Popcorn Zone

I feel like a guest in my hubby’s home.

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Today the office lunch hour discussion was between Trisha, Mrs. Dey and me. Trisha, our super talented animator, had been feeling low for almost a week. So Mrs. Dey (“Boss K’s” 50 year old secretary) and I decided to give her an ear. Trisha has been married for 2 years to a very charming banker. And here is what she had to say today.

“Having been raised in a conservative ‘Tam-Brahm’ household, I hoped I would be part of a forward thinking family after marriage. I wanted to pursue my animation career even after marriage. When I met my prospective in-laws and to-be-hubby for the first time, I felt that “yes”. Unlike other Tam Brahm ladies, MIL (Mother-in Law) wore a demure salwar kameez, whereas I sat all draped in a chiffon sari. She had worked all her life as a school teacher, so didn’t really have a problem if I pursued my career. Soon after marriage, I moved in with my in-laws. The initial months were truly blissful. My husband is a pleasant person, intelligent, charming and basically a nice human being. My in-laws too are mild tempered and respected our privacy, despite all of us living under the same roof. Yet I feel incomplete”.

“To begin with there are unwritten rules in the house, especially for the lady. You enter the kitchen only after you have had your morning bath. This includes the morning cup of coffee too. So lazily drinking a morning cup of coffee is not really encouraged, even on a Sunday. And during the sweltering summer days of Delhi, staying in the kitchen in the morning for two hours and then getting ready for office meant a second bath.”


“My MIL is totally in charge of the kitchen and home management. I help around in the kitchen by kneading dough, chopping, grinding etc… Like an assistant. So most of the time, I just stand behind having nothing much to do. She wakes up early in the morning. After her morning walk, followed by a bath, she plans the entire day’s meal. I really appreciate her meticulous planning. There are days when I just want to sleep on, especially after late night movies and on Sundays. But somehow I don’t feel comfortable doing this, when my MIL is working in the kitchen.”

“My in-laws don’t really have major objections to the kind of clothes I wear. Just that I always have to have on a bindi, the mangalsutra and the toe ring. When I once asked her if they were an absolute necessity even at home she said, “Of course, this is our tradition. It is for your husband’s life.” Though I don’t really believe in these thoughts, I complied to avoid any sort of unpleasantness in the house. During the summer months I would really love to wear comfortable T shirts and skirts at home. However MIL once indirectly hinted at this being inappropriate in front of Father in law. I have to be prim and proper at all times.”

“Evening after work, I help my MIL in the kitchen again. Dinner is the only meal the entire family has together. After a tired day, it is that time we share our day’s events, before we hit the bed and call it a day. MIL and me always serve the food to FIL and hubby and later clear the table and the dishes. On occasions when I insist on hubby helping us clear the dishes, she discourages the same saying he has had a tired day and shouldn’t be troubled. Hmmm it makes me wonder, “Haven’t I had a tired day?”….

“Watching television lying on the Divan isn’t really appreciated. It is only in the confines of my bedroom I do what I want to. Wear itsy bitsy clothes; watch what I want on my laptop with my legs up in the air. I have managed to keep a hot water jug in my room, where I make a cup of green tea every morning and sip it lazily at my own leisure, without having to worry about having a bath. Small luxuries.  Of course one would say these are very small things in life. As my in-laws are otherwise nice people. They wouldn’t really speak anything that would hurt me. But these little things can make one feel so claustrophobic. I feel restricted. I feel like a guest in my hubby’s home.”

After hearing out Trisha, I got thinking. Marriage surely is a big lifestyle change for a woman. And sometimes not being able to do little things really gets on to your nerves.

Here are questions that have remained unanswered today.

  • Who is a forward thinking person?
  • Aren’t we still differentiating a son and a daughter in law? Why isn’t it still unacceptable for the son to share household chores, especially the kitchen?
  • Would a Father in law and son in law also have similar problems if living under the same roof? Would he be expected to obey the father in law?
  • Whats the way out for modern day saas-independent bahu?

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  • JayanthyGovindarajan (@JayanthyG)

    I am late here, but these are situations I face too being in a joint family. I had come from one where freedom was letting us think and do and dress up as we wish as far as we have respect for ourselves and others. I really thought my in-laws were liberal, but I figured out they aren’t. They try to become liberal, but they belong to the generation that follows the norms to live per the society rules (and hardly know it too). Anyway, I must agree I feel the same too and sometimes I feel being a guest is better, as Anamika said. We are really trying to break the barriers here, but they end up thinking we are breaking their families.

  • Aparna

    It is a strange world.
    Living with parents mean certain compromises but honestly i am thankful to mine that they actually encourage my husband to help me out and often don’t let me help if I am sick or tired. Mil lets me help around the kitchen or even take it over… And we are great friends.
    She doesnt mind me wearing shorts… She just likes me dressed up with bindi blah blah on festivals and i like dressing up. I feel when you do let your dils the freedom to be themselves they will make an effort to keep the in laws happy too.
    It takes a simple ‘i love you beta’ to get a ‘i love you mom’ back. We often forget that.

  • upasna1987

    Feeling like a guest in a Joint Family is normal. I too sometimes feel like that. In 4 years of marriage- I experienced all-

    MIL asking Son to take rest when he tried to help me out
    MIL calling me the moment I sat in front of TV
    In laws indirectly comparing DILs to their children
    Poking noses in our discussions
    Not get to cook and eat my fav delicasies

    But that’s not the end of the world. They love me too. Yes, I feel like moving in my own Home someday.

  • sbharti

    ..and Trisha wished to be a girl, always?

    Her petty issues are reflective of her maturity level as THE woman of the house. She is in transition phase and she will pass, like everyone else does in the end. Morning tea, baths, skirts, being treated second to husband – if these are the issues she is worried about then let her have her first kid. She’d probably find hard to remember her own self, leave alone her husband and in laws and everything else.

    Partner, followed by children, is what matures us, be a man or a woman, into a person who understands and takes care of nitti-gritties of life, a very complex affair. Probably she’d find her morning tea tastiest thing in the world, once she goes through this roller coster :-)))

  • SDR

    Everything is good in moderation. I am not the one to comment on how much is too much!

    Traditions are a few good things that defines us and gives us our identity. Tradition in the form of beliefs, festivals, dressing, language so on and so forth. Its a pity that today we are shedding everything in the name of being forward and adopting a lifestyle that doesn’t belong to us and hence has got no foundation.
    Unfortunately parents do distinguish between boys and girls.. some family loves their daughters while most loves their sons. our sister grew up with the first preference as we were always told that she is going to leave our house one day .. I agree most don’t get that preferential treatment.

    But mother’s distinguish between son and daughter and between daughter and DIL. The daughter when she visits her parents will probably have no issues lazing on the sofa or have that bed tea. This disparity is a easy fix for the mother but they don’t want to leave this tradition. They still perceive the DIL as some kind of threat to their position and power. Probably the father thinks the same. The same will not be applicable between a FIL and SIL..

    I think I got a bit carried away in explaining my views.. my appeal is let not jeans and English wash away our identity and diversity. Or else we will be poor clones of our western counter parts a few years down the line .. neither here nor there

    • Me Otherwise

      Thanks for the lovely perspective. I do agree with most things you have mentioned. The only thing that I really would loke to change is the prefrential treatment. I guess that should sort out most issues in families.

  • Suzy

    I guess if she wants her freedom, she can always move out with hubs and set up her own house. I bet then she would say her house her rules. In life have no expectations of others, and learn to compromise. that’s the key to harmonious relationships.

  • the bespectacled mother

    I have lived with my in-laws for 7 years and my experience says it is peaceful to stay as a guest in their house, may be forever because if you even try to push any of the boundaries however small they may be you are bound to create an unhealthy environment (that is off course from the in-laws’ point of view) and you will be liable to face the brunt.

  • Vinitha

    I don’t think this kind of differentiation is going to change unless we change it. In-laws will always have such untold rules. But in order to make us comfortable we need to step out and live our life the way we want without actually pushing them too much but just a little at a time. My in-laws do not have a problem with what I wear. They don’t even say word when I don’t wear bangles, or bindis. I guess they know that it is better not to force me to avoid unpleasantries. I never objected to wear those, just that I almost always never wear them. As your friend Trisha, I also experienced certain discomforts in the house when we were there, but I am learning to accept few of them while taking that step out of the line once in a while. It is not much of a problem as we are not staying together. But I guess I will give importance to my comforts if I were to stay with them for a long time. That suffocation of feeling as a guest is intolerable. Discrimination is there for sure. My husband who helpd around in our kitchen never even set his foot in my in-laws’ kitchen. And he is not expected to do so either. I am sure I will not let him sit around like that if my in-laws are to stay with us someday (They never did so far because we are staying outside India), that’s one boundary I would like to push and see how it goes. The mentality is never going to change though.

  • Alok Singhal

    I guess not every household has this issue. For instance, my wife doesn’t have to cook along with my mother when we are back home, my mother is more liberal that ways. My father never worries about all this either.

    But yes, she can’t wear skirts and anything relealing to any extent at home. That is why we still have some deceny in India…think about US where they use the F-word in front of anybody and everybody and have kids even before marriage.

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