Picture a woman with a halo and angel wings. She has the most benevolent smile, love dripping from her honey sweet words, and her soothing shadow forever protecting you from the harshness that life has to offer. That’s mum. Now add the suffix ‘in-law’ and poof! The halo disappears, and horns take place. A forked tail whips about and the soft wings are replaced by batwings. The smile is there, albeit a crooked one, exposing fangs. This is the true picture if all the rants on social networking sites are to be believed.
Before I proceed, I would like to dispel any notions that you might have about me as a daughter-in-law or for that matter, my own personal devil – the ‘fanged’ mother-in-law. I am nowhere close to the ideal bahu as projected by the multiple soaps on the television, nor am I as evil as shown by some. I do not sport make up at bedtime, and do not sleep with a ton of jewellery. I rarely cook, do not embroider or knit, and light a diya in the temple only on Diwali. Now for the mother in law – she doesn’t have a piercing gaze forever fixed on me trying to keep me away from the apple of her eye. She loves to cook and secretly hopes that I’ll some day learn to cook like her. Her sole purpose in life is not to make my life miserable and neither is it to find faults in whatever I do. So does that make us the ideal pair? Of course not! But does it make either of us as evil as some of the online rants claim us to be? Sigh, nope. No drama on that front either.
I am no crusader and if I haven’t emphasised enough earlier, not even remotely close to the idea of the ‘good bahu.’ And my mother-in-law hasn’t sprouted angel wings either. However, we are good together. We can gossip about the most inane stuff over tea, disagree over just about everything and be at loggerheads. But one thing that remains undisputed is that we both love the poor man that connects us, a hell of a lot. What I fail to understand is why the love takes the shape of an Olympic event for a whole lot of women out there? Really? You think the mother-in-law wants to win over the man and is forever coming up with schemes to do just that? That, I am afraid, is probably a misconception in most cases- she doesn’t need to compete. Period. And then, there are some more blunders that we choose to commit everyday:
The first mistake that we make: Compare. Do you compare your children with each other? Or (if there have been) ex-boyfriends with the husband? Then why compare the poor mother-in-law with your own mum? That is an unfair competition that she has already lost before even attempting to compete. Why can’t she be respected, loved or at least tolerated for being your husband’s mom?
The second: Expect. Women have this magic beanstalk of an expectation from the mother in law. The more you climb it, the taller it gets. If she helps you care for the little one, you do not like her ideas and ultimately end up making fun of her on public forums online, or endlessly gossiping to your friends about how she thinks coconut oil is better than the baby oil for massage. Just rub the damn oil, woman. The brand/type of oil is not going to determine muscle strength of the scrawny bundle. And God forbid, if she decides to give you your space, or plain and simple refuse to pitch in and be the unpaid maid – she just sprung an extra horn and spikes to go with it. She is the mother-in-law after all. Damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.
The third: Differential treatment. So you think that your mother -in-law can never be like your mum? Bull’s eye. Thing is, if you make a mistake, your mother can shout at you, put you in the naughty corner or skin you. But all hell breaks loose the moment the husband’s birth-mother even points a shaky finger (or for that matter a firm one) at anything. Your mum could gift you crap but you’d frame it, and nail it to the most visible wall and sigh every time you pass it by. The mother-in-law’s gift would probably languish in a corner unless you have already given it away to the maid.
The fourth : Narcissism. Really? Just because you are a new mom, or a mother of two wild toddlers, the world should revolve around you? One look at the multiple forums on networking sites and you can draw these neat statistical charts – proportion of the poor, tortured Daughter-in-laws versus the pampered ones. The latter, is a thin line hugging the X-axis if you were to make a bar chart. And why do you need to be pampered exactly? Ah! Because you are the daughter-in-law. Yeah.
I can go on. And on. But most of you have already drawn up red flags, or stopped reading beyond the first few lines. If you are still here with me, shout out so that I can duck to avoid the brickbat. The fact still remains – no one is perfect. I, the daughter-in-law, and her, the mother-in-law – we are both normal human beings, full of flaws, opinions and attitude. But would we ever hate each other, ridicule each other on public forums, or think of novel ways to hurt each other. Come on! We do have better things to do! If anything, I sympathise with her. Ask my mum. I was a tough cookie to raise. They must have done a secret happy dance the day I got married!
I am not saying that all people with the suffix ‘in-law’ attached to them are angels sent from heaven but then, neither are the ones without any such honour. We have all sorts of people in this world – but to discriminate against them based on their designation or membership to a particular class/group is called…? Yup. That’s right.
Next time, when you have this overwhelming urge to tell the entire world what a vile, scheming character (though the adjectives I read online are nowhere near this civil) your mother-in-law is, stop. Think. She might not be perfect, but she gave birth to the man you decided to marry….hang on! Maybe that’s it. Ah! So that’s what the grudge is about!