The very word ‘in-laws’ will most probably put a lump in your throat that you won’t know whether to gulp down or spit out. And me, I’m special, because where most have one, I have three sets of mothers and fathers-in-law. First, the biological set of parents. Then the older uncle and aunt and finally the grandparents. Imagine my situation: I chose my best friend as husband, sacrificed my career to be with him (my own decision) and yet each morning I was out to give the performance of my life and prove why I was the best choice for their son and fit to be their daughter-in-law.
It was a love marriage all right, but it was an inter-caste alliance too, so in the honeymoon period I found myself Googling the new traditions and other intricacies of the new surname I bore. Everyone was assessing and analysing me, examining me 24/7.
A period that I was always terrified of was when twice during the year the older generation observed a week-long fast in honour of the family deity. I had to ensure all the time that my hands were freshly washed and every spice, oil and salt was taken out from fresh cans and not the usual cans of daily use. One evening I cross-checked my entire list of the dos and don’ts and very proudly presented warm yummy food. But to my dismay and shock, I upset my mother-in-law because the casserole that I had served the food in, had been used the same morning to store wheat chapatis, so I ideally shouldn’t have served the food in it.
That is when I realised I had to stop trying all the time. It wasn’t healthy and natural. I gradually began to do what came naturally to me. Make my mistakes but make up for them, too.
I gradually began to do what came naturally to me. Make my mistakes but make up for them, too.
At times I lost my cool and ended up overreacting at things. Once I was in the middle of a heated discussion with my hubby over his annoying habits and my mother-in-law was trying to pacify us. But in the heat of the moment I flared up at her and put her almost in tears. I realised it immediately and putting all ego aside accepted my fault. Expressing my regret only brought her closer to me. She saw that my pride wasn’t greater than my relationship with her. While she saw the angry version of me, she also acknowledged it was easy for me to accept my wrongdoings.
Another time, my father-in-law got upset over us coming late from a party and it annoyed me as to why it was his concern. I was sombre and not my cheerful self for the next few days. He too kept to himself and the whole episode faded after a while. However, I understood his state of mind only after I became a parent myself and even a two-minute delay in my child coming back from school could drive me crazy. Although that episode was almost three years old, recently I sat down with him and opened up my heart. I relived that story with him and confessed I now realise how parents must feel for their children no matter how old they get.
Related reading: Living with criticism from the in-laws
My troughs were mostly when my mother-in-law got dismayed that I didn’t understand their traditions as thoroughly as one of their kind would have. It would become a mission to educate my parents and me about their customs and rituals and no matter how much both families tried to touch the same part of the elephant, they never perceived equally. But as the cliché goes, after every dark stormy night begins a bright sunny morning.
I began to stop trying too hard and did what I loved. Sported my larger than life attitude on my sleeve. I used to crack witty jokes and give everyone a hearty laugh. Bring the family together on special occasions, dedicate poetry and organise surprises on birthdays and anniversaries. I decided to exploit my creative self in this new world.Try and see the goodness in every small action and not wait for something big to be able to appreciate things.
Try and see the goodness in every small action and not wait for something big to be able to appreciate things.
I started to care for and love my in-laws like my own family. After a time they began to identify with me, understand me and my doings. Appreciate my laughter and scold me like their own.
It’s easier if we don’t interpret their every action as the action of an in-law. We have competition from other daughters-in-law, two in my case. But then, we all have our own space. The three of us are accepted for the good and bad in us. It’s a game where you realise finally, it’s no game at all. My husband doesn’t need to be a bad husband to prove he is a good son and vice versa. And I need not be an outlaw to prove they can be more than just my in-laws.