Dear Mother in Law,
I am your Daughter-IN-LAW. Period.
I am not your daughter. You are not my mother. I am not trying to be disrespectful but I need you to understand that you are not my mother. I have a mother. I may or may not like her either but she is the one… Also, I am not your best friend. Even my mother isn’t my best friend, not that it matters. I have a very close group of friends who I have selected over the 3 decades of my life. They have all passed my tests of love, patience and grace over the years. I have known you for barely 2 minutes. So, I am sorry if it hurts you, but you are NOT my friend.
I am not your child. I did not grow up in your house. I grew up in a different household. even if it is your next door neighbor, it is a completely different house. The layout may or may not be the same but everything within is different. Yes, we do place all the utensils in the cupboards above and the spices near the door, but they are still completely different from the way your utensils and spices rest in the same space.
Do you prefer eating rotis at night at your place? We too. I am sure you too slogged away every evening making those perfect phulkas like my mom did. But still, the taste of those phulkas were very different. The rules at the table were different too. Some days we would laugh and crack up at the silliest things while there were days when we would be all quiet. We usually did that by gauging dad’s mood or maybe mom’s. I am sure you had those days at your table too. But they were certainly different in all kinds of ways.
Yes, I love sleeping in, exactly like your daughter does. I love my skirts and my sleeveless tops like your nieces do. But you don’t like it. And that is alright because I am not your daughter and you are not my mom. I don’t need to care and I try my best not to. Don’t judge me for not caring. You are not the one who sacrificed her entire life to raise me after all. So…. it really doesn’t matter!
No, I don’t like doing puja. My mom never forced me to do it either (oh yes, that might make her a bad mom in your book, but in my book she’s is super cool and my book is all that matters because I am NOT your daughter, but hers). While I am not religious, I did grow up with a certain household deity making appearances in my life time and again. Your deity might be all powerful and much better than mine (according to you) but please don’t force it on me. Why? Simple… because I am not your child!
Yes, I am arrogant and stubborn. My mom loves me in spite of it. Don’t worry… you don’t have to like me in spite of all that… again… because I am NOT your daughter. I am sure you would deal with my attitude in your own way if I were your child, but that’s the awesome thing… I am not. Feel free to discipline your own child though.
I don’t cook and though my mom did teach me, I still don’t want to do it. You nag about it, because I am not your daughter. But that is exactly why you shouldn’t care… because I am NOT your daughter. You could use the time you spend bitching about me to whip your daughter in shape and teach her all your glorious cooking tips. Oh you don’t have any girls you say? Well, that shouldn’t matter. If you are the feminist you portray yourself to be, you should have taught your sons those skills anyway.
So let’s not pretend. Let’s not play games. Let’s just accept the facts of life. I am just an outsider who has no legal obligations to you or your relatives and vice versa ( I am sure you are not going to name me in your will or pay off my education loan, right?). I am legally married to your son and I have done everything to make MY marriage a happy one. Not to please you or obey you but because I wanted to.
I have parents, siblings and relatives of my own. They love me unconditionally in spite of all my faults. I don’t need any more. Well, I know my husband’s relatives are a bundle offer and I can’t really avoid it. While I will try my best to respect them all and care for them when they visit me, like I do for all my guests, please do not order me to LOVE them. They are mere strangers to me.
I have values. They might be very different from the ones you have taught your children, but that doesn’t make them any lesser. They are the values I grew up with and you can chain me to the wall and try to change them, I can pretend to change them, but the truth is that they will remain with me till I die.
I know you are a great cook and an amazing home manager but please do not try to teach me. Don’t try to ‘train’ me in your household rules and regulations. I am not a dog. That is your house, this is MINE. I set the values, rules and vibe of my house. Also, if anybody does need to teach me stuff, I believe my parents get that spot automatically.
No, I don’t expect you to change. You have spent the last 60 years or so in a set pattern and I respect that. However, just because I am still comparatively young, do not expect me to change either. If there are any changes to be made, I shall decide when and how.
Finally, can you please remember and respect the fact that I am a human being? Remember the times you gazed into your son’s face and your heart filled up with joy and happiness? My face evokes exactly those sentiments in my parents as well.
You do not have to love me. Hell, I am not that lovable any way.
You do not have to even like me. Not many do. I am not that likable either.
But you do need to respect me.
Because I am your child’s life partner.
Because I am the mother of your son’s baby.
Because I have done absolutely nothing to hurt you.
But mostly because I am a human being.
- Stop comparing
You and I? TOTALLY different people. There is no NEED or COMMON ground to do so anyway. So please Stop.
- There is no competition
We may share a person, but in two very, VERY different way. He’s your SON and my HUSBAND. There can be no role reversal or replacement so QUIT competing for his love. He is well equipped to compartmentalize.
- My parents are your equal
Just because the ‘boy’ came out of your womb, doesn’t mean that my parents didn’t make the exact same sacrifices as you to raise me, the ‘girl’. In fact, my parents probably ended up doing more. I don’t expect you to invite my parents over for meals or call them or even send them presents. But the next time they call you, have some manners and pick up the call. The next time you bump into them on the road, don’t ignore them. Be human. Think of them as the neighbours you need to be fake-sweet to.
- My love and obligations are towards my family not yours
When I married your son, I only married him. While I did obtain certain new relations in the process, my duties, love and obligations will forever remain towards MY family. The family I am related to through blood and not through a few scribbles on the paper. I am sure you expect the same from your son. So instead of ‘training’ me to maintain relations with YOUR relatives, try training your son to maintain the same with my relatives. Maybe I will return the favor.
- Learn to Let go!
This part of your son’s life is supposed to be for his wife and kids. You have done an excellent job in raising a brilliant human being. Now, STEP AWAY. You don’t need to know where we are going or what are our plans for our children. You do not need to circulate the news of our new TV to all your relatives either. Let us be. Give us some space. You have had your time. Give us ours!
PS: After my last post, I realized that all of us face issues with our in laws. It need not be physical torture alone. Emotional abuse is harmful no matter the distance. We rant, crib and bitch about it because frankly, no matter how many posts we write, how many frank conversations we have, things are not going to change. What is more depressing is that women are mostly the ones torturing other women. And while a lot of the happy wives and the sons out there might not understand what and why we continue with our rants, these experiences are depressing and very stressful.
***Disclaimer: This post is a fictional piece inspired by many stories I have heard over the years.