“My mother in-law does not lift a finger, she makes me work like a slave, add to it the demands of my father in-law, every hour by the hour, my two sister in-laws are no help, they just sit and wait for me to mess up so they can make a big deal out of it and my brother in law is too busy partying, he does not care about what happens at home.”
Stories like these are heard by the dozen. Growing up in an Asian family I was often reminded to wake up early at my in-laws when I get married, “don’t sleep in late, what will they think, that I have not taught you well,” my mother would say. Make round chapattis, learn to cook a variety of dishes, dress appropriately, the list is endless on how one should behave at their in-laws.And that’s all right; it’s all taken in the right spirit when it’s wrapped within the threads of love and care from near and dear ones.
However it still does make me wonder what would happen if we took a different approach. What if we were brought up (from as early an age that we are) to believe that we would be lucky enough to have two mothers, two fathers, many sisters/brothers if we get married? Drop the ‘in-laws’ altogether. In-laws bring with it such a legal binding, a connotation of ‘need to accept by law’! Instead bring the focus on two families becoming one. No relatives’ in-law…only families in love if we had to have an alternative. Would that change our perspective?Now, I am not here to profess this as the solution to all marital problems or domestic issues.
Yet I’m curious to know if it would impact our outlook if we are informed differently at a stage when we begin to form our standards and opinions.
· Would the wicked mother in law who does not lift a finger, just be mum who is tired after having worked so hard all her life, wants to let you run the show, wants to step back, take it easy! She does complain and she has her two bits to say every now and then but then that’s mum, she means well! Would that give us more patience, less anger, more love?!
· Would the demanding father in law, just be dad who like many dads loves to be spoiled and cared for after a certain age. He fusses and cusses but underneath it all he is just looking for the added attention that he craves for. Could that bring more understanding, less irritation, more peace?!
· What if the bossy sister in-law was no different from your younger/elder sister? The one who used to bully you as a kid or the one who was so spoiled that you were always the one cleaning up her mess. The one you fought tooth and nail with and yet knew that if ever they came a time of need, you always had each other. Perhaps this would create more rapport, less bitterness, more affection?!
· And would the aloof brother in law, just be the brother who was very different from you growing up. He preferred to stay quiet while you chattered away; he read books while you blared the television. Nonetheless; you were one and though he seemed distant, when you needed him he never was far away. Maybe this could bring about more trust, less assuming, more acceptance?!
Surely, different permutations and combinations of the above exist. We each have our own unique story. All the same can a new spin of words impact our view in any way?!
Inquisitive to know if just a simple and easy shift of language could bring about more gratitude I dared taking a risk the other day. When asked by a friend’s mother, “So beta, tell me how are your in-laws?!” I chose to say, “I hate in-laws!” In addition I went on to say, “Both my families are great, thank-you!” Aghast, I doubt she heard the second half.
Nevertheless; try it, it feels so good!
(Beta: Hindi word used by an elder to address a younger person (boy or girl) it is used in the regular context of meaning son or child. The term is also used among close friends to address each other as a friendly banter.)