The blog world is full of rants about the in-laws in general and Mother-in-law in specific. Every time I read them, I shake my head and sympathies. The Indian system of living with the in-laws and if not living with the in-laws then having them a whole lot of say in your life is not for everyone and anyone who wants to write about the trauma is perfectly within their right to do so. But the more I read such posts, I want to write about the things I see happening on the other side. Things I see but never read about because people in that generation are not a whole lot in to technology and hence are not writing about the going ons. What I am writing is my experiences are from here, this land far away from India, where the ILs come for a visit, not for long stays and hence it is not like you are living with them day in day out all your life.
The scenario goes thus: Baby is on the way. Want to keep him/her home for as long as possible, because they get sick oh so much in daycare. So parents and ILs are lined up to come stay for as long as they can. When it comes to grandkids, grandparents are willing to bend backwards. So they come, take care of the baby while the new parents head to work. And since they are home, they take care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry along with the baby.
- A friend got in to this huge fight with her MIL on the way she cooked food. It was too bland.
- Another I know was constantly miffed with her MIL for not folding the clothes after washing the way she wanted them to.
- One was upset that her MIL did not tell her things were about to get over because she likes her fridge and pantry always packed (which means things over just beyond the half way mark need to be bought and stock replenished)
- I heard of someone who was irritated with the clothes the baby was made to wear at home.
- Someone was in tears because no one helped her out with the baby at night.
- Calmed a friend when she did not find something in the correct place in her kitchen.
And I always think to myself:
- Our parents (and ILs) are set in their ways. Can’t we mold ourselves a little or let go a little. And if we can’t, how do you expect 60+ year olds to change themselves overnight?
- Our parents (and ILs) are old. We are in our 20s and early 30s. When we come home, we want to sit in one place and have things served to us. All chores finished. A shiny happy baby handed over to us. How is that fair? When you can’t move your 30-year-old backside because you are tired after a long day of work, how do we expect the 60-year-old to keep going? And taking care of a baby all day is not easy. It is a lot of work and I am totally exhausted when I am home over the weekend. So why not move it a bit and do your part when you come home.
- But most importantly our parents (and ILs) are here to help us out. They are not unpaid maids to cater to our every whim and fancy. They are here to help out while you go to work. They should get a break once you get home. So get up and take care of your house and your baby.
Hence here is what I think
- If you don’t like how the food is cooked. Get up and cook something when you get home. And please don’t force your husband to choose which meal he wants to eat (am saying because the same friend got boiling angry when husband did not care which food he ate, the one his mom cooked or his wife. She wanted him to take her side).
- If you don’t like the way how your clothes are washed, please do the laundry yourself, rather than telling them ‘Oh I am out of undergarments. Do the laundry today’, before walking out the door.
- If you like your pantry always full, take 5 mins out over the weekend to look through the kitchen to see what needs to be replenished.
- If you don’t like what your baby is wearing, take 2 mins out before you leave to take a dress out that you want the baby to wear for the day.
- If you want help at night with the baby, ask your husband. Don’t look at your parents (or ILs). They have done their part during the day.
- If you like things a certain way then work on putting them back the way you like ever so often. The simple fact is the person who works in the house does more things around based on their convenience.
Let me talk about myself since that is easy to talk about: My parents were with us from a month after Buzz was born and the time Buzz was about 6 months till she turned a year old. The simple fact is that once you have lived on your own for a while, it is difficult to live with someone. Your sense of privacy and personal space in invaded by your parents. It is difficult to see things a different way than what you are used to (and these are my parents so I am used to them doing things the way they do and kind of do things the same as them just a little different). And after I come back from work, having been gone all day, it is not that I want to help (though I kind of don’t, I am tired and I see that work is getting done so why do I need to pitch in), I want to spend as much time as I can with Buzz. She is my baby, I love her, and I have been away all day, so ofcourse I want to spend all my remaining time with her. But my Mom is tired and needs to rest too. It is morning in India, so my Dad wants to get online and read the Indian newspapers and relax a bit. So we came with a strategy which worked for all of us. Where there was give and take and the final product worked. And every time I did not keep my end of the deal, Mom came up and told me straight up.
Now imagine a MIL doing the same. Telling a DIL that she was tired. Or saying she needed a hand. I have heard enough DILs crib and call their MILs insensitive, rude and a myriad of other things, to know how that goes down. I have seen MIL will dark circles under their eyes, exhausted with all the work that needs to be done, bending backwards since they are here to help and don’t want to be labeled that kind of MIL.
Leaving with a couple of other incidents:
- A friend’s kids first Birthday party. All the food is being made at home. I volunteer to help, so head over to their place. Do my part of cutting, chopping, frying with Aunty while my friend flutters around counting plates and cups and who knows what else. One of the items on the menu is ‘Bhel Puri’ which aunty has no clue how to make and I am deemed the expert. So I get everything ready. Since the party is in the evening, and this is around 11:00 in the morning, chopping onions, potatoes, tomatoes are deemed too early (mostly by the my friend). When we get to the venue of the party in the evening, my friend asks me to mix the ‘Bhel Puri’ to get the proportion right. I start mixing everything, ask for the onion, tomatoes..there is none. My friend turns to aunty, gives her a nasty look and says ‘List banaani chaniye thi naa’. All I could think of was, what were you doing? Why did you not make the list and ensure that everything was there?
- A friend gets a bulk load of stuff from her ILs via someone who was coming from India. She cribs non-stop about the fact that ‘X’ was not send when she specifically asked for it, while ‘Y’ was send. Followed by throwing ‘Y’ as not to be used. I look at her and say, “but ‘Y’ would be something you would buy since it is much to your taste, so why would she not use it”. Her reply: “Since my in-laws sent it”.
Again I am not saying that all the in-laws horror stories one reads are not true, or that everyone treat their ILs as above. Just saying that it is not always their fault. There are a lot of us who are less tolerant to our ILs and are of the mindset that whatever they do is wrong and with malice.
And this is not the post about the clash of modern and old-fashioned thinking. This is about work and its doing. Day to day stuff.