Monster or Mother? Is the in-law rivalry as bad as it seems?
When a young woman recently got engaged, her friends asked her the first question that popped into their minds - "So how is your mother-in-law?" On being told that the lady was no more, all of them heaved a collective sigh of relief and pronounced their friend to be extremely lucky. Is that the right attitude, you ask.
This is an age old conflict - right up there with the cat and the mouse. The daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law are not supposed to get along. They are traditionally required to be at each other’s throats all the time - tearing each other’s hair out is the norm.
However, is this really the case? Are all mothers-in-law evil "Monsters-In-Laws" or is this portrayal merely hyped by the media?
Take a look around you - out of all the serials that are shown on television, a good chunk of them portray the mother-in-law as an evil plotting woman out to destroy her son's happiness because he has clearly chosen the wrong woman to spend his life with. Or the daughters-in-law are scheming schemers who are out to take their husbands money and relegate his old mother to a hut in the wilderness. Neither of these two extremes should be paid any heed to, but more often than not, they tend to predispose the mind towards the relationship shared between a man's wife and his mother.
It would be unfair to say that there are no adjustment problems between a woman and her mother-in-law. Of course there would be, considering that the bride has left her hearth and home to live with a completely new set of people, she will definitely be wary of those around her. The preconceived notions of how mothers-in-law are will not help her cause either.
As for the mother of the newly married man - well she has adjustments to make too. She has to share her home and her family with someone else all of a sudden and while many women can accept this change, some take time to adjust to it. There is a feeling of her domain being taken over by the new bride, her home - which she has decorated and looked after, might be physically changed by the daughter-in-law to suit her tastes. This obviously, gives rise to feelings of possessiveness.
However that does not mean all mother-in-law daughter-in-law relationships are rife with disharmony. All it takes is a bit of adjustment on both ends. A survey conducted recently by a few international online magazines and websites for women show that many mothers-in-law actually seem to like their daughters-in-law. More than 60 per cent said that they saw their son's wives as either a friend, a daughter or were happy that their son had chosen the right woman for himself. The response from the daughters-in-laws was a bit less enthusiastic with almost 30 per cent of them saying they tolerate their mother-in-law with many saying they don't like her outright. How much of this is true in an Indian household? Perhaps the statistics might be the same if anyone takes the trouble of finding out.
So what causes the friction? Most of the time, the bone of contention between the two parties is the restrictions places on the new wife by the mother-in-law and the unsolicited advice that comes their way. In an Indian household, where many families live together in the joint family set up this can be extremely annoying for a new bride. Also, the restrictions on clothing, freedom of movement and constant scrutiny of their manners and housekeeping skills can be aggravating.
The bottom line? Pick your battles. Women who live with their in-laws should consider the fact that they are old and give them a bit of lee-way if they act annoying or want to dictate their every move. Realise that they are old and too advanced in years to change the way they are and find ways to work around what they say. Handling in-laws with tact is the best way to go about the business.
Mothers should also meet their daughters-in-law half way. They should not feel insecure about their son becoming distant from them or leaving them because they have a new woman in their lives. They should not fear abandonment instead they should feel secure about having a new relationship with their son's wife. Don't be pushy or overtly helpful, let your son and his wife have their space. In fact, indulge in new hobbies, find something interesting to do; go for movies with friends, or read. Don’t expect your son and his wife to be there at your beck and call, they have their own lives to live – and you should not begrudge them for that. Also, it is important to let your daughter-in-law do things her own way – just because it doesn’t match your style, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.
There is bound to be natural competition but like all good competitions, it should be healthy and not filled with bitterness. Most importantly, don't draw inspiration from the current crop of television soaps. They invariably consist of the suffering yet dutiful housewife, the melodramatic evil mother-in-law, the brooding son who pretends to be a horrible person but actually is a caring individual who loves his wife and the scheming aunt-in-law. No where will you see the in-laws taking care of the wife after she has been wronged by their son except for one odd serial and the majority of on-screen mother-in-laws will hate their daughters-in-law.
Your son's wife is not out to take your inheritance away by manipulating your son, neither is your mother-in-law going to set you on fire in the kitchen. Yes these are evils, but they don’t happen in every household and they happen because the individual themselves are spoilt and rotten to the core. They would behave this way with anyone who came along, to further their own happiness and material gain.
In the event of such things happening, do take the necessary legal actions and shout out against any form of abuse. But don't go into another home with the preconceived notion that a new life will be fraught with fights; and don’t welcome a new member into your family with the notion that you are going into battle. That only happens on the silver screen.