By Siya Sharma
This article has been republished to BG with permission from IndianParentsForum.com.
Men and women from around the world acknowledge the strong women in their lives and how these women have helped shaped each of their lives. It amazes me that in a world where women are constantly working together to bring about a positive change in gender roles and proving their abilities, we have women who keep trying to ‘keep women in their place.’ To all those mother-in-laws who feel the need to control, manipulate, and put their daughter-in-laws through some sort of hazing ritual, here is my letter to you.
When will you understand that just because you had to go through something negative does not mean that you have to put someone else through the same pain?
I understand that when you got married about 25 to 30 years ago, you did not have the freedom to wear what you liked or talk in the presence of men because that was the Indian mentality then. I understand that you fought hard to earn your position next to your husband in the family, to make the decisions that you felt were best for your family. I even understand that you’re afraid of losing the power that you have today, in your house, because you are adding people into your family and the dynamics are changing.
What I cannot understand is why after all that you have done to bring yourself to where you are, you expect the younger generation in your family to sit quietly and just “accept things the way that they are in YOUR family” even when they are unfair and immoral in some case. The times have changed!
Mother-in-law, this is my family too. Just like you wanted your husband on your side, I want my husband on mine. I want to have a say in how we spend our vacations or where we live and build our life together. I want my husband and I to be partners through thick and thin – am I asking for too much?
You fought so hard for your rights, so why are you trying harder to take mine away? Why are you trying to manipulate your son against me so you can have things your way? I want to raise my children in a way that I feel is best for them, not in a way that you do. My thoughts are different from yours. I come from a different culture. I may be Indian, but I do not want to live the way women have for years in this culture where they do not get a say in their own lives. This mindset has started to change in India itself so please change with the times!
YOUR SON chose to marry ME, a girl that has opinions and wants her own life. If you had a problem with it, you should have told him (and me) how you felt before we got married so we could have made a decision accordingly instead of manipulating each and every situation and causing problems between my husband and me since the day we got married. Do you not realize that when you do this, the one person you are hurting the most is your son? Are you that selfish and egoistic that you cannot put aside your ego for your son’s happiness?
You say that you have an open mind and will allow your son to do what he wants in his life, but turn around and emotionally blackmail him to do what you want. You take advantage of his love and respect for you and create a wedge in my relationship with him. Please tell me what you gain from this, because the way I see it, everyone is unhappy.
Please realize that you are also a woman. The rules that you place on me also apply to you. When you cannot, and have not, followed your own rules, why are you trying to put them on me? By insulting, disrespecting, and treating me like I have been put on this Earth to cook and clean for you, YOU are teaching your son that this behavior is acceptable. You are teaching him that his wife only has one role in his life – to cook, clean, and serve his family.
You fought so hard to be sure you weren’t treated this way, so why are you treating me this way? And why are you advising your son to treat me this way? Instead, why can’t you teach him to treat his wife with love and respect. Why not teach him to value his wife’s opinions and make decisions with her so that she can have something positive that you fought for yourself?
Mother-in-law, if you spent as much time empowering your daughter-in-law as you did in manipulating your son and situations to cause problems, you would have a wonderful relationship with her. A relationship in which she would actually consider you her mother and work with you to build a strong and fruitful bond. Instead, you have created an environment of doubt and dislike just so you can pamper your own ego – What goes around, comes around!
To mother-in-laws everywhere, please take a few minutes to remember what you went through when you got married. Remember how you felt when YOUR mother-in-law treated you the way you are treating your daughter-in-law. Remember the pain that you felt when you were insulted constantly in your new home for something trivial like your ability to make round rotis.
Is food really more important than your relationship with daughter-in-law or her happiness in “her new family”? Please, take some time to remember and try to understand how you are making your daughter-in-law feel. The situation may be different, the problems may be different, the reactions may be different, but the feeling… that’s the same.
After remembering how you felt, please take some time today to show some love and affection towards your daughter-in-law. Show her that she is welcome in your family and free to be who she is and what she wants to be. Show her that you respect her decisions even if you do not agree with them. Show her that she is also a part of your family and just as important to you as your son.
Empower her to be all that she can be because she will surprise you. She will not only surprise you, but she will support, stand by, and bring happiness to your son. Show her all of this, empower her, and see what you are able to get in return.
This story was originally published on Brown Girl Magazine.