Why Are Indian Daughters ‘Trained’ To Be Superwomen And Expected To Leave Parents After Getting Married?

Why should a girl leave her parents’ home after wedding? Couldn't the give and take of relationships be based on choice rather than 'tradition'?

Why should a girl leave her parents’ home after wedding? Couldn’t the give and take of relationships be based on choice rather than ‘tradition’?

“So, basically when we do not live with your parents, that is erosion of our values. But, when I leave my parents after our wedding, that is cultural protocol?” she exclaimed with deep pain.

Her fiancé had nothing logical to say.

Patriarchy is too deeply rooted in our culture and lifestyle. We are sometimes blind towards it. One of the many such instances is when girls leave their parents’ homes after the wedding. The custom of moving in with the husband’s family affects all the aspects of a girl’s life.

‘Paraya dhan’

A girl child in a typical Indian household hardly experiences a sense of belonging. Her parents are on a daughter grooming project since the day she is born.

As the little girl follows this rigorous curriculum towards becoming a perfect wife, she is made to feel that her real home is her in-laws’ home. This ideology creates a disconnect between the child and the environment that she is presently living in. She starts shying away from sharing her everyday experiences with her parents. She might conceal her problems to depict that she is capable to handling those on her own.

This upbringing sometimes brings fatal consequences. When a daughter is dealing with an abusive relationship, she is bound to hide it from her family worsening the suffering for her. She is convinced that her parents will not empathize with her, and will ask her to adjust and wait for the things to get better. She is more concerned about the society’s perceptions of her parents rather than her personal well-being.

Training to be the ‘ideal daughter in law’

The little girl has to be prepared to be an ideal daughter-in-law rather than growing up into a strong independent lady. She has to show to the world how great she will turn out to be when she grows up.

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I was at a friend’s wedding and an elderly lady asked a seventh-grade girl if she can cook Punjabi cuisine. The girl hesitated, looked at her mom, and then said, “Yes, I can.”

It was devastating. How can we create an environment for our daughters wherein they are ashamed to admit that they do not know to cook? How can we be adamant to the extent of making our daughters lose the value of honesty?

Later, I had a conversation with the girl and discovered that she is a national champion of Science Olympiad. But probably her cooking skills are perceived to be more valuable than her aptitude. In the lieu of making our daughters flawlessly marriage-ready, we are robbing of their childhood and their potentially glorious careers. The time devoted in conditioning them should be rather used in letting them be and relentlessly supporting their professional journeys.

Raising daughters, or ‘superwomen’?

Many would claim that times have changed, and parents are encouraging their daughters to pursue their careers. However, for most, it is always work “AND” household duties. A lady needs to be a superwoman because managing one’s in-laws and husband is a non-negotiable affair. If time permits, she can pursue her ambitions. Her career is left at her in-laws’ mercy.

How can we give others the power to govern our daughters’ lives? How can we see our daughters’ hard-earned degrees rusting in the corner while she juggles to make her in-laws and husband happy?

Which is really her home?

And then she neither really belongs to her parents’ home nor to her husband’s home. How can such women raise independent daughters? It is a vicious cycle.

This tradition of daughters leaving their homes is an underlying reason for Indian parents’ not wishing for a girl child. She is never going to be there for them when they grow old. So, they wish to bear a boy child, whose wife will become a glorified maid for them. That is why daughters are termed as ‘Paraya Dhan’ in Indian society. We all have witnessed the people feeling pity for the couples with no sons because they are apparently going to face a troublesome retirement.

Many might argue that now with the metropolitan lifestyles, both husband and wife leave their parents. But that does not relieve a girl of her responsibilities towards her in-laws. The same accountability is not visited on the husband towards his in-laws. Even though they might be living independently, the expectations of looking after the home and being there for her in-laws whenever required, is always present for a woman.

Relationships through marriage can be beautiful, if a choice

Relationships are made stronger with understanding. And understanding is developed when we view the situations without getting biased by cultural norms that are firmly implanted in our nurturing.

Taking care of your husband’s family is beautiful unless it is forced upon you. Similarly, looking after your wife’s family is equally delightful and that does not make you lesser of a man.

Living with your husband and in-laws, and feeling lucky to be a part of a new family is an amazing feeling unless it is not voluntary. Similarly, staying at your wife’s place and building a great rapport with her parents is equally rewarding and it does not make you insensitive towards your parents; it does not make you a subject to be frowned upon by society.

It is paramount for your life partner to acknowledge that you too have a family and you are going to devote yourself to them equally or sometimes more. It works both ways. This cognizance is the epitome of EQUALITY.

Image source: a still from the movie Hum Aapke Hain Kaun

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Missree Vachhani

A voracious reader, A novice writer, An ardent promoter of energy efficiency. read more...

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