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Our domestic worker sets an example of how women need to take charge and break the patterns of toxic behaviours in a family.
You can never stop learning, and sometimes you learn life’s best lessons unexpectedly. This happened to me very recently and ever since, I have been trying to fathom and pen down my thoughts.
A week ago, our household helper was helping me in the kitchen and she was very silent, which is unusual. I knew that something was bothering her. I thought perhaps she wanted to ask for an increment in her salary. I started thinking of all the possible answers I could give her, but what she said was something I never expected.
She was kneading the flour and without even looking up she said, “Didi, I think I am becoming like my mother-in-law. I am very scared.”
I laughed out loud because her kids are still very young and she can’t become a mother-in-law anytime soon.
She looked at me very seriously, which is when I stopped laughing and said, “Please tell me clearly what is bothering you.”
She bowed her head silently and I did not push her to speak either. I wanted her to take her time as I realised this was something serious, at least for her.
After about five minutes, which seemed like five hours to me, she started talking.
“Didi, you know my mother in law, she always tries to control me and my kids. My husband is very close to her. Even when she is wrong, he supports her. She always acts as if she is ill and he knows that there is nothing wrong with her, but still he believes her.
I know that all men are like that, but I have realised that he loves his mother so much because my father-in-law was not a good husband. He always controlled her. He is a very mean and unreasonable man. He never hit her but he emotionally tortured her.
Her kids saw this, so they take care of her, and she has become very possessive about them.
You know didi, the worst thing is that my husband hates his father for what he did to his mother, but he is just like him.
There is so much of his father in him. Is this behaviour in his genes? When I talk to him, he refuses to listen.
Yesterday, I realised that my son is also behaving like my husband and my father-in-law. I am worried that he will also become like them and I will become like my mother in law.
How can I change my son? I know I can’t change my husband, please help me didi”.
I did not realise that we had shifted to the living room, I was so engrossed in what she was saying. I realised that she is extremely mature and smart, even though she’s never had any formal education.
She wants to be different from her mother-in-law and change her kids’ life.
I told her that all she can do is constantly talk to her son, correct him on the spot.
I said, “You will not become like your mother-in-law, because you already know the problem. You will not treat your daughter-in-law badly because you were treated badly, and moreover, you are financially independent so that will make a difference too.”
She looked at me and said, “Really didi?”
I replied, “It is very difficult to change certain behaviours but it is not impossible. You keep trying at home and sometimes get your son here. I will also talk to him.”
She got up to get back to her work and looked relieved but she set me thinking.
Family has a significant impact on how we see ourselves, how we see others, and how we interpret the world. Ideally, children should grow up in an environment that supports them in feeling worthwhile and valuable. This is how they learn that their feelings and needs are important and can be expressed. Children who grow up in supportive environments are more likely to form healthy, open relationships in adulthood.
When a child grows up in a toxic household and sees his mother suffer, he will take care of her when he grows up, to an extent that he may not care for anyone else (though there can be exceptions).
Qualities like stubbornness, haughtiness can also be imbibed, without even realising that one is behaving in a way they have always resented.
I am so proud of my helper, she realised that she must stop the pattern.
It is indeed very brave of her to end the unhealthy patterns in her family with her, and not pass them down.
As I was thinking I could understand how so many incidents in a family could be attributed to unhealthy patterns. I wish the women in the family had the courage to change these patterns. Our domestic workers has inadvertently changed my views about a lot of things.
I hope all of you who are reading this will also think about it.
Picture Credits: still from the serial Chaar Divas Sasuche
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