When I Saw My MIL With New Eyes, I Saw A Woman Who Had Made The Best Of Her Circumstances

The author's mother-in-law lived her life for her family. Isn't that how the earlier generation lived? Shouldn't we be putting ourselves as a priority too while taking care of others?

The author’s mother-in-law lived her life for her family. Isn’t that how the earlier generation lived? Shouldn’t we be putting ourselves as a priority too while taking care of others?

You know those times when you have to take time off from work because one of your family members is sick and in the ICU? Meanwhile, as you sit in the ICU with mobile jammers on, you have loads of time to think and ponder. As you ponder, your thoughts swirl around the relative lying in bed and your relationship with them.

I have had plenty such occasions where I sat in the ICU while either of my parents or in-laws were in the ICU. This time, it was my mother-in-law, and the initial emergency has passed. She is now supposed to be stable, and after that, she was shifted to a room.

As I sat in the room for the relatives of the people in the ICU, I felt like I was in a chiller, cold with no windows. Like a piece of meat preserved, to be used later.

Jokes apart, at this stage of life most of us have crossed a number of our hurdles, (children are grown up and we are chilled out), ready to take on the next phase of life with enthusiasm. I believe, life gives us a chance to live all over again after 40.

What I learnt about my mother-in-law

I was thinking of my mother-in-law and looking back, from a woman’s point of view, I visualise another woman. A woman who was so driven by her sense of duty towards her family that I often was left amazed at her commitment.

Her entire day would be filled with planning and preparing for the festivals during shravan as she waiting for the guests to arrive for the functions. She had four children, all of whom were recently married. And thus, all the festivals would be oriented around the arrivals of the daughters-in-law’s parents and relatives. There were gifts to be bought for them, for the new daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, lists to be made, groceries to be ordered, and dry snacks to be kept ready.

Her life was full, as if the festivals and functions had no end. I wondered if I would ever be so committed. Then I remembered how she told me, as she wiped her eyes, “If I had got a job like you girls, I would have loved to do it. But I was not allowed to, by your father-in-law. He said, that I had too many responsibilities at home.”

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She took care of those responsibilities. Responsibilities of her young brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, her own children. She almost forgot about the job till she got daughters-in-law who were professionals.

Her first surgery and the most important question

I also remember, her first sickness. She had to undergo an angioplasty for it. After the procedure, a psychologist came and asked her, “Do you feel that you are stressed because your children are away from you?”

This question was among several questions that the psychologist asked, but it was the one that brought tears to her eyes. It was true, her own children had children who went to school. This meant that her children would visit her less often. Sometimes, not for months or even years together. 

At the same time, she had started visiting them more often as she fell ill all too often. Her heart, probably, craved days when the house was full; the time scarce and she was busy in the kitchen, cooking savouries, pickles and delicacies for all of posterity.

Good or bad, time never remains stable. Change is a constant and there was vacuum in her life. She was sad and confounded and tried run her children’s houses by dominating them or their wives. Naturally, there was friction, her children could not comply to all her demands. Time had changed, after all.

My mother-in-law’s life for others

Today, as my mother-in-law lies in the ICU, so tired and broken from irrecoverable past illnesses at 82. Her arm is paralysed and my heart aches for her, as it should for another woman.

She lived her entire life putting others before her. They all became self-sufficient and she had a chance to start her own life. However, she was so used to thinking of others, that she never realised that she could be her own priority.

That’s when her commitment towards her family became an intrusion for others. It was painful, not just for her but for everyone else too.

We are all grown ups too. My husband and I have gone beyond fighting for the ‘your mother said so,’ ‘your father did that,’ instead we have gathered things to rejoice over. We continue to do so despite things that made us bitter at one point.

What my mother-in-law taught me

Today, she is under the spell of sickness and has lost one of her bodily functions, I feel sorry for her. I feel so because she gathered nothing for herself. She is empty in that respect.

I think, women from the previous generations have taught me a lesson. A lesson that while living for others, we have to be aware and leant to live for ourselves too. We should keep ourself as a priority, for we come in the world alone and we die alone. When there is no one for us, we are own and only companions.

Picture credits: YouTube

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