Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Letter to My Future Mother-in-Law

This is a deeply personal post. Far more than I think I've ever shared here before. While the words of the following letter came from my heart, I searched online for examples to go by so I could make sure I said the right things in this letter. This was one thing in life I knew I didn't want to mess up. I put a lot of emphasis on this letter and it took me months to compile it and perfect it.
Long before I met hubby's parents I set out to help them understand what their son meant to me. By the time I wrote this, I had gotten the impression things were different and relationships were taken in a different way by Indians than I was used to. I also had discovered I was going to be fighting an uphill battle because I was foreign. I wanted my potential future in-laws first impression of me to be a good one. I wanted it to last forever. I wanted them to discover that I was a good person. So after quite a bit of searching online, this is what I sent to them. Hubby helped me to translate and write this in Gurmukhi. I wrote in the script with my own hand on designer paper and then mailed it to my then future Mother-in-law. 
God trusted you with a wonderful gift, a sweet son, and you did not leave any space for complaints in raising this child. You accepted this child as God's precious gift and gave all of your happiness to him. While he was growing up, you fulfilled his every desire and took care of his every need. You were there whenever he needed you. Now he has become a man and you should be proud of all of your years of hard work. Thank you so much for raising such a wonderful man. Without you and God, our happiness would not be possible.

I look forward to meeting you when I visit Amritsar in February. I would love the opportunity to learn some of your recipes and go shopping with you.
At the end, I included a line telling them that these were my words but their son had helped me to translate them into Gurmukhi so they could read and understand them.

I know that doesn't look like much writing but for a beginner trying to write in readable and not completely awful Gurmukhi script, it takes up a lot of space. I wrote on the inside of a handmade card. I made the card too! It gave me plenty of space to write without running into any corny lines ore pictures. After my writing I added embellishments to the card and placed a piece of parchment paper inside so the ink didn't blur. I used gold gel ink and almost panicked after writing it when I thought about what if the ink smeared as the card ran through the postal machine LOL.

It arrived in tact. This is how I started the relationship with my then future Mother-in-law.

Have you written a letter to your future Indian family? If not, have you thought about it? Why haven't you written it? What will you say? (Or what did you say if you already wrote one?)


  1. I didn't write anything to my future in laws.
    My poor husband was so terrified to ask his father permission to marry me (necessary in Kashmir) he insisted we elope.
    After the 'elopement' failed for legal reasons I insisted on meeting my MIL and FIL.
    I chatted with my FIL ( a very elegant & educated man who speaks 12 languages) for 3 hrs.
    We spoke about everything from politics, medicine & religion.
    My FIL then told my husband, 'Marry her, never leave her, if you ever leave her you will rot in hell.'

  2. Lol. I love what your FIL said to your hubby. So cute!

  3. API-
    I had a similar experience with my husband & in laws.
    Last year after coming back to India after a 3 week Xmas visit to the US my husband met me at the airport & would barely speak to me, hug me, or acknowledge me.
    I definitely noticed & asked why the 'cold shoulder'?
    My husband's response was 'We will talk when we get home' (it takes 4 days to get to our home in Nepal).
    So for 4 days I wondered WTH I did? And why would you be so nasty to someone you love?
    So finally we get home & he starts screaming that we will have to sell our house, our business and move somewhere no one knows us.
    Because 2 teenaged shop boys spread the rumor that I had sex with them while my husband was at work in his shop.
    Mind you, these same teenaged shop boys were also sitting in jail for attempted rape & arson while spreading this nasty rumor.
    "Really?" I asked my husband,"What's the proof? And why would I want to have sex with 2 teenagers that look like they haven't brushed their teeth or taken a bath for 6 months?"
    I continued, "You go through my phone and my purse everyday. There's only your # and the kids' # on the phone. I've been in the US for the last 3 weeks."
    My husband says "Well why would those boys say they had sex with you?"
    I say, "Well why would those boys be sitting in jail for attempted rape & arson?"
    My husband replies, "Don't you want to go to the jail and hit them with your slipper to redeem your honor?'
    I reply, "No, I am American. I don't hit people with shoes and I don't want to be ogled by a bunch of jail inmates. Why don't you be a man & go pound their face in?'
    Husband looks slack jawed & puzzled.
    Soon around 12 men of my husband's community arrive & husband explains the boys must be lying because there are no calls on the last year of my phone log.
    I made husband write me a written apology for this BS.
    Whew boy was I peeved.
    So there you go.
    Another cultural difference.
    A woman married for 12 years, with 2 kids, also an educated professional with a successful career is less trustworthy than 2 teenaged boys with criminal records.
    Still the choti bahu.

  4. I did think about it 10 years ago when my husband and I got together because my 2 Indian girlfriends really scared me about Indian MIL and SIL. They meant well as they were trying to prepare me for what was supposed to be coming my way.

    When it came down to it, my husband told me not to worry at all because his parents were very liberal but that at the end of day he really did not care if they approved of me or not and he told me "I love you and you love me and this decision has nothing to do with them but us so if they cause trouble they won't be a part of it".

    That got me thinking - why do I have to try so hard to be liked by them. I thought I'm a good person, hard working and loving so I decided against it. My thinking was why should I write a letter trying to ingratiate myself with people that I did not even know at the time; great if they like me fine if they don't.

    At the end of the day everything went well (first year had its ups and downs with MIL realizing that she really had no saying in our lives). MIL and I are very close and we talk about anything. I'm a very honest and straight forward person so I don't have to be politically correct about anything with her. She even tells me that she can tell me things that would not dream sharing with her own daughters.

    BTW, I really love your blog.


  5. I wish all Indian DILs and MILs should write such candid letters to each other before marriage, so that each is understands the expectations of each other. There is such a huge trust deficit between the two. A new relationship should usher in happiness and not acrimony. Sure, saves a lot of trouble for the Son/Husband.

    However, I wonder if all these would help. In Mahabharata, the Kauravas and Pandavas met on the eve of the Great War and laid down ground rules so that the battle is fought in "righteous way", and then ended up breaking all the rules. Anyway, women are such complicated creatures. They are beyond the wildest imagination of men. I also wish that the restrictions/obligations are lifted from them and they fly high like free birds. Perhaps, then they would find their place under the sun.

  6. You are right.The Indian samaaj (hope you know the meaning) is shallow, hypocrite and status conscious.

  7. Wow! You deserved an apology! I'm glad he understood you when you told him he shouldn't believe some stranger over you. I know when things like this happen to me I get so angry. I'm glad you handled yourself well on this one.

  8. Your relationship with your MIL is great! I'm glad it worked out so well for you. I think the first year of any marriage is a huge adjustment for all the family members involved. I definitely sought to over-impress and that's why I chose to write the letter that I did. I do think that it helped quell some of the fears my in-laws could have had but I will never truly know since I had not input either way until I met them months later. Hubby was pretty determined about our marriage but I think my need for them to accept me was personal.

  9. Even if the MIL and DIL break all the rules, I do think there is a lot of benefit to writing a letter or communicating in some way before marriage so that both women know that the husband/son is loved and valued by both women. I'm sure the moms think that the wife won't love the son like she does (and she's right, it should be different) and the wife thinks she knows him better than the mom (and she does in some ways which is normal). Both women are right and could benefit from each other. It shouldn't be a war.

  10. Thanks for sharing your insight!! There are definitely a lot of new and exciting things for a foreigner to see/do in India. There is a lot of excitement, adventure and plenty of things to shock your senses and open your eyes to a side of life you never knew before.

    Managing to live in India can be both complicated and inspiring. My sense of determination helped me a lot but in the end couldn't overcome the health issues it created. I think I benefited a lot from living in India for a while in ways I may not even fully realize yet. It taught me a lot of lessons I know I wouldn't have learned elsewhere.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your trip and plan to go back. Next time try to stay longer and make sure not to miss Vrindivan and the ISKON temple there. Hindu or not that is one majorly impressive area! Mathura is also great and there's a 5000 year old temple there that if you can find a guide to lead you to, you should see. Being that close to something so historic was a once in a lifetime experience. It gives you a feeling you just can't explain. There's also a lot of monuments and inspiring places in Delhi...the list goes on and on! I have places I still need to visit as well. :)

  11. Thank you for your comment. I wish the status consciousness wasn't so prevalent. I really think the family structure and relationships could be completely fantastic if the outside neighborhood didn't matter so much. :(

  12. I totally agree. I also feel a lack of connection with my extended family because very few have made an effort to get to know me on a deeper level - or actually, I think they know everything about me, but I know nothing about them - because they do not reveal anything other than small talk. That is where the cultures are different - the open expression vs the closed privacy. I cannot have a closeness or an intimacy with somebody in any type of relationship if it is a shallow one.

  13. I suggest a written undertaking from the girl's mother that she would not interfere with her daughter's life and demand daily reports. This would surely help.

    I the absence of proper communication with MIL, the girl confides in her mother, who invariably gives her wrong advice. Often girls come 'pre programmed' which hinders formation of good relations with their MILs. There is trust deficit all round.

  14. I'm not sure I would have the daughters mother not interfere. Though the mothers views may be different, she loves and cares and only wants the best for her daughter (theoretically). She deserves a place in the life of her child. IMO. I know this isn't the Indian view but I couldn't even think about leaving behind the woman who gave birth to me, raised me and did everything for me. I think she has certain rights over me regardless of marriage status.

  15. I am not against the mother taking with her daughter. But they actually set an agenda and want their daughter to follow it religiously. She demands each and every detail and then guide her daughter. In short, she does not want her daughter to take her own decisions or explore her relationships herself. This is not an Indian view but very much a practical problem.

    If a man talks to her mother, it is deemed as an interference, but if the DIL talks to her mother every hour, that is not interference. It is also believed that the MIL is invariably giving wrong advice to her son. Elderly people often feel lonely and want to talk with their children. I am against this stigma attached to this communication.

    The bottom line is the MILs 'motherly right' over the son is questionable and sign of tradition but the 'motherly right' of DIL's mother over her daughter is absolute.

  16. We women are not "such complicated creatures". We are human beings. It is this male "otherizing" of women, especially in India, which leads to so many problems.

  17. Terry My Journey With CandidaMarch 3, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    What a beautiful, thoughtful thing to do. You are going to make a wonderful Daughter In Law, who I bet ends up feeling more like their Daughter instead of an In law.

  18. That is beautiful! What a great way to start your relationship with her - by doing something so thoughtful!

  19. What a wonderful letter and such a thoughtful way to explain your love of your husband to them. I can only imagine how much I would appreciate something like that from my future daughters in law.

  20. I am not Indian I am white so nope haven't written to my Indian family. ha thought you would think that was cute. :) I have never thought about writing a letter to my in-laws. I just usually call them on the phone and complain of their son. lol Or ask for health advice for the kids they seem to appreciate when I do that. My mother in-law has thought me a lot of recipes and I would love to created a recipe book for her and I to share to pass on to the kids in the family. You wrote a very sweet letter to your mother inlaw I sure hope she realizes how lucky she is to have a daughter inlaw who loves her son as much as you love him. sounds like you love her as well.

  21. This is a great idea since the mother in law and daughter in law relationship always seem to be a strained relationship

  22. My mother in law passed away years ago and when she was alive I wasn't her favorite.

  23. I've written a few notes to my Mother in Law.. Shes such a sweet woman. This is a great way to start with your relationship!

  24. Well, no- I haven't, but I have to say that your letter is very well written.

  25. Liz @ A Nut in a NutshellMarch 3, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    I'm not in that same situation, but I think you put so much thought and care into getting off on a good foot with her. I think that was really nice.

  26. This is a really good idea, it's something I would have probably done if in that situation. I think it shows a lot of character and sincerity. I've always been able to better express myself in letters.

  27. I never thought of writing any letters to my in law. That's a nice thought and I bet she really appreciated the words!

  28. I am not Indian, neither are my in-laws, though I don't think that matters. It is important, no matter your background, to have a solid relationship with your in-laws. They're part of your family. Writing a letter is a wonderful gesture; and on Mother's Day each year I thank my MIL for raising such a wonderful man!

  29. Our first Mother's Day after we got married, I wrote a letter to my new mother-in-law, thanking her for raising such a great son who was such a wonderful husband. She still talks about that letter to this day.