Friday, August 14, 2009

Of In-Laws

I read the Mad Momma's post on disapproving (to put it mildly) in-laws and looked at the comments: and it wasn't the first time I found myself wondering why I have so rarely seen a story in the blogosphere praising in-laws. Are all in-laws, especially women's in-laws, selfish and manipulative?

But they are not, because mine aren't. And I wanted to write about them, if only to put up one story about nice in-laws in a world that seems to be full of horrible ones.

I am from Assam, the Guy from Gujarat. When I told my mom that I planned to marry him, she only asked if I was sure. I hadn't expected any different: my mom had long treated me as a grown-up and left me to make my own decisions.

The Guy was sure his parents wouldn't object either, but I couldn't help being a bit apprehensive. We knew we were going to get married, but we would much prefer to do it knowing that everyone we loved was happy.

The Guy told the GuyMom about me and then invited me to meet her at dinner. It was a pleasant evening, barely awkward at all. After the first couple of meetings, I realised that the GuyMom was as apprehensive as I was: it is a big transition when any mom realises that her son has a significant other in his life and wonders whether this will change him, draw him away from her.

Before going back home, the GuyMom promised her son that she would talk to his dad. Apparently, when she told him, the GuyDad said nothing in reply. That left her rather nervous. In day or two she gathered the courage to ask him what he had to say, and the GuyDad said, "He has made his decision, what do I need to say?" (paraphrased)

And that was it. The GuyDad came over within a month - ostensibly to visit his daughter who also lives in Pune, but actually to meet me and formalise the engagement. And within a few months we were married.

The relationship with the in-laws seemed difficult for the first year or so: I did not know them very well and cultural expectations were very different. I don't mean cultural differences due to us belonging to different communities, but more differences in style of communication: the Guy and his siblings and parents behave very politely to each other - a politeness that had seemed to me overly formal, but that I now realise is perhaps a measure of their respect for each other. Also, I am no good at small talk and bored stiff by housework and other similar topics of discussion: so I had often found family gatherings somewhat uncomfortable. Of course it did not help that much of the discourse took place in a language that I can barely understand now and have not learned to speak (and probably never will).

Given how respectfully the Guy's family treat each other, I have been treated with even more respect. The GuyDad addresses me as 'aap' instead of 'tum', and not in an ironic way. The sister who lives nearby also does the same, and never has she or her husband banked on the proximity or the relationship to make unreasonable requests (and rarely even reasonable ones: they have been unfailingly considerate).

Never have the Guy's parents expressed any disapproval over our lifestyle choices. Never have they raised an eyebrow when they saw me in shorts or other "in-law inappropriate" clothing; when the Guy first cooked a meal for his father, the GuyDad tasted it and remarked proudly that I had taught him to cook. The GuyMom often tells me not to tire myself doing housework, which should be enough to tell you how much she likes me, because she has seen how little I bother with housework anyway.

This isn't to say that we get on famously: the fact is that we are too far apart to understand each other. But we treat each other with respect, and we care for each other, which is enough to make us family. I wouldn't like to live with them, but then I wouldn't like to live with anyone except the Guy.

I had written about my in-laws here, where I said that much of the credit for my in-law-problems-free life goes to the Guy. We have always presented a united front to our relatives, so that no one would feel comfortable criticising either of us in front of the other. We always made our decisions together, and would talk things over until we agreed on them before making an announcement to relatives.

Yet life could have been much worse if our relatives weren't as nice as they are: if his parents and my mom hadn't accepted us and appreciated the happiness we bring to each other.

19 comments:

@lankr1ta said...

I think what you have is mature in-laws. Unfortunately most of us do not find mature people around us. ( me included). And you also have in-laws who respect their child- which in the cases of the bad in-laws( outlaws) is not there. People who love their kids ( like my mother) respect their choices. Religion or custom cannot intrude there. I am glad you and the Guy have a great family like that

dipali said...

RESPECT- central to all good relationships! You guys are fortunate indeed!

SS said...

Hey, I think you've put up a great view point. My in laws are the same. They treat me with respect and barely interfere with matters of clothing lifestyle etc. In fact if some one tries to foul mouth me (given that I come from a different background), my MIL defends me. You are right that the comfort level is obviously not the same as parents (can it ever be!), but I couldn't have asked for better ILs :)

Unmana said...

@lankrita: I agree it's about caring for and respecting the offspring: I'm very surprised though, that I've heard so few tales of parents who do that. I'm sorry you face that kind of behaviour too.

Dipali: Yes, indeed! Are you a mom-in-law? We need more like you!

SS: That's great! It's really nice that we have great in-laws, but I'm surprised it seems so rare!

For the record, my best female friend has great in-laws too: they readily approved the marriage and treat them both like grown-ups.

Praveen VS said...

My wife does not seems to be as lucky as you. My parents have high expectations from her and most of the time it conflicts with her interests. Probably as you said the first year is little difficult and later they might get along. Just put a post http://praveenvs.blogspot.com/2009/08/ripple-that-drowned-me.html in which I am indirectly talking abt in-law arguments.

Unmana said...

Praveen: If I didn't say it well enough in the post: they're your parents. You have to tell them to lay off. As long as she treats them with respect (and by respect I mean treating them like she would a teacher maybe, or someone who is many years senior at work; not covering her head when they're around), she's behaving like a 'good' daughter-in-law and they shouldn't expect anything more. If you talk to your parents soon, you might save your wife some pain. And let me tell you, if my in-laws didn't treat me right, I would resent the Guy for it.

All the best: I hope things improve.

dipali said...

I'm mom-in-law to a son-in-law.
Sons aren't yet hitched.
I hope my DILs speak of me with the same respect that you speak of your in-laws!

Unmana said...

Dipali: I'm sure they will. I hope you're friends with all your offspring's spouses!

indianhomemaker said...

You are fortunate that they are so mature and I would say even unselfish, any parents who love their children should want to see them happy.
I always say most Indian parents are selfish parents, there's talk of sacrifice but there are high expectations from children- which are more important to us than what might make them happy!

Unmana said...

IHM: I agree. From what I hear many Indian parents seem not to love their children, going by how they make their children's lives miserable.

nitawriter said...

I wonder why I did not come to this blog here. Interesting read. It was nice to know that some in-laws are good, but what percentage of in-laws are like this I wonder. At the best one can hope for someone who is non-interfering I guess. I was certainly not so lucky.

Unmana said...

Nita: Glad you came. Hope to see you around!

Non-interfering is the best one can hope for, I agree. Expecting them to be your friends is hoping to be phenomenally lucky: most people don't even treat their parents as friends. But my in-laws are totally non-interfering, so even if they don't understand some of the time, they let us lead our lives and rarely even give well-meaning advice, let alone tell us what to do. Basically, our parents think we're grown-up enough to lead our own lives and make our own decisions, and I suppose they trust us to do the right thing.

Sunita said...

First time here and was reading through. Do not know many bloggers from pune...glad to have discovered you.
Totally agree with what you say and realize I will probably take an another decade to get where you are :).

hamactor said...

While reading this post i remember Arundathi Roy saying about her mother 'She loved me enough to let me go'. I really wonder why indians are so obsessed with having their own children once they get married. As i already said you both are one of lucky people around :) way to go..

Pravesh Biyani said...

Hi

Great post. But I am very confused about one thing. Let me explain. Here, it seems in-laws are more considerate than the girl expected. Good for her. But what is the problem if some in-laws bring a little expectation to a person who is new to the family? Why is that so Unacceptable? What is wrong with a little "Dress this" expectation? They might as well expect the same from their daughter also. What is wrong with "lets go to this relative" expectation?
When we all join new company for work, we shun the culture of the previous company. We dont complain about that. Why does a daugther-in-law then complain about bad inlaws then. After all she moved to a new family, with new set of values. ?

Unmana said...

Prayesh Biyani: Your comment reeks of sexism. Why does only the wife "move to a new family"? Would you be happy to change your "dress code" if your wife's parents expected you to dress in a certain way?

Pravesh Biyani said...

Hi.

Yes, if it was categorically told to me before marriage about a dress code and If I were to agree to it. Then I would love to wear the dress.

Again company example. In call centers, people are expected to come in the night shifts. Do they complain?

Unmana said...

Prayesh Biyani: So you're equating your in-laws with your employers, are you? All the best with yours!

Pravesh Biyani said...

No Dear, I am not.. thats an analogy. And finally every relationship, specially as delicate as with in-laws needs commitment. Even if it as silly as a dress code.

If you You still dont get my point. I will stop here.

But remember, not all fights are because of in-laws mistake. Girls/Boys should understand that its not easy to change 60 year olds.. and its fine to co-operate and accommodate little things. That does not make you smaller.