Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Contact: Are Your Indian In-Laws an Asset to Your Marriage?

Indian families are designed to be your village. There's plenty of people around to help you with just about anything but you have to be careful how much and when you tell them information about your life.

I recently asked a group of pardesi's in the community how much they involved their in-laws and to what degree. The answer was refreshing. Those who  could speak their spouses native language and had a positive relationship with their in-laws seemed to turn to their in-laws as needed.

I suppose I should clarify. In a typical American-American marriage you may go to your in-laws when there is trouble but there's no guarantee you would get help or even empathy, care or concern. Many don't want to be involved or will give you advice you don't want - like "leave the b*stard" or equally as unhelpful advice. Some families will be helpful but there is an overall perception that we're each responsible for ourselves and our families hold back based on the concept that we have to make our own decisions. This isn't necessarily wrong, just much different from the Indian stance seems to be.

So, back on topic, many pardesi's seem quite  comfortable with going to their in-laws for help on small topics as well as big topics. They found it comforting to know that if they had trouble explaining a concept to their spouse, their in-laws could often help them explain it and resolve the communication barriers.

Others found a great sense of stress relief knowing that if their spouse was misbehaving on any level, they could contact their Indian family for help with mediation or to resolve the issues for them. Depending on the pardesi's fluency levels, they were comfortable discussing anything from daily life to major fights.

Of course, not all the hubbies were happy about this as I'm sure you could guess. I can only imagine most wouldn't want to admit to their parents their lives were less than perfect but in the end their parents seem to just understand that sometimes relationships have troubles and they need the help of the elders. Unlike some American parents, Indian parents aren't likely to actually disown their children - even if they threaten to.

Unfortunately I still have somewhat of a major language barrier with my MIL. I don't have the advantage of going directly to her for help though one time I did tell her that her son was "mujhe nahi" (no fun) and instead of laughing as usual she told me I better just love him because she had sent him to me. I think she was missing him too much that day.

When I have something I can't seem to communicate well, I go to BIL who speaks English. He's been a great help to me and hubby during his adjustment to life here in the US.

Have you ever had to ask your in-laws for help? Or have you thought about it but wasn't sure you could ask for help?
What did you ask for?
Do they help you resolve communication issues?

11 comments:

  1. I think the Indian parent and American parent are two ends of the spectrum. One is too involved and the other too ditached. I think it is the individualistic nature of the society. One major reason is the arranged marriage. For better or worse the success of marriage becomes the collective success of both the families. In a western marriage, since you find your own spouse, the parents think that it is your headache. Nothing wrong, to each his own. Many a times wrong advice flows from both sides. What comes from your mother’s side is evil advice and what comes from your wife’s family is termed as ‘help’ or in more aggressive tone ‘protecting her rights’ where none are violated. In India, advice is given different shades, meanings and spin depending upon the place of its origin. It is pretty much useless to discuss your spouse’s behavior with you inlaws because nobody finds fault in their children.
    I think the main difference comes when the couple has children. Indian parents feel it is their duty to look after their grand children. Sometimes, the responsibility is thrust upon them. Some even resent it. Some couple put their children in the hands of their parents and do not even acknowledge their contribution. The son does, but the DIL feels it is below her dignity to acknowledge that the MIL is working beyond her capacity to look after her child. It somebody is looking after you child in your absence then you should atleast acknowledge that. This is a major cause of trouble in most households. All in all, pregnancy and child care is more or less welcomed and better organized in India. The western parents typically do not want to help out. This fact has been mentioned by several foreign bloggers. Not helping you children when they desperately need help I think is cruel. Alexandra of Madh mama has written two posts on it, which is quiet and eye opener. Who are we to pass judgment, but I do feel that parents should help out their children with baby sitting unless they have serious health or time issues.
    I think you are at an advantage. Sometimes not knowing you MIL’s language is blessing in disguise. When both are aware of each other feelings there is great problem. You are luckier than Indian MILs. It sure gives you husband lot less headaches

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gee, we have the opposite at our home.
    We have the Indian in laws always asking us for help- be it financial assistance, medical advice, dealing with 'problem' children, filling out paper work for legal documents - just about everything.
    I understand that in most Indian families the eldest brother is 'Bhai' & is supposed to be responsible for a lot of family decisions (especially when the parents are no longer able to do so) but my husband is the youngest & we take care of just about everything along with the middle brother who mediates a lot of family issues too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can't speak for most of America but in my current area theres a mixture of parents who are overly involved to the point of suffocating their children and then some who could care less if their kids exist and everything in between. Americans look at parenting much different than Indians. We raise our kids to be able to survive in a tough environment, to stand out amongst the crowd and with keeping their individual strengths in mind. Indian parents seem to raise theirs to fit in, follow what everyone else is doing and to make as much money as possible. The outcomes we desire seem to be what makes the difference in how we parent.

    I can see evidence in your comment that Indians define themselves more by the label they hold, such as MIL, SIL, mother's family, wife's family, etc. In America, you are defined by yourself, your actions, etc. So while you may be a MIL, if you're known to give good advice then you're respected because of it and loved proportionately. Your respect and status are earned on an individual basis. In India from what I observed, it is duty based and not personality based as it is here. As you mentioned, neither is wrong, just different.

    I completely agree it is important to acknowledge what someone does to help you even if it is expected or small. So, you should let your wife know how much you appreciate her taking care of the home and your mother know you are thankful she helps with the kids. Even if it's their job to do these things, you need to appreciate them somehow. Pride should never hold you back from doing these things.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think at some point we will reach that phase. I know the family asks BIL for a lot but I married the younger son. Hubby is the only one married. It changes things. I think once he's established himself here, the requests will start to roll in. I'm not sure how I'm going to cross that bridge but I intend to blog about it. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, I forget to mention it is not '"mujhe nahin" (no fun). Mujhe nahin would mean "I/me not" Mujhe(I/me). It is actually "mazedar nahin" (not funny) or "husmuk nahin" (not with a smiling face/nature), if it is a person your referring to. Maza(fun), Mazak (Joke), Mazedar (funny).

    ReplyDelete
  6. Interesting. So then likely when I asked how to translate that my husband was no fun, someone misunderstood. Now I know why it was so funny every time I said it. Lol.

    ReplyDelete
  7. These expressions "mujhe nahin" and "maza nahin" are incomplete in themselves. It should be "Mujhe nahin jana" ( I don't want to go) or "mujhe nahin Khana" ( I don't want to eat). "Maaz nahin aaya" (it was not funny). You have to add some verb to the sentence. Doesn't matter, Hindi is spoken all over the country with various permutations and combinations.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Alexandra MadhavanJuly 18, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    My inlaws are definitely an asset to my marriage. Luckily there is no language barrier. I often confide in them and they give me advices - especially regarding my hubby and his "moods", they always know the best way how to handle him ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I usually said it with his name. So I was essentially saying he was no fun.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Not married yet, but after reading this, I am even more set on learning at least basic Hindi before I get myself into some sticky situations of miscommunication with the future in-laws. Looking forward to reading more from you though ♥

    ReplyDelete
  11. It will definitely be good for you to learn some key and basic phrases. Also, build up your confidence in speaking. I found when I was learning in India they had a hard time understanding my southern accent and even if I said the words right, they didn't always understand me and I got a bit frustrated. If I had more confidence, that might not have bothered me as much.

    ReplyDelete