Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Of daughters and sons and in-laws

The other day I read on a blog, the typical story of neglect from two sons toward a widowed mother. Both sons not willing to bring the mother to live with them from the old-age home, bowing to wives' pressure, finally daughter coming to the rescue and how it is always daughters who are better than sons. Standard narrative, we have all heard, seen, experienced these situations. But how about a twist on them?

This particular daughter who came to the rescue of the poor mom - would she do the same for a mother-in-law? In this case, has anyone even thought of thanking the accommodating son-in-law? He is a son to someone too, and assuming he is OK to let his mother in law stay with him, I am sure, he'd do the same for his parents?

What about the daughters-in-law? Would they treat their own moms the way they shunned their mother-in-law out of the house? Or would they also be daughters-to-the-rescue for their own parents? In which case isn't it really two-faced? Should we really be praising all daughters?

What about the mother-in-law? Why are we assuming that because she is helpless and old, she is the epitome of goodness? Maybe she was nasty to her daughters in law in her day and age, and so maybe they want nothing to do with her anymore?

I am only attempting to question the natural stereotyping that comes out of these stories against the son and daughter-in-law and in favour of the daughter. I have heard far too often these days about how it is better to have daughters since they are more caring towards their parents. Agreed. I come from a two-daughters-no-sons home too! But have we taught our daughters to treat their in-laws with the same care they show towards us? Sadly, no. We have re-inforced the all-mothers-in-law-are-evil-and-need-to-be-dealt-with-harshly stereotype (actually make that all in-laws, not just mother or father in law) so much, either out of our own fear of "losing" the daughters' affection to her in-laws (like a battle for who will keep her affection to themselves) or genuine concern out of our own bad experiences. I have seen this in real life with so many people in so many facets of life in such close quarters so often that contradicting me on this one is pointless.

End of the day it comes down to the people involved. Daughters can be as bad as sons in shunning parents or sons can be as warm as daughters in caring for them.

But I agree, having two sons of my own, I am actually very apprehensive about the future and how often I can see them once they are married. Gone are the good old days where having sons guaranteed you a life together with kids for eternity since they marry and continue to live with you. These days whether it is daughters or sons, all birds fly the nest typically by 22 in most urban households. Never to return. It becomes worse for parents of sons since girls are more prone to hating than guys in general. (think girl roomies vs guy roomies, I definitely find guys more accommodating since they don't care so much about trifles very often) So you can be assured to some extent that your son-in-law wont hate you in your face but you cant really be so sure with daughters-in-law.

My mom was a very accommodating daughter-in-law. She met with resentment at every step of the way (think love marriage between different language speaking families in the 1970s!) but she always endeavoured to the best of her ability to treat all her in laws (mother, sister, brothers in law) the same way that she would treat her own kin. Of course, her in laws turned around in due time and actually came to appreciate and value her, and I have to thank her for her perseverance in maintaining those relationships. If she had decided that enough was enough and cut us off from that part of the family, we wouldn't have been lucky enough to know so many cousins on my dad's end and share such lovely relationships outside of just us siblings.

Luckily for me and my sister, we did not have resenting in-laws which made the whole relationship change in dimension like not many people are lucky enough to experience.

My own mother-in-law will always be my role model for how I should treat my daughters-in-law, to keep it simple, like my own daughters. She always lives with me in my memories, just the other day, my iron-creased wedding saree, back fresh from dry cleaning, reminded me of her so many times. How she did all the wedding preparations herself right from buying the saree to stitching the fall, to buying knick-knacks to jewelery purchase and what not. To the extent of even suffering our shortcomings silently, she always dealt with it sportingly. She adjusted as much as possible to our generation's needs and demands and lifestyles and even when she had to differ, she broke it to us in a very gentle manner. There are so many small things that constantly remind me of her - not in a poignant or intense or sad way, but just remind me of her. Like she was still around somewhere in some other town. In another five days, it would already be two years since she passed away. I still cannot believe it, it seems so unreal sometimes.


Anonymous said...

In India, nobody ever questions the Older generation. By virtue of their age, older ones are always assumed to be harmless, helpless and needy regardless of their financial status, good health and comfortable life etc. No one ever questions the "mother" or "mother in-law" or "father" or "father in-law" despite their faults. When relationship problems arise, only the younger ones are judged.

DivSu said...

Agree. And in due course of time the younger ones also buy immunity through old age;)

Anonymous said...

The resentment begins with royal treatment for the boys side of the family. The boys side comes to stay with the son during old age, sickness etc . Now how many women whether working or not can have their parents come in and stay during old age at the daughters place, irrespective of whether she has a brother to take care of his parents

I think resentment begins then and there. your parents get a royal treatment, mine don't

We may write, argue, and write in a different way. But the crux of the problem remains - where the man and his side of the family is superior to the other side
May more women be educated and step out and hold on to jobs come what may, and may be. May be a wee bit then we can hope for a better change
Until then we can pour over pages and pages in the www !

DivSu said...

Agreed. But there's plenty of exceptions too, my mother in laws mom for example was living with my in laws till her death. But given what you're saying, it's surprising that so many peoria claim having daughters is better?:) what are we missing?

Anonymous said...

Thanks to women working, couples getting to own properties thanks to home loans etc , the situation may change drastically for this current generation when they grow old

i.e if we were to become MIL's. we would have so much more to think forward to than bitch about a DIL
Thanks to www, the opportunities are immense to keep your self engaged.

A idle mind is a devils workshop

DivSu said...

Yeah, hopefully we will all learn to be comfortable in our skin and bother less about others accomplishments and shortcomings and keep life sane for everyone in the family :)

SS Rama Rao said...

The views expressed are appreciated.Any relationship flourishes with a positive set of mind and mutual adjustment.In the present nuclear set ups others are only a liability.One shoud accept the changes in life with a smile.
Maa was a pious,loving and dynamic personality.We are unlucky to miss her in the best part of life.Its destiny.She shared life with me for forty long years with care and affection.The years rolled just like 40days.She will always live in our thoughts.

DivSu said...

True Naanna, today already two years have flown by!

Anonymous said...

well said - really liked the post. I see many of our friends who just don't put in ANY effort to get along with the in-laws. They just believe in-laws are always bad and then that's it. They dont want any part of their in-laws in their life. Yes initially they might be tough to get along but it does work out over a matter of time. You just have to have the will and the effort. I am a Tam Bram married to a punjabi girl and credit to my wife to make it work. It was tough for us to begin with but my wife kept her will to make this work - ofcourse she had my support and my parents weren't the abusive type but obviously there were some "expectations" from their DIL. It was the same on my end as well - i have been able to get along great with her parents as well.
Had my wife or I had just resigned saying it is not worth it, today our kid would not have benefitted from the heritage and values that they get from both sets of parents.

DivSu said...

Anonymous - Agree, in fact I've tried making some folks understand that if their ideas which are ~25 years old, cannot be modified for someone else, then in-laws' ideas which are ~60 years old cannot be expected to be modified for their sake too!

Anonymous said...

when it is said that - sons dont take care of their parents and daughters do, i believe that the daughters who do do take care of their parents are married and tend to "dominate" on their husbands and tell them they need to take care of their parents(girl's parents)..likewise, when it is said sons dont take care of their parents, it is again the daughters who tell their husbands to not take care of their parents(son's parents)...
btw i am a girl, who is writing this..

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