The Mother In Law Syndrome
by Sneha Subramanian Kanta
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!