We Indian women are brought up on the staple diet of twice daily “What will your mother-in-law say if you do this thing like that? She will think your mother hasn’t taught you anything.” Some days the dose may increase to four times too, especially if you laugh loudly. “What would your MIL say if you laugh like this keeping your mouth open one centimeter more than the limit permissible by Mothers and Mothers-in-laws Inc.?”
We hear so much about this MIL creature while growing up that she becomes some kind of scary monster in our mind. This is actually unfairly stereotyping and MIL-ist.
There are a few Monsters-in-law no doubt, but most MILs are normal people like us, mostly because some of us will become MILs one day in future.
In real life, MILs generally don’t think criticising DIL is their full-time job, because they don’t live in the 1970s, they are educated and many are professional women. Their criticisms are always well planned out and sometimes ‘suggestions’, like the samples below.
Related reading: My mother-in-law did what even my mother wouldn’t do
1. The veiled jibe about your looks
“Mr. Sharma wanted to make Tullu (your husband) his son-in-law. Anyone can see Mr. Sharma’s daughter is very pretty. But love is blind.”
2. The All Powerful Kundli (horoscope)
“Tullu’s kundli matched with Mr. Verma’s daughter’s kundli on all 32 houses. They would have been happy like Lord Shiva and Parvati. With you only 4 houses match. We are of course all modern people, we don’t mind the missing 28 houses. Still, 28 is a big number.”
3. The mothering of her son
“Tullu must be very tired after work and the whole day he doesn’t eat proper food. You should cook his favourite dishes for dinner every day.”
Then you point her out you work the whole day, and do the household chores as well. The ever-ready MIL will go, “See that’s why cooking proper dinner every night is all the more important. Ordering food for dinner frequently will make both of you ill.”
4. The bedroom business
If after your first anniversary you are still not ‘under the weather’, then your MIL becomes quite tensed. She starts dropping hints, most of which aren’t even subtle. “You need an extra room now for a nursery.”
Then she may ask coyly about your sex life to make sure you are coupling enough to give her a grandchild. “You both become tired at night. You should take leave for a week and only take ‘rest’ in your room.”
Or more directly, “Is Tullu feeling weak after working so much? You should dress better at night. Those faded pajamas aren’t helping anyone.”
5. Aggressive campaign to get a grandchild
Related reading: How lethal is the Indian mother-in-law?
To her direct ‘suggestion’ to plan a child when you reply how you don’t have any time to take care of a child because of your busy career she will give you assurances. “You don’t have to worry about a thing. You only worry about getting pregnant. The moment the child comes I’ll take care of everything. You won’t even feel you have a child.”
6. The grandchild
Due to her nagging or for some other reason you finally decide to go for motherhood. And when the child finally comes and you ask for help from the doting grandmother she may say, “I don’t know what is the problem with the present generation. In our time we used to take care of three kids and our whole extended family. We didn’t even have so many fancy gadgets.”
7. The parenting style
Then you take up the job of motherhood in your own style. But your style can never be good enough. “He’s only a child, why are you scolding him? What if he can’t still tie his shoelaces? He’s only 15. You get angry easily.”
8. The competition with other MILs
“Mrs Aggarwal is coming for tea. Please keep your head covered. She goes on and on about her DIL keeping her head covered always. Although I strongly feel the poor girl covers her head to hide that giant ugly mole on her forehead. I should tell her my DIL doesn’t need to cover her beautiful face.”
9. The Family Biriyani Recipe
If daughters are for pampering, then DILs are for taking under wings and passing to her all family traditions including that special biriyani recipe which has been a family secret for more than a hundred years. “Beta, now you are custodian of our family and our locker keys (and the biriyani recipe).”