Blame it on the patriarchy and its weird mindset for still considering a centuries-old custom as a sacrosanct rule for the 21st century. Living with the in-laws under the same roof and playing the role of daughter-in-law, wife, and mother every day is a lot to ask from a woman.
I’m not saying that all in-laws are monster-in-laws and that it’s impossible to have a peaceful relationship with them, but the dynamics of this relationship is such that it’s better to keep a distance to let marital life flourish while maintaining an amicable relationship with the elders.
Speaking from my own experience and examples of my friends living in a joint family after marriage, apologies to the goody-goodies, but the arrangement serves only three purposes – it gives the husband’s parents a full-time caretaker, turns the concept of marital privacy into a joke and the wife is three times more likely to develop serious heart disease, according to a recent study.
Pros and cons of living with in-laws
Not everything about living with the in-laws is grim and sad. There are infact a lot of practical reasons to live with in-laws, one is financial and the other is being there for the elderly. Living with the in-laws may not always be about being a servant to the elders, for it often comes with a bunch of advantages too.
What works for you when you are living with the in-laws
Living with in-laws does require some planning, and you need to know beforehand what to expect. At times, the equation is fair in terms of what you give and what you get. Lets discuss the good things first.
1. Your kids will have a chance to know the grandparents
It’s important for the kids to really know their grandparents. Living in the same house with your in-laws helps that. Instead of meeting only during the holidays, they get to spend time with them every day.
2. You can get a lot of parenting help
The early days of parenting, especially can be really tough. All couples go through many problems once a baby comes in their lives. Having your mother-in-law around means you can get some real advice and help to take on the new responsibility better. Even when you are feeling depressed due to postpartum blues, the MIL can help you get through it better than your husband, because she understands the drill more than your husband.
3. There is always a babysitter at home
Of course, you shouldn’t take too much advantage of this situation, but having your in-laws around means free babysitting.
You don’t need to leave your child in the care of a stranger when you go to work. You don’t have to worry about your child’s well being when the grandparents are in charge.
4. You can always have someone to share the household chores with
After marriage, especially when you are juggling between being a mother and a working professional, tackling all the household chores on your own is hard work. Having other adults around means everyone can share the load of household duties.
5. There is financial breathing room with the in-laws chipping in
In this global economy, living in a household where the cost is shared comes as a boon. You can save more than what you could by living alone. But the drawbacks of this arrangement also take a toll on your overall marital life.
The cons of living with the in-laws
And now the bad things…Sharing a house with another set of people does call for compromises and adjustments. Having the elderly live with you also implies you take extra care of the food, health, noise and disturbance and other things.
1. There is no privacy
Living with the in-laws means there is absolutely no sense of privacy. You can’t cook naked, make love on the kitchen floor or watch Netflix in your shorts with chilled beer on the living room couch.
Even though these are just the quirky examples, having no space of your own can really become a psychological burden to carry for the rest of your youth.
You may even have a hard time to find some couple space in a joint family. And it can get a bit difficult for you if you have been living alone prior to marriage and are not used to have people around.
2. You can’t call friends to party
If you are married in your 20s or 30s, you can forget about throwing a house party when you live with the in-laws. Especially if you were used to having friends crash to your place before marriage, this change can make you feel like the in-laws treat you like a slave where you have no independence to lead a lifestyle of your choice.
3. There is too much unsolicited advice from the in-laws
Well, advice is good when it is required. But living with the in-laws means you get to hear a lot of unwanted advice on how you should eat, how much you should sleep, how you should dress, how you should behave and the list goes on! Some of these signs indicate you have in-laws that hate you!
The downside of unsolicited advice is that it tends to irritate you, and irritated and grumpy people seldom make a home happy.
4. You don’t get to cook, clean and decorate the way you like
The unsaid rule is that your MIL knows homemaking better than you do, so you must find happiness being a servant and follow her way. You don’t get to cash in on the amazing interior deals for your house, you don’t get to practise a different cleaning method that you find more practical and your cooking is received with a lot of not-so-constructive criticism. You may wonder why are you even expected to live with your in-laws when you can do nothing the way you like.
5. Interference on how you should raise your child
Every advantage comes with its share of conditions. Having your in-laws around to help you out in taking on the parenting duties also means there is going to be a lot of uncalled-for advice on how you should raise your child. Your MIL is proud of how she has raised her son and she would want you to follow her footsteps, even though much of her wisdom doesn’t apply to this generation.
Why living with in-laws is a bad idea altogether?
Every married couple needs the space to figure out their relationship and work on building a life together as partners. But when a couple lives with the in-laws, there is no privacy to even consummate the marriage at their own will, let alone taking important life decisions together without interference.
Moreover, a newly married woman dreams of having a place she can now call her own home and decorate with all the quirky and artsy stuff as she likes. But living with the in-laws means she is walking into an ambiance that is already set up and she is expected to accept the norms and adjust her choices accordingly.
It’s more or less like living in a hostel with the man of your choice. How is that fair? Having to abide by the rules laid down by the in-laws after marriage means she can’t wear the dresses she likes, can’t cook the way she likes, can’t set up her own lifestyle the way she likes without constant interference.
What if the couple had a big argument and the wife wants to continue the argument in the living room instead of fiercely whispering in the bedroom? Well, she can’t, because the in-laws will jump between the husband and the wife to settle the matter in their own way (in which 9 out of 10 times they will declare that the wife is wrong and their beta is right, as always). How does that help a marriage?
A woman moves into the next phase of life feeling depressed, only looking forward to the hypothetical happiness of starting a new life with her man. But anything new can only begin on a blank canvas. Staying with the in-laws completely shatters that prospect, and more often than not, harms the couple relationship beyond repair.