Desi Mothers-in-law

7 Dec

Desi Mothers-in-law

Most married desi women I know have expressed their discontent with the interference from their in-laws at some point of their life. Some feel this encroachment on regular basis as they live in joint families and those living in nuclear families in different cities still claim long distance remote control effect on their lives. There are numerous desi blogs and forums where women are discussing these issues and seeking support and solutions from one another. Some members suggest paying back in the same coin using tit for tat tactics because most spouses do not rise to the occasion and protect their wives. This makes me wonder if this passive aggressive behavior will remedy the situation or will just push a person into a spiral of emotional turmoil.

The mother-in-law problem is not unique to India/South Asia even in west women report this problem. What make it different for South Asians/Indians are our family structure and social economy. The lack of alternative structures of social support and old age care makes it inevitable for conjugal families to check any development of strong affection between the newly married couple. The fear of loosing economic support from sons makes rest of his family act in funny ways to disturb his married life. Instead of acting from love and kindness towards the new bride they target all their energies in dislodging her even before she is settled. Desi women feel trapped in these murky waters because the premium placed on marriage and lack of other support structures prevents them from leaving.

The other reason of this family feud between female conjugal kin is related to the lack of opportunities to power. In desi communities men have more power outside the homes but senior women within the homes have control over the lives of children, younger men and incoming women. The women who have lived timid lives blossom into dominant figures once their sons attain adulthood. They not only emotionally manipulate their sons but also have the ability to instigate the sons against their fathers to avenge the injustices mounted on them during their youth (refer Dilip Kaur Tiwan’s Sahitya Academy award winner Eh Hamara Jiwana). Such behavior is not limited to house wives even professionally successful mothers-in-law resort to such tactics. One may wonder why professionally successful women need to act so mean towards their daughters-in-laws. The taste of absolute power over another person is exhilarating; also it speaks volumes about a person self doubts, low self esteem and mistrust for the sons they raised.

Emotionally abusive and manipulative MILs have low self esteen and are alway busy in keeping up with the Jones. They live their lives in bitterness. They are unhappy most of the times so all they exude is unhappiness.  They are drama junkies, they’ll create a scene about anything under the sun, even if something happens in Mrs. Sharma’s home it becomes about them.  Every thing is about them. If you said you gained weight they’ll tell you they gained more than you. If you said you were slim in your youth they’ll contend they were slim to the extent of emaciation. Their need for attention and assurance is never ending and exhusting for people around them. Their loved ones are trying to buy peace from them at all costs. They try to keep this species of MILs calm and contended. But it is never sufficient.  When a DIL comes this burden falls on her and other family members too feel now it should be DIL’s job to serve MIL and keep her happy.It becomes easy for them to exonarate themselves from this responsibility and pile blames on the DIL for MILs displeasure. It is not that the circumstances have made MIL critical and unhappy rather they chose to act so. They are pleasant and good when they want to be. Their most time is spent in drama so even when they are genuinely normal it is hard to believe and one may fear what may trigger another dramatic attack.

These MILs  claim to love their sons and want them to be happy. Th eir formula of happiness for their son does not include his wife. When ever the son is feeling normal in his married life they get a panic attack. Their dialogues are- “Something is happening to me. My heart is sinking, I am dying.” “I feel I’ll die alone you will not care for me in my old age.” Religion is another tool in their arsenal, they claim to fast or pray for the long life of their sons. My friend Anu’s MIL fasts every full moon day for the health and long life of her son. If there happens to be an invitation for a party on the fullmoon day she’ll prepone or postpone the fast. The food becomes more important than the health of her son. The sons of such mothers harbor secret hatered for womenkind especially their mothers but are unable to verbalize it as it will be considered sacreligious. So they turn this hatred to their spouses in the form of emotional, verbal or physical abuse. If they ever stand up for their spouses their mothers’ start with “I gave you birth…” These sons have not learned to cope with this regular drama so when they are confronted with some marital issue their response is usually fight or flight. When they fight they become their own mothers and when they resort flight they become arctic pole. The daughters of such mothers are true copies of their mothers, drama junkies and codependents. They create a lot of drama to get what they want. They also create hardships for their sisters-in-law. If they are married they’ll create hardships for their spouse just like their mothers. This is the reason you feel overwhelmed even if you are with just one family memeber. Also it is family pattern to act alike.

Not all women are powerless at all times and not all men are powerful at all times. The ideal of unquestioned generational reverence is one of the ways to maintain hierarchy within families and allocate power to women over other women and younger men. This helps in checking women’s revolt against male dominance in every day lives and in public sphere. This anticipated power at certain age acts like a carrot for women to strive for becoming a mother-in-law.

There is another rare species of mothers-in-law who are supportive of their daughters-in-law. They not only love them and help them in developing a bond with their husbands but also raise their children. Some of these rare specie MILs are committed to making it better for their DILs as opposed to their own MILs and others in this genre are relatively secure with who they are, they do not have to make another person feel bad in order to feel better about themselves. Such MILs are calm and contended with their lives. They live their lives peacefully and know their boundaries. Even when they disagree with some thing they have a functional way of addressing the issue than creating a drama. If you find such a MIL please respect her and appreciate her.She does not need anything from you other than respect affection and kindness. Tell others about her so that they are motivated to be like her.

 

How to deal with in-laws please see the page “Dealing with in-laws.”

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21 Responses to “Desi Mothers-in-law”

  1. mini December 3, 2013 at p12 #

    My situation seems slightly different. Mil will never openly admit she doesnt approve of me n will vv silently expect me to b dil of her time that is cook feed husband gv importance n respect to the male members of the family wear saris or at least indian. I used to actually hear her muttering unflattering stuff abt me u der her breath. Husband somehow thinks I hv a problem if I cant get along with his sis n family. They r supposed to be overflowing with love n care n I am a psycho who cant see that.

    @mini,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    Yes, desi men have lofty ideas about their natal family members, they can do no wrong if they can then it is not that serious that you are making it big. The senior lady has nothing better to do than slyly utter under her breath been there and seen that. If DG had to live there any longer she would have put an end to it one day by just standing up and saying it in full view, “mummyji you said something, I did not hear it could you please repeat yourself. He is my husband my equal not my son that I’ll care for him like you do.” Honestly speaking there is no other way out than stand up and put an end to this for once and all this is all I learned.

    Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.
    Peace,
    Desi Girl

    Like this

  2. Yogini April 8, 2012 at p04 #

    It seems that Desi moms expect their sons to take on the role of their husband. If their husbands are still alive, why don’t they ask all of the things from him, (including the attention and affection) that they are asking from their sons? The son’s primary attention and affection is naturally meant for his wife, not his mother. The mother is to get attention and affection and whatever else she wants from her own husband.

    Why isn’t this happening?

    For the widowed mothers, why don’t they try online dating for seniors or meeting the widowers or older divorced, unmarried men in their neighborhoods?

    @Yogini,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.

    Please browse around GGTS and you’ll find answers to all your questions.
    Here are some links and pay attention to comments too.

    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/desi-parenting-cycle-of-generational-dysfunction/
    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/desi-sons-victims-of-their-mothers/
    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/desi-sonsvictims-of-their-mothers-ii-modus-operandi/
    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/401/

    You asked Why isn’t this happening?

    For the widowed mothers, why don’t they try online dating for seniors or meeting the widowers or older divorced, unmarried men in their neighborhoods?

    You know the answer so DG need not answer. Desi divorced men will easily find a never married women but will avoid marrying another divorcee. Thanks to hammered down patriarchal thinking where a woman with mind and experience is considered threat to family and male dominance.

    Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.
    Peace,

    Desi Girl

    Like this

  3. Maria April 3, 2012 at p04 #

    Why do Desi Moms have to talk to their kids upwards of 4 times a day? This just irks me to no end. And now, I’ve just had a talking to from my SIL because my MIL is hurt that I’m mad. No, I’m not mad, I just decided to have a normal relationship with my inlaws. Life is too short for me to sit around for HOURS on end listening to a conversation I can’t understand just because it’s my husband’s family. They don’t speak English, I don’t speak Urdu. Oh well. I will find other ways to spend my time. Now, I am MAD!!! I’m not Desi but my husband is. She is a kind woman but jeez, leave me alone already!

    @Maria,

    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.

    Most desis have problems with boundaries and being in their own company. There is a reason for this as elder care is not sponsored by state or external agencies it is imperative that older generation keeps the young dependent or keep their attention engaged on self.

    Settle this matter for once and all by making it clear to her and other women in the family that it is not all about her/them. You don’t understand the language and it is not obligatory for you to be part of one sided conversations. Ideally your spouse should be advocating for you as he has the history with his mother.

    Next time take a book with you when you sit in the jenana. Let it seem disrespectful but stick to your grounds.

    Below are two links may be they explain better.

    Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.
    Peace,
    Desi Girl

    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/desi-parenting-raising-devoted-sons/
    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/desi-dating-read-between-the-lines/

    Like this

  4. HK July 27, 2011 at p07 #

    I can relate with each and every word written here… It’s been over three years that I’m facing this kind of situation.
    My MIL just can’t stand seeing me and my husband together. Due to legal issues involved, we decided to live away from the house he bought for her… but alas even after getting a separate home, he is ‘REMOTE CONTROLLED’ by my MIL, BIL, his wife and SIL.
    To top it, there’s financial angle involved. Everyone in the family is earning well, including my MIL who draws a good amount of money being a war widow…. yet my husband pays all the bills of that house and gives money to his brother regularly in spite of knowing the fact that we need to buy a new house for us and the money he is spending on them is simply to help them lead a more luxurious life.
    It’s frustrating…. in my opinion, giving money is not bad… but it should be given if someone is in need… not when the other person wishes to go out and enjoy the luxuries of life.
    I’m the BAD woman of the house who separated a SON from his MOTHER, BROTHER and SISTER!
    Just wanted to know how bad I really am.

    @HK,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.

    You are only as bad as you believe to be. You are not alone in going through this tug of war and living with an insecure, enabler and codependent partner. Read the comments here and see what will work for you. DG has made elaborate suggestions in the comments.

    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/dealing-with-in-laws/
    and
    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/home-and-happiness/

    Three years and it will continue until you put an end to it. We desis are culturally codependent and far removed from the everyday realities of married life. The questions we need to ask before marriage we don’t and then we face the music.

    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/ask-before-marrying/

    Do not feel ashamed, you are not alone. Be proactive seek couple’s counseling. If he resists go by your self to learn skills to tackel codependence.

    Please share this meaasge of hope with anyone who may benefit.
    Keep coming back because it works. Work it because you are worth it.
    Peace,
    Desi Girl

    Like this

    • desibahu September 6, 2011 at p09 #

      i’m in a similar situation and i think i am the bad one. funny. a wife/dil who says anything that involves the word money in it is bad. she is to just sit there and serve them and be happy at how lucky she is to have them. she is not to make demands or her husband will be the poor guy with a overbearing wife. only his family can ask their great son who is such a good so because he always gives them money whenever they ask, and of course they don’t forget to praise him. of course they also don’t forget to do their daily homework, which is to keep putting comments in the son’s head about his wife to make sure his money/loyalty has nothing to do with her. and the son is such a good son, they did such a great job raising him, that he repeats and believes everything they say to him. He never matures to realize that his family is his wife and kids and they are humans too. All this garbage about money is so well implanted in his head, that his alarm automatically goes off when the kids/wife need something that has to do with money( that he can afford or should be getting them anyways). How wasteful, it’s cheaper back home, we don’t have time for that, I don’t have money for that, too expensive, and all the other excuses. But let his dear mother ask him right now for something that he cannot afford, and I guarantee that the mission will be accomplished. And that bad, stupid, nagging, greedy, wife is looking like she has a problem with this again. Look at her face. He can read it by now.

      Like this

  5. Akanksha April 15, 2011 at p04 #

    Hey even I have similar kind of MIL and SIL . I am married since last 1 year .Initially I and my Husband used to get into fight and He used to force me to do things which his mother used to demand (unreasonable).We even stayed apart for 2 to 3 months in a year of our marriage. After that we some how agreed and started counseling and after counseling he stopped forcing me but My husband is always in guilt of not doing certain things for his family. His mother starts crying or stops talking to him. If certain which she wants are not fulfilled. My husband always stays in tension and and guilt because of it sometimes even if we talk about small issues ,it get turns into bigger issues and His reaction is like “Main pehle se hi itna tension me hun and all” which also makes sense to me, I can see him in pressure. As I love him after seeing him in pressure I feel like I shud do what his mother wants. But later on I have a fear that it will become a habit. and later on I will be suffering. I don’t understand how to deal wid such situation . I also don’t want to do certain things at the cost of my self respect. And also can’t see my husband in such anxiety and guilt. His mother is a drama queen.She will never stop doing drama.And I can’t even make my husband understand that.Don’t know what to do.. Seeking your help.
    Thanks in Advance
    Akanksha

    @Akanksha,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.

    Welcome to crazy world of desi marriages. :) Now you know you are not alone. It is great to hear that you went for couple’s counseling in the first year of your marriage. It is a very rare phenomenon in desi context. CONGRATULATIONS! This means you both are committed to make it work. :)

    …As I love him after seeing him in pressure I feel like I shud do what his mother wants. But later on I have a fear that it will become a habbit. and later on I will be suffering…

    Yes, it is manipulating you into doing something you don’t feel is right by inducing guilt, it is called emotional blackmail. Person does not have to word it, they can go around pouting, sulking and giving you silent treatment to make you guilty. It is like, “oh I am hurting so much, only you can ease my pain by doing what I want.” Yes, it will become a habit over time and it will hard to break. If it is making you unhappy doing X one time just imagine how unhappy you will be after you have done X for nth times. :)

    Every time you give in to his sad face you are teaching him just sulk a little and pout a little and Akanksha will do the back flips to make you happy. It is arm twisting, he is teaching you how do to things for him and you are teaching him you NO has no value all he has to do is twist you arm by pouting and sulking…

    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/assertiveness-learn-to-say-no/
    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/feeling-and-expressing-your-emotions/

    How to deal with the situation?

    It is more than dealing with in-laws it is about how to deal with your spineless squid :) . Life is just life and it can be as simple and as complex we want to make it. He is making a choice to make it difficult by forgetting that mother and wife are two important people in his life with distinct places but they are not competitors.

    If he is in tension what is he doing to resolve it? It feels important to go around with all that stress, one feels they are important. :) What is he doing to resolve it? or he is carrying it around to makes you pity him and doing what MIL wants. It is a vicious cycle of manipulation with no end to it. You do one thing and there will be something else awaiting.

    His GUILT is his problem, you are not responsible for it and you cannot get him over it. It is his burden to carry if he cannot resolve issues with his mom and sister. Suggest him individual counseling, to go or not to go is his choice.

    It helps mothers in long run not to teach their sons about boundaries in personal life because it allows them to walk all over him and his spouse. Try talking to him following this link and see if there is any similarity. If he is showing signs of taking the topic off the table or not following through there awaits a big problem. Then please go back to counseling. Even if it is not couple’s counseling go for individual sessions coz’ you need to learn new skills for dealing with manipulators, how set set personal boundaries and many more.

    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/lets-talk-communication-deadlock/
    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/dealing-with-in-laws/

    Browse around GGTS and see what DG offered to other women comment writers and what they felt worked.
    Hope this helps, keep us informed. Sharing breaks isolation and together we can find solutions :)

    Peace,
    Desi Girl

    Like this

  6. Deepa March 8, 2011 at p03 #

    I completely agree with you. I am truly blessed as I am one of (very) few lucky ones who has a MIL who is a real darling, my MIL always takes my side no matter what (even when I am in the wrong ;)). She loves me very much and never once in my 12 years of married life, I have ever experienced anything negative from her side. There was once a fight between me and my husband and my MIL got up and stood in front of my husband like an angry tigress, she said “One more word and I will throw you out”, she said this by holding me close to her. She is my mom, not my MIL. I love her to death. Love your blog, I salute you, you are amazing person and I respect the work that you are doing in rehabilitating abused women.

    Good luck
    Deepa

    @Deepa,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    Thanks for acknowledging DG and her effort.

    Why do you consider your self lucky? :) What your MIL did and is doing is the right thing to do and that is how it should be. Behaving badly with bahus (DIL) has become a norm that when a bahu receives humane treatment she thinks she is accorded a favor or a privilege.

    Desi Girl congratulates you and your MIL for setting a good example and acting as a role model.

    Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.

    Peace,
    Desi Girl

    Like this

    • Deepa March 10, 2011 at p03 #

      So very true. Something that is supposed to be a natural behavior is glorified. I love your blog.

      Thank you. Now go and tell it to others :)

      Like this

      • mini December 3, 2013 at p12 #

        U r so damn lucky deepa I hv always dreamed of a mil like yours wht an invaluable support system u hv in a system where husbands cn be so insensitive n removed from what a wife or woman goes thru…

        Like this

  7. nolongeraslave January 21, 2011 at p01 #

    Adding on to my link, I just wanted to add how retraumatizing it is to tell another Indian man about your toxic mom. They don’t want to believe it, they dismiss you, they invalidate you, they accuse you of generalizing all Indians…This is why I chose not to date Indian men anymore. I need someone to support me and understand how my mom has affected me.

    Like this

    • nolongeraslave January 21, 2011 at p01 #

      It’s like when you try to reach out for help, and some Indian man just slaps you. I remember an Indian man on yahoo getting mad at me for generalizing all Indian moms to be controlling. What? I was just trying to find other Indians in my situation.

      Like this

    • gallas January 21, 2011 at p01 #

      good you made your choice of not dating Indians. Indian Relatives, neighbors, in-laws, bf’s, police etc are not your friends. They pretend to be only if you are of some use to them. You hear of peer pressure, depression, suicides, anger, drugs, violence etc among kids – yea its the parents who are behind it… they’v wasted many lives.

      DG wonders a person needs licence for operating a business or equipment that can effect other humans why nobody is talking about biological parenthood to be regulated. But then it will be who’ll be the regulating body conflict of havea and have nots. At least there could be prep school for parenting.

      Bottom line is unhappy parents make kids unhappy and create a generational cycle of unhappiness.
      DG

      Like this

      • nolongeraslave January 21, 2011 at p01 #

        Gallas, thanks. It’s always great to hear validation. I don’t mean to say that all Indians are bad, but it’s nice to have a safe place where we can talk about the dysfunction. :)

        Like this

  8. gallas January 16, 2011 at p01 #

    funnyy lol ‘Most of them are little boys in adult bodies with their umblical chords still uncut’ ..lil boys that do all crazy shit that mom told em not to. R the eves marrying them, marauding big bad wolf ha :) ?

    Like this

  9. Paula's Naaniji December 14, 2009 at p12 #

    Desi women should just marry non-Desi guys who are open to the good aspects of Desi culture that the Desi woman wants to hold on to. Forget Desi guys unless their parents are dead and gone.

    Like this

    • nolongeraslave January 13, 2011 at p01 #

      When I read this stuff, I do sigh with relief…This is one of the joys of dating a non-Desi man. My boyfriend loves his mom, but he has his own life separate from her. He will not tolerate his parents intruding on his relationship.

      Like this

      • nolongeraslave January 13, 2011 at p01 #

        Speaking of MIL’s being all about them, I personally grew up with a narcissist mom where it was all about her. I will write about her in my blog later on. :)

        Like this

  10. Pardesi Aurat December 14, 2009 at p12 #

    I’ve been saying all of this for a long time but because I’m not Desi, Indians get mad at me for it.

    My bit of advice: don’t marry an Indian guy unless his parents are DEAD!

    Like this

    • girlsguidetosurvival December 14, 2009 at p12 #

      You can’t generalize all men. I know some good ones and have dealt with few bad apples. Then why marry an Indian at all? Find one who is a man not a boy. Most of them are little boys in adult bodies with their umblical chords still uncut. Better try finding a needle in a haystack.

      Like this

      • Milky Chai March 13, 2010 at p03 #

        Hahaha! So true, but I imagine it would be nearly impossible to find one that wasn’t still attached at the belly-button. Yes, I often wish I had married a man who’s parents were also already DEAD!!! But I dearly love my hubby and I think he’s trying to deal w/ PIMIL the best he can. He knows she’s a nut and is committed to keeping her away from us so at least I have that.

        Like this

      • nolongeraslave January 20, 2011 at p01 #

        If anyone is interested, I wrote my blog entry on how to recognize a mom with narcissistic personality disorder. I feel like most people don’t know or understand this.

        http://nolongeraslave.wordpress.com/ :)

        Like this

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The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

My life and everything that touches it....

Kafila

media | politics | dissent

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मेरे विचारो का

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Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

A Desi Girl's Guide to Relationship Survival

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

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Women's Studies Student Association @ University of Windsor, Ontario

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Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

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Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

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