Punjab they are powerless to help you if something does go wrong. Inevitably, though you are old enough to make your own decisions they believe that they are responsible for you. There, as you would know is no real concept of addulthood here. The other fear that they have is that you won't be happy, that you might eventually leave them and that you will take their son away from them.
    These are things I think many in laws experience, probably even my own and this adds to the stress of having a non-Indian daughter in law.
    4. The dynamic in the nuclear family has changed. It is no longer Rohit and his parents, it is now Rohit & you upstairs and his parents downstairs. This is a dynamic that is new for them, and possibly difficult to understand. Your MIL is seemingly used to a very, very close relationship with her son and having control over what he does, where he goes and with whom. They could feel like you are controlling, like you are breaking their 'rules', they could feel that because of this you do not like them or respect them. As you know, Indian people interpret things much differently than we do.
    5. Resentment. For you, this is also a possible factor. Perhaps those around you resent that because of you there is now AC at home, that because of you there is now hot water - perhaps they resent you for having things they couldnot have and have had to live without. Perhaps they wanted fruit, or they wanted x, y, z but were always denied - but for you they see these things happening.Now these are all completely subjective, but I just wanted to give you a little perspective that leans perhaps even a touch in your in laws favour. We both know how kind and loving Rohit is, and I am sure that came from the way his parents raised him.Surely the adjustments you have made are more drastic, more in your face and harder to live with day to day but often we are blinded by our own experiences, and your in laws may feel their confusion and disruption more than you think they should.