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Why Do I Need Consent From My In-Laws To Take Care Of My Parents?

Posted: April 19, 2021

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Why is it a bone of contention if a daughter wants to help her parents after marriage? Why do I have to clarify this every time when I meet a prospective groom?

The journey of a woman is often long enough. Starting with the uncertainties when in the womb, to mostly an unwelcome birth, then the overburden felt in squandering money on education and finally the marriage.

According to the Indian society, marriage is the purpose of a woman’s life, the final goal without which there is no place for her in the society.

Safety was always an issue that bothered my parents more than anything else. But they never stopped me from realizing my dreams. Instead, they were my support system, the wind beneath my wings. And I owe my success and my flourishing career to them.

However as per the societal norms, my identity and life both were incomplete without a man in my life although I had a successful career. We have been searching for a groom since long, however there has been no luck yet. My parents were anxious due to this, but they never pressurized me to ‘settle down’ with something that I am not comfortable with.

I acknowledge that I am pretty much past the ‘marriageable age’, but not for a fault of mine. I wholeheartedly believe in the institution of marriage and I will never leave any stone unturned to make it work only if I find a compatible match. But how can I go on with a relationship which needed adjustments only from my end. And this is the very reason, I called off my engagement three years back.

Yes, I walked out of an unhealthy relationship before it was too late.

Initially everything went on smoothly, we both were happy, and decided to take the plunge. After the initial hiccups from both sides of families, they agreed. I thought that I have got a perfect match in the form of my would-be husband and that I could blindly trust him. However, I was mistaken. It was only after the engagement that I realized what I was getting myself into.

One fine day, my fiancé called up and wanted to meet as there was something that he needed to discuss. It all began with how his parents are not keeping well health wise and that I will have to take care of them after marriage. To which I had already agreed.

However, his mother now wanted a stay-at-home daughter in law who should be available 24×7. Secondly, they do not like the maid to enter the kitchen, hence I was expected to take up that role as well. To which, I retorted saying that I and my parents have put in a lot of efforts to complete my education and now I have a stable career as well. And I being the only daughter, I would like to help my parents when in need and for that I need my job and financial stability.

And then came the final blow, my fiancé clearly told me that once married, daughters should stop worrying about their maternal families. This was not the first time that I had expressed my wish to take care of my parents after marriage, to which he had willingly acceded in the past. And now suddenly, without even consulting me, he had made up his mind. The demands only started from here on. Unable to take it any further, I decided to quit.

And here I am today, back to square one, searching for a compatible, not a ‘perfect’ match. And now I am stigmatised due to a broken engagement.

Expectations and demands in arranged marriage are no different anywhere else. It just gets worse with every new prospect that I meet.

I do not want to give up on the idea of marriage, but I am unable to fathom the terms and conditions set down for girls in this process. Parents may not expect anything from their daughters but is it not a responsibility that she should carry out without a need to get permission from her in-laws or husband? Why is it a bone of contention if a daughter wants to help her parents after marriage? Why do I have to clarify this every time when I meet a prospective groom? And it is taken for granted that I should look after his parents and there must be no discussion on that.

Meanwhile at the workplace, I was not much comfortable sharing my personal issues with my colleagues. I wasn’t too close with the people at work for these very reasons. They would all make plans to go out somewhere after work. To decompress, they called it. To have fun. I had to come back home so that my parents didn’t worry about anything untoward happening to me. But it was more to satisfy the wagging tongues of the many aunties in the family who were appalled that my parents were ‘letting me work’ instead of getting me married. According to them, it is even more difficult to find a groom for me due to a broken engagement and the age criteria apart from looks.

What really upsets me is that these women must have themselves gone through similar circumstances, but still they will not stop making others life difficult. I really wonder when they will stop fortifying the legacy of patriarchy.

This story was shortlisted for the March 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest.

Image source: a still from the series Anupamaa

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Swapnal has been an HR professional for almost 5 years and currently is a freelance

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