Why is a newly-married woman told to maintain cordial and good relations with all her in-laws, regardless of their behaviour towards her?
Irrespective of their social and economic status, every parent brings up their daughter like a princess. Later, when she is married, she is expected to have a blissful and happy married life. Her parents believe, she will be treated like a queen but all in vain (in most cases, especially in India)
The girl, too, enters the wedlock with a lot of positivity and hopes that she’s be married in a family who will treat her like their daughter. However, more often than not, the daughter-in-law is neither understood nor considered a daughter by her in-laws.
A daughter-in-law is someone who leaves her parents’ home to step into a completely new place with new family members and relationships. And she is expected to embrace it all – the newness of it and the relationships – as soon as she is part of the family.
When she is getting married, she is constantly reminded that she has to be patient and ignore the smaller issues she may face in the new home. However, she is never told the definition or given clarity on what these issues might be. She isn’t told what issue should be considered small and what she can ignore to lead a happily married life.
All her life, she is taught to live with dignity and have self-respect and the freedom to express her opinions fearlessly. However, when she is about to get married, she is told to keep her self-respect aside in order to keep her marital relationship in a way that the society approves of them.
Everyone tells her to maintain cordial relationships with her in-laws, right from her MIL to her brother or sister-in-law. But no one tells her why should they be held above her own parents and siblings. I feel, just like we address our parents or our in-laws, sister-in-law is also a relationship title given to the husband’s brother. Other than that, I don’t understand why are there different rules for the daughters-in-law and the daughters of the in-laws.
A son-in-law, the one who has married their daughter, may be very similar to their own son but is always treated like a Very Important Person! Do their treat and respect their own son the same way as they do their son-in-law? Why is he treated like a god who’s given their daughter a life? Aren’t they the ones who gave birth to their daughter and also made her the strong woman she is?
The daughter-in-law, the son’s wife, is someone who is always an outsider whom they have given a life by getting their son married to her. She is rarely a part of the family, treated like a daughter. The DIL remains an outsider for the rest of her married life except when it comes to her responsibilities towards the family. Why is she different that a son-in-law, the VIP?
If the sister-in-law stays the daughter of the house even after her marriage, why not the bahu? The DIL is always reminded that her in-laws’ house is now her house and she is their beti and not her parents’ daughter anymore. Why is the DIL not her parents’ daughter while the sister-in-law still is? How are they different?
If the ritual called marriage is meant to separate a woman from her parents, especially if she is a single-child, why do we consider it so sacred? Why is this ritual so important if all it does is take away the woman’s rights over her own parents?
I’ve never heard, even in mythology, that after the bidaai, the girl is expected to only maintain a husk of a relationship with her parents. Never have I heard that after marriage, she leaves her parents and siblings completely. Bidaai is just the ritual before she moves to a new house with a new family. It doesn’t imply that she is leaving her own family to bond with the new members.
A bond between a brother and a sister is often taken for granted and considered higher than the relationship between two brothers or sisters. What is the difference in all these other than the gender? No one ever has the privilege or special status that they will have a son, it is just a play of chromosomes that decides the gender of the baby. Then why do parents feel privileged when they have a son? Why does the sister-in-law feel superior simply because she has a brother?
Why is the son-in-law of a family the first and most important invitee of any event? Right from a religious trip to the naming ceremony of a child, the son-in-law is the most revered guest. Meanwhile, the DIL still has to ask for permission from her in-laws and husband to invite her family members to any event at her place.
Why is even a financially independent woman not free to gift anything to her parents and siblings after her marriage? Meanwhile, the man will freely gift anything he wants to his parents and siblings. Why does the DIL have to give explanations to her husband if she makes such personal expenses?
The custom of brothers and parents taking care of their daughters came into existence because of the economical condition of the earlier days. However, nowhere is it mentioned that only a woman with brothers is privileged to be taken care of while a woman without brothers doesn’t deserve it.
In the earlier times, the parents or brothers would send gifts for everyone in their daughter’s new family. So that she felt her parents are there for her even though she’s married. That her parents are there for her to give her moral support whenever she visited them. And each time, someone from her family visited her in-law’s house, they would always go bearing gifts.
This was mostly done because, earlier, the men were the ones who earned and were financially independent. Women often didn’t have the independence, except in well-to-do families. Thus, the girl’s parents or brothers tried to take care of her.
Even further earlier, during the time of kings and kingdoms, queens often had some authority over the wealth. They were free to gift or give anything to whomever they wanted to without seeking approval from the king.
Today, women are financially independent and often supporting their families too. Then, why, in such a scenario, is she considered a rebel for wanting to support her parents? Why is she called a revolutionary or treated like an alien?
If she wants to support her parents, why is she told she is better off being single rather than get married? After all, she giving away all her resources to her parents which she could’ve given her in-laws. Though it was her parents who raised her and made her financially independent, she is still supposed to use her resources on her in-laws. And haven’t men often said that they married simply so that his wife would look after his parents?
Does the same not apply to him too? If so, then why isn’t he asked to stay single? Why is taken for granted that parents with sons get to be taken care of after marriage while those with daughters don’t?
If wanting to take care of one’s parents is considered wrong and feminist, one must feel proud to be one! On a positive note, there are women who take care of both their own parents and their in-laws while there are men who get married only so that their wives take care of their parents!
Why does the son-in-law need to be gifted on his birthday and all festivals by his wife’s family but the same isn’t done for his wife? How and why is she different than him?
Why is the DIL expected to call the husband’s sister on schedule and maintain relationship with her while the other way round cannot be expected? Aren’t relationships a two-way street? Why is the DIL instructed to called her sister-in-law regularly but the sister-in-law isn’t expected to do so? And why can’t the DIL question the unfairness of it without being considered wrong?
Do people forget that just like their daughters left their home to be a part of the new family, someone else’s daughter has done the same to be a part of theirs? Why can’t a sister-in-law understand this?
Having seen and heard experiences from several women, this is trying to be the voice of such such women expressing unanswered questions plaguing their minds.
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV Series Diya Aur Baati Hum
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