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The Mother In Law Syndrome

by Sneha Subramanian Kanta
(Mumbai, India)

Picture for representation purposes only. Credit: http://cidutest.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/closetomother-in-law.gif

Picture for representation purposes only. Credit: http://cidutest.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/closetomother-in-law.gif




For about a long time now, I've been vying to write something on the much debated mother in law topic, albeit from a woman's perspective, who lives in a collectivist culture like India. I understand that there are many men who have a feather or two ruffled because of the same syndrome, however, this time, it is for the ladies.

The other day, I caught an article written by a famous media person, talking about women prototypes in India, exclaiming how her sister had to always use some excuse, some pretext anytime when she needed to go to the beauty parlor, because her mother in law wouldn't take too kindly to it. For an independent individual, this would seem far too funny, but I'm sure many women living in our country would know what I'm talking about. This topic is quite sensitive, and it has been numerous times until now that I've erased and re-written it all. For starters, I'd like to say that I want to see both sides. Merely demonizing or deifying any of the two wouldn't help. I must say this, rather I can't help but say this, that a college dropout Ekta Kapoor has struck millions making sagas (tear-jerking sagas should I say?) only on saas-bahu (mother in law - daughter in law) relationships.

Chetan Bhagat, too, in his 2 States has optimized this relationship to the hilt...and look how his novel sell like hot cakes even now!

There is one thing for sure, if one would argue that all these jokes about the relationship in question has created this unwanted confusion (as some Social Sciences researchers proclaim), I'd like to argue and say that there always had been some problem, in most cases, because of which it has such a large audience for viewership. On the other hand, having studied women's studies and feminism (not falling into the semantic pitfall of any 'ism') I have read many theories, given by women; which proclaim that it is indeed women who are the biggest enemies of women.

I know there is a lot of kitchen politics that goes out in almost every joint family household in India, of ruling the roost. I also decipher that most mother in laws have been through the grind of the pressures from their own mother in laws about various things like managing domestic chores. Then, why is it, I ask, do mother in laws dole the same behavior to their daughter in laws?

If I've to enter a more personal space, for a girl like me, I've never been the ever blushing woman; that society wants me to be. I'm a self confessed non-confirmist and I do not essentially cater to norms. And I do not mean that I do not like cleanliness or cooking or doing household chores. I've a recently developed obsessive compulsive disorder for cleanliness and people who've eaten my food admire the culinary skills. A lot of my aunts have had problems handling this independence that I have; and I know that they cannot imagine a "girl being this way".

I'm sure if the daughter in law (in a joint family or otherwise) whenever meets her mother in law, it should be about goodness and for the betterment of the family. Most of the times, scars become too deep; until a time there is no healing for it!

To sum it, I'd say that let's first look at the bigger picture of being a woman. I'm sure so-called modern (read:bad) girls do not mind taking and sharing responsibilities with their mother in laws. Both the women should be binding agents of the house, and I say this because I always saw my mother being the buffer of any family skirmish.

This is easier said that done, obviously. I do not know when women will realize how sensitive they should be to fellow women. Until then, Sigh!

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Jul 05, 2012
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Yes ! But . . .
by: Jitendra Mathur

I don't know whether, being a man, I am competent enough to make any comment on a post belonging to women. However I admire the post and the thoughts poured therein. If the authoress is not a blushing type of woman, that's her choice but being feminine in appearance and gestures is not something out of fashion or undesirable for the self-acclaimed feminists. Being feminine in external and internal personality itself demonstrates a concern for women and a perennial support to the phenomena of sensitivity. Women are expected to be more sensitive and if they are not sensitive towards the pains and problems of other women nearby them, their all the women-centric activities may sound no better than a hoax.

Further in a household, if the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are not having good rapport and taking on each other, the most unhappy and tense person is none else than the man in the house who is a son to one and a husband to the other. Seldom such quarrelling ladies think of the loss of peace of mind of him.

Nice post though.

Jul 06, 2012
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Thank you
by: Sneha

Thank you, Mr.Jitendra Mathur for taking time off and also for your insightful comments. You are absolutely right; ruffling of these relationships can break a house. I always admire how men, their differences put aside; can manage to live under a roof in their own 'space'; but with women, it gets only worse. Infact; most of my 'bad' experiences have been at par with both, patriarchal men and women who believe they are born to be subjugated. A daughter-in-law who keeps quiet is not always the best daughter-in-law...and besides, one should not sin by silence when one can defend! Those are my thoughts.

Until then, here's hoping some sensitivity comes onto women, to be equally sensitive to other women; even if their own daughter-in-law or mother-in-law!

Jul 06, 2012
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I agree....
by: Radhika Nair

Hello maam,
I am to young to say anything on this topic. But i can say that I've seen my mother struggle to be a perfect daughter-in-law.It was always because of caste differences.Although they agree for love marriage, they keep taunting for even the slightest mistake made. But now my granny loves her more han she loves her daughters. And its good to see the change.
So may be both the woman need to understand each other and the 'bahu' should be given some time too.

Jul 06, 2012
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Thanks
by: Sneha

Hey Radhika, good to read your comment here. Thank you Radhika, for your insightful views. Absolutely true, the change should come with both women; as one can clap only with two hands! I hope women realize the beautiful joy of womanhood and stop being enemies of each other. Take care!

Jul 07, 2012
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Two sides
by: vimala

Hi, Sneha, where are the two sides you promised? Moreover till you have a son of your own, you can never put yourself in the shoes of a mother in law. That unique situation arises only for the mothers of sons. All the prior good intentions of being a mother to the daughter-in law may not work in all the cases.
As Mr Mathur points out, it is the man sandwiched between mother and wife who suffers most.

Jul 07, 2012
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Vimala...
by: Sneha

Hey Vimala, the two sides are very much there in my article I thought. I clearly stated at the end that its only with sensitive, and let me put it straight; profound sensitivity, that these two relationships and the complexities in them are etched straight. A lot of women I know hold the same opinion 'you'll know when you have a son'; but I think otherwise. I've obviously inferred and seen that until and unless women in the household aren't sensitive to each others needs, why single out the men - it is difficult for the children too. In fact, for everyone. I have made a conscious effort to not go on a 'rant' for either just the mother-in-law or the daughter-in-law. I believe that differences are abound to happen, but in between all of this; there should be mutual respect and space given for individuality. While I do not endorse hooliganism; I do not believe one should take the name of love and the cultural fabric to endure everything. There's a limit of tolerance and patient; for both women involved. The relationship is a complex one, and one way of dealing with it is to be transparent and accepting.

In case you felt you didn't get both sides, hope my comment does provide you with it. Thanks for your comment!


Jul 08, 2012
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I see a healthy debate here...
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

An age-old problem cutting across geographical borders, the root cause being sharing the son with another woman - a perennial obstacle, more mentally concocted than perhaps real.

Jul 10, 2012
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Yes...
by: Sneha

Yes, Geetashree...you've hit the nail on its head. Instead of power politics, am sure the world would be a tad peaceful with matters like these if the two women realize the importance of individuality and aren't insecure !

Jul 29, 2012
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Great...
by: isabel

Possessiveness and ownership creates fire and havoc between the in-laws.

One has to learn to let go and not be selfish, no one owns anything on this earth. You may think you're entitled to it but in the end one will find the truth the most painful way.

As always Sneha you've pulled your reader's full attention and emotions to the max!

Dec 28, 2012
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Agree..
by: Anonymous

I had a fight with my husband in my in laws home. MIL came in between, and yelled it is my mother's problem that I was brought up like this when girls are supposed to be quiet in front oftheir husband and his parents. She told its her house, so if I need to stay there, it should be according to her wishes. She never expected that her son will support me. But he did and we left her house. She and the father in law wrote letters to my parents complaining about me and how I changed their son. I limited myself attending their phone calls They again wrote letter to my parents stating I am avoiding their calls and they need to instruct me on this. I started avoiding their calls.... I became pregnant, they decided they are. coming to stay with us . Either me or my husband couln't predict their behaviour and so we decided they are.not coming.I am not hesitant to say this.. Ofcourse my first priority was my and my baby's health...then came their worst behaviour , started name calling , cursed me, and threatened my husband if he doesn't control me they won't give their money to him, but everything will go to their daughter...okay we are fine with that, we don't need their money, but we needed some peace of mind...they decided nit to call or inquire anything when the baby was born, but my husband stood with me at all the time for support, and we decided we are not seeing or contacting them anymore..

Mar 10, 2013
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Any suggestion to improve the situation
by: Anonymous

A vibrant discussion.
There was a comment on man's perspective. True the husband gets caught in between the two women.
When a man no matter how hard a wife tries, if he trusts only what his mother says and views skeptically at anything the wife says, how is the wife expected to react. She feels let down and somehow the love between the husband and wife diminishes, knowing well that her husband would not standby by her.
Any comments to improve the situation like this would be welcome both from husband as well wife's point of view.

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