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My father once told me a story when I was very young. This was when I had expressed my displeasure at his strict disciplinarian attitude. This story was about two domestic helpers, young lads in their teens who were employed by two families. Both boys were close friends. One family was extremely kind. They always put the best food on his plate, showered him with gifts and even got him a radio!
The other fellow was not so lucky. While no one was mean, there was no deep affection showed. He was served regular food and received no gifts. But they enrolled him in a nearby school and made sure he never missed a single class. He was also given time for studying.
This boy who deeply grudged his friend, was later thankful to his employers because he managed to finish school and got himself a job while the love and affection showered on the other fellow took him nowhere.
That was my first lesson on love. Love comes wrapped in bitter leaves and we must learn to love people selflessly.
When I got married and called my dad soon after for advice, he told me what he thought was best for me but also mentioned that from now on I should call my husband first. It must have been difficult for him to tell me so. It may have seemed rude. But he did what was right for me and decided to let go and create space for someone who was going to be with me and take care of me for the rest of my life.
Unfortunately, the sons of our country are not shown such selfless love. The recent trend I see is that while in-laws are exceptionally “sweet” to their daughters in law, the mother’s umbilical cord gets wrapped more tightly around her son after his marriage (it is never cut when it comes to sons).
While nowadays women leave their homes at a young age to pursue further studies and enjoy positions of power at their workplace, many in-laws though awed by the DIL’s accomplishments do less to create a similar eco system in her personal life. The daughter-in-law along with her husband are expected to come crawling to the mother who proudly puts copious amounts of food on their plates. She gets awfully annoyed if she’s not given the opportunity to do so more frequently or her “mamta” is not put on a pedestal and celebrated.
The daughter-in-law is supposed to fall in love with her in-laws’ abode and fit into it like a piece of furniture. She might be advising on million dollar deals in her professional life, but in her personal life she’s supposed to not have any opinion.
She’s wonderful if she is her mother in law’s shadow. But mind you, she’s extremely cared for. She’s offered food, she’s showered with gifts and praises, just like that poor loved worker in my father’s story. In case the couple moves out, the mother-in-law has a constant need to know that she’s important in her son’s life, that her opinions are honoured in their marital home and that the son is still attached to her home and food.
This conflict in a woman’s personal life as opposed to her professional life hits women the hardest nowadays. The fake love endowed on her makes her feel insecure and lonely in her marriage. The enmeshed mother-son relationship has ruined many marriages, for fewer women have patience to deal with the stress given their financial independence and choose to walk away.
Yet, most in-laws complain that their daughter in law is aloof. What they don’t understand is that you can’t love someone who you have to constantly protect yourself from, and what you sow, so shall you reap!
What is pertinent here is to understand that enmeshment is not love. Love is never complete without having the strength to let go. When children get married, parents too need to evolve. Their roles need to change from that of a provider to a friend. Parents can help create an excellent support system for their children when they get married. It is only possible when they understand that it is imperative to take a step back and let the couple build their homes on their own terms. That’s selfless love and love is not lost between the son and his parent in doing so.
If their homes are full and happy, they will automatically be grateful to their parents for their support and understanding. An adult child relationship should evolve into an equal relationship where new relationships in the family and their autonomy and boundaries are respected.
The family can then be stronger together, standing up for each other and spending quality time with each other. That is love. It knows how to evolve. Love is not looking for your share of authority in your married son’s life nor is it the need to be celebrated and cherished by him. It is to be and do what is needed. Parents don’t fail their daughter in laws. They fail their sons in loving them a little less selflessly.
Image Source: YouTube/Two States
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