Why are women expected to live with their husband and his family after marriage? With changing times, let’s change the definition of sanskaari too!
‘Humara beta toh haath se gaya.’ ‘Ab voh sirf apni biwi ki sunta hai.’ ‘He’s listening to his wife more than us.’ ‘And he would rather spend time holidaying with her than us.’ ‘He wants to abandon us. How could he!’
These are some of the more commonly used phrases when a guy gets married. Either you do your duty and stay with your parents or you let them down by abandoning them. What a burden to bear! Fear, guilt and duty can’t be the reasons to stay together, can they?
A large chunk of our society is still lives in a modern-day soap opera believing that a family that stays together, is truly together. And that, if someone decides to leave the fold, the house is broken, never to be the same again.
You have been training your children for independence since their birth. As parents, you trained them to cook, to wash dishes and make beds while taking responsible decisions. Now that they are married, it is time to celebrate their independence. It is time parents respect them and treat them as adults.
A son has the moral and legal obligation to take care and look after his parents when they’re old and have meagre to no income. I believe, this is where girls have it easy. From the day they are born, parents know they will leave the house (paraya dhan and all that!) So they have zero expectations of girls.
You meet your parents twice a month and they’re delighted. Ever heard anyone complain about lack of care from their sons-in-law or their beloved paraya dhan?
The pattern for marriage involves ‘leaving’ the parents and ‘holding fast’ to the partner. Thus, marriage brings a change of allegiance.
Before marriage, one’s allegiance is to parents. After marriage, allegiance shifts to one’s mate. If there is a conflict of interest between a man’s wife and his mother, he is to stand with his wife. This does not mean that the mother is to be treated unkindly. It means that she is no longer the dominant female in his life. No couple will reach their full potential in marriage without this psychological break from parents.
Older parents in places like India still associate themselves with wisdom and knowledge. And exercise an excessive degree of authority over their children. This, however, is a problematic assumption in a world that is changing faster and faster.
Parents either have to keep catching up, which is difficult after a certain age. Or relinquish much of their hold on their grown-up children, which not all of them are willing to do. It’s important that you don’t allow parents to manipulate you into making a decision the two of you do not agree with.
The food to be cooked, the ritualistic obedience to a routine, the invasions of privacy, rigid dress codes become valid reasons for an assertion of individuality. The kind that is impossible in the conventional joint family system. Women are expected to ‘adjust’ while men continue living the way they always did. Indian men have such a sense of entitlement in this system.
Why do Indian sons assume that their wives should live with their parents? Because they can. It is a privilege of patriarchy that is too convenient to give up.
She becomes integral to the husband’s family and normally without any justifiable strong reason, would never insist that her husband be separated from the family and only live with her.
If a woman has her reservations about living with in-laws, her choice should be respected instead of naming her ‘un-sanskari’ or as someone who lacks family values.
But if the primary objective of your life is to take care of your parents, please feel free to do it yourself. What is stopping you? Can’t you live with your parents and keep a cook, maid, take them out on weekends? Do you really need a woman to do that? Please do not marry a woman for this sole reason!
A version of this was first published here.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Veere Di Wedding.
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